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Eastern Conwy Churches Survey

Church of St Cynfran , Llysfaen

Llysfaen Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Llysfaen in the county of Conwy. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SH8932577489.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16901 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llysfaen Church, CPAT copyright photo CS971236.JPG


St Cynfran's church at Llysfaen is situated less than a mile from the north Wales coast and about 3 miles from Colwyn Bay and Abergele. The twin-naved church has seen considerable restoration. All of its fenestration has been renewed, though the walls themselves are almost certainly medieval, there is a cyclopean south door, and internally there are re-used late medieval roof timbers. Of the medieval fittings only panels from the rood screen have been preserved, the rest probably disappearing during the restoration of 1870. The churchyard is rectilinear with the usual range of memorials going back into the 18thC and the occasional late 17thC example. An earlier, smaller and more circular 'llan' seems likely, fitting in perhaps with the reputed 8thC foundation date for the church.

No original fenestration, but walls largely original, other than infilling beneath some Victorian windows. North nave original, but whether the north chancel is contemporary or later, as is assumed by Hubbard, has yet to be satisfactorily resolved. South nave added subsequently. South porch is Victorian.

A 13thC date has been attributed to the core of the church, but on no substantive evidence.

Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1986 publication The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd by Edward Hubbard


The church at Llysfaen was reputedly founded in the 8th century, and there is a holy well - Ffynnon Gynfran - about 100m to the north. Needless to say the early history of the foundation is obscure.

In the Norwich Taxation Llysfaen was recorded as "Ecc'a de Llesvaen", and in the 1291 taxation as "Rectoria di Lisnaen", taxed at 4. The list of rectors goes back to 1357.

Glynne visited in 1851, and discerned an interior similar but inferior to Llanelian. Modern windows had been inserted on the south side while those on the south were flat and not foiled; the two east windows were flattened and had three lights, and contained fragments of ancient glass. Internally there were pews and a west gallery. The exterior was partially whitewashed.

The church underwent drastic restoration by Street in 1870, at a cost of 1950 to which R. Bamford Hesketh of Gwrych Castle was a significant contributor. Porch, bellcote and buttresses were added, all the windows were replaced, and the arched-braced roofs renewed, re-using some old timber. The floor level in the church seems to have been lowered, and a rood screen was made. Various features mentioned by Glynne were removed.

Major restoration took place in 1972.


Llysfaen church consists of twin naves and chancels of precisely the same size, a west bellcote over the northern nave and a south porch set close to the south-west angle of the south nave.

The church is oriented fractionally south of west but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for the church, though not for the churchyard. The terms 'north nave' and 'south nave' are used periodically for descriptive purposes.

Fabrics:'A' consists of roughly fashioned blocks of limestone, with quoins of slightly better dressed stone; largely random coursing; flecks of limewash adhere to the masonry. 'B' is as 'A' but there are much larger blocks of stone towards the base of the wall, these probably roughly dressed to shape. Limewash flecks. 'C' is of regular blocks of limestone rubble, occasionally coursed. Victorian in origin.

Roof: slates; plain, grey clay ridge tiles; cross finials to south nave, porch and both chancels, and also over a chimney-like projection on the north side. The bellcote has one bell and a metal cross above it.

Drainage: a concrete band, at least 0.5m wide, around all four walls points to a drain beneath.


North Nave. General. 'A' though heavy pointing covers the wall faces.

North wall: near the west end is a north door with a two-centred arch, chamfered dressings terminating in bar and broach stops and all in buff-yellow sandstone; looks completely Victorian, but there is no convincing evidence of insertion. To east is a three-light window consisting of foiled lancets, the central one taller than the others, all also in buff-yellow sandstone. Finally the wall is inset and supported by a diagonal buttress of Victorian date - for descriptive purposes here this inset is taken as the division between nave and chancel; internally, however, the division is a little further to the east.

West wall: plain, apart from a central, stepped buttress with ashlar dressings and above this the Victorian bellcote. The top of the gable has more regular 'A' masonry and has probably been rebuilt, together with the replacement of several of the highest quoins.

North Chancel. General. Slightly inset from the nave as noted above. In 'A' but with heavy pointing.

North wall: one two-light window of Victorian date with foiled heads to the lights and a quatrefoil above. One metre to the east of the window is an arc of stones on edge looking very much like a relieving arch; however, there are no other features to suggest a blocked window though the stones beneath it are noticeably bigger than the surrounding masonry. Above this 'feature' is the 'chimney' referred to earlier, its function uncertain. Diagonal buttress at north-east angle.

East wall: east window has a two-centred arch, two cusped lights with a trefoil above all in Victorian sandstone and a decorative relieving arch. Clearly inserted, with slightly different limestone packing around it.

South Nave and Chancel. General. Dealt with as one unit because no external differentiation. In Fabric 'B' but with heavy pointing. Plinth of limestone to height of c.0.3m with a capping of dressed limestone. Lower parts of walls have very slight batter.

East wall: main feature is a three-light window of cusped lancets with the central one larger than those outside it; also a decorative relieving arch; a larger version of a window in the north nave wall. Beneath the window is some masonry infilling, presumably from when the window was replaced. It is not clear whether the upper part of the gable has been rebuilt.

South wall: from east features are: i) diagonal buttress; ii) Victorian three-light window as east window; beneath it Victorian masonry has been patched into the wall; iii) Victorian nave window of three lights with masonry patching around it; iv) Victorian two-light window; v) porch.

West wall: masonry shows that this is clearly later than the north nave wall. Contains a single foiled lancet of Victorian date but no convincing signs of insertion.

Porch. General. South wall contains a two-centred arched doorway with chamfered dressings, all in buff sandstone, and a decorative relieving arch. Plain side walls. Wholly Victorian.


Porch. General. Tiled floor with one step up into church. Walls of unplastered, regular limestone masonry. Roof of two bays with one braced truss.

North wall: Cyclopean doorway, the stones chamfered with broach stops; the stonework retooled? Above is a medieval head with its tongue hanging out, probably a corbel and in local stone; reputedly the patron saint, and presumably re-set in the wall.

East wall: wooden bench on stone supports,

West wall: stone mural tablet of 1702 and below it a tomb plaque of 1671/1673.

North Nave. General. Floor partly tiled, partly of local limestone, carpet covered; flush wooden boarding under benches. Walls plastered and painted. Roof of five bays; arch-braced trusses springing from Victorian wall plate set into the wall on the north, and on the south side resting on corbels; two tiers of windbraces.

North wall: slightly splayed doorway with peaked head to embrasure. Then a widely splayed window, with all but the dressings of the window plastered and painted. Just to the west of the chancel step the wall face is inset with a chamfer, matching the inset on the outside.

East wall: modern screen.

South wall: arcade of two and a half bays; octagonal pillars with square bases, and two-centred arches that spring directly from the pillars; simple respond at west end.

West wall: plain with no features.

North Chancel. General. One step up from nave. Floor of stone with carpets over. Much of the area is taken up with the vestry, which is also stone floored, and the organ. Walls as nave. Roof of four bays, narrower than those in nave but otherwise no different.

East wall: deeply splayed window.

South wall: one and a half bays of the arcade.

South Nave. General. Stone and tiles with carpet over as north nave, wooden board flooring beneath benches. One heating grille in floor at rear of nave. Walls as north nave. Roof of four and a half bays, and of the same form as the north nave.

North wall: arcade (see above).

East wall: screen.

South wall: two windows with deep splays. Slightly splayed doorway with pointed embrasure. One 20thC brass.

West wall: single lancet window widely splayed. Next the chimney housing projecting from the wall, serving a boiler at the base. Plaques on the wall record the window glass of 1922 and wood panelling in the nave of 1939.

South Chancel. General. One step up from nave, one to sanctuary, one to altar. Tiled floors, with encaustic tiles in sanctuary. Standard roof of two and a half bays.

North wall: parclose screen, utilising old panelling from the medieval screen in the sanctuary.

East wall: splayed window, marble reredos.

South wall: splayed window.

West wall: screen.


The churchyard is rectilinear, though with slight curves to its north and west sides, and of moderate size. Within the yard there is a slight slope down from south to north, a reflection of the general hillslope towards the sea.

The churchyard is generally well-maintained; recent burials take place in an extension on the north side.

Boundary: churchyard surrounded by a stone wall. Mortared on south, drystone on west, a sizeable bank with some trees separating the old churchyard from the extension on the north, and a stone retaining wall on the east.

On the south and west the external ground level is fractionally lower than the interior, but on the north the relict bank is nearly 2m high and there is a similar drop on the east from the churchyard interior to the road. As with many churchyards, the ground appears to have been built up on the downhill side exaggerating its raised appearance, while on the flatter approaches it is only marginally higher.

Monuments: a well-filled graveyard with little space left. 18thC monuments remain on the south and east, and possibly too on the north, though many of the earlier stones are ledgers and badly weathered. South-east of the chancel is a stone of 1675.

Furniture: none. Thomas refers to a sundial with a Welsh inscription (transcribed in his volume) but without a date. This has disappeared.

Earthworks: a scarp bank up to 1m high is discernible on the north-west and north creating a platform around this side of the church. It is possible but not certain that this is an earlier 'llan'. The Tithe map (1839) also shows the boundary on the south side of the churchyard as rounded and closer to the church than today. Tucker mentions the artificial raising of the level of the southern part of the churchyard, which was then the garden of Tynllan, using soil from Raynes quarries.

Ancillary features: double wrought iron gates and a kissing gate near the south-east corner, with a concrete path leading to the porch. Store shed - a former hearse house - in south-west angle of churchyard.

Vegetation: small yews along the north and east sides of the old churchyard, interspersed with other evergreens; a few yews in the interior.

Sources consulted

Clwyd SMR
CPAT Field Visit: 11 December 1996
Crossley 1946, 41
Faculty 1870 (NLW): restoration
Glynne 1884, 103
Hubbard 1986, 249
Quinquennial Report: 1987
Quinquennial Report: 1995
Thomas 1913, 224
Tucker 1953, 264
Click here to view full project bibliography

Please note that many rural churches are closed to the public at certain times. It is advisable to check when the church will be open before visiting. Information about access, or how to contact parish clergy, can often be obtained from the relevant Diocesan Office which can be found through the Church in Wales website. Further information about Llysfaen Church may also be found on the St Asaph Diocese website.

The CPAT Eastern Conwy Churches Survey Project was funded by Cadw as part of an all Wales survey of medieval parish churches.

This HTML page has been generated from the Cadw Churches Survey database & CPAT's Regional Historic Environment Record - 17/07/2007 ( 22:01:16 ).
Further information about this and other churches surveyed is available from the Regional Historic Environment Record, Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, Curatorial Section, 7a Church Street, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7DL tel - (01938) 553670, fax - (01938) 552179, email -, website -

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