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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Tysilio , Llantysilio

Llantysilio Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Llantysilio in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ1941143553.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16893 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llantysilio Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0106.JPG

Summary

St Tysilio's church lies adjacent to Llantysilio Hall, but at a distance from any nucleated settlement, on the north bank of the River Dee, 4km to the north-west of Llangollen. It is essentially a single-cell late medieval structure, with surviving masonry of that period and some windows of 15thC or 16thC date. A north transept was added in the early 18thC and there was some reconstruction and addition in the Victorian era. Internally, medieval survivals include a font, a small amount of stained glass, and perhaps the lectern. The churchyard, polygonal in shape, is packed with gravemarkers, the earliest from the end of the 17thC.

The nave and chancel shows several phases of rebuilding; the basic medieval shell survives and the presence of three different fabrics ('C', 'D' and 'E') seems to indicate not so much different phases of work, as an eclectic approach to construction using whatever stone was available including re-used ashlar blocks; on the basis of two or three of the windows this work should be 15thC or a little later. Victorian masonry (B') shows around windows in the north wall, and almost certainly contemporary are the inserted west window and the raised roof. At some stage the west end of the north side was built or rebuilt in 'A', but the lack of diagnostic features makes it impossible to phase this work. One window was replaced in 1580.

North transept added in 1718 in Fabric F, enlarged in 1869 in 'B'.

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

History

The church's location and dedication point to an early medieval foundation, but there is nothing of substance to confirm this view. There is also a tradition that the stone building of which parts remain, dated from 1180, but again there is nothing to corroborate this view.

In the Taxatio of 1254 it is recorded as 'capellanum de Lantesiliau', while Pope Nicholas' Taxatio of 1291 terms it 'Ecclesia de Landesiliau' at a value of 6. In 1535 it was again referred to as a chapel.

A north chapel was added in 1718 to accommodate worshippers from the township of Maesyrychain.

Glynne visited the church prior to its restoration and noted the 'awkward' gallery which contained 'portions of ancient carvings...and vine-leaf cornices'. Square-headed windows held mediocre Perpendicular tracery, and on the north side was a small obtuse window but he was doubtful as to whether it was Norman. There was also the head of an ancient effigy near the churchyard gate.

The church was restored in 1869: work included the construction of a vestry on the north side, some rebuilding of the west end, and the construction of a north window using fragments of early sepulchral slabs; the church was re-seated, the floor replaced, galleries on the south and west walls removed, the chancel was screened from the nave, and the south porch was reconstructed. The sanctuary restored in 1919.

Architecture

Llantysilio church comprises a nave and chancel in one, a north transept (which now functions as a vestry and organ chamber) attached to the chancel, and a south porch. It is aligned west-south-west/east-north-east but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for the church though not the churchyard.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of grey, weathered slabs of shale and very fine grained sedimentary rock (?mudstone), together with occasional rounded pebble stones, irregularly coursed; limewash residues are rare but appear on one lump of dressed stone. 'B' comprises small to medium-sized slabs of blackish grey shale and mudstone, occasionally stained red; irregularly coursed. 'C' is of small to medium blocks and slabs of shale and mudstone, with large slabs close to the wall bases, and occasional large pebble stones; remnant limewash. 'D' is similar to 'C' but there are fewer chunks of mudstone, and more laminated slate and pebble stones. 'E' has some similarities to 'D', particularly in the laminated slate, but also incorporates re-used dressed freestone, with quoins in the same material; some coursing. 'F' is of thin slabs (with a few blocks) of grey and brown slate and mudstone, with traces of limewash.

'C', 'D' and 'E' are late medieval and seemingly contemporary; 'A' is undated; 'B' is Victorian.

Roof: slates on all roofs with ridge tiles probably of reconstituted clay. Cross finial in stone at east end of church. Bellcote at west end with a single opening, constructed in freestone of Victorian date, and surmounted by a cross.

Drainage: a concrete and stone band around the north, west and east sides, and a slightly sunken band with an inset half-pipe gully 0.5m out from the wall on the south, probably indicate disturbance around the external wall faces.

Exterior

Nave. General. Nave and chancel considered as one because of absence of external differentiation on south side. Note that a few lumps of fine-grained sedimentary stone in the west, north and south walls - near the chancel window in the last of these - exhibit pecking and incised lines, in one instance an 'x' shape being visible.

North wall: three windows; two are square-headed in pale yellow freestone (Victorian), each having three cusped ogee-headed lights; the third window to the east (and close to the west wall of the transept) is a small round-headed window, its dressings including the round head fashioned from fragments of decorated (?)medieval sepulchral slabs with the exception of the sill; lintel and the lower part of the east jamb from the heads of 13thC floriated slabs, and also two portions of a cross raguly. Presumably a Victorian or slightly earlier eccentricity, but with few signs of insertion, though there is a possible disconformity in the masonry immediately above the window. At the north-west corner, a stepped buttress of Victorian date. Most of the wall face is in 'C', but the two larger windows are set in matrices of 'B', and the walling below the most westerly window as far as the angle of the building is in 'A'. Finally there is a possible patch of rebuilt masonry immediately behind the buttress.

The rest of the wall, effectively the chancel, is disguised by the north transept.

East wall: the wall face reveals a mixture of fabrics. The lower part is in 'D', but on either side of the window large blocks of freestone mark the presence of 'E'. Above the apex of the window arch the masonry reverts to 'D', seemingly indicating the contemporaneity of the two fabrics. The roof has been raised with a band of stone ('B'), up to 0.4m deep and the juncture reinforced with tie-rods and brackets. The east window has three lights with broad ogee-heads and cusped tracery; above are two sets of cusped panels divided by a transom; hollow chamfered dressings; integral hoodmould with decorated stops; Perpendicular and original.

South wall: features from west are: i) a buttress as on the north wall; ii) a square-headed window having three round-headed lights with trefoil cusping; original and set in a matrix of 'C'; iii) porch; iv) square-headed window with square-headed lights, chamfered dressings and date of 1580 carved immediately above the lights; though one jamb is in pink sandstone, contrasting with the yellow colour of the rest, the dressings are probably original; around the window the pointing contrasts with the adjacent wall presumably indicating the fact that it has been inserted; v) another window similar to ii) but probably a?Victorian replacement. The masonry of this wall is relatively uniform in appearance and is classed as 'D', with larger stones towards the base, more marked on this side than on the north; several dressed blocks of sandstone incorporated in the masonry, mostly high up under the eaves.

West wall: most of the wall is original, a combination of 'E' below and 'C' above; as at the east end the gable is raised with 'B' masonry and ties have been inserted. A three-light Victorian window with a two-centred arch and a hoodmould with face stops has been inserted, and a vertical band of 'B' spreads down from the base of the window to ground level, suggesting that a west doorway was blocked up during the last century.

North Transept. General. Added to chancel in 1718, and rebuilt and enlarged in the restoration of 1869. Chimney protrudes, east of the gable end.

North wall: Victorian two-light window, the lights with ogee heads under a two-centred arch and a hoodmould with head-stops. Most of walling in 'F', with distinctive white pointing, but around the window the masonry is 'B'.

East wall: all in 'B', indicating an enlargement of the original transept.

West wall: mainly in 'F', but close to nave wall is a two-light window of Victorian date and the masonry between this and the angle is 'B'. Attached to the wall is a porch in 'B' with yellow sandstone dressings and quoins.

Porch. East wall: in 'F' except for the quoins (see below) and infilling of 'B' around the small square-headed window with the ogee light.

South wall: in 'B'; the quoins are chamfered with bar stops at both top and bottom, and are clearly Victorian. The simple, two-centred arched doorway has hollow chamfers and may have been re-set in the new wall.

West wall: as east wall.

Interior

Porch. General. Stone slab floor; walls thinly plastered and painted; simple purlin and rafter roof.

North wall: two-centred arched doorway in buff-yellow freestone - Victorian.

East wall: Victorian splayed window; bench beneath.

South wall: doorway; the soffit consists of a wooden lintel.

West wall: as east wall.

Nave. General. Floor of patterned tiles with grilles running beside the sides of the benches for the length of the aisle, but now redundant; carpet cover between the grilles. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Five-bay roof with arch-braced collars and cusped, raking struts, except for that in the extreme west over west window where the struts are solid and unadorned; two tiers of small cusped wind-braces; late medieval.

North wall: wall has slight outwards lean; two splayed windows and the small single light window has a round-headed embrasure which is effectively bisected by the screen dividing nave from chancel. Marble mural tablet of 1722 and two 20thC brasses.

East wall: modern wooden screen.

South wall: outward lean to wall; splayed windows. Two 19thC brasses including that commemorating Robert Browning, and a major 19thC marble memorial.

West wall: splayed window, and the wall face beneath it inset, further evidence of a former west doorway. Also a benefaction board of 1753, a marble and stone memorial of 1721, and a 20thC brass.

Chancel. General. Two steps up to chancel, one to sanctuary and one to altar; marble floor. Walls as nave. Roof of two bays, the first a continuation of the nave, the second panelled to form a wagon roof over the altar; it follows the curve of the braces, and has quatrefoil tracery on the horizontals, brattishing, and moulded ribs.

North wall: open arch to vestry with early 20thC brass on the reveal; next to it an open Victorian Gothic window looking onto the organ.

East wall: splayed window

South wall: splayed window; one brass recording the restoration of the sanctuary in 1919.

North Transept. General. One step up from the chancel, but little to note. One 19thC marble mural tablet on the north wall.

Churchyard

Churchyard is polygonal, of medium size and set into a south-facing slope, with the River Dee little more than 100m away to the south. Extensions to the north and west have doubled its size but there is no convincing evidence of an earlier curvilinear enclosure.

It is well kept and still use for burial.

Boundary: on east, south and west sides are mortared walls, all of them low dwarf walls, and on the west now representing a minor division between the older churchyard and its western extension. On north is a more substantial wall, acting as a retaining wall. Walls refurbished in 1980s.

Monuments: churchyard is full, and in places, particularly on the south, packed; there is some space to the east of the church. Chest and table tombs are common to the south of the church. The oldest identified graveslabs are some used as paving around the east end of the church: the earliest is 1696 and others are from the 1760s.

Furniture: nothing recognised.

Earthworks: the churchyard is terraced, the church itself occupying a major platform and some of the graves on smaller terraces.

Ancillary features: stone and timber lychgate in north-east corner with concrete steps and paths.

Vegetation: two yews, one of some considerable age, on west. Just inside perimeter wall on north five other mature yews.

Sources consulted

CPAT Air photo: 1995, 95-004-0003/0005, 95-005-0012/0013, 0015/0016; 95-C-0106, 0109 & 0110
CPAT Field Visit: 23 October 1996
Crossley 1946, 26
Faculty: St Asaph 1868 (NLW)
Faculty: St Asaph 1918 (NLW)
Glynne 1884, 187
Gresham 1968, 86; 158
Hubbard 1986, 197
Quinquennial Review n.d. (1980s)
Thomas 1911, 279
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 Llantysilio 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 ( 22:01:35 ).
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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