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Flintshire Churches Survey

Church of St Mary , Mold

Mold Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Mold in the county of Flintshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ2369364166.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16913 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Mold Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0085.JPG

Summary

St Mary's church lies close to the centre of Mold. It was built in late Perpendicular style with considerable decorative detail at the end of the 15thC on the site of an earlier medieval church, the tower was replaced in the 18thC and an apse and vestry during the 19thC restoration. Internally there is some 16thC stained glass, a 17thC altar table and a number of 18thC brasses and marble memorials. The church is sited in a raised circular churchyard with memorials back to the 17thC.

The naves and aisles were constructed in a uniform late Perpendicular style during the late 15thC and earlier 16thC, and there are the remnants of a supposedly incomplete chancel and a complete rood stair of similar date. The west tower was added between 1768 and 1773 in a style compatible with the church itself.

In 1853 an apsidal chancel was appended and the interior restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott. The 17thC south porch was modified in 1911.

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

History

The circular churchyard suggests an early medieval origin but there is nothing to substantiate this hypothesis.

The church is recorded with its chapel at Nercwys in the Lincoln Taxation of 1291 as 'Ecclia de Monte Alto'.

It is believed that the original Norman church fell into disrepair and was demolished sometime in the 14thC. A new, larger church was built and extended soon after in the 15thC.

The body of this church was in a dilapidated condition by the 15thC, and the 14thC tower apart, it was demolished and the construction of the present church began around 1490. The benefactress was Lady Margaret Beaufort, wife of Lord Stanley. She died in 1509 and a lack of funds delayed the completion of the nave and aisles until about 1550. This post-Reformation continuation was financed in part by two bishops of St Asaph, Robert Wharton (1536-54) and William Hughes (1573-1600). According to Hubbard a stone bearing the latter's initials and the date 1597 is said to have been found during the 19thC, and the inner doorway of the south porch is Elizabethan in style.

The rectory of Mold had been appropriated to Bisham Priory in Berkshire, whose responsibility the chancel would have been. Ridgway and Crossley argued that plans for an undivided church were abandoned as a result of Bisham's refusal to participate in the building. A modified chancel was planned, but this was abandoned, almost certainly at the time of the Dissolution. The chancel arch had already been built, but it was blocked, and a seven-light window inserted, until opened up by Scott in the 19thC.

A record of 1674 refers to the purchase of a clock and the re-leading of the roof. New bells were installed in the tower in 1678 and 1733, and restoration work took place in 1729. A terrier refers to a singing gallery added in 1751-2.

The west tower was rebuilt between 1768 and 1773 at a cost of 1047 by Joseph Turner of Chester, 'a creditable 18thC attempt at Perpendicular (Hubbard). Possibly the clerestorey may also be of this time.

The church was visited by Sir Stephen Glynne before the restoration work in the mid-19thC. He referred to the incomplete chancel, the tower of 1790 which 'though not good in detail is far superior to what might be expected at that time', '...the clerestory not properly finished', the windows were 'large but not exactly uniform on the two sides... generally of four and five lights, and the arches of depressed Tudor form'. The north aisle roof and the decoration above the arcades were highlighted. The porch was 'Debased, but with a stone roof', the stained glass, both medieval and Victorian was mentioned, and the canopied niches at the ends of each aisle.

Restoration work in 1853-6 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott included a new nave roof, the removal of the west gallery, removal of the pews and general restoration work to the interior which was fitted with oak benches that had poppy heads, a carved pulpit, a lectern and choir stalls. A new oak roof was placed over the nave similar to that in the north aisle and the apsidal chancel was added. Animal carvings in the style of those on the string course of the aisles were produced by J. Blinstone. The organ was moved to the east end of the north aisle and a north porch was added.

In 1885 there were repairs to the stonework, pinnacles and string courses.

The south porch was reconstructed by Prothero, Phillott and Barnard of Cheltenham as part of the 1911 restoration programme, which also included repairs to the stonework and foundations, and the re-arranging of drains which involved re-siting of some gravestones.

In more recent times, several carved stones, from the medieval church were located on the top of a wall of a house near to the church; they include various corbels in human and animal form and window jambs. The pedestal of a medieval font was located in the vicarage garden: it is probably of 15thC date with an octagonal and splayed base. Various other jambs and gargoyles were found in the garden, also in the 1950s.

Further restoration work took place in 1955-56.

Architecture

The church consists of a nave and chancel, north and south aisles, a west tower, a north vestry and a south porch. The building is oriented east-south-east/west-north-west but for the purposes of this description 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted.

Fabrics: 'A' is of sandstone ashlar, buff in colour, medium to large in size, largely coursed. 'B' is ashlar, smaller in size than 'A' but otherwise similar. 'C' is ashlar which is buff-yellow in colour, medium to large in size, and is all coursed.

'A' is used for the body of the church from the 15thC/16thC, but also from later periods. 'B' is used for the south porch and is probably from 1911, and 'C' is 18thC and used for the tower.

Roofs:- leaded behind the parapets. Chancel roof consists of sheets of lead on concrete. Stone slabs on porch. Cross finials to porch and chancel.

Drainage:- parapets have drainage gullies, with lead pipes and hoppers that lead to concrete drainage gullies of varying widths around the bases of all walls. It is unclear whether a drainage trench has been excavated around the church and beneath them.

Exterior

General. All walls including those of the nave have battlemented parapets with continuous mouldings and buttresses with crocketed finials. The battlements on the east and west walls of the aisles continue those on the nave. The hollowed underside of a string course immediately below the parapet carries carvings of animals, throughout its circuit of the church. Gargoyles feed into cisterns and down pipes; and there are animal heads at the top corners of the buttresses. There is a lower string course which beneath the windows is stepped down to form the sills, though it does continue around the buttresses, and below this is a double plinth at the wall bases.

Tower - General. In 'C' and of three stages, at the west end of the nave. It has the double plinth but this is not at the same level as that around the aisles. Above this the string course with the carved animals on its underside continues from the aisles, then there is a band of blind quatrefoil ornamentation and higher still a hollow string course which forms the top of the first stage. A round-mould string course signals the top of the second stage and above this is a band of blind lozenge decoration. Another rounded string course is set beneath the battlemented parapet with crocketed central and corner finials. Angle buttresses with crocketed finials are stepped, rising up to the level of the battlements, and these have decorative finials at the tops of the first and second stages. A central flagpole.

North wall:- devoid of features in the first stage, except for a small slit light with trefoiled terminals which lights the tower stair. The second stage (the ringing chamber) contains a square-headed, moulded window frame with rolled and hollow chamfers over a two-centred arch above three lights; the central ogee-headed light is divided further into two trefoiled lights but is flanked by blind, trefoil-headed lights and there is blind tracery above them. The third stage has a square-headed belfry window frame with three trefoiled, two-centred, louvred lights and Y-tracery; the spandrels contain some decoration.

East wall:- nave roof rises to the second stage, so that only the ringing chamber and belfry windows are present, together with the intermediate decorative zone. The ringing chamber window lacks the detailed moulding on its frame which is visible elsewhere and all its lights are blind.

South wall - the first stage is wholly devoid of features. The second stage has a window similar to that on the north side and above this is a blue clock face with gold numerals which is set across the decorative zone. The belfry window is as on the north side.

West wall:- at ground level is a doorway set in a square-headed frame with a label over it. A four-centred arch with complex moulded chamfers contains a pair of vertically planked doors. The whole dates to 1864. Higher up the clock face and windows match the south wall.

North aisle - General. In 'B' and of 16thC date.

North wall:- seven bays formed by east and west stepped, angle buttresses and four central, stepped buttresses with crocketed finials. The second bay from the west contains an Elizabethan doorway though this is now within the north vestry. The windows have four-centred chamfered arches with hoodmoulds that have simple stops, and four cinquefoiled, ogee-headed lights with trefoiled panel tracery; the chamfers are heavily moulded. There has been considerable replacement of the dressings, particularly the mullions but also some jambs and tracery. The window over the north door is reduced in size but is of standard form. A subterranean boiler room is approached via a staircase beside the north aisle.

East wall:- a wide, four-centred window with five cinquefoiled, ogee-headed lights with sub-arches and complex cusped tracery; a hoodmould with simple stops. Some replacement of the dressings.

West wall:- the west window matches that in the east wall.

Vestry - General. In 'B'-type ashlar but an addition of 1856 which encloses the Elizabethan doorway of the north aisle. It is plinthed at about 0.4m on the west side sloping down to 0.2m at the east end; there is a string course at 1.5m above ground level. A further string course just below the flat roof and from this gryphons project at the north-east and north-west corners.

North wall:- a square-headed window frame with a label that has vine leaf stops, and a pair of trefoiled, ogee-headed lights protected by wire mesh.

East wall:- nothing to note.

South wall:- a doorway with a four-centred arch with a hoodmould and vine leaf stops; hollow chamfers with pyramid stops.

West wall:- featureless.

Nave - General. In 'B'. The nave has a clerestory (visible only from a distance), though this is later in date than the nave itself, and above this a battlemented roof line with crocketed pinnacles.

North wall:- the clerestory windows consist of seven small, square-headed apertures each with a central cusped light and subsidiary lights around it. The most easterly clerestory light is now in the chancel.

East wall:- visible above the chancel roof.

South wall:- as the north wall.

Chancel and apse - General. In 'B'-type ashlar. The chancel which was created from the eastern bay of the nave is not visible externally, but there is a five-sided apse added by Scott in the 19thC. The apse has a continuous plinth, c.0.5m above ground level, and string courses as elsewhere; the frieze of carved animals is similar to that on the nave but at a higher level, and the battlemented parapet is also the same design. This part of the church is divided by four stepped, diagonal buttresses with crocketed heads; and each bay contains a four-centred window with a hoodmould that terminates in head stops and two rows of three cinquefoiled, two-centred lights divided by a transom, with cusped panel tracery above, and chamfered dressings.

North wall:- a chancel extension had been planned in the medieval period, but it appears to have got no further than short lengths of wall up to and including the west reveals of the most westerly apse windows. The juncture is visible on the external face of the north wall, though there is only a subtle difference in the appearance of the ashlar blocks.

East wall:- see above.

South wall:- an octagonal battlemented stair turret set in the angle between the east wall of the south aisle and the south wall of chancel was constructed reputedly to give access to a rood loft that was never built. The plinth and string courses of the south aisle continue around the turret. Two short round-headed slit windows are set in its south face. On top of it is a lead cistern and a downspout drops the full length of staircase. The turret itself rises above the height of both the aisle and the apse.

South aisle - General. In 'B'. In appearance very similar to the north aisle except for the buttresses (see below), and the absence of a window above the south door.

East wall:- as east wall of the north aisle, the window dressings showing considerable renewal.

South wall:- as the north wall of north aisle but the buttresses with their crocketed gables and pinnacles rising above the battlements were added in the 19thC.

West wall:- as west wall of north aisle. Some dressings renewed, and grilles over the lights.

Porch - General. Of 17thC date, re-modelled and probably largely rebuilt in 1911 in neo-Perpendicular style using 'C' ashlar. It has a continuous plinth and a string course running on from the aisle and a battlemented gable roof with crocketed corner pinnacles, and at the southern angles there are diagonal stepped buttresses with crocketed heads which were added during the rebuilding. Lead hoppers on the side walls bear a 1911 date.

East and west walls:- plain.

South wall:- a splayed eight-step entrance leads to a wide, four-centred entrance arch over a pair of panelled doors with traceried decoration and wrought ironwork. The arch and jambs are moulded and could represent an original 18thC doorway but in fact only a small number of original jambstones remain. Above the doorway is a canopied niche, highly decorated, containing a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Interior

Tower - General. Within the ground floor of the tower are six steps up to a flagged stone floor, which is level with the nave. Walls in ashlar create a passage, with compartments to either side. A panelled ceiling above the hallway with six principals, moulded ribs and purlins, and eight panels to each bay, four to either side of the ornamented central purlin, containing cusped motifs and ribbed bosses. The first floor of the tower contains the ringing chamber, its walls boarded to half height; vinyl laid on the wooden floorboards. A rough stone staircase gives access to the bell chamber with a boarded floor and a roof with a ladder and hatch. There is an iron and oak bell-frame.

North wall:- a large two-centred arch, plain and functional, to the north side staircase.

East wall:- entrance to the nave has a segmental head to the reveal.

South wall:- a single door in a two-centred arch leads to stores.

West wall:- the outer doorway has a reveal with segmental head.

North aisle - General. Stone flagged floor with heating grilles, the flagstones under the benches as well. Two slabs at the east end are inscribed with the term 'vault'. Stonework of the walls exposed. The original 16thC panelled and embossed camberbeam roof has seven bays supported by eight tie-beam trusses resting on arch-bracing and short wall-posts which in turn rest of long, stone, pilaster wall-posts which drop down as far as the window sills on the north and from the capitals of the piers on the south. The ceiling of each bay contains 30 panels, each are divided into four small panels. Decorative bosses on the centres of the principals' soffits include the emblem of the Stanley family, and there is tracery in panels. Plain cornices.

North wall:- pilasters as noted above between the window apertures. Tudor doorway to vestry. At the east end of the wall below the sill of the penultimate window are at least four inscribed stones set into the wall with initials such as 'TAP' and 'E'., and there is another further west; all probably 17thC or 18thC. Medieval glass is set in the short window over the vestry entrance. In the north-west angle is the monument to Robert Davies (d.1728), and also on this wall is a brass of 1728, five 19thC brasses, one stone and three marble memorials of the 19thC and three 20thC brasses.

East wall:- step to north chapel.

South wall:- arcade with six piers having four attached shafts each with highly decorated capitals; moulded bases. Four-centred arches of two orders, heavily moulded. Unlike the nave there is no decoration above the arches. Six bays to the aisle and one to the north chapel.

West wall:- plain but for the west window. Note that externally this is a five-light window, but internally there is an additional, blind light, though with an ogee head, to each side.

North chapel - General. At the east end of the north aisle is a chapel separated from it by wrought iron altar rails. Three staggered steps to the altar, a marble floor, but walls and roof as the north aisle.

North wall:- a white marble war memorial tablet.

East wall:- window with two blind lights as in the west wall. The northerly light has a heavily ornamented, canopied niche containing a much later statue, a little less than life-size, of the Virgin Mary from 1898. The Stanley eagle and a child appear as a finial. Originally this niche probably held an image of the Virgin: this was re-discovered and then destroyed in 1768.

South wall:- a modern organ fills the south side bay of the arcade.

Vestry - General. One step down to the carpetted floor. A panelled oak ceiling with moulded ribs and purlins, in the style of the south aisle.

North wall:- a heavily moulded, rectangular frame to the Tudor doorway which has a four-centred arch, and foliate decoration in the spandrels; the stonework is worn.

West wall:- below the modern safe is its metal predecessor with the names of four churchwardens painted on it.

Nave - General. A wide, high nave. Floor and walls as the north aisle. The roof was created by Thomas Edwards, a local craftsman, who also made the benches to the design of Scott during the 1850s. The roof is of similar design to the 16thC roof in the north aisle with seven bays (including that of the present chancel) supported by eight moulded tie-beams rising from stone corbels supported on pilaster shafts above the north and south arcades. These walls have decorative panelling above the arcade, while the roof has panelling and decorated bosses, each bay containing 18 carved panels which are then sub-divided into four smaller panels.

North wall:- as noted above there is a six-bay Perpendicular arcade composed of four-centred arches with heavy mouldings, supported on six octagonal ringed and chamfered piers together with east and west responds. 'The spandrels are divided by roll mouldings which spring from angels bearing shields and rise to the roof as thin wallshafts. Cusped compartments in the spandrels, including multi-foiled circles containing a smaller series of shields. The two series include Emblems of the Passion and insignia of the Stanley family, e.g. arms, the Eagle and Child Crest, Eagle's Claw badge, arms of the Isle of Man and the Three Legs of Man. Stanley emblems occur also among the foliage and diverse subjects depicted in the pier caps. Between the spandrels and a frieze of quatrefoils in lozenges, the animal procession has invaded from outside' (Hubbard)

Chandeliers hang in the arcades. Above the arcade are the six, slightly splayed clerestory windows yet a low clerestory may not have been the original intention: the easternmost bay (now in the chancel) indicates that a start was made to extend it to the east and raise its height. Wall shafts relating to this development are partly buried in the sanctuary arch.

East wall:- two steps up to the chancel.

South wall:- as the north wall of the nave.

West wall:- there is a recessed and splayed two-centred archway leading to the tower, the inner arch chamfered with broach stops to the jambs. Over the arch is a brass of 1865. Above this is a modern organ loft supported on four octagonal wooden piers, between which are three, large, trefoil-headed panels. On the west wall is a hatchment of 1636, and seven marble memorials ranging in date from 1705 to 1815.

Chancel - General. Two steps up from the nave with two brasses, of 1629 and 1919, set into them. Encaustic tiles in the floor. Walls and roof as the nave because the chancel was formed from the easternmost bay of the nave in the 19thC.

North wall:- a 1972 organ.

East wall:- a wide four-centred arch of two orders, heavily moulded, cut into the original east wall of the church leads into the sanctuary.

Sanctuary - General. One step up with encaustic tiles to the floor. There are five stained glass windows, the arches completed by hoodmoulds with floriated stops. A ceiling of carved panels with ribs splaying from a central decorated boss and supported on stone corbels which rise from ringed pilasters between the apse windows.

North wall:- old stone work is visible at the west end of the wall, reputedly part of a late medieval chancel that was never built.

South wall:- old stonework is visible as in the north wall. In the south-east corner, a four-centred arch with chamfered dressings and sunken spandrels above a short, vertically planked door that leads to a staircase to a rood loft which was supposedly never constructed. Against the wall are stone sedilia in the form of chairs; there is a marble credence table, with a 19thC brass on the wall above it, and another, of 1613, resting on it.

South aisle - General. Floor and walls as the nave and north aisle. The roof has seven bays with tie-beams supported on pilaster wall-posts on the south wall as in the north aisle. But the roof is not carved like the nave and north aisle; it has plain, chamfered purlins and rafters, with each bay containing 12 panels. The east end, known as the Gysaney Chapel, has an altar raised one step above the general level.

North wall:- arcade for which see above.

East wall:- window and below its south side is the niche for a piscina with a two-centred head but no bowl. The blind lights on either side of the window have canopied niches, that on the south has a Jesse Tree up the side, while that on the north contains a monument of 1711 as well as the arms of Bishop Wharton.

South wall:- one window with early stained glass. At the extreme east end is another canopied stone niche. The wall supports an extensive range of brasses and marble memorials; there are thirteen brasses including two of 1739 and 1746; and seven 19thC marble tablets. Above the south door are three Benefaction boards.

West wall:- window with the standard blind lights. One marble memorial of 1803.

South porch - General. 19thC encaustic tiled floor; stone seats along the east and west walls which are of bare stone. It retains a vaulted stone roof on transverse ribs that spring out of the side walls, part of the original 17thC structure.

North wall:- 16thC three-centred doorway to the south aisle in a large rectangular and heavily moulded frame with a blank shield in its own square frame at the apex. Above the doorway are three modern stone (or alabaster) carvings including one of the Crucifixion.

East wall:- contains an inset worn limestone tablet with a date of 1776 just visible.

West wall:- a wooden plaque of the Incorporated Church Building Society recording donations of 1853 and 1913. Below it a memorial stone referring to the 1911 restoration.

Churchyard

Originally a raised circular churchyard, it is located on high ground to the west of the town centre. The burial ground has now been landscaped to accommodate newly laid paths and a vehicular access and parking area on the north side of the church. The graveyard was extended northwards in the 19thC, but this lower burial ground is divided off by a boundary wall.

Boundaries:- the old churchyard was formally bounded by terraced housing on its south and west sides, but the present churchyard is now enclosed on all sides by a stone revetment wall and the removal of the buildings means it now fronts High Street and Church Lane. Railings on top of the wall on the west.

Monuments:- gravestones have been cleared and re-sited on all sides of the church. The eastern boundary wall is lined with 18thC to mid-19thC slabs, the earliest one noted being of 1733. Two lines of re-sited 19thC slabs and some isolated chest tombs lie to the east end of the church. Modern cremations are placed around the apse. One chest tomb with ogee panels and baluster pilasters was built for Edward Williams (d.1730). The south side of the churchyard is levelled and grassed over; again there are isolated chests and table tombs including that of Edward Parry (d.1781), and several small grave markers include ones with dates from the 1720s. On the south side of the church is a chest tomb, with pilasters on its weathered side panels and a guilloche frieze, for David Lloyd of Tythyn (d.1658). Graves on the north side are re-sited around the parking area; a kerbed area formed by a base of 19thC slabs and with 18thC slabs as a wall contains a central ovoid chest to Elizabeth Leach (d.1768).

Ancillary features:- a new splayed, stepped entrance has been constructed at the south side and the path leads up to the south porch through the burial ground, A stepped entrance leads up to the churchyard through a two-centred arch from the vicarage garden. Well laid paths continue around the church.

Earthworks:- raised by 2m to 3m around its perimeter.

Vegetation:- 19thC yews line the path to the vicarage. The church is surrounded on the north and east by a mix of trees, mainly beech.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings 1987
CPAT Field Visits: 18 July 1996 and 16 December 1998
CPAT SMR
Crossley 1947
Faculty: St Asaph 1843 (NLW); extension of churchyard
Faculty: St Asaph 1854 (Flintshire CRO); restoration and building works
Faculty: St Asaph 1910 (NLW); restoration
Flintshire County Record Office: D/KK/116 (1674); D/DM/563/37 (1955/6)
Glynne 1884, 261
Hubbard 1986, 389
Lloyd 1960b
Quinquennial Report 1993
Thomas 1911, 404


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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 Mold 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 ( 22:01:59 ).
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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