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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Sadwrn , Henllan

Henllan Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Henllan in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ0223368179.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 100581 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Henllan Church, CPAT copyright photo CS972132.JPG


St Sadwrn's church lies on the western edge of the village of Henllan, less than 2 miles from Denbigh. The church walls may be medieval - a Decorated door remains on the north - but there were both Georgian and Victorian restorations which have completely altered its character. Only the detached bell-tower has survived from the late medieval period relatively untouched. Few fittings of the medieval era have been retained: a piscina is the only one recorded. There is a 17thC altar table, 18thC chandeliers and benefaction boards, and a few memorials from the late 17thC onwards. The churchyard is a quadrilateral shape and has been extended in the last one hundred years; it contains 19thC mausolea, a limited range of old memorials, the bowl of the medieval font and the shaft of the churchyard cross.

Walls of building could be early, possibly 15thC and perhaps even earlier in view of the Decorated north doorway. In 1805/06 the walls were heightened and new windows added.

Some refenestration occurred in 1878-9; and the porch is of this date.

The tower is thought to be Perpendicular, though the windows and perhaps the battlemented top have been renewed.

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


Dedication and location may indicate an early medieval origin. It is thought to have been the centre of a much larger parish at an earlier date.

It was not referred to in 1254 but in the 1291 Taxatio it is the 'Ecclesia de Helan', a chapelry attached to the cathedral of St Asaph, and having a value of 16.10s.

Prior to the restoration at the beginning of the 19thC, the church had a south porch and two dormer windows on the south side of the nave. It was remodelled in 1806-8 at a cost of 964 in the shape of a parallelogram, the walls were heightened using old material, perhaps to accommodate the gallery at the west end. New windows. New box pews added around this time. Tower was repaired in 1844.

Glynne visited the church in 1855 and noted that walls rebuilt, the windows were 'vile modern Gothic' except for the east window that included some medieval glass, there was a modern roof and 'hideous pews'. The trefoiled piscina and the original north door were recorded.

In 1878-9, Lloyd Williams reseated the building, removed a west gallery and its stairs, demarcated a chancel, removed plaster from the ceiling, added new heating apparatus with sub-floor venting and a new altar, removed the west doorway, provided a new south porch and new west windows with a buttress between, took down part of the east wall and renewed the east window. He may also have exposed the rubble walling inside.

Church was re-roofed in 1986.


Henllan church consists of a nave and chancel in one, a north vestry and south porch, and more than 20m to the east a detached bell tower. The church is oriented a little to the south of west but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for the church, though not for the churchyard.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of small and medium blocks and slabs of limestone, heavily pointed but showing some coursing. On south side red and grey sandstone, and some shale incorporated. 'B' a mixture of limestone and dressed sandstone of mustard yellow colour, some coursing.

Roof: slates, lead along ridge tops; stone cross finials to nave, chancel and porch.

Drainage: church terraced into hillside on north and surrounded by stone-edged gully up to 1.5m deep. Nothing obvious on other sides.


Tower. General. Detached structure set atop a limestone outcrop. Built wholly in limestone though a few quoins in sandstone. Battered base, waterspouts project diagonally from angles, battlemented parapet. Flag pole in south-west corner.

North wall: louvred belfry window with twin lancets, slightly hollowed chamfers, all in grey stone presumably limestone, but arrises are sharp and dressings could have been renewed. Certainly a lower, earlier sill has been left in situ.

East wall: main door approached by flight of steps, its two-centred head in mustard yellow and olive green freestone, much weathered but some jamb renewal. A relieving arch in the same freestone. Wooden door with iron grille. Belfry window as north wall and there are several slabs of sandstone below its sill suggesting packing.

South wall: window as north wall with an earlier sandstone sill visible. Some subtle changes in masonry above window level suggest changes to highest level of tower.

West wall: standard window with a relieving arch.

Nave and Chancel. General. No external differentiation.

North wall: in 'A'. Bottom half of wall has yellow sandstone quoins, the upper half limestone, and from their juncture at west angle one of the more obvious horizontal courses of masonry runs along the north wall, indicative of new building. Further east, the lower limestone has more lichen than that above, the division at about the springer line of the windows, but its relevance is uncertain. Three two-centred windows in mustard yellow freestone, each with two cusped lights and Y-tracery; raised ridges on outer faces of dressings decidedly Georgian. Relieving arches of limestone slabs on edge. A fourth window of similar type to west of vestry, accompanied by a rectangular window with stained glass of modern appearance. Also at west end is a much weathered plaque set in the wall, its decoration or inscription now unintelligible.

East wall: lighter limestone corresponds exactly with sandstone quoins. Gable partly rebuilt in 'B'. Two-centred east window with five cinquefoiled lights, sub-arches and panels, and a hoodmould with head-stops, all in pale sandstone. Wholly Victorian. Beside this at sill level, a recess with cusped arch hold a modern heraldic plaque: in 1881 it was recorded that a slab with heraldry commemorating Agnes Peake (d.1618) was attached to east wall.

South wall: less difference in the appearance of the limestone than on the north and east. East of the porch are three standard windows. West of the porch, blocks of sandstone incorporated into fabric at ground level, and here too a Victorian window with two-centred arch, Y-tracery and two cusped lights, with dressings in the same freestone as the east window; also a hoodmould with head-stops. Just to east of porch a chimney projects from the roof.

West wall: in 'A'. On either side of a central stepped buttress is a two-centred window with two lights, chamfered dressings and a hoodmould that is continuous over top of buttress and has the usual Victorian head-stops and relieving arches.

Porch. General. Wholly Victorian with limestone similar to that in body of church though dressed blocks for quoins. East and west walls plain. South wall has a two-centred doorway with two orders of chamfered dressings, a standard hoodmould with head-stops, and over this a lamp; iron gates at the entrance. The top of gable has a sunken trefoil and balls set in their own niches. Boiler house under porch, approached by flight of steps.


Tower. General. Not accessible.

Porch. General. One step up from exterior. Tiled floor; bare walls; simple collar and rafter roof.

North wall: two-centred arched doorway in pale freestone with hollow chamfers, probably Victorian; relieving arch over.

East wall: wooden bench and noticeboards.

West wall: as east wall.

Nave. General. Tiled floor with carpets over; heating grilles down aisle, at east end of nave and probably elsewhere; benches on flush wooden boarding. Bare walls of uniform limestone masonry; dados to height of c.0.6m; heating pipes run around walls. Wagon roof of Victorian date disguises arch-braced trusses.

North wall: three splayed windows; shouldered arch on inner wall face leads to vestry, but outer part of splay has two-centred arch, the original north doorway. 20thC plaques and one early 19thC marble memorial.

East wall: low stone screen wall and two steps to chancel.

South wall: three splayed windows, and doorway not splayed but with segmental relieving arch above it. Several 20thC plaques and a 19thC marble tablet over a late 19thC brass.

West wall: two splayed windows. One 17thC and several 18thC memorials.

Chancel. General. Two steps up to chancel, one to sanctuary, one to altar. Encaustic tiled floor with carpet over central aisle; wooden boarding under choir stalls. Bare walls. Wagon roof continues from nave but decorated with trefoils and closer set ribs. Organ on south side behind choir stalls.

North wall: one splayed window and two 19thC marble memorials.

East wall: splayed, Victorian east window, with Victorian reredos beneath.

South wall: one splayed window only; piscina with ogee-headed arch, probably medieval.

West wall: nothing of interest.

Vestry. General. Carpetted floor, plastered walls, flat ceiling.

North wall: nothing of interest.

East wall: nothing of interest.

South wall: two-centred arch to doorway with wave-moulded chamfer on outside; no stops; in pink and cream sandstone, formerly whitewashed.

West wall: two benefaction boards, one hidden by wardrobe.


The quadrilateral churchyard is set on a pronounced slope from north to south, overlooking Afon Meirchion. Recent burials have taken place in a strip added to the south-west side of the yard in 1889. There is no obvious sign of an earlier and smaller churchyard.

Boundary: on the north is a stone wall with a house intruding at north-west corner. A revetment wall on the south-west divides the old churchyard from the new, and on the south-east is a drystone wall.

Monuments: dominated by two pyramid-topped mausolea east of the chancel. North of the church many slabs have been cleared to the boundary wall; immediately east of the church older slabs used for paving include one from 1720, and there is a chest tomb of 1661. Ledgers have been re-organised on the west side, while to the south-east more gravestones set against the churchyard wall, and groups to the south of the church are sparse and localised.

Furniture: medieval font near porch, set on plinth in 1989. Also near porch is the octagonal shaft of a churchyard cross, more than 2m high. In the 18thC this was outside the churchyard gate, and in the 19thC it was reportedly used as a support to the west gallery in the church until that feature's removal in 1878-9.

Earthworks: ground terraced below church, and the slope makes it impossible to determine height of internal ground level above the exterior. A drop of several metres from the old churchyard to the new extension, and at least a 2m drop on south-east side.

Ancillary features: east lychgate constructed in 1935, that on the south is even more recent. Pair of small wooden gates through north wall. Tarmac paths.

Vegetation: three old yews in line on south side; mature deciduous trees elsewhere.

Sources consulted

Bye-gones: July 1881
CPAT Field Visit: 6 March 1997
Crossley 1946, 25
Faculty 1805: NLW/SA/FB/2
Faculty 1877: NLW - restoration of church
Faculty 1889: NLW - addition to churchyard
Faculty 1959: NLW - addition to churchyard
Glynne 1884, 99
Hubbard 1986, 179
Lloyd Williams and Underwood 1872, pl 4
NMR Aberystwyth
Neaverson 1953-54, 6
Owen 1886, 87
Quinquennial Review 1984
Quinquennial Review 1993
Ridgway 1997, 100
Thomas 1911, 30
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 Henllan Church may also be found on the St Asaph Diocese website.

The CPAT Denbighshire 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 ( 22:01:31 ).
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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