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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Mael and St Sulien , Cwm

Cwm Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Cwm in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ0662577465.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16756 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Cwm Church, CPAT copyright photo CS962221.JPG

Summary

The church of St Mael and St Sulien at Cwm, a little more than two miles to the north-east of St Asaph, is a small single chambered structure set within a rectangular churchyard. It retains rubblestone walls which might be of 14thC or perhaps 15thC date, and has a Perpendicular east window and contempoary and later windows elsewhere. Inside is a square font of 12thC/13thC date, fragments of late medieval glass and parts of several 14thC sepulchral slabs and part of a medieval cross with carved crucifixions on the sides. The churchyard includes a hooded tomb of 17thC date.

Single chambered church with no structural divisions, apart from differing floor levels, and no obviously significant changes in the masonry. The shell of the building is claimed as 14thC, though there is no substantive evidence for this early date unless it is the west window on the south side. There is a Perpendicular east window suggesting the 15thC/16thC and other windows as well as the two doors of broadly the same date. Other windows date from the later 16th-17thC and 18thC. The porch might be 18thC though it contains northing that is diagnostic. The interior was not restored until the beginning of the 20thC.

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

History

The church is dedicated to two 6thC saints, but it has been suggested that the earliest foundation stood on the hill above, and known as 'yr hen Eglwys'.

It is recorded in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 as 'Ecc'a de Cum' with a value of 30s, and in the Lincoln Taxation of 1291 withn a vlue of 9.

The earliest maosnry in the present structure is believed to date from the following century, but the windows suggest other, later phases of work.

Glynne visited in 1839 and erroneously believed it to be dedicated to St Valacinian, following Browne Willis. At this time the church was completely whitewashed, and was 'plain and neglected', the architecture late Perpendicular with square-headed windows in the main. There were open seats in a rotten sate, an 'ugly wooden screen across the chancel'

In the mid-19thC, the oak roof was replaced by one of deal; at some point also the chancel screen was removed. The western gallery and pews, introduced in 1843, were removed in 1881 and replaced by open seats.

The church was restored in 1901 by Harold Hughes. During the extensive restoration work, black-painted words were discovered on the old wall surfaces; they covered a white background with an orange border. Part of the Lord's Prayer was uncovered on the north side of the east altar. These have gone, as have the fragments of the rood screen that Thomas saw on the west wall.

A new lectern, reading desk, altar and choir seating were introduced in the 1930s.

In 1946 a new north vestry was added and in addition a boiler house and coke store at the north-west corner. The internal screen that formed the previous vestry was removed and 15 new pews inserted.

In 1954, a new organ gallery was built at the west end. Further 20thC additions included oak altar rails, pulpit and new west door in heavy oak.

In 1971, the plasterwork was removed from the porch walls and the stonework repointed.

Architecture

The church consists of a nave and chancel in one, a north vestry and south porch, with a bellcote over the west end of the nave. It is oriented south-west to north-east but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here, though the churchyard is described in conventional terms.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of medium to large-sized blocks of limestone rubble, randomly coursed, with particularly large blocks, about 1m square, as quoins and also in the west wall; also some grey shale slabs and blocks and occasional pebblestones; sparse limewash residue, but heavy mortar pointing which may mask subtle differences in the masonry. 'B' is of irregular, quarried limestone with yellow sandstone dressings. 'C' small to medium blocks of limestone with grey shale in greater quantities than in 'A'.

'A' and 'C' could be 14thC, 'B' is of 1946-7.

Roofs: slates with red ceramic ridge tiles; now no finials - that at the east end may have been broken off.

Drainage: cast iron guttering and downspouts discharge into channels, from 0.1m to 0.6m deep at the east end: along the north, east and south walls, and on two sides of the porch.

Exterior

General. The church follows the slope of the ground rising from west to east. It is more apparent internally where the three floor levels equate with the chancel, nave and baptistry, and the west door is ten steps below the sanctuary.

Nave and chancel. General. Described together as no external differentiation. All the masonry is 'A'.

North wall: all in 'A' except that 'C' forms the basal courses to the north wall of the chancel to a height of about 0.3m above prersent ground level. This could be no more than the contemporary foundation, but conceivably it might be an earlier wall survival. From the west: i) vestry. ii) square-headed window with three segmental-headed lights, sunken spandrels, hollowed chamfers to the jambs, all in olive-coloured freestone without any signs of replacement. Probably 17thC. There are indications that it has been inserted into the wall. iii) a similar window in the chancel except that there are four lights; red sandstone has been used for the mullions and one of the light heads and part of another have been renewed in similar stone. This window also has a label with simple stops. It has been suggested that until the insertion of these windows the north wall lacked any apertures and this is a moot point.

East wall: masonry disguised by heavy pointing. A Perpendicular window in with a four-centred arch and deeply hollowed chamfers; five stepped two-centred lights with cinquefoil tracery; hoodmould with simple stops, and a hollowed soffit. Original olive-yellow sandstone dressings remain particularly in the light heads, but there are renewed mullions in pink sandstone.

South wall: all in 'A' with no evidence of 'C'; quoins of large rectangular blocks of limestone and long slabs of olive-yellow sandstone. From the west: i) square-headed Perpendicular window with two trefoiled lights but lacking a frame; sunken spandrels, chamfered jambs; some renewal including the mullion and half of one of the heads in darker sandstone. ii) south porch. iii) a round-headed Georgian window with projecting keystone and capitals, all in olive sandstone; the window is flush with the wall face and a 1769 datestone is set in the wall above the keystone. iv) a deeply recessed Perpendicular square-headed window with two cinquefoiled lights and a label with plain stops, very much comparable with the window in the east wall; the original greyish sandstone repaired with red for some of the dressings, including the mullion.

West wall: strengthened by a thickening of the wall, an extra c.0.4m deep, rising to two-thirds of the height of the wall (visible also 'in section' in the south wall by the nature of the quoins and the range of masonry), and then battered off to the original wall face. And at the base of each corner, projecting plinths provide extra support. The thickened wall is in 'A', though with additional stone types. Two-centred doorway with differentially worn, moulded dressings in both pink and grey freestone, and a hoodmould with hollowed soffit; all original. Approached by five steps.

Bellcote: Turret in regular blocks of freestone and capped with sandstone contains two bells hung in round-headed apertures; rusticated roof.

North Vestry. General. An addition in 'B' to the north wall. 1947 datestone in north gable apex. Doors on east and west, three windows on north, all square-headed.

South Porch. General. Constructed in 'A'-type masonry although almost certainly later in date than the body of the church; perhaps an 18thC addition. Entrance on the south via a round-headed arch with long stone voussoirs, rustic in appearance. The south wall has a faintly splayed base.

Interior

South Porch. General. Flagstone floor, unplastered walls, roof of exposed rafters and purlins.

North wall: two-centred chamfered doorway to nave, with complex filleted mouldings, and a hoodmould with hollowed soffit and hlaf-round stops; the west one carries sharpening marks. The top of the arch is in lighyt pink sandstone and the lower jambs in grey. This might suggest that the latter are older, but the hoodmould in pink sandstone looks to be original. A heavy, iron studded, oak door with beaten wrought iron hinges and a key c.0.3m long, weighing a pound.

East and west walls: stone benches now plastered and boarded.

Nave. General. Flagged floor to the baptistry at the west end includes weatherworn gravestones including one of 1719. There are three steps down to the west door and two up into the nave. The nave aisle is carpetted and there are raised woodblock floors under the benches. Plastered and painted walls, but some dressed stonework is exposed. Roof is continuous across nave and chancel, 17 narrow bays formed by 18 arch-braced collar trusses with raking struts, the trusses springing from the wall plates; exposed rafters and purlins. The whole is modern.

The south-west corner of the nave has been partitioned off and is now used as a store room. A gallery at the west end houses the organ.

North wall: window embrasure has modern red sandstone lintels. A modern vestry arch is located under the west gallery. Two medieval sepulchral slabs and the fragments of a third are pinned to the wall.

East wall: divide between nave and chancel by three steps only.

South wall: segmental arch to the reveal of the south door; weathered grey sandstone stoup in a round-headed niche on the east side of the doorway.

West wall: round-headed splayed reveal in red sandstone, 1.5m deep, to west door. Above this is the modern organ gallery, with panelled front, supported on four wooden uprights.

Chancel. General. Tiled floor in the sanctuary but some grave slabs in the chancel floor. Walls as nave. Roof is a continuation of the nave and as such is described above.

North wall: a high angular pointed arch with a hoodmould over a recess formerly for a tomb; the recess is now plastered over leaving the dressings of the arch exposed; flower heads decorate tthe chamfered edge of the soffit; 14thC. Hubbard thought the stones were re-used, accounting for its curious shape, but Thomas stated that its tomb was of 'Tangwystl, the wife of Llewelyn ap Meilir' which had originally been in the chancel but at the time that he wrote in the late 19thC had been moved into the churchyard. One 18thC marble memorial.

East wall: Perpendicular east window contains fragments of medieval stained glass. 20thC altar and fittings.

South wall: only a window embrasure wqith unpainted dressings.

West wall: gallery (see above).

Vestry. General. Wooden floor, carpetted over; plastered walls and raftered ceiling.

Churchyard

The churchyard at Cwm is a relatively small rectangular enclosure which was extended eastwards at a later date. The ground slopes from east to west.

Boundary: a stone wall which forms a revetment to the churchyard on the south-west, but stands to 1.5m on the south-east and north-east and about 1m on the north-west.

Monuments: a few marked graves surround the church, with a preponderance of ledgers and grave slabs laid flat. More recent burials accommodated in the north-eastern extension and cremations in the south-east corner of the old churchyard. Earliest dated monument noted was of 1606. There is also the canopied tomb of Grace Williams, wife of John Griffith of Bersham, interred in 1642. This is reportedly 'the most elaborate of the Welsh hooded tombs. Its base has two by one open arched bays, with fluted columns, decorated spandrels and strapwork frieze; an open semi-circular canopy enriched with volutes and, under the soffit, an angel and skull and shields' (Hubbard).

Furniture: none seen.

Earthworks: a low scarp bank on the north-east side denotes the extent of the original churchyard. On the south-west the churchyard is raised about 1.5m above the road.

Ancillary features: the south-western boundary contains two entrances - a pair of iron gates with an over arch set in weathered sandstone pillars at the west corner and a single gate at the south corner. Tarmac paths.

Well: St. Mael and St. Sulien's holy well is located in the vicarage garden, its covering bearing a date of 1772. The trough from the old well is set into the front boundary wall of the vicarage.

Vegetation: several yews on north side of chancel but their age is uncertain. A 1791 records state that there were six ash, one sycamore, two firs and one old yew tree in the churchyard.

Sources consulted

Arch Cam 1904, 213
CPAT Field 5 October 1996 & 19 June 1998
Clwyd SMR
Faculty: St Asaph 1946 (NLW): new vestry
Glynne 1884, 85
Gresham 1968, 118; 212; 222
Hubbard 1986, 340
Jones 1992, 178
Neaverson 1954, 10
NMR Aberystwyth
Quinquennial Review 1988
Thomas 1908, 396
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 Cwm 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 ( 22:01:29 ).
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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