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Flintshire Churches Survey

Church of St Mary and St Beuno , Whitford

Whitford Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Whitford in the county of Flintshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ1461878183.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 102357 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Whitford Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0183.JPG

Summary

Whitford church, dedicated to Ss Mary and Beuno, is just over 5 miles to the south-east of Prestatyn. It is Perpendicular in style, though little architectural detail survives from the late medieval period. The north aisle is an original feature but the rest of the church was rebuilt in the 19thC. Inside are an early medieval incised stone, a churchyard cross of early date, a 14thC sarcophagus, various sepulchral slab fragments from the 13thC and 14thC, a font of 1649, and a range of other pre-19thC fittings and furnishings. It is set in a raised churchyard.

While the architectural detail is in the Perpendicular style, the only original details may be a few dressings in the north aisle. It is also likely that the pebbledashed surfaces of the north aisle disguises original masonry, though the recessed gables probably point to rebuilding. The north aisle roof and the arcade are also original, and a date of 1500-20 was claimed by Ellis Davies, though a more general 15thC/16thC date span might be more realistic.

The western tower built in 1842-3. and much of the church itself was rebuilt in 1845/6.

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

History

The church is believed to have been founded by St Beuno in the 7thC, and first appears in the written record as 'Widford' in Domesday Book in 1086. Possibly the church was dedicated to this saint initially, but sometime after the Norman Conquest it was re-dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has also been posited that the first stone church on the site probably dated from the 11thC.

The church is recorded in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 as 'Ecc'a de Fytford' with a value of 4, and in the Lincoln Taxation of 1291 as 'Ecc'a de Chwytford' at 17 6s 8d. During the century the church suffered damage during Edward I's Welsh wars.

Nothing of the early church survives, the earliest architectural detail being from the 15th or 16thC, with parts of the north aisle, its arched-braced roof and arcade. The roof and the arcade however, indicate that the aisle was not all of one build.

In the late 18thC, Moses Griffiths illustrated the church, depicting the porch and main doorway, a priest's door in the south wall, and stone steps leading up to the west gallery. Two dormers lit the gallery and a small double-light window over the priest's door suggests the approach to the rood loft. The tower had a saddleback roof.

The church, basically a double-naved structure, was described by Glynne, sometime before 1842, as having a ' heavy, rude west tower, and a nave and chancel with north aisle to each'. It was whitewashed and contained windows in Perpendicular style, except for a triple lancet on the south side of the chancel which Glynne doubted was original. There was no chancel arch and the six-bay arcade was described as Tudor in style. The chancel had a coved, boarded ceiling but the remainder of the roof was exposed. The tower opened on to the nave through a wide arch of Early English style.

The west tower was rebuilt in 1842-3 by Ambrose Poynter and paid for by the Honorable Edward Mostyn and Lady Emma Pennant, as is commemorated on a tablet on the north wall of the church.

Restoration work by Ambrose Poynter took place in 1845-6 at a cost of 3000, with the emphasis on the Perpendicular style, but it might be more appropriate to term it rebuilding for Archdeacon Thomas believed that only the north wall of the aisle was left. Again the cost of this work was met by Lady Emma Pennant.

In 1888 pitch pine seating replaced the high pews in the nave, oak seats were introduced into the chancel and parclose screens separated the chancel from the aisles. The organ was removed from the west end to the south aisle and a new oak pulpit was introduced. The 1888 work was to the design of Ewan Christian of London.

In 1993 excavations were undertaken along the west and north walls of the north aisle in advance of drain laying. Fourteen graves were uncovered, some of which had been truncated by the foundation trench of the 16thC structure.

Architecture

The church comprises a nave and chancel, north and south aisles, and a west tower. It is oriented north-east to south-west, but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here for descriptive purposes.

Fabrics:- 'A' is of regular linear blocks of yellow sandstone with ashlar dressings of the same material, all regularly coursed. 'B' is reputedly of limestone blocks, though this could not be confirmed. 'C' is mainly of medium-sized blocks of sandstone. 'D' is of irregular blocks of limestone, randomly coursed.

'B' is of 16thC date, the remaining fabrics are 19thC.

Roofs:- slates, with ridge tiles probably of reconstituted clay. Cross finials to the north and south aisles, the south porch and the chancel.

Drainage:- 19thC guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways. The drainage gully along the north aisle is indicated by a band of gravel chippings.

Exterior

Tower - General. Constructed in 'A' in 1842/3. There is a basal plinth, stepped in at <0.1m, at 0.4m and again 1.3m; this is continuous around the diagonal stepped buttresses at the north-west and south-west corners and there are straight buttresses at the other corners adjoining the north and south aisles. All of them rise to the level of the belfry windows. String courses divide the tower faces into four zones; the battlemented tower has gargoyles projecting from the top string course, and the roof is surmounted by a weathervane.

North wall:- the lowest window is an unchamfered slit; next a cusped, two-centred window with chamfered jambs, and above this an elaborate belfry window consisting of a four-centred arch over three cinquefoiled, ogee-headed, louvred lights with panel tracery, and a hoodmould.

East wall:- abuts the nave so that only a standard belfry window is visible, and below this a clock face bearing the date '1843'.

South wall:- as the north wall.

West wall:- a four-centred doorway of two orders with chamfered jambs and a hoodmould above the arch. Above this a two-centred window as in the north wall and then a belfry window.

North aisle - General.

North wall:- the stonework is pebbledashed but is reported to be limestone and is here classed as 'B'. From the west: i) a four-centred window with three stepped, two-centred lights, the dressings weathered but 19thC; in its appearance this window is of a different form to all the others in the church. ii) a 19thC window of two trefoiled lights and a quatrefoil tracery light, all under a two-centred arch with a hoodmould, comparable with that in the west wall. iii) a four-centred doorway (known as the Mostyn door) with chamfered dressings and a hoodmould, all 19thC; the vertically planked door with its wrought ironwork and the arch itself were renewed in 1845/6. iv) a two-centred window with two lancet lights and tracery light above, but no proper frame or hoodmould; the head has been renewed but some of the weathered jambstones are earlier. v) is very similar to iv) with a renewed head but some older jambstones; one difference, however, is that the lights are trefoiled. vi) diagonal buttress at the north-east angle in sandstone ashlar, added during the restoration of 1845/6.

East wall:- in fabric 'A'. There is a plinth at c.1.2m which is continuous along the whole east face of the church. Two courses above ground level is the pointed arch of a blind opening which matches that to the south aisle boiler house. The east window, from 1845/6, has a four-centred arch with hoodmould over four cinquefoiled, ogee-headed lights.

West wall:- pebbledashed. The tower north-east corner buttress abuts the wall on the south side and the quoins of the buttresses are jointed into the fabric of the west wall. The wall has a two-centred window with hoodmould over two trefoiled lights and a quatrefoil tracery light above, from 1845/6. The wall is inset at around 3m, i.e. springer level of the window, and this tends to suggest that the gable has been rebuilt.

Chancel - General

East wall:- in 'A'. Dominated by a large east window with a two-centred arch, a hoodmould with large stops, five cinqfoiled, two-centred lights and panel tracery. To either side are stepped buttresses with splayed sides defining the corners of the chancel which is slightly out-set from the east walls of the aisles.

South Aisle - General. In Fabric 'A' with a continuous plinth comparable to that of the tower; the plinth is stepped along the south and west walls to take account of the ground slope.

East wall:- a four-centred window with hoodmould over four cinquefoiled lights, dating from 1845/6 and directly comparable with that in the north aisle. Below this is the boiler room with below-ground access through an opening with a pointed arch and an iron-grilled door; the steps are enclosed by railings.

South wall:- features from the east end are: i) a diagonal buttress at the south-east corner. ii) and iii) two 1840s windows with four-centred arches, hoodmoulds and three cinquefoiled, ogee-headed lights with panel tracery above; smaller versions of the east windows in the aisles. iv) the south porch. v) and vi) two more 1840s windows to the same design as ii).

West wall:- a small, cusped slit, similar to those in the tower, in the gable, and below this a square-headed window containing three cinquefoiled ogee-headed lights.

South Porch - General. In Fabric 'A'.

East wall:- a square-headed window with two cinquefoiled, ogee-headed lights.

South wall:- a two-centred arch of two orders with chamfered dressings and a hoodmould over; the entrance closed off by a wire and wooden gate. In the gable a small cusped slit. Short diagonal buttresses at the south-east and south-west corners.

West wall:- as east wall.

Interior

Porch - General. Flagstone floor, exposed stonework to the walls and a planked and raftered ceiling.

North wall:- = south wall of church. Main doorway has a four-centred arch with hollow-moulded chamfers and a hoodmould with disproportionately large square stops.

East wall:- window with a square-headed aperture.

West wall:- as east wall.

Tower - General. Not accessible from the church itself. Rough floor of gravel and soil. The walls have exposed stonework, and some earlier masonry has been randomly re-used in the walls; deeply splayed, square-headed apertures. Oak timbers also reused. A ladder gives access to the upper storeys.

North Aisle - General. The west end is partitioned off as a vestry and has a raised wooden floor, carpetted. The Mostyn chapel occupies the east end of the aisle and has a raised altar below the east window; the Mostyn family vault: is also at this end. Stone flags to the floor of the aisle itself include gravestones at the east end (see below) and heating grilles, with some carpet over; raised plank flooring under the benches. Walls plastered and painted.

The roof retains old timberwork with 11 arch-braced collar trusses with arching struts; each of the 11 trusses has a decorative carving on the centre of its soffit, and the soffits of the most easterly four are further embellished with moulded ribs and projecting roundels. There are two distinct sections to the roof. At the east end are seven trusses supporting a lower roofline of six bays. There are two through purlins, a ridge purlin and two tiers of cusped windbraces. The corbels on the south side supporting the most easterly four trusses are roughly shaped blocks of stone; the remaining three together with those further west are fashioned blocks of stone of a more regular appearance. On the north side all the trusses spring from the wall face. The variations in both the corbels and the trusses at the east end suggest that this was the earliest roof which was subsequently extended, though the implications for the north aisle as a whole are not clear. Only part of the cusped windbraces remain on the south-west side of the roof, where the roof is cut off by the arcade.

The four bays to the west ( plus part of a fifth at the extreme west end) rise higher. There is space between the principals and side purlins and the roof. The roof here has obviously been raised leaving the trusses standing free, and as a result the apex of the roof is also higher and not symmetric. Most but not all of the cusped windbraces survive in this section.

North wall:- window apertures plastered and painted except for the window dressings. Centrally placed is the inner porch to the Mostyn door. To the east side of this are longitudinal benches, traditionally the Mostyn benches. Monuments of 1619, 1647 and 1683 are located above these benches, and there is also a tablet recording the building of the tower in 1843.

East wall:- the gable top is recessed.

South wall:- six-bay arcade comprising four-centred chamfered arches of two orders, supported on octagonal stone piers with matching capitals, and responds at either end; Perpendicular, dating from the 15th or 16thC. The three more irregularly-shaped arches to the east pre-date the remainder of the arcade.

Nave - General. The floor of the church follows the natural west to east slope of the ground, but while the nave falls steeply in this direction, the chancel and also the east ends of the aisles have been levelled up. A baptistry at the west end. The stone flagged floor at the east end includes several gravestones (spilling over from the Mostyn vault) as well as heating grilles; the benches on raised planked floor and the aisle and baptistry are carpetted. Plastered walls. The roof over both the nave and chancel is of 14 arch-braced collar trusses with queen and arching struts, the trusses mounted on small, lipped, stone corbels defining 14 and a half bays; the projecting roundels on the soffits copy the medieval roof in the north aisle; three tiers of cusped and decorated windbraces. The roof as a whole dates to the restoration of 1845/6.

North wall:- arcade (see south wall of north aisle), with six memorials pinned to the wall above: three 19thC marble memorials, one 19thC stone tablet and one 20thC brass.

East wall:- no division from the chancel.

South wall:- arcade, of mid-19thC date and modelled on the north arcade.

West wall:- marble wall monuments of 1818 and 1824.

Chancel - General. Divided from the nave only in that the floor is level. Stone flags with carpet over. One step to the sanctuary with a marble step, and an encaustic tiled floor; modern oak fittings

North wall:- separated from north aisle by an oak screen with traceried heads between the two eastern arches of the arcade.

East wall:- the Creed on a marble plaque with a wooden surround, to the south of the east window.

South wall:- separated from the south aisle by an oak screen with traceried heads between the two eastern arches of the arcade.

South aisle - General. Organ chamber located at the east end. Floor and walls as nave. Fourteen-bay roof with 14 arch-braced collar trusses with arching struts, springing from the same sort of stone corbels as in the nave; two and a half tiers of cusped windbraces on the south side, one and a half on the north side. The whole roof from 1845-6.

North wall:- arcade, for which see nave above.

East wall:- the window only.

South wall:- inner porch with castellated top. A memorial to the antiquarian Thomas Pennant is west of the organ, and there are five other marble memorials of 19thC date, a brass of 1785, and a Word War I memorial.

Churchyard

Whitford church occupies a large rectangular churchyard overlooking the Dee Estuary; the ground slopes naturally from west to east. The enclosure was extended westwards in 1833, 1872 and again in 1926. Clearance work in the churchyard occurred in 1964 when some gravestones were removed and others re-sited, leading to the sparsity of memorials around the church itself.

Boundary:- a stone revetment wall on the east, some property boundaries on the south, and boundary walls of different designs on the north and west.

Monuments:- there are only a few marked graves around the church itself. Chest tombs along the north boundary wall include the tomb (and a modern plaque in the wall above) of Moses Griffiths (d.1819), artist and illustrator to Thomas Pennant. The earliest marked graves are a 1694 chest tomb, south of the church, and at least one other of early 18thC date.

Earthworks:- on the east side the original revetment wall is set 2m inside the present stone wall.

Ancillary features:- two lychgates form the south and east entrances to the churchyard. That on the south is in 'D' and is the main entrance to church. It has an upper room formerly used for meetings which is accessible by a flight of stone steps on the west side, and a massive diagonal buttress at its south-east corner. The lychgate has north and south segmental-headed voussoired arches in buff sandstone for the entrances, and the interior has a flagstone floor with planked stone benches along the sides, but as with the walls, rendered over. Externally on the south face is a stone referring to Hugh Edwards of Mertyn (d.1624), who bequeathed money towards the building of the 'porch' (i.e. the lychgate). It also records Thomas Edwards (d.1719) who left money for the poor, and the plaque appears to be of this date. Above this is a square-headed 19thC window with two, two-centred lights. The present entrance to the churchyard is further down the slope and has a pair of iron gates with an overarch and steps up between splayed stone walls. The east lychgate in 'C' was rebuilt to the design of Lewis Watson of Holywell in the 1980s and contains a beam (now built into the south wall) from its predecessor inscribed 'Tho. Caesar: Jo. Davis: Churchwardens, 1667'. Tarmac and concrete paths around the church.

Vegetation:- two large yews grow to the north of the north aisle and one to the south of the south aisle. There are three large firs on the south-east side of the church, and ornamental laurel and yew bushes along the roadside boundary and along the west path to the churchyard extension.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visits: 30 October 1996 and 11 November 1998
CPAT SMR
Crossley and Ridgway 1945, 198
Davies 1952-3
Faculty: St Asaph 1872 (NLW): churchyard extension
Faculty: St Asaph 1887 (NLW): re-seating in the church
Faculty: St Asaph 1926 (NLW): churchyard extension
Flintshire County Record Office: P/69/1/29 (1843); P/69/1/30 (1887)
Glynne 1884, 186
Gresham 1968, 85, 91, 109, 111, 150, 220
Hubbard 1986, 454
NMR Aberystwyth
Owen 1886, 195
Pennant 1796, 99
Quinquennial Report 1988
RCAHMW 1912, 97
Thomas 1911, 202
Thomas 1993
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 Whitford Church may also be found on the St Asaph Diocese website.


The CPAT Flintshire 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 ( 22:02:03 ).
Further information about this and other churches surveyed is available from the Regional Historic Environment Record, Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, Curatorial Section, 41 Broad Street, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7RR tel - (01938) 553670, fax - (01938) 552179, email - chrismartin@cpat.org.uk, website - www.cpat.org.uk.

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