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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Mary the Virgin , Snead

Snead Church is in the Diocese of Hereford, in the community of Churchstoke in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO3160591889.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16390 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Snead Church, CPAT copyright photo 426-05.JPG


St Mary the Virgin is located in the small settlement of Snead, about 11 miles to the south-east of Welshpool and no more than a stone's throw from the English border. It is a small single-chambered building that appears to retain some medieval walling, though there was restoration and rebuilding in 1870 when the windows were replaced and the west wall reconstructed. Internally, there is a remarkable 12thC font and a 14thC/15thC sepulchral slab. The church is situated in an almost square raised churchyard beside the River Camlad.

Church probably retains some medieval masonry in the east and south walls, but the fenestration is wholly 19thC, though in some cases perhaps faithful renewals. The voussoired north and south doorway embrasures at the west end of the nave are perhaps from the earlier church, though the arches themselves are completely renewed. The west wall is completely 19thC.

Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1979 publication The Buildings of Wales: Powys by Richard Haslam


Snead is the smallest parish in Montgomeryshire and belonged to the Manor of Chirbury in the 12thC. About 1190 Robert de Buthlers, Lord of Montgomery, founded a priory for Augustinian Canons at Snead, but this was removed to Chirbury at a date variously put at c.1195 and c.1227. In 1281 Edward I granted a licence for the canons to move back to Snead, but it appears that they remained at Chirbury until the Dissolution.

The foundation date of the church is not known, but a post-Conquest date seems certain. Its subsequent history and development are unknown.

The church was restored in 1870 by the Rev. Frederick Pardoe.

Further extensive restoration took place in 1998 and salvage recording was undertaken by Archaeological Investigations Ltd of Hereford.


Snead is a single-chamber church, consisting of a short nave and disproportionately long chancel under a continuous roof line with a bellcote at the west end, and a vestry on the north side of the chancel. It is oriented almost exactly east to west.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of blocks and slabs of grey and greenish/grey sedimentary rock (perhaps a shale), rough but fairly homogeneous; irregular coursing. Dressings are in brown and olive-yellow sandstone. 'B' is a mix of slabs and blocks, some of irregular shape, of sedimentary stone (both sandstone and shale?), generally weathered to grey. 'C' is of tidily cut slabs of grey shale, some coursing.

'B' and 'C' could be medieval, 'A' is Victorian.

Roofs: tiles with red ceramic, toothed ridge tiles. Cross finial at east end of chancel, and another on top of the bellcote.

Drainage: no obvious drainage trench around the building.


Nave and chancel. General. Considered here as a single unit as there is no external differentiation. A heavy, rounded string course is continuous at a height of 1m on the north and west sides, continuing around the buttresses and the vestry. Beneath this the wall is battered. Two stepped buttresses against the west wall, two more on the long walls close to the west corners; all are in 'A' with dressings in pink sandstone, the bases with pronounced batters, but those to the west wall are considerably more sturdy than those elsewhere.

North wall: fabric 'A' with basal batter and string course. From the west the features are: i) buttress as described above. ii) two-centred arched doorway in greenish-yellow sandstone; hoodmould. 19thC dressings but perhaps the location of an early door? The batter stops short of the doorway on both sides but the string course runs up to the down curving hoodmould. iii) lighting the chancel is a two-centred window with a pair of cinquefoiled lights and a quatrefoil above; the hoodmould has a primitive head stop to the west (in similar stone), but nothing to the east, but there is another head, a little larger, above the apex of the window. While the window is solidly 19thC in its materials, the head stops are somewhat worn and certainly out of character with the head stops elsewhere on the building: they could be medieval. iv) vestry.

East wall: in fabric 'B', possibly incorporating some dressed blocks; and the base of the wall without a batter. East window has a two-centred arch, two cinquefoiled, ogee-headed lights and a quatrefoil tracery light above, and a hoodmould with simple stops, all renewed. There may have been a sandstone carved head above the peak of the arch as on the north wall, but this has eroded away.

South wall: constructed in heterogeneous masonry - some of this can be classed as 'B' and the basal courses are in 'C', but it is difficult to make any sense of the sequence. Features from east are: i) set high in the wall of the sanctuary a single cinquefoiled light in a two-centred arch, the dressings totally renewed in olive-yellow sandstone, but conceivably the position of an original window. ii) adjacent to but lower than i) are four courses of stone work protruding from the wall; their purpose is unclear - it has been suggested that they might be key stones of a lost extension to the south, or the remnants of a flying buttress, neither of which seems wholly convincing. iii) mid-way along the wall is a corbelled sill with four courses of protruding stonework above it; purpose unclear. iv) immediately above it are two dressed stones, perhaps window jambs though not necessarily in their original position and it is difficult to see how iii) and iv) might be associated. v) a two-centred window in brown sandstone comparable with that on north side; the hoodmould has Victorian head stops. vi) at the west end is a doorway with a two-centred arch in mixed brown and olive-yellow sandstone, of Victorian date, replacing an earlier entrance. vii) buttress as described above.

West wall: all in fabric 'A'. A two-light window similar to those in the north and south walls; hoodmould with head stops. Dressings of window in brown sandstone with more recent grey sandstone for the heads. Buttresses to either side of the window (see above).

Above the gable is a stepped bellcote in fabric 'A', with two string courses beneath. Two apertures with cinquefoiled tops and a quatrefoil above are set in a two-centred arch; the wood framing for the bells is visible, but the bells themselves are in the church.

Vestry. General. Adjoins the north wall of the chancel. Entirely in fabric 'A'. Brown sandstone used for the cusped lights in the east and west walls.


Nave. General. Flagged floor with raised planks under two rows of benches. Walls unplastered with all stonework exposed. This is uninformative about the sequence of development, though the base of the north wall does appear to be in 'C'. Deeply splayed window apertures. Seven arch-braced collar trusses creating six bays (including chancel); four intermediate collar trusses in each bay, and exposed rafters and through purlins with bosses at collar/purlin intersections. It appears to be wholly of Victorian date.

North wall: slightly peaked arch over recess for north-west doorway with slabs for voussoirs. The reveal is slightly splayed but only on west side.

East wall: 19thC screen and two steps up to chancel.

South wall: peaked arch to south door similar in its voussoirs to its northern counterpart, but the reveal not splayed.

West wall: a 19thC clock affixed to wall north of the window.

Chancel. General. Two steps up from nave, two staggered steps to the sanctuary, one to the altar. 19thC encaustic tiled floor. Walls as nave. Roof described above, with the addition of stencilled foliage decoration on some of the plaster between the rafters. The date of this decoration is uncertain.

North wall: a brass plate records the 1870 restoration work in memory of Emma Pardoe, wife of the vicar. Two-centred arched doorway to vestry. An aumbrey with cinquefoil tracery to the niche, probably copying the piscina opposite.

East wall: the dressings of the window reveal appear to be earlier than those of the Victorian windows in the nave.

South wall: has a piscina set under a cinquefoiled arch, which could be the re-used head of a window, though the edges do not appear particularly weathered. One 20thC marble memorial. Dressings of the window reveal similar to those in the east wall.

Vestry. General. Stone flagged floor. Sloping roof with exposed rafters and purlins and lath and plasterwork visible above. Entrance from the chancel through peaked arch. Affixed to south wall is a 1747 memorial tablet.


A square churchyard raised above the fields on all sides, and approached by a path.

Boundary: churchyard is surrounded by a rubblestone revetment wall, and a ditch on the north and east sides.

Memorials: isolated graves on all sides, mainly of 19thC date. The earliest gravestone to John Edmund (d.1739) was found during the 1998 archaeological salvage work.

Furniture: nothing noted.

Earthworks: the churchyard is raised by 1m or so on the north, south and east, and less on the west where there is internal banking in the churchyard. The salvage work in 1998 revealed that the levelled ground on which the church stands had been deliberately raised to create a platform.

Ancillary features: a north entrance consists of a pair of wrought iron gates supported on stone pillars. Grass path leads from north gates to the south door.

Vegetation: several yew trees, of no great age, but a mature yew at the east end of the church.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings for Churchstoke Community: 1996
Church guide n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 5 February 1996 and 4 June 1998
Eisel 1986, 193
Hadcock and Knowles 1971, 143
Haslam 1979, 197
Hereford Parish Records
Powys SMR
RCAHMW 1911, 170
Williams 1998 (Archaeological Salvage Report)
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 Snead Church may also be found on the Hereford Diocese website.

The CPAT Montgomeryshire 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 ( 22:02:05 ).
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 -, website -

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