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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Marcellus , Llanfarchell

Llanfarchell Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Denbigh in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ0714066234.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16767 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanfarchell Church, CPAT copyright photo CS971836.JPG


St Marcella's church is set on the western edge of a terrace above the floor of Clwyd vale, less than one mile from Denbigh for which it was the parish church throughout the medieval period. It is a good example of the local double-naved form and its masonry reveals a sequence of development from perhaps the 14thC onwards; while most features are Perpendicular, there is a blocked west doorway of earlier date. Of late medieval date inside is the arcade and the fine roofs to both naves. There is, however, a surprising absence of medieval furnishings and fittings with only a few fragments of medieval glass remaining, but there is 17thC woodwork and stonework and an excellent range of wall monuments including that to the antiquary Humphrey Llwyd. The modern churchyard bears little relation to the smaller enclosure of the 18thC, and graves and their markers have been cleared from the south side.

Earliest surviving part of the building is the west end of the south nave, with a west doorway which could be 14thC, and some contemporary masonry in south and west walls. This earlier structure was about half the length of the present south nave and chancel, and was extended eastwards probably in the 15thC. Subsequently a north nave and chancel was added using different masonry and incorporating more elaborate windows than on the south side. At the same time, or soon after, the west tower was added and perhaps the south porch. Later work included a west window in the tower and by inference the north door, and the heightening of the roof on the north side.

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


Llanfarchell (otherwise Whitchurch or Eglwyswen, though the former is of post-Reformation origin) was the parish church of Denbigh. Its siting and perhaps its dedication proclaim an early medieval origin. St Marchell is claimed as a saint of the 6thC.

It has been suggested that the Guild of Taylors had a chantry on the south side with access through the now blocked priest's door; the shears carved in the roof have been cited as further evidence.

It was supplanted as parish church by St Hilarys in Denbigh and from 1828 only burial services were held here.

In 1908 it was restored by H.Fowler of Durham; pews were removed, plaster cleared, the screen restored, monuments cleaned, window masonry repaired as was the tower, and timberwork renewed.


The church consists of two naves, a south porch and a west tower which is attached to the north nave. The building is oriented south-west/north-east but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here for descriptive purposes.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of small to medium slabs and blocks of very fine-grained sedimentary rock (?perhaps a very fine sandstone), grey and olive through to brown and orange (which predominates) in colour; rarely a lump of limestone or a rounded pebble stone; however in places in lower wall face, rather more limestone; some coursing. 'B' is as 'A' but a greater mixture of slabs and blocks, and some red sandstone blocks, the whole less well laid than 'A'; also occasional large blocks. 'C' is a mixture of pink (with some olive) sandstone and grey limestone; medium-sized blocks with smaller material higher up the wall face. Quoins where they survive of olive sandstone. 'D' is a heterogeneous mix of limestone, grey-green, red and yellow sandstone, and some rounded lumps of stone in addition to the quarried material. Quoins of red sandstone. Some coursing. 'E' is of limestone slabs, all grey, with occasional blocks of freestone built in. Render traces remain.

Roof: slated; simple unornamented grey clay ridge tiles; cross finial at east end of north nave. Sanctus bell of?Victorian date, over west end of south nave.

Drainage: a trench 0.3m-0.4m wide and 0.3m deep runs along north side. This becomes 1m wide on west and 0.7m wide on the west side of south nave and porch. It is visible as a hollow for a part of the south side, east of the porch, but is grassed over and fades. Nothing visible on east.


Tower. General. 'A' throughout but masonry above bellchamber windows suggests some variation (see below) and possible rebuilding or heightening. Chamfered plinth now at ground level; diagonal buttresses on west side, faced in dressed limestone and with plinth continuing round them; undivided wall faces until square-sectioned string course just below battlemented parapet. Masonry rendered in past and much of this remains in situ. Bellchamber windows attributed to Perpendicular period.

North wall: some two-fifths of way up wall is a small simple slit window. Bellchamber lit by pair of two-centred arched, louvred lights; brown freestone for arches and mullions,?limestone for jambs. Directly above window is a small waterspout with another, larger one close to the north-west angle. Above bellchamber window and splaying outwards to form a V pattern is masonry largely clear of render and lacking surface mortar in the interstices, giving a looser appearance.

East wall: bellchamber window as north side though less weathered (as is most of masonry); immediately below it a simple slit window. All masonry above bellchamber window could be rebuilt.

South wall: slit window matches that on north side and another, higher up, matches that on east. Bellchamber window is square-headed with lights that have ogee heads under two-centred arches, and sunken spandrels; in pinkish-brown freestone that appears original. Two waterspouts as north side. Rebuilt above waterspout line?

West wall: at a height of c.2m a square-headed west window with two lights which are round-headed, and these plus the jambs which are almost cyclopean in appearance, are in weathering olive-coloured sandstone; mullion renewed; label with simple stops, and above this a segmental relieving arch. Window surely a later insertion though the sill has the weathered carving of a head, medieval in appearance. This is re-used and could have originally ornamented a lintel. No slit windows. Bellchamber window is as on south but has a segmental relieving arch of edge slabs. Some of wall face to north of this window may be rebuilt.

North Nave and Chancel. General. No external differentiation between nave and chancel. Quoins of dressed limestone. Masonry obscured, particularly on north wall, by different render coats.

North wall: in 'A' but some evidence of selection in that more blocks at lower levels with coursed slabs higher up wall face; the uppermost 1m (at west end) to about 0.7m or so (at east end) is rebuilt or more likely raised in 'B'. Features from west are: i) triangular-headed doorway with cyclopean arch in the same stone as west window of tower; stone is weathering and some jambstones have been replaced on the west side. ii) a two-light window with two-centred arches and cinquefoil tracery, once painted white; window inset into wall and has deeply hollowed chamfers; label with two much worn head-stops; all in pinkish-brown sandstone apart from renewed mullion. iii) four-centred arched window with a relieving arch of edge stones above it. Three broad lights, with either two-centred arches (outer ones) or a four-centred arch (central one) and cinquefoil tracery; paint traces across many dressings; one half of the sill is deeply grooved as though from sharpening. No hoodmould. Ivy spreading over some of wall to east of the window.

East wall: dominated by five-light Perpendicular window with two-centred arch, hoodmould with floral stops; lights have cusped tracery under ogee or two-centred heads, and there are cusped panels above. The jambs, in pinkish-brown sandstone with paint traces, are original, and likewise some of the panel tracery; otherwise there appears to be much renewal, though the presence of a grille in front of the window makes it difficult to determine the extent. Much of the wall face is in 'A', but immediately below the window is a zone of limestone. Gable above window is cleaner with less render and probably partially rebuilt. Roof also raised on north side resulting in a band of 'B' and an east window which is off-centre.

West wall: in 'A'. No discernible relationship with the tower.

South Nave and Chancel. General. Nave and chancel not differentiated externally.

East wall: east window not identical with that in north chancel, and set slightly higher in the wall face. It has a four-centred arch, a Victorian hoodmould with floral stops, differing in detail to that in north chancel. Lights are longer, while the tracery and panels are very similar, though the latter are smaller; more original dressings than north chancel window, but again grille-covered. The fabric is 'C', with weathered quoins. Just visible at ground level in the south-east corner is a chamfered plinth in pink sandstone, but it rapidly disappears under the turf further north. No visible abutment with the east wall of the north nave!

South wall: wall in 'C', the plinth seen at the base of the east wall, visible here too but only for a short distance. From east the features are: i) four-centred window with three plain lights, the two outer ones with four-centred heads but the central one almost round-headed; hollow chamfers, paint residue, hoodmould with foliate stops, showing some renewal. A few dressings also renewed. ii) narrow priest's door, one step up from ground level; round-headed, hollow chamfered, with grey and yellow sandstone dressings; paint traces on the dressings but also on the limestone blocking the door. iii) window similar to ii) but hoodmould has one foliate stop and one with a fleur-de-lys; one mullion completely replaced. iv) as three but largely renewed though some jamb stones might be original but in different freestone to the other two windows; hoodmould has Victorian stops. v) immediately adjacent to window is a butt joint, the lower part of the wall (but only for a short distance) is in 'D', the upper part in 'C'. vi) rectangular window of two lights in olive and maroon sandstone. Set into 'C' walling and probably Victorian or later. vii) porch. viii) wall plain to west of porch but a small patch of 'D' visible near ground level.

West wall: prominent in this wall is a blocked, broad, two-centred arched doorway in red sandstone, perhaps with a quarter-round moulding, the whole set in 'D'; jambs are continuous on south side but have survived intermittently on north and extend at least 0.3m below current ground level. Above the doorway the masonry is 'C' and the first couple of metres of this is heavily pointed. At the apex a gable line sloping to the tower wall has been subsequently filled in to produce a horizontal top, and may be related to the chimney, presumably of Victorian or later date, that rears above the gable end. At south-west angle quoins have been renewed to a height of c.2.5m.

Porch. General. In 'E'.

East wall: plain; slightly projecting basal foundation below present ground level.

South wall: round-headed doorway with quarter-round moulding to dressings; in olive grey freestone. Plaque above door is very worn, but carried inscription in which the numbers '22' are still prominent.

West wall: small rectangular window with two-centred arched light, sunken spandrels, all in grey freestone; probably re-used. As on east side there is a projecting foundation.


Porch. General. Flagstone floor without re-use. Walls plastered and painted. Simple roof of purlins and rafters though former have mortice holes that indicate re-use.

North wall: broad rather formless doorway to church, the reveal with an irregular segmental head and faintly splayed sides. No indication of medieval architecture.

East wall: stone bench against wall. Above it a plaque commemorating the restoration of 1980-81.

South wall: nothing of note.

West wall: stone bench and above it a splayed window and an old photograph of the church.

Tower. General. Locked and inaccessible, though it is clear that walls are plastered and painted and that it has a flat wooden ceiling with joists at a height of perhaps 5m.

North Nave. General. Floor paved with old graveslabs at rear and down the aisle, but partly carpetted. Individual chairs set on flush wooden blocks. Walls plastered and painted. Roof of six bays; the hammerbeams rise from corbels that are plain blocks of stone on the north but have painted angels and the like beneath the posts on the south The date of the painting is not certain. The intermediate arch-braced trusses rise from wall plates and have fine carvings including a dragon, figures etc. One has the mitred head of Chicheley, sinecured rector from 1391 and later archbishop of Canterbury; another with a crowned female head may represent Margaret, Countess of Derby from the 15thC. Additionally the stone wall plate on the south side has decorative motifs also painted, again too fresh to be original. Organ in north-west corner.

North wall: curtained reveal to north door, which is slightly splayed and has triangular top. Splayed Perpendicular window. Three hatchments of unknown date; two tablets recording donations of land for graveyard extensions. Five marble memorial tablets ranging from 1717 to 1858.

East wall: wooden screen dated to 1909 on evidence of brass plaque on adjacent wall.

South wall: three bays of five-bay arcade; four-centred arches with octagonal capitals, pillars and bases. Hubbard noted the mouldings are of greater refinement than is usual for the region.

West wall: southern half occupied by tower arch which is two-centred and has two orders springing from wall. Arch is recessed and this indicates a greater thickness of wall above and to the side. Two undated hatchments and two marble memorials, an undated example and one of 1781 largely hidden by the organ.

North Chancel. General. No change in height from nave to chancel; one step to sanctuary, two to altar. Chancel has stone flags of which at least three are graveslabs, the earliest 1604. Walls plastered and painted. Roof of four bays comparable with nave; the only difference is that the intermediate arch-braced truss over the altar has no carved figures at its terminals; the decorative stone elements on the south side continue though as animals, dragons etc. rather than the foliage of the nave.

North wall: one splayed Perpendicular window; the fine Myddleton brass of 1575, Humphrey Llwyd's memorial of 1568 and a marble memorial set up in 1802.

East wall: dominated by window with modern reredos above altar. To north of this is a painted heraldic plaque of unknown age and origin. To the south there is a slight thickening of the wall to a height of c.2m as far as the window edge. Though not immediately intelligible this could be reflect the corner of the original south chancel before its northern counterpart was added.

South wall: two bays of arcade and a parclose screen of similar date to other furnishings in the chancel.

West wall: modern screen (see above).

South Nave. General. Floor as north nave with graveslabs used right up to east end of nave; chairs on wooden blocks; one step down from the porch but replaced by a ramp. Walls as north nave. Roof as north nave with six bays; the decoration and style is comparable, the only obvious difference is that both walls have hollowed stone wall plates with decorative embellishments along the full length. The carving of cloth shears is said to refer to a tailors' company.

North wall: arcade as north nave.

East wall: screen, a continuation of that separating the north nave and chancel.

South wall: two splayed windows, the reveals of which do not given any real indication of any age. One hatchment in poor condition; a late 17thC wooden memorial plaque; and three marble memorial tablets. Hanging on the wall to the west of the door are five brass collecting trays.

West wall: centrally set is a large triangular headed alcove which obviously indicates the position of the early west door; the alcove contains a marble plaque of 1776 and fragments of two memorial slabs, one of 1655. Above are three hatchments and to one side a large Benefaction Board dating to 1720. On the other (south) side a small, square deep niche of unknown function.

South Chancel. General. Flagged floor with several graveslabs in situ, the earliest of 1671 and two with inset brasses of later date. Altar table of 1623 raised on plinth. Walls and roof as nave. Dominated by the Salusbury monument in the centre of the floor.

North wall: arcade as north chancel.

East wall: splayed east window. Marble memorial of 1693.

South wall: two splayed windows; marble wall memorial of 1715.


The churchyard is rectilinear with a sizeable extension on its west side, but a smaller churchyard surrounding the church, which was eccentrically placed within it, is evidenced by a manuscript map of c.1811. This was extended to the north at this date and a further plot was added on the west side in 1858. A 20thC extension lies still further west. The present churchyard is reasonably well maintained and burials are largely accommodated in the extension.

A river terrace on the western side of the Vale of Clwyd is the setting for the church which lies back from the terrace edge by about 20-30m.

Boundary: the churchyard is surrounded by a mortared stone wall which on the south acts as a retaining wall, the inner height about 0.4m, the external fall about 1.8m Similarly on the east there is an immediate fall of about 1m, and a further drop to the track that runs beside the churchyard.

Monuments: south of the church the ground has been largely cleared but some slabs have been laid to edge the path to the porch. On the west the stones are mainly ledgers, some going back to the late 18thC. The small area east of the church is paved with ledgers, the earliest of 1680. North and further west, the churchyard is reasonably full with monuments regularly spaced though not excessively dense.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: the course of the pre-19thC churchyard boundary is just discernible but only with the help of the manuscript map. On the south-west there is a scarp about 0.3m followed by a path, and on the west this increases to about 0.6m with tree stumps and disturbed ground on top. Immediately north of the church the ground is raised by at least 0.5m but the pre-19thC boundary cannot be discerned clearly here; there is simply a meandering scarp.

Ancillary features: stone and timber lychgate with a separate kissing gate adjacent on the south-west. Just to the north-east of the church is a simple gap through the churchyard wall. The lychgate is linked to the porch by a tarmac path.

Vegetation: two old yews lie to the west and south of the church, and further less mature yews edge the southern boundary of the 1858 extension to the west; and there are also yews as well as other trees in the 1811 extension to the north.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 17 January 1997
Crossley 1946, 11
Faculty 1858 (NLW): churchyard extension
Faculty 1889 (NLW): churchyard extensionFaculty 1955 (NLW): churchyard extension
Hubbard 1986, 152
Lloyd Williams and Underwood 1872, pls 5, 6 & 8
Manuscript plan, 1811: DRO/PD/24/1/58
NMR: Aberystwyth
Neaverson 1953-54, 8
Quinquennial Report: 1987
Thomas 1911, 14
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 Llanfarchell 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 ( 22:01:44 ).
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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