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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Trillo , Clocaenog

Clocaenog Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Clocaenog in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ0818854229. At one time it was dedicated to St Medwida.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16749 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Clocaenog Church, CPAT copyright photo 512-32.JPG


St Trillo's church lies on the edge of the small village of Clocaenog, some 6km south-west of Ruthin. Possibly an early medieval foundation, the church exhibits few pre-Reformation features, though it is possible though undemonstrable that some sections of the walls may go back to the medieval period. The east window once carried a date of 1538, and the north doorway should also be 15thC/16thC. It retains a fine rood screen, a 15thC font, some 16thC glass and a range of post-medieval fittings; a fragment of sculpture built into the bellcote could be 12thC or 13thC. The churchyard is rectangular and contains an 18thC sundial and a typical range of grave memorials.

Whether the renewed Decorated window on the north side of the chancel reflects an original feature cannot be ascertained, though in 1882 it was claimed to be a new window. Nor can the degree to which the outside walls have been rebuilt, for there is a lack of differentiation between old and new masonry, but the 1882 faculty does suggest that much if not all of the south wall was rebuilt. The east window, probably largely renewed, can be attributed to the 16thC on the basis of style and a lost inscription of 1538.

The south porch was added in 1882.

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


The dedication of Clocaenog church is to St Trillo, but there is little else to suggest that this is an early medieval foundation. However, an alternative argument has been promoted that the patron was actually St Medwida (or variations on the name; to Thomas it was St Foddyd), a daughter of St Idloes, and in support of this idea, recourse has been made to a will of a Bangor cleric who in 1530 directed that his body be buried 'in ecclesia de Sancte Medwide Virginis'. This church has been equated with Clocaenog, which was in the diocese of Bangor until 1589.

History however is generally quiet about this small rural church. In the 1254 Taxatio the church appears as 'Ecclesia de Colocaynauc' at a value of 13s 4d, but it is not recorded in that of 1291.

Glynne visited it in 1855 and described a building in late Perpendicular style, with square-headed windows on the south side and new pews.

Restoration occurred in 1856/7 by Kennedy and again by Perkin & Bulmer of Leeds in 1882. Details of the earlier work are sparse, but the faculty for the second restoration required the rebuilding of the south wall, the addition of a new porch, two new windows on the north side, renewal of existing windows, replastering of the interior, and the repointing of the whole of the exterior. During the work two wall paintings were uncovered on the east wall and a coat of arms incorporating a lion on the north wall. None was preserved.

Further work occurred in 1892 for initials and the date were cut into the plaster bed of roof, second bay from the east.


Clocaenog church comprises a nave and chancel as a single cell and a south porch; there is a bellcote at the west end. The church is oriented south-west to north-east but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for the church, though not for the churchyard.

Fabrics:'A' consists of small to large blocks of grey and grey-brown sedimentary rock, occasionally with quartz inclusions; larger blocks towards the wall bases; some blocks laminating; irregularly coursed; occasional patches of limewash or render.

Roof: slate roofs, plain grey clay, ridge tiles, but toothed ridge tiles for porch; stump of finial at east end of chancel.

Disproportionately large bellcote with single aperture for one bell, capped with stone slabs with a weathercock above. Of interest is the round-headed arch on the outside (west) face; the stone (or stones) have raised foliated decoration, somewhat worn, indicating re-use; this could possibly be a shrine fragment of the 12thC or 13thC (Dr N Edwards: pers comm). The east side of aperture appears to have a similar arched stone (?or the same), crudely fashioned into a round head but lacking any decoration.

Drainage: drain disguised by 0.8m-wide layer of stone chippings, sunken around all sides, and edged in concrete slabs.


Nave. General. Nave and chancel treated as one cell with no external differentiation. Masonry partially obscured by heavy pointing, but seemingly 'A' throughout. All windows in mustard yellow freestone, of Victorian date, unless otherwise stated.

North wall: in 'A'; at higher levels the stone is a little smaller and could conceivably be a rebuild, though no junction is discernible. From the west: i) flat-topped frameless window with two two-centred arched lights that have cusped heads; ii) north doorway in red sandstone with a four-centred arch and chamfered dressings -?original; iii) window as i); iv) 2m east of iii) but at a lower level is a blocked iron pipe, projecting slightly from wall face, presumably relating to a former boiler; v) lighting the chancel, a window with two-centred arch, two cusped lights and a quatrefoil above, Decorated in style.

East wall: on this side only, a chamfered plinth at a height of c.1m, the chamfer in red sandstone and showing as a rather uneven line. Above is a five-light two-centred arched Perpendicular window with cinquefoil tracery to the main lights, a transom at springing level, two two-light sub-arches, panel tracery and cusping, complex moulding and a hoodmould above. Recorded as once having been inscribed with the date 1538; this has now gone but there is an entry in the church register to this effect. Jambs and sill in pink sandstone, the rest in yellow, none of which looks very worn; mullions certainly renewed and much of the other dressed stone may have been. The wall itself could be largely original.

South wall: absence of heavy pointing highlights the mixed stonework in this wall which could be original but is perhaps more likely to be rebuilt in view of the 19thC faculty requirements. Some flecks of render or limewash remain. Features from east are: i) a square-headed three light window, the lights having round heads; ii) + iii) standard two-light windows as north nave.

West wall: plain wall face with large stones underpinning and projecting beyond the base; massive quoins bond this and the south wall together. No obvious rebuilding.

Porch. General. Added in 1882. Dwarf foundation walls topped by chamfered freestone, supporting a timber superstructure; six glazed windows on either side. Broad south entrance has upright timbers carrying an arch-braced tie-beam with, above, raking struts and wooden panelling.


Porch. General. Slate slab floor; roof of close-set collared rafters. Porch is not set symmetrically to the main south door of the church, itself a Victorian feature, but no obvious reason for this anomaly.

Nave. General. Floor largely carpetted; benches raised on wooden boarding. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Late medieval roof (16thC?) extending across nave and chancel has nine bays, all with arch-braced collars and raking struts, and all cusped to give one quatrefoil and two trefoils; two tiers of cusped windbraces.

North wall: wall tapers outwards slightly. Splayed windows of Victorian freestone; splayed reveal and segmental head to north door, with three steps down into nave; one wooden mural tablet of 1705.

East wall: screen.

South wall: two splayed windows, no obvious taper to wall, no features.

West wall: set centrally in the wall, a projecting 'buttress' carries bellrope, and there is a doorway at the base. Above this is a coat-of-arms and an undated Incorporated Church Building Society plaque. On wall face to north of this projection are two benefaction boards in English and Welsh of 1778.

Chancel. General. One step up to sanctuary, another to altar. Carpet over floors, choir stalls raised on wooden boarding. Walls and roof as nave.

North wall: window embrasure is in red sandstone, has a two-centred, shouldered arch to the reveal and could be original. Three marble mural tablets, one of 1796, the others more recent.

East wall: the wall is thinner than those to north and south, and just above eaves level it is inset to create a ledge; this reportedly may be a means of counteracting external bulge in the wall.

South wall: splayed window with Victorian dressings.


The churchyard is small and slopes from west to east. It is well maintained, and recent burials take place in an extension to the west. The shape of the churchyard is decidedly rectangular and there is no evidence whatsoever that this was originally a circular churchyard.

Boundary: a stone retaining wall on the south; the former boundary on the west is now a scarp bank within the present graveyard; on the north is a low drystone wall with a hedge on top, and on the east is a vertical drop of up to 3m to yards and the backs of houses.

Monuments: these are spread over most of the yard, though generally are not tightly packed. Many of the earlier monuments are badly weathered though it is clear that 18thC examples do exist to the south and east of the church. In addition there are graves on the north side going back to 1743. There are several railed chest tombs of 19thC date, and a few ledgers to the east of the church. The earliest memorial recognised was that of 1743.

Furniture: sundial with octagonal base, tapering pillar, a plate bearing the inscription 'Joyce Ruthin Sculp. 1753', and a gnomon still in position. In the south-east corner of the churchyard with a war memorial adjacent.

Earthworks: it is impossible to determine whether the churchyard is raised. There is a substantial drop to the south but this could be a result of the erosion of the trackway edging the churchyard; and on the east the natural scarp has been cut back to allow cottages to be built.

Ancillary features: lychgate of concrete blocks, a slated roof and concrete finial to which Hubbard curiously attributed a date of 1691; a single wooden gate. Tarmac path to church porch and to new burial ground to west. A small metal gate gives access in the north-east corner of the churchyard but is served only by a grass path.

Vegetation: one massive yew to the south-west of the church, a second, smaller one to the north, and a bush yew beside the path from the lychgate.

Sources consulted

Archaeologia Cambrensis 1882, 237
CPAT Field Visit: 20 August 1996
Crossley 1946, 10
Faculty: St Asaph 1882 (NLW)
Glynne 1884, 104
Hubbard 1986, 131
NMR Aberystwyth
Quinquennial Review 1984
Ridgway 1997, 60
Thomas 1911, 69
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 Clocaenog 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 ( 22:01:25 ).
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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