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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Cynfarch and St Mary , Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd

Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ1344755479.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 100878 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0137.JPG

Summary

The church of St Cynfarch and St Mary lies in the centre of Llanfair village, less than 2 miles south of Ruthin. It is double-naved with a west tower and as far as can be ascertained is a wholly Perpendicular structure, which was restored in the 1870s. It retains fragments of its medieval rood screen, a 15thC sepulchral slab and some very early 16thC stained glass, as well as reconstructed late medieval arch-braced roofs. Fragments of other sepulchral slabs have been built into the blocking of a north doorway. The church is set in a rectangular churchyard from which most of the monuments have been cleared.

Church as now visible appears to be wholly Perpendicular, of the 15thC. The tower and north nave are broadly contemporary although different masonry types were used in their build. All the windows are in the Perpendicular style, but one on the south carries the date 1626, and in some cases it is impossible to determine which dressings of a particular window have been renewed. Upper parts of some walls of the church were built when the roofs were raised in 1870-2, and the porch too was rebuilt at this time.

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

History

Apart from one element of the twin dedication there is nothing to suggest that this church was established in the early medieval period. However, tradition has it that it was founded by St Cynfarch, and that the dedication to St Mary was added at a time when it was rebuilt.

The Norwich Taxation of 1254 refers to 'Ecc'a de Lanwyer' at a value of 3 6s 8d. In the Lincoln Taxation of 1291 it appears as 'Llanvayr' with a value of 16.

The exterior was whitewashed when seen by Glynne on his visit in 1849; he found a church 'in much better order than most churches of North Wales'. He offered a basic description, details of the Perpendicular windows, and noted that 'the roof had been entirely modernised within with incongruous plastering'. Much medieval glass survived at this time, some dated to 1503. An obtuse-headed niche on the south side of the altar lacked a piscina, there were a Jacobean altar and pulpit, and traces of the screen against the north wall.

The church was transferred from the diocese of Bangor to that of St Asaph in 1859.

It was restored by J.D.Sedding in 1871-2 at a cost of 2300. The south porch was rebuilt, the plaster ceiling was removed and the arched-braced roofs were reconstructed, the upper portion of the east wall of the chancel and that of the south aisle were rebuilt, and the east windows repaired, a new west window in the south aisle was inserted as a copy of the old one though set at a higher level than its predecessor, the walls were raised one foot in height, box pews and a gallery at west end of south aisle were removed, and a new font and pulpit introduced.

The churchyard was extended in 1879 and again in 1910-11, and the lychgate restored in 1938.

Architecture

Llanfair church consists of a double nave, a west tower attached to the north nave, and a south porch.

It is oriented south-west/north-east but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for the church, though not for the churchyard. Furthermore the terms 'north nave' and 'south nave' are used for convenience even though it is recognised that the south nave no longer functions as such.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of medium-sized blocks of red sandstone and grey limestone, regularly coursed; sandstone used for quoins; limewash remnants. 'B' is similar to 'A' but the blocks of rubble are generally small to medium in size with larger, sometimes irregular blocks used low down in the wall; also some small slabs of a laminated stone and occasional pebble stones. 'C' as 'B' but lacking the limestone component.

'A' and 'B' are late medieval, 'C' probably re-used in Victorian period. Also 'A'-type masonry is Victorian.

Roof: slates, red clay ridge tiles, and cross finials to east end of chancel and south aisle.

Drainage: gravel band, indicative of a drain trench, up to 1m wide around all sides of church except where tarmac is present.

Exterior

Tower. General. In 'A'. Chamfered plinth at base reaching maximum height of 0.3m on north. Then first stage which terminates in a string course with hollow moulding. Second (belfry) stage has less pronounced string course. Finally shallow battlemented parapet, inset slightly. Dressed sandstone for diagonal buttresses which occur at all corners, supporting the first stage; that on south-east rises above south aisle roof. Dressed sandstone too for the basal courses on the west and south. String courses worn and broken.

North wall: chamfered slit window in line with tops of buttresses; 2m above this a small slit-like gap which may be result of stone loss. Belfry window has no frame but three louvred lights with four-centred arches, all in red sandstone; the grey stone mullions are probably renewed. Four putlog holes visible in upper part of wall face.

East wall: nave apex rises fractionally above buttress tops. Standard belfry window.

South wall: similar to north side with one unglazed slit window and standard belfry window. On extreme east two small chamfered slits light tower stair, one about 3m from the ground, the other in line with the buttress top.

West wall: plinth only just visible because of ground slope. First stage has a west window with a four-centred arch, under which three stepped lancet lights; inset so external splayed reveal. All original? Standard belfry window.

North Nave and Chancel. General. No external differentiation between nave and chancel. In 'B' but 'C' used for rebuilding and renovation in Victorian era. Chamfered plinth to chancel and east part of nave.

North wall: features from west are: i) north door with four-centred arch all in red sandstone; blocked tidily with limestone blocks below six fragments of early sepulchral slabs from a minimum of three slabs, one of which had a four-circle cross, Hubbard attributed these to the early 14thC; ii) window with four-centred arch, hoodmould, three stepped lights with trefoiled heads, chamfered jambs in pink and red sandstone; the tracery, hoodmould and mullions renewed in yellow sandstone; iii) window with peaked arch that is not quite four-centred, but otherwise as previous window. All in original red sandstone except for half of the arch with its integral hoodmould, the mullions and the trefoiled heads of the lights; replacement trefoils better carved than those of ii); iv) as previous windows, but only the jambs survive in red sandstone, the rest renewed, and even some of sill. A large part of the more westerly section of this wall replaced in 'C'; the junction with 'B' runs from a little over halfway up the side of the north door, under window ii) but over window ii); walling around iv) does not appear to have rebuilt.

East wall: mainly 'B' but upper part of gable in 'A'-type masonry. East window has segmental head, five lights that have ogee heads and cinquefoil tracery, with panel tracery and cusping; hoodmould has heads as stops; one a grotesque is sharp, the other is worn and might conceivably be original, though everything is in yellow freestone. Angle buttress has 19thC dressings.

South Nave and Chancel. General. 'B' but uppermost courses in 'A'-type masonry.

East wall: buttress and quoins at angles are in dressed stone, Victorian. East window has four-centred arch and four lights, with transoms and trefoiled panels above; the two middle lights, are stepped up and brattished. Only the jambs, part of the sill and the transom are original. Gable rebuilt above window.

South wall: chamfered plinth visible at west end but not east. Lower part of wall in 'B', upper part rebuilt in 'C'. Features from east are: i) window with four-centred arch, almost segmental; four lights with cusped ogee heads and panels above; complex mouldings; hoodmould with simple stops; all in yellow sandstone with date of 1626 incised on a jamb stone, though generally unweathered with sharp arrises. ii) window with four-centred arch, almost peaked, and similar to window in east wall; again four lights and transoms which, in the two middle lights, are stepped up and brattished; jambs in red sandstone, rest in yellow; west of this window 'B' gives way to 'C' at springer level. iii) porch. iv) window with four-centred arch, three lights with trefoil heads, hoodmould with stops; all in light yellow freestone, a total renewal.

West wall: window with four-centred arch, five lights with ogee heads and cinquefoil tracery; all in light yellow freestone indicative of renewal. Gable rebuilt.

Porch. General. Stone foundation walls, timber superstructure with rectangular glazed lights. Segmental-headed arch for double wooden doors with painted statuette of?St Mary above.

Interior

Porch. General. Red tiled floor; plastered walls; pegged purlin and rafter roof.

North wall: Victorian doorway with peaked arch, decorated spandrels, complex moulding, and a stopped label, all in pale sandstone.

East and west walls: benches.

Tower. General. Red tiled floor with carpet over. Walls whitewashed but not plastered. Ceiled at a level just above west window.

North wall: large Benefaction Board above mural tablets of 1775 and 1750.

East wall: original tower arch partly blocked by modern wall with a door and a window above it. Over this the original two-centred arch in red sandstone is still visible, the arch fading into the walls on either side.

South wall: in the south-east corner small doorway to tower stairs, with four-centred arch with rib and hollow mouldings but no stops on jambs. Benefaction Board of 1792.

West wall: splayed window embrasure, original.

North Nave. General. Red tiled floor with carpet from south door and down aisle; flush wooden boarding under benches. Walls plastered and painted, and heating pipes run along them. Roof of six and a half bays with arch-braced collars, cusped struts and principals, and resting on ribbed wall plates; two tiers of cusped windbraces. Final bay shared with chancel. Rear bay curtained off as vestry.

North wall: splayed windows; organ against wall towards west end; 19thC and 20thC mural tablets and memorials, six in all.

East wall: screen.

South wall: four bays of six-bay arcade; slender octagonal piers, ribbed capitals and two-centred arches, all of one build in pink sandstone.

West wall: plain apart from the tower arch and its blocking.

Chancel. General. One step up to chancel from nave, one to sanctuary, one to altar. Tiled floors, some encaustic; choir stalls on raised wooden boards. Walls as nave. Roof of one and a half bays; the complete bay is longer than standard and has a wagon roof with decorated wall plates and purlins, and the principal truss at the west end has painted angels on the arch-brace terminals.

North wall: splayed window; one 20thC marble memorial.

East wall: splayed window; Victorian reredos.

South wall: two bays of arcade; capital of the respond is set slightly lower than those of the piers. Victorian piscina with ogee-headed arch and cinquefoil cusping.

South Aisle. General. Tiled floor with carpet over. Walls as nave. Roof as nave with six and a half bays.

North wall: arcade as nave.

South wall: two splayed windows; one marble wall memorial of 1748 and several 19thC monuments.

West wall: splayed window; mural tablet of 1582.

South Chapel. General. This end raised up with three steps as in the chancel; altar beneath east window. Consecrated as memorial chapel in 1947.

North wall: arcade.

East wall: splayed window.

South wall: small piscina-like recess with four-centred arched head; original and no more than 0.5m off floor. Four 19thC memorial tablets.

Churchyard

Llanfair has a rectangular churchyard with recent extensions (dating from 1879 and 1910/11) on the north-east which are used for current burials. The original churchyard is set on a gentle slope dropping down to the north-east.

Boundary: stone walls on all sides except where churchyard abuts buildings; that on the north-west is a retaining wall.

Monuments: most of the churchyard has been cleared of monuments. A few in the east corner including chest tombs, all of the 19thC. A considerable number cleared to the north-west edge where they are covered by vegetation. Again most of these appear to be 19thC.

Furniture: cross base with three steps and part of what was the shaft of a churchyard cross, chamfered with stops. Probably 15thC, though it bears the date 1800 and this may refer to the sundial set on it which bears the inscription 'E.Tavo Chester Fect'.

Earthworks: churchyard raised: 1m+ on the north-west and north-east but virtually nothing on south-west.

Ancillary features: timber-framed lychgate on stone foundation walls. Under the roof is inscription 'HEB DDUW HEB DDIM' and date 1708; externally 'EP = IR. IP IE:.' + '1708'. Restored 1938. Also wrought iron ornamental gates with gilded crosses on south-west, and a modern field gate at west angle. Tarmac paths.

Vestry house, on south-east side of churchyard is of three bays. Doorway, with Gothic glazing in its fanlight between two storeys of windows. A plaque reads 'Jonathan Beever, Esq, John Evans, John Roberts, John Wynne, Churchwardens MDCCCXXXI Na werth y nef, erben thyg y byd'.

Vegetation: several mature yews to south and east of church. Others smaller ones along north-west boundary.

Sources consulted

Church notes: n.d.
CPAT AP 1995, 95-004-0029
CPAT Field Visit: 12 August 1996
Crossley 1946, 29
DRO/PD/55/1/24: Restoration specification 1871
Glynne 1884, 173
Gresham 1968, 122; 145
Hubbard 1986, 206
Lloyd Williams and Underwood 1872, pl 7
NLW/St Asaph papers: churchyard extension 1879
Neaverson 1953-54, 10
Owen 1886, 106
Quinquennial Review 1988
Quinquennial Review 1995
Thomas 1911, 95


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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 Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd 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 ( 22:01:43 ).
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 - chrismartin@cpat.org.uk, website - www.cpat.org.uk.

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