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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Melyd , Meliden

Meliden Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Prestatyn in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ0629281097.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16938 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Meliden Church, CPAT copyright photo CS920716.JPG

Summary

The single-chambered church of St Melyd, less than 3km from the north coast, is referred to in Domesday Book and has a reputedly 13thC core which was extended eastwards in the 15thC. Internal restoration took place in 1884 when the south porch was also added. Internally there is a 14thC arch-braced roof over the nave, two Early English doorways, a font of about the later 12thC, a 15thC misericord, a bell of 1700 and part of a 14thC sepulchral slab. The building is sited within a raised sub-circular churchyard containing marked graves from the 18thC.

The medieval fabric may date to 13thC with original doorways surviving, though such an early date remains unproven. A 15th/16thC eastwards extension is supported by minor changes in the masonry, and the variable masonry in the east wall suggests a fair amount of reconstruction. The west wall too appears to have been rebuilt at some indeterminate time. Restoration work in 1884 included general repairs to the fabric of the church and interior furnishing.

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

History

An early church is referred to here in Domesday Book, and the dedication, morphology of the churchyard and perhaps the location all favour an early medieval foundation. It is the only dedication to St. Melyd in Wales.

The church is not mentioned in the Norwich Taxation of 1254, but appears as 'capella de Aldmelyden' in the Lincoln Taxation of 1291 at a value of 7 6s 8d. The core of the present building is thought to date from this century.

The building appears to have been extended eastwards, probably in the 15thC or early 16thC.

An 18thC sketch by Moses Griffiths shows the church on a raised mound with a flight of steps leading up to the east end. The bellcote was for two bells and had a different design to the present feature.

Glynne visited the church in 1839. His description varies little from that of today and he noted 'a great want of ancient features' and thought it 'very modern in appearance'.

It is also known that the pre-restoration church had a west gallery, and a rood screen which was sited to the west of the present vestry arch. Both were probably removed in the 18thC.

By the 1880s the church was said to be small, miserable and dilapidated, plastered all over externally, and with a ruinous bell-turret. Restoration work took place in 1884 to the design of Arthur Baker of Kensington, London, and was undertaken by A. Torkingham of Rhyl at a cost of 1,100. Included were general repairs to the fabric of the church, removal of interior plasterwork, restoration of the east window, insertion of a new west window and north side window, relaying the floor, reseating with pitch pine benches, renewing the chancel stalls and raising the chancel and flooring it with encaustic tiles, introducing an oak lectern and building a vestry on the north side of the chancel, a new porch to replace the early stone one, and a lychgate.

The restoration work revealed many early features of the church. Baker's report recorded that a few dressings (jamb and archstones) of the original 13thC west window were located, that the beams of the rood loft survived, and he also claimed that the walls of the original church did not extend beyond the priest's door (now gone), and that the east end was rebuilt in the 15thC. Two sepulchral slabs ornamented with crosses and swords were discovered and the old font was uncovered when the old north door was opened up. Removal of whitewash revealed wall decorations and paintings of a 16thC century Welsh text, though these were destroyed by the removal of the plaster.

In 1934 the old stone font was re-introduced into the church and the octagonal font of 1686 was stored in the vestry until it was transferred to Kinmel Bay Church in 1969.

In 1959 oil fired central heating was introduced. The earlier, coke fired heating chamber was located at the south-east corner of the old vestry and the underfloor heating ran beneath a large iron grille inside the south doorway. The ducting is now filled with rubble.

Several alterations were made to the earlier vestry in the 1970s, but it eventually became necessary to build a new vestry in 1995.

Architecture

Meliden church consists of a nave and chancel in one, a south porch, north vestry and a bellcote over the west end of the nave. It is oriented south-west/north-east but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for the church, though not for the churchyard.

There are the remnants of rendering and/or limewash over the older masonry; some has fallen away to reveal the stonework, but there are places where the masonry is still disguised.

Fabrics: 'A' - consists of limestone and some pink, yellow and olive sandstone of irregular shape and size, and other occasional inclusions such as a pebble stone; randomly coursed, heavily mortared and rendered in the past. Olive sandstone quoins, some in long slabs. 'B' is of slabs and squared blocks of limestone and olive sandstone with olive sandstone quoins; purchased after the demolition of a local chapel. 'C' is of slabs and blocks of limestone, some roughly dressed. 'D' is similar to 'A' in that a mixture of limestone and variably coloured sandstone, with both blocks and slabs that are relatively regular, and range in size from small to large; some coursing. 'E' is of small to medium, fairly regular blocks of limestone; some long slabs of olive sandstone; irregular coursing.

'A' is perhaps 13thC; 'D' is probably 15thC or early 16thC; 'C' is probably 19thC; 'E' is probably post-Reformation as is 'B' though it is re-used in a modern extension.

Roof: slates over main chamber (from 1996), and simple, reconstituted, clay ridge tiles. Stone cross finial at east end of chancel, and a wooden one over the porch.

Drainage: a 0.7m wide trench on the south side east of the porch, also extends half way along the east side. Concrete path against north and west sides.

Exterior

Nave and chancel. General. No external differentiation.

North wall: in 'A' as far as the modern vestry at the east end, with large blocks of stone at the base of the wall; slight inward lean at the top of the wall. From the west: i) plain two-centred doorway with wide chamfered dressings of mixed red and yellow sandstone; those jambstones in pink sandstone are probably original but there has been some renewal including the archstones. The threshold of the doorway is formed by an old coffin lid (though this is not evident from modern observation alone) and the doorway itself is now blocked by three massive slabs of sandstone. ii) a short square-headed 19thC window in yellow sandstone above the blocked doorway contains a trefoil-headed light; faint signs of insertion. iii) a square-headed window with three round-headed lights and sunken spandrels, all in olive sandstone; date uncertain but could perhaps be 17thC, though it shows limited weathering; beneath it there may have been some infilling as if a larger window had been replaced. iv) a four-centred window over a pair of trefoil-headed lights; in mustard yellow sandstone and of the 19thC; some signs of insertion. vi) reported change in the masonry from this point eastwards, supposedly indicating the 15thC addition, though this is not now visible. vi) vestry. vii) a large north-east corner buttress slants up from ground level to the eaves; in 'C', but now heavily repointed with reddish mortar as part of 1995 reconstruction. There is a clear butt joint with the east wall of the church, and at a height of about 0.6m on its east side is a segmental arch of brick, presumably the former entrance, now blocked, to a heating chamber; 19thC.

East wall: in 'D' which is a variation on 'A' and attributed to the 15thC, though it is far from certain that it is all of one build. Certainly above the window the gable is predominantly of mustard yellow sandstone and is surely rebuilt, while there is more limestone around the window itself; the quoins at the south-east corner also change, the basal ones in orange sandstone, but from c.2m in olive sandstone; at the north-east they are all in olive sandstone, some of them long slabs. A small basal plinth of large linear blocks of sandstone, c.0.1m high, is visible at the south end in the trench but not at the north where no trench has been excavated; instead there are indications that here the foundations protrude further. This might conceivably be linked to the putative subterranean boiler house further north, but may be further evidence of reconstruction to this wall. East window has a wide four-centred arch with original hoodmould in olive sandstone and weathered head-stops, over five four-centred lights and panel tracery which Hubbard felt was not authentic; the jambs have deeply hollowed chamfers in dull pink sandstone and are original, as are some though not all of the arch stones; the tracery is completely renewed.

South wall: some exposed stonework in 'A', but an increased amount of olive sandstone beneath the most easterly window is best classed as 'D'. However, at the west end predominantly limestone and probably rebuilt at the same time as the west wall. From the west: i) a four-centred window with two two-centred lights, inserted at west end during the 1884 restoration. ii) porch. iii) a four-centred arch over three stepped round-headed lights, with hollowed chamfers, a slim hoodmould with simple stops, a renewed mullion and a massive sill; 16thC and contemporary with the east window. iv) a square-headed window with sunken spandrels over a pair of wide, two-centred lights; the top of the window including the heads is from a single stone; weathered label; renewed jambs, sill and mullion. 16thC if not later.

West wall: in 'E', representing a rebuild, though possibly the masonry at the base of the north-west corner survived from the earlier church; slightly battered at base. A pair of 19thC lancets inserted during the 1884 restoration, and a hexafoil window above; between the lancets is more yellow sandstone and this could indicate further rebuilding at the time of the restoration.

Bellcote of 19thC date in yellow ashlar; gabled top and Celtic cross finial over two trefoil-headed apertures, but only a single bell.

Vestry. General. From 1995, replacing a half-timbered structure of 1884. In 'B', with rectangular windows and a half-timbered gable to the north side.

South Porch. General. Timber-framed porch largely restored as part of the 1884 work. The side walls of heavily mortared rough limestone have long rectangular windows with plain leaded lights set into timber frames. The south front is faced in regular blocks of olive sandstone with a half-timbered gable of studs and plaster. The square-headed timber entrance has fluted chamfers to jambs that arch up to give a flat head to the doorway, and there is a tie beam over.

Interior

Porch. General. Stone flagged floor, wooden-topped benches on stone plinths with panelled backs on the east and west; panelled ceiling with one rather slim, braced tie-beam and carved struts, all of 19thC date.

North wall: unrendered wall face with a two-centred doorway, chamfered dressings with broach stops, and sharpening marks on some jambstones. The bottom jambs in pink sandstone and the arch stones (in tooled limestone?) are probably renewed, but the rest is original.

Nave. General. Stone flagged floor including some graveslabs of the 18thC and later but the aisle is now carpetted; flush woodblock floor under the benches. Walls with battered sides have exposed stonework, all the earlier plasterwork having been removed during the 1884 restoration. Nave has a roof of close-set arch-braced collars, the principals springing from crenellated wall plates; seventeen trusses in all but excluding a more ornate one over the nave/chancel divide; rafters and purlins were used in the original design but these were removed during the 1884 restoration; the principals date to the 14thC, though with some replacement; the ceiling is planked above - this and the wall plates are 19thC.

North wall: wall has a batter at the base. At the west end the blocked north doorway reveal has a flat two-centred arch with stone voussoirs for the head: now used for bookshelves. Window embrasures have timber soffits. The three-light window once lit the earlier pulpit which appears to have been a triple-decker, accessed from steps set into the north wall below the window, but now used as a sill. Two 20thC memorials, one to the war dead.

East wall: separated from chancel by a step and 'a sort of hammerbeam arch' in the roof (Hubbard) from 1884.

South wall: splayed window embrasures. A shallow two-centred head to the splayed reveal of the south doorway, now set below a wooden canopy; the large studded, panelled door is refaced on the exterior, but the ironwork and inner timber is all original. The 16thC window to east of door has a reveal with dressed stone facings, contrasting with the pecked stone used to face the later window reveals. In between this window and the door are some large blocks of masonry set into the wall which are reminiscent of jambs; however, it is not possible to distinguish an earlier window here. The only fittings are two World War I memorials.

West wall: splayed embrasures. A disconformity in the stonework of the gable suggests that the pitch of the roof may have been altered perhaps in the 19thC.

Chancel. General. Two staggered steps up from nave (from the restoration in 1884) with further steps to the sanctuary. Tiled floor with carpets, and the choir stalls raised on wooden block flooring. Walls as nave. Panelled wagon roof, again in 1884, and this is set at the level of the apex of the east window.

North wall: a broad four-centred arch of 19thC date opens to the organ recess and there is a panelled door to the modern vestry.

East wall: slightly splayed window, the reveal showing original pink sandstone dressings.

Sanctuary south wall: square-headed window embrasure with original sandstone dressings. Below this window the masonry protrudes slightly and to the east appears to be of a different build.

Vestry. General. Of 1995.

Churchyard

A small curvilinear churchyard, enlarged on the north side in 1862. Well maintained.

Boundary: mortared stone wall on all sides, forming a revetment on the south-east against the roadside. The wall was left in situ when the graveyard extended to the north-west and shows as a revetted bank.

Monuments: the south side has a large number of early burials - 18thC sandstone slabs, now mixed with modern cremations and 19thC chest tombs. Graves are densely packed and randomly placed. One small sandstone slab with "R.M" and skull and crossbones, just to the south of the nave. A ledger of 1699 with decorative border just to the east of the lychgate; early graves on the west side include one of 1735.

Furniture: Square plinth for a sundial inscribed 'T.D. I.I. Ch[wardens] 1794', but no gnomon. Located in south-east corner of churchyard. A 20thC memorial, north of the vestry, also had a sundial, but this too has had its gnomon broken off.

Earthworks: raised churchyard, by 2m on the west and east, almost the same on the north and south.

Ancillary features: entrance near southern corner through a timber framed lychgate of 1884. Paths of stone slabs and concrete.

Vegetation: stumps of five trees (?yews) along roadside, felled in 1966; two new yews planted along this boundary. 19thC yew next to the lychgate on south side. Mix of oak and beech trees on west side.

Sources consulted

[Arch Cam 1885, 206]
CPAT Field Visit 6 August 1996 & 7 April 1998
Clwyd SMR
Faculty St Asaph 1862 (NLW): churchyard extension
Faculty St Asaph 1884 (NLW): restoration
Faculty St Asaph 1934 (NLW): font substitution
Glynne 1884, 317
Gresham 1968, 120; 127; 210
Hubbard 1986, 388
Neaverson 1954, 6
NMR Aberystwyth
Quinquennial Reviews
Thomas 1908, 406
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 Meliden 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 ( 22:01:43 ).
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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