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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Cynhafal , Llangynhafal

Llangynhafal Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Llangynhafal in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ1331263401.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16875 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llangynhafal Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0153.JPG


St Cynhafal's church accompanied only by a farm, lies on the lower western slopes of the Clwydians, 5 miles from Denbigh. A small double-naved church typical of the Vale of Clwyd, its external walls are rendered allowing little insight into its structural development in the medieval period. It certainly reached its present form in the Perpendicular period and several windows, though heavily renewed, together with the south door and a figure set into its reveal, date to this time. There is evidence of renovation in 1669 and in the 18thC, and restoration in 1869-70 and 1884. It retains its late medieval roofs and a medieval font, a fine range of 17thC and 18thC wooden fittings, and a fairly typical set of 18thC and 19thC wall memorials. The churchyard was originally sub-oval and its original eastern perimeter is still discernible as a low earthwork; interesting 18thC graveslabs survive in situ.

No adequate structural sequence can be developed because of the external render. However, it appears that the axes of the two naves are fractionally different, suggesting at least two phases of construction. Perpendicular features, particularly the fenestration, stand out as might be expected, though it is not certain that any of the dressings are wholly original. In addition, windows in the north nave reveal some modifications in the 18thC, and a plaque in the west wall commemorates some renovation of uncertain character in 1669.

Porch added in the second half of the 19thC.

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


The dedication, location and churchyard morphology point to an early medieval origin for Llangynhafal church; this is the only dedication to St Cynhafal in Wales, who was supposedly a 7thC saint. However, there is no documentary evidence to support such an early foundation date.

The first reference to the church is the Norwich Taxation of 1254 when 'Ecc'a de Langelhanal' was worth 13s 4d. In the 1291 Taxation 'Llamganhavall' was worth 4 6s 8d. The earliest recorded rector was Thomas Plumer in 1390.

Repairs to the bellcote and west gable are evidenced by carved dates of 1669 and 1671, though only the plaque with the former is visible. Thomas also claimed that the earliest pews dated to this period (1666 and 1678) but these are no longer extant.

The screen between the north nave and chancel was taken down in 1726, the upper part 'put around the Comunion Table', the lower part left in place.

Until 1859 the church was in the diocese of Bangor.

It was still whitewashed when seen by Glynne in 1864. He thought it little altered and with good Perpendicular work. The windows were described in some detail, the arcade had flat Tudor arches, and the hammerbeam roofs impressed him. Old stained glass was noted in the south windows.

Restoration took place in 1869-70 at a cost of c.200 and included the removal of the old box pews, the stripping of plaster from the arcade, the repair of the roofs, and the construction of a new south porch to replace that of 1671. Thomas noted too that the medieval stained glass fragments seen by Glynne had been removed from some south windows to enable memorial windows to be put in place, this seemingly happening in the later 19thC. Fragments had subsequently been discovered in digging the rectory garden.

Until 1884 the altar was in the north chancel and the main entrance was via the west door. At that date the church was re-floored and re-roofed, at an overall cost of 1200.

Further repairs at the west end in 1969-75 included renovation of the roof timbers.


Llangynhafal church is double-naved with equally sized north and south cells. Its porch is set close to the south-west angle, and there is a bellcote at the west end of the south nave.

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 north nave no longer functions as such.

Fabrics: 'A' comprises roughly shaped blocks of limestone, randomly coursed; better dressed blocks are used for quoins.

Roof: slates and?grey clay ridge tiles; no finials. Diminishing rectangular bellcote, in limestone, at the west end of south nave; a single aperture; Thomas inferred that a date of 1671 on the belfry referred to repairs.

Drainage: hollows on the north and south and less certainly on other sides may indicate drainage trenches around the building.


North Nave and Chancel. General. Rendered wall faces. Boiler room with chimney; and store shed abut north wall.

North wall: a single segmental-headed window in off-yellow sandstone dressings; three lights, the central one with an ogee head, the others round-headed; sunken spandrels; thought to be 18thC.

East wall: east window in yellow freestone, wholly a Victorian or later renewal. It has a two-centred arch, four lights also with two-centred heads, sub-arches and panel tracery, hollow chamfers and a simple hoodmould. At top of hoodmould is a carved head in pink sandstone that could be earlier though it is not much worn and appears to be integral with the hoodmould and thus of no great age.

West wall: wall face has a more irregular appearance than the west wall of south nave, and its axis fractionally different. Round-headed window in off-yellow sandstone, again 18thC.

South Nave and Chancel. General. Rendered wall faces.

East wall: east window has a four-centred arch; five cusped, ogee-headed lights with cusped panels above; no hoodmould; all in buff-yellow freestone and having a more uniform appearance than the east window of the north nave. It is unclear whether the dressings are original or wholly renewed.

South wall: wall has three four-light, four-centred arched windows, that in the sanctuary slightly smaller than those to west. Lights with trefoil cusping, tracery and jambs in red sandstone, but mullions in modern grey freestone; however, there is some doubt as to whether the tracery is original for some arrises are sharp, though others are weathered.

West wall: plain, except for a sandstone plaque inscribed 'R.W. R.AP.R. CHVRCHWARDENS 1669' set just beneath bellcote.

Porch. General. Built in 'A' with on the south a four-centred arched Victorian doorway with grooved chamfers and broach stops. East and west walls are plain. Dates from a restoration of 1869-70.


Porch. General. Black and red tiles on floor; rendered walls; roof has numerous, simple collar trusses.

North wall: rectangular doorway in red sandstone with label above; splayed external reveal hollowed with fillets; on the left in a deep hollow is a small carving of an ecclesiastic, rather worn - it has been suggested that this is a representation of St Peter which dates to the late 14thC though as an integral part of the doorway it is more likely to be 15thC; other carvings may have been removed for Thomas claimed that there were animal figures in relief. The soffit of the doorway is four-centred.

East and west walls: wooden benches.

North Nave. General. Black and red tiles; benches on wooden block flooring; heating pipes and radiators along wall. Floor has slight incline from west to east. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Roof continuous with chancel and consists of five bays with hammerbeams on wooden wall posts supporting arch-braced collar trusses, the collars and raking struts cusped, the hammerbeams originally sporting angels; intermediate trusses are similar but slightly smaller with curved collars their arch braces springing from the wall tops and the terminals ending in masks which appear to have been recently painted; moulded purlins and rafters; and above the wallplates friezes of cusped and traceried panels. One angel, originally from a hammerbeam, set in north wall over chancel step.

Vestry takes up north-west corner of nave.

North wall: upper part of north wall towards west end has distinctive outwards lean. Four marble memorials ranging in date from 1799 to 1892.

East wall: distinguished only by a single step.

South wall: three bays of five-bay arcade; arches four-centred with octagonal pillars, capitals and bases, all in red sandstone. Most westerly bay is broader than the rest.

West wall: slightly splayed window, its reveal carried down to ground level as a recess which contains a segmental arch and a wooden doorway; a blocked 18thC or earlier doorway, no trace of which can be detected externally.

North Chancel. General. Two steps, staggered; wooden block flooring for first, black and red tiles for second. For roof see above. Now used for Sunday School.

North wall: splayed window and memorials ranging from 1632 to 1886.

East wall: splayed window with reveal in red sandstone; wall memorials of 1682 and 1778.

South wall: two bays of arcade.

South Nave. General. Floor as north nave but with carpet down the aisle; heating as north nave; walls as north nave. Roof of five bays is of less elaborate form than that in the north nave and chancel, with simple arch-braced collars, the latter straight rather than arched; friezes on both sides with a cornice of elongated tracery. Two angels remain on north side, one on south; of the masks on the intermediate collar trusses, two are missing from the north side, one from the south. The last truss built into west wall is in poor condition and is supported on five corbels. Roof also contains a wooden pulley block, supposedly used to hoist 'The Starre' at Christmas time, a custom going back beyond 1729 when it was mentioned in the vestry minutes.

North wall: arcade; an angel from one of the hammerbeams is attached to a pillar at the nave/chancel divide.

East wall: step only.

South wall: shallow splayed window with Victorian stained glass. Benefaction Board and two 19thC memorials.

West wall: plain with two 19thC paintings hanging on it.

South Chancel. General. Two staggered steps in chancel and a further step to altar. Carpetted but tiles beneath include encaustic ones around altar. Walls and roof as nave.

North wall: arcade.

East wall: splayed window, the red sandstone reveal relatively modern.

South wall: splayed windows; two 19thC memorials.


Llangynhafal churchyard is now of irregular shape as a result of an eastwards extension, but was originally more curvilinear in form. Internally it slopes gently from east to west, while its position, on the lower slopes of the Clwydian Hills, is spur-sited with a small steam to the north.

It is well-maintained and still used for burial.

Boundary: on the south a roughly mortared retaining wall above the road; on the east the modern boundary is a hedge; while on the north is a hedge above a dry-stone wall.

Monuments: reasonably uniform distribution throughout the yard, close-set but not dense. Chest tombs are frequent, and some ledgers are disappearing beneath grass. A good range of 18thC slabs and stones, the earliest noted of 1724 (south-west of the church), with one of 1735 to the north-west.

Furniture: none noted.

Earthworks: churchyard is raised perhaps 3m above the lane on the north, but this is effectively a sunken track and the difference from the ground level on the far side of the lane is perhaps no more than 1m. A similar situation to the north where lane had sunk about 1.5m below churchyard level, but ground level beyond is not a great deal lower. Original perimeter on east is discernible as a low bank.

Ancillary features: single iron gate at south-east, and a similar one approached by flight of ten steps at west end; tarmac path.

Vegetation: several yews of moderate size on south, and one small yew bush on north.

Sources consulted

Church notes: n.d.
CPAT AP 1995: 95-006-0027/0028/0029; 95-C-0153/0154/0155
CPAT Field Visit: 13 November 1996
Crossley 1946, 31
Faculty: St Asaph 1879 (NLW)
Glynne 1884, 175
Hubbard 1986, 225
NMR Aberystwyth
Neaverson 1953-54, 9
Quinquennial Review: 1988
Thomas 1911, 105

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 Llangynhafal 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 ( 22:01:48 ).
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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