Montgomeryshire Churches Survey
Church of St Gwynnog , Llanwnnog
Llanwnnog Church is in the Diocese of Bangor, in the community of Caersws in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0222693826.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16403 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.
St Gwynnog's church is a single-chambered structure, variously considered to be of 13thC or 15thC date and restored in 1863. It contains the best example of a 15thC or 16thC rood screen and loft in Montgomeryshire, a medieval font bowl and one 17thC
memorial, though little else pre-dating the restoration. The church is set in a raised enclosure which was originally curvilinear before being enlarged in the 19thC.
It has been claimed that the walls of the church are 13thC and that the building was extended eastwards in the 15thC. Certainly the east window is 15thC but there is no firm evidence of a 13thC structure or of an extension, though it does seem reasonable
to assume that some of the walling is medieval. Some red sandstone dressings are believed to have been brought from the Roman settlement at Caersws, but this too is unproven.
The western part of the north wall and probably the east end of the south wall have been rebuilt, though when it is impossible to determine. The church was restored in 1862/3 in Perpendicular style, and it is possible that the rebuilding forms part of that
episode. Similarly the top of the south wall has been replaced. This too could be 19thC work.
The west wall was rebuilt in 1982 using old material.
Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1979 publication The Buildings of Wales: Powys by Richard Haslam
The church is claimed to have been founded in the 6thC, a daughter church of Llandinam. Certainly the dedication and the previously curvilinear churchyard suggest an early medieval origin.
The church is recorded in Norwich Taxation of 1254 as 'capella de Lanwennic' with a value of 13s 4d.
There is evidence of rebuilding in the 15th century.
Prior to a restoration in the Victorian era, the church had a dormer above the south porch, and different windows.
Glynne in 1855 singled out the rood loft and screen for comment as well as the stairs leading to the former. On a subsequent visit in 1866 he referred to the new roof, and the survival of the roof loft, complete though rather rickety.
Considerable renovation and restoration occurred in 1860 under the guidance of R. K. Penson. The roof was renewed, with some re-use of Perpendicular bosses over the chancel, new windows were inserted and a western spirelet on a bell turret was erected over
the west end of the nave.
A major reconstruction of the west wall and bell turret took place in 1982. The west wall was taken down, a new turret constructed and the wall rebuilt with old rubblestone. The earlier west window was not replaced and instead a central buttress added.
The church consists of a continuous nave and chancel, a south porch and a north vestry. A timber bell turret with a spirelet rises above the western end of the building. It is oriented almost exactly from east to west.
Fabrics: 'A' consists of small to medium blocks of red and grey sandstone, slabs of shale and occasional small to large pebblestones; irregular coursing; some limewash residue. Blocks of dressed red sandstone are said to have been brought from the Roman
settlement at Caersws.
'B' is of mainly medium-sized blocks and slabs of greyish quarry-cut stone; regular coursing and quoins in the same fabric; yellow sandstone dressings.
'C' is similar to 'B', but incorporates some red sandstone and pebblestones.
'D' consists of blocks of grey shaley stone, little weathered and of fresh appearance; occasional red sandstone.
'E' is of small and medium slabs and lumps of stone, occasional blocks of (re-used?) red sandstone and even some brick; irregularly coursed.
'A' was used for the medieval building. 'B' and 'C' are of 19thC date, and 'D' and 'E' are undated but are probably relatively recent in origin.
Roofs: slates with black ceramic ridge tiles, plain over the nave, ribbed over the chancel; stone cross finials at east end of church and over porch; and a wrought iron cross finial delineates the change from nave to chancel.
Drainage: 19thC guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways. There are signs of a trench along the south side and probably the north as well.
Bell turret. General. Square, wooden slatted, bell-turret and surmounted by a broach spire with a weathervane. On all the sides the top slats are open and there is a row of small open trefoils above.
Nave and chancel. General. No differentiation between nave and chancel except for a roof finial. In 'E' and 'A'.
North wall: the west angle of the wall was rebuilt in 1982 as part of the reconstruction of the bell turret and west wall, but the general interpretation of the wall is confused by differential pointing. To the west of the central window the masonry is
mixed and much of the stone is relatively small, with little trace of limewash ('E'). This is a rebuild and its association with the central window (see below) may be significant. To the east of the window there are more blocks of sandstone with two rather
obvious courses of the stone forming deliberate banding ('A'). Three restoration windows. To the west are two, low, two-centred windows, each with two ogee-headed lights and a small, irregularly foil light above; in yellow sandstone with a relieving arch
of sandstone voussoirs over; the more easterly window shows signs of insertion but only on its east side. Further east is a square-headed window of two square-headed lights which illuminates the stairs to the rood loft: it has clearly been inserted into
the wall. East of this is the vestry.
East wall: probably in 'A', although only sporadic sandstone. Two courses of red sandstone form a basal plinth, though this is less apparent towards the northern end of the wall. The east window, narrow for its height, has a two-centred arch, and three
cinquefoiled, two-centred lights with panel tracery above. Most of the tracery looks original but the chamfered jambs as well as the mullions look to be renewed. Perpendicular period, 15thC or 16thC. No hoodmould but worn heads set in the wall where the
stops would have been, and a third head is set above the peak of the arch. Near the southern corner a small ledge projects from the wall and on this is placed a fragment of a gravemarker.
South wall: in 'A' but the top of wall from window-springer level upwards rebuilt in 'D', and at the east end of the wall and again near the porch some reconstruction has occurred in 'E'. Three restoration windows with two-centred arches, each containing
three stepped, foiled lights; relieving arches composed of red sandstone voussoirs. On the west side of the porch is a narrow two-centred arched doorway in mustard yellow sandstone, the jambs chamfered with small bar stops; grey stone voussoirs; internally
blocked since the 1980s work on the tower. A round sandstone aperture containing a quatrefoil is set above the doorway, and also has a relieving arch of voussoirs.
West wall: rebuilt in 1982 or 1984 with a central stepped buttress rising towards the gable. The masonry is a variation of 'A', with some sandstone blocks of less regular form than elsewhere. Original masonry re-used and the wall heavily pointed. The early
red sandstone quoins have been re-set at the corners.
Vestry. General. 19thC addition in fabric 'B' for the north wall, but in 'C' for the west and east sides. Two single ogee-headed lights in pale sandstone in the north wall with stone voussoirs forming the arches; a doorway with a shouldered arch in the
east wall and a square stone chimney with a sandstone stack rises above the west wall.
Porch. General. Open-fronted porch constructed in 'C'. A sandstone plinth, 0.6m high, and angle buttresses at the corners. South wall has a two-centred entrance arch with a relieving arch of voussoirs. East and west walls each have two shouldered lights
in square-headed apertures.
Porch. General. Two steps up from exterior. Patterned tile floors. Walls are bare but heavily repointed, and a wooden bench along the west wall. Plastered ceiling above exposed rafters and purlins.
North wall: has south door to church with a two-centred moulded arch in red sandstone which has a faintly ogival top to the arch; a hoodmould with square stops. Wholly Victorian.
East and west walls: small window embrasures.
Nave. General. West end has a raised wooden platform extending the full width of the nave. The central aisle tiled with carpet down the aisle; and raised planked floors under the benches. Walls are plastered and painted, except for the window dressings.
Roof of six arch-braced collar trusses with raking struts; six bays and the easternmost post adjoins the barrel vaulted ceiling of the chancel; plain wall plates on the north and south sides; exposed rafters and three rows of through purlins which form two
narrow tiers and one wider tier with quatrefoil windbraces. Victorian renewal.
North wall: slight outward lean to wall. Three restoration windows, the most easterly set into the alcove that carries the stair of thirteen oak treads up to the rood loft. The steps were uncovered in the 19thC restoration, and are contemporary with the
screen and loft. Five 19thC and 20thC memorial tablets on the wall, together with a 20thC war memorial.
East wall: late medieval rood screen and loft form the division between nave and chancel. The loft is used for storage. A low slabbed floor c.0.15m below the level of the aisle fronts the screen on the nave side.
South wall: two window apertures, and the reveal of the south doorway with its segmental head. One 19thC monument and an Incorporated Society for Building and Churches plaque. At the extreme west end of the wall the reveal of the small external doorway is
angled through the wall.
West wall: contains a long low cupboard.
Belfry at the west end of the nave is supported on four oak uprights with stopped chamfers at the angles; cross-braces to its second stage on the north and south sides, and this frame rises to a lowered wooden ceiling at roof collar level; there is also an
integral tie-beam set into the north and south walls which gives extra support. Access to the bells is by a ladder and a small hatch in this ceiling. Wholly Victorian. The old font has a central position below the belfry.
Chancel. General. One step up to the chancel, two to the sanctuary and one to the altar. Encaustic tiled floors, and raised planked flooring under longitudinal choir stalls. Walls as nave. Barrel-vaulted ceiling with a diamond frieze on the wallplates on
the north and south sides. Ceiling is planked behind the exposed ribs and there are carved Perpendicular bosses at the intersections taken from the earlier roof.
North wall: two-centred sandstone arch and stepped entrance to vestry. Monument of 1816.
East wall: east window with worn red sandstone dressings for the embrasure which have been painted over; memorials to either side of 1699 and 1864. Wall bulges inwards severely on the south side and the large marble memorial tablet here appears precarious.
South wall: piscina consists of a shallow bowl with drain hole, in a deep recess under a two-centred arch of red sandstone; some of the arch stones have been renewed. A coat of arms is set on the wall above.
Vestry. General. Short section of encaustic tiling immediately inside the entrance, the remainder planked. Plastered walls. Ceiling painted blue with two exposed rafters.
South wall: benefaction board.
West wall: new boiler.
The irregularly shaped, raised, churchyard was originally more curvilinear but was extended on the south side in the 19thC. The 1840s Tithe Map shows the church in a sub-oval enclosure with a road on the south side.
The churchyard is overgrown and has been deliberately left in this state as a haven for wildlife.
Boundary: a wall forms a revetment to the raised churchyard on the north, west and south sides, and an upstanding barrier on the south-east; it is further surmounted by a hedge on the west side and also on the south side, which corresponds to the 19thC
extension. An eastern boundary hedge and sheets of corrugated iron at the north-east corner separate the church from adjoining property. The old school of the late 19thC lies immediately to the south-east.
Monuments: mainly sandstone and slate slabs, some railed graves and chest tombs. Crosses and more recent burials in the southern extension include the grave of the Welsh poet John Ceiriog Hughes (1832-1887) on the south-west side of the burial ground,
located by a signpost sited by the south entrance gates. 18th and 19thC graves are very overgrown; collapsed chests and slabs and broken stones close to the east side of the church. The earliest grave noted is on the south side of the east path and dated
to 1779. Two loose stones placed on top of a chest tomb by the chancel are carved '1755' (part of a slab) and 'J E 1823' (perhaps a churchwarden's stone; a third loose stone carved 'M S I 1666' is placed on the stone shelf which protrudes from the east
wall of the church.
Earthworks: line of the original churchyard enclosure on the south side is visible as a scarp between 1.5m and 2m high with a slight curve to it. Elsewhere the enclosure is raised by 1m on the north and east and more than one metre on the west.
Ancillary features: main, south entrance is through a pair of wrought iron gates in concrete pillars, and a wide tarmac path leads up to the south porch. The gravel paths around the church are frequently mossed over; a path leads out to a single gate in
the east hedge and a path leads north to a stepped entrance in the revetment wall.
Vegetation: several old yews, some of considerable age, are sited around the churchyard; three on the north side, one in the south-east corner, two in the south-west corner and one near the west wall. Two yews of narrower girth are located off the south
porch and three along the north revetment wall. The two yews to either side of the east path are of considerable age, and there are deciduous trees on either side of the south path.
Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings 1997
CPAT Field Visits: 13 February 1996 and 20 July 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 198
Eisel 1986, 188
Haslam 1979, 151
Lunt 1926, 191
Quinquennial Reports 1988 and 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 Llanwnnog Church may also be found on the Bangor 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 - firstname.lastname@example.org, website - www.cpat.org.uk.
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