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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Bridget , Dyserth

Dyserth Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Dyserth in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ0561479387. At one time it was dedicated to St Cwyfan.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16772 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Dyserth Church, CPAT copyright photo CS962230.JPG

Summary

The church, dedicated to St Bridget, is constructed in local limestone and occupies a central position within the village at the base of the Clwydians. It is likely that there was an early medieval foundation here and it is referred to in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The present structure dates from the 13thC (on the evidence of a window and doorway), though on the basis of the masonry, the chancel may well be later. It now has windows of the 16thC and 17thC. The building including the interior was largely restored in the 19thC by Gilbert Scott. Inside are a later 16thC arch-braced roof, a damaged churchyard cross of early date and the socket stone perhaps from another cross, several 14th-15thC coffin lids, and an exceptional stained glass window of 15thC/16thC origin. The large but irregularly shaped churchyard includes a good collection of 17thC chest, table and hooded tombs.

The core of the church, including the lower wall levels, is considered to be 13thC on the basis of a window and doorway in the south wall, though in passing we should note Glynne's reference to a Norman west doorway. The east window is probably 16thC and there is a further window of 1636 in the chancel; it is possible that the chancel itself was added in the 15th/16thC. The addition would also explain the unusual configuration of the roofs. The church was restored by Scott in Early English style in 1873-5. when the upper parts of the walls were rebuilt, a west doorway was inserted and the north transept, vestry and south porch were also added.

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

History

The location and a former dedication to St Cwyfan suggest an early medieval origin. The date at which the present dedication - to St Bridget (St Ffraid) - was instituted is not known.

The manor of Dyserth and its church, were recorded in Domesday Book (1086) as 'Dissard - ibi in domini ecclesia cum presbitero'. In 1093, the church was bestowed on the monks of St Werburgh's at Chester by William Meschinus.

It appears in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 as 'Ecc'a de Disserth' at a value of 4. In the Lincoln Taxation of 1291 it was 'Ecclesia de Deyserth cum capella sua de Rywlyfnwyd' at 10. The earliest structural remains of the church come from this century.

The 17thC saw some restoration work at the east end, as revealed by the 1636 Conway window, though the scale of this work cannot be gauged with any certainty.

Glynne's note of 1839 on the church was brief. 'The church [was] even smaller than Meliden, and [had] neither aisles nor distinction of chancel'. The west doorway appeared to be Norman with very plain shafts. Mention was made of the stained glass in the east window and the churchyard cross, at that time in situ.

The building was restored in 1875 by Sir George Gilbert Scott, though a plaque on the north wall states that it was almost wholly rebuilt. Certainly Scott rebuilt parts of the west, south and north walls, took down the old porch replacing it with a new one, added a north transept and a north aisle off the chancel for the organ and vestry. He removed the pews and west gallery, replacing the former with open benches; a new pulpit and prayer desk were introduced. Graves on the north side were filled in by Scott prior to the construction of the new transept and organ chamber.

Architecture

The church consists of a nave and slightly narrower chancel, a north transept and north aisle, a south porch, and a bellcote over the west end of the nave. The church is oriented fractionally south of grid west, and for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is used.

Fabrics: 'A' is mainly of small to medium blocks of limestone rubble with occasional random infills of red and yellow sandstone, and rare inclusions of other material such as pebble stones; irregular coursing. 'B' is more regularly cut limestone with fine-grained yellow sandstone dressings; some coursing. 'C' is of dressed blocks of limestone, regularly coursed. 'D' is of sandstone with a little limestone; irregular coursing, but less randomly laid than 'A'.

'A' is believed to be of 13thC date, 'D' is perhaps 15thC; 'B' and 'C' are 19thC.

Roofs: blue slates with ornamental red ceramic ridge tiles; stone cross finials at east end, over the porch, and over the north transept.

Drainage: 19thC cast iron guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways, but no conclusive evidence of a drainage trench around the church.

Exterior

Nave. North wall: heavy mortar obscures masonry. 'A' for about the bottom metre, 'B' above, where the wall was rebuilt in the 19thC. One window of 19thC paired lancets under continuous hoodmould. Eastern end of the wall hidden by north transept. At the west corner is an angle buttress also in 'A', with a distinctively splayed base, topped by a sort of string course with a hollow moulding in weathered pink sandstone beneath. This looks to be original but soon merges with the 19thC stonework.

South wall: west of the porch, the wall is entirely in fabric 'B', though some sandstone is visible in the basal courses. Angle buttress with stepped base has been claimed as 19thC, but it has limewash residue and might be earlier, though perhaps more likely to incorporate re-used stone. East of the porch fabric 'D' visible as basal layers in the wall with fabric "B" above. Here there is a single trefoiled, round-headed light with a shallow chamfer; the basal jambs and the head are weathered and could be original, the remaining jambstones have been renewed. To the east is a pair of 19thC lancets with continuous hoodmould. Large angle buttress at south-west corner, probably 19thC; one ordinary buttress east of the porch at the nave/chancel juncture retains some original red sandstone dressings, but its coping stones have been replaced; the buttress might be medieval.

West wall: constructed mainly in fabric 'A' with double plinth at the base; some original quoins, some replaced. Upper courses of gable from window head level is in fabric 'B' from the 1875 restoration, though some sandstone mixed in. Inserted into the wall at this time was a doorway with a four-centred, moulded arch with ring shafts and decoration in late Norman style. Above this are twin lancets with hoodmoulds and above these a circular aperture containing a single quatrefoil light, all by Scott.

Massive buttresses, c.1.5m wide x 2m deep, at the angles, distinctive because of their split-level heads, but perhaps secondary to the wall itself; the north buttress has more liberal use of red sandstone, including a much weathered string course at c.2m and red capstones, and splays out widely below the string course. The south buttress, constructed mainly of limestone, forms an angle buttress with the 19thC south wall buttress; it has a plinthed top but lacks the hollowed string course.

Set slightly back from the gable end is a stepped bellcote in 'B' with yellow sandstone dressings; a gabled top, and a single aperture with hoodmoulds to both faces, containing one bell.

North transept. General. In fabric 'B'. Stepped angle buttresses at north-east and north-west corners with splayed sandstone bases. Two lancets with a quatrefoil above in the north wall.

Chancel. General. North wall completely disguised by north aisle. Massive angle buttresses at the east end which might be 17thC.

East wall: in fabric 'D', mainly red and yellow sandstone and only occasional limestone. Angle buttress at north-east corner pre-dates the vestry. East window occupies most of the wall and has a very broad, two-centred arch over five cinquefoiled lights, three ogee-headed and the outer two two-centred, two sub-arches and panel tracery; slim hoodmould and very weathered head stops. Mullions, sill and some of the tracery renewed, but other sections of the tracery and the deeply hollowed jambstones are original.

South wall: slight batter to wall; basal layers of the wall are fabric 'D' to a height of about 0.5m, but better coursed than in east wall. The remainder of the wall in fabric 'C', apparently rebuilt. A square-headed window with sunken spandrels over four round-headed lights, and an inscription on the lintel reading 'Sr John Conway Kng 1636' must be re-set. Angle buttress at east end could be of similar date.

North Aisle (Vestry). General. In 'B' with angle buttress at north-east corner, a doorway with a two-centred arch and hoodmould, and a single trefoil-headed light, both in the north wall; The latter has a 13thC head comparable with that in the south nave wall but is completely renewed. For the east wall, a low boiler house against it, and a single trefoil-headed light.

Boiler house at the north-east corner of the church with a below ground entrance along the east wall via steps down. From 1873/85.

South porch. General. Rebuilt in 1873/75 in fabric 'A' with pale sandstone dressings. East and west walls have circular apertures containing quatrefoils, and hoodmoulds above. The south entrance is formed by a pair of crack forming a two-centred arch with a tie beam above, and the gable has open studs; decorative bargeboards and a pair of iron gates.

Interior

South Porch. General. Stone flagged floor, plastered walls, though the window dressings are exposed. Roof of two bays divided by arch-braced collar truss.

North wall: contains nave south door. The early, two-centred arch in yellow sandstone (13thC) is masked by a wide door; only the 19thC hoodmould is fully visible.

East and west walls: sandstone benches.

Nave. General. Flagstone floors include gravestones, but a carpetted central aisle, and raised timber floors under benches. Plastered and painted walls with dressed stonework exposed and deeply splayed window embrasures. Roof of four arch-braced collar trusses with raking struts, forming four bays (no truss at the west end), three through purlins to each side, three tiers of short cusped windbraces, and the whole slightly skewed to the alignment of the nave itself; the trusses rise from the wall plates. The third bay eastwards has a framework for an opening at the apex, now plastered, but formerly perhaps for a bell. The second truss from the west has a carved and gilded Tudor rose on the soffit of the collar and the inscription 'ERIS 1579 dH WH', also gilded. The fourth truss has moulded arch bracing and is a hammerbeam truss supported on stone corbels from which project angels with folded wings; this dates from Scott's restoration.

North wall: at the east end it was opened up in 1873 by a wide two-centred arch of two orders with octagonal columns and capitals, and a hoodmould and head stops, giving access to the north transept. Otherwise a war memorial and one splayed window.

South wall: the doorway has a round-headed reveal and both sets of jambstones on the inner face are inscribed I - VIII to indicate their relative position; some of the arch stones also appear to be numbered. As uninscribed and clearly more recent jambstones have been inserted just below the arch it is evident that the reveal has been heightened and probably even rebuilt. The window to the east of the doorway has early stonework in the reveal, while beneath the most easterly window is a late 14thC sepulchral slab, accompanied by a late 19thC descriptive tablet above it.

West wall: a segmental arch to the reveal of the west doorway, with 19thC quoins.

North Transept. General. Raised timber platform over flagstone floor, plastered walls and a simple ceiling with braced collars and rafters; used as a schoolroom and curtained off from main body of church. The east wall has a two-centred archway with hoodmould and head stops to the vestry.

Chancel. General. A weeping chancel, angled slightly to the north. One step up from the nave, one to the sanctuary, one to the altar. Chancel floor partly tiled, a stepped sanctuary with encaustic tiles. Walls as nave, but slightly inset and also higher. Roof of three arch-braced collar trusses forming two bays, and is slightly lower than that of nave; no struts, two through purlins and two tiers of cusped windbraces; original timberwork and perhaps originally a wagon roof. Westernmost truss of the chancel and the easternmost nave truss are separated by less than 0.5m.

North wall: access to north aisle (vestry) by an arch similar in date but of different design to that leading from nave to transept.

East wall: east window has hollow chamfers to the reveal. Top of the window hidden behind a truss.

South wall: 1636 Conway window set in a square-headed recess with sloping sill. One 20thC brass records members of the Hughes family buried in the churchyard, and there is also a 20thC marble memorial.

North Aisle (Vestry). General. One step up from north transept. Stone slab floor, with one grille; plastered and painted walls; simple plastered ceiling with braced collars and rafters. A disused fireplace in the south-east corner.

Churchyard

An original polygonal enclosure was extended eastwards in 1871, with a later extension to the south which was consecrated in 1916. It is sited at the base of the Clwydians, but well above the floor of the Vale of Clwyd. A small stream drops off the hills to the east and swings round the west side of the churchyard. It is fairly well maintained.

Boundary: a stone wall boundary on all sides.

Monuments: randomly placed burials on all sides. There are a large number of 17th and 18thC burials on the south side of the church, and to the south-east is a group of eight 17thC chests and table tombs, two of them of hooded type, located under a large yew tree. The more complete of these, from 1676, has a base with open arches and architectural features, and on the underside of the hood, a carved angel. The other is slightly earlier. A brass plate on the south wall of the chancel records the burial beneath canopied tombs of the ancient family of Hughes of Llewerllyd, descendents of Prince Cadwalladr. Other early monuments include the low table tomb of William Lloyd (d.1691) and that of John Hughes of Tre Castell (d.1668). West of the group is a large chest enclosed by iron railings bearing the date, 1772, and a 1676 slab is located on the south side of chancel.

Furniture: a sundial by Gould of Liverpool, which reputedly bore a heraldic shield. Weathered, square, chamfered stem on a square base but now lacking the dial and gnomon.

Earthworks: the extent of the pre-1871 churchyard is delineated by a low scarp bank as well as by a paved path on the south side of the church, and there is the hint of a curving scarp bank, surmounted by old yews to the south-east of the church. Churchyard is raised by about 0.3m on the south, 0.2m or so on the south-east and c.0.6m on west.

Ancillary features: the western entrance is formed by a short bridge over the leat and a single wrought iron gate leading in from the west, and there are a pair of wrought iron gates set in weathered sandstone pillars on the north. Well laid stone slab paths all round.

Vegetation: yews of no great age located around the boundary of the original enclosure, and also line the north path leading to the west door. Six aged yews are located on the east side of the old churchyard; a mix of yews and firs on west sides.

Sources consulted

Archaeologia Cambrensis 1884, 86-7
Archaeologia Cambrensis 1975, 99
Church guide n.d.
Clwyd SMR
CPAT Field Visit: 2 October 1996 & 7 April 1998
Faculty St Asaph 1871 (NLW): churchyard extension
Faculty St Asaph 1873 (NLW): restoration
Faculty St Asaph 1916 (NLW): churchyard extension
Glynne 1884, 86
Gresham 1968, 131; 207
Hubbard 1986, 343
NMR Aberystwyth
Quinquennial Review 1984
Thomas 1908, 400
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 Dyserth 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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