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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Llwchaiarn , Llanmerewig

Llanmerewig Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Llandyssil in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1577993172.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16404 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanmerewig Church, CPAT copyright photo CS923019.JPG

Summary

St Llwchaiarn's church lies on a ridge some 3 miles to the north-east of Newtown. It is a small single-chambered building with a diminutive west tower and a south porch, all of which appear to date from 1833 through to the 1840s, with some restoration in 1891. Inside the original, a late medieval arch-braced roof survives, there is an early font or stoup and a fragment of the medieval screen. The building is sited in a raised circular churchyard which has been claimed as a prehistoric enclosure.

A simple 13thC-style church dating from 1833-45; the walls were apparently completely rebuilt, except perhaps at the extreme north-east angle where the masonry may be from the original medieval church.

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

History

The church is reputed to have been founded by a St Merewig in the later 6thC, but there is no other record of this saint, and the alternative tradition that St Llwchaiarn from Bangor-on-Dee was responsible for its foundation about this time, is more plausible. Certainly the dedication and the churchyard shape point to an early medieval origin.

The church was listed as 'Capella de Lamerewic' in the Norwich Taxation of 1254, a chapelry to the church at Llanllwchaiarn, and valued at only 5s. By 1291 'Lamewily' had become a parochial church with a value of 2.

Archdeacon Thomas believed that it was a place of pilgrimage in the 16thC, with a shrine or effigy, or perhaps a painted window to St Llwchaiarn.

John Parker (1798-1860) was rector in 1827-44, and influenced the restoration with his admiration for the Gothic style. A water colour by Parker shows the church in 1829 with a western bell turret, a small south porch, and a whitewashed exterior.

The church underwent two 19thC restorations. The first, done in piecemeal fashion, was during Parkers' incumbency. High pews had been installed in 1821 (though these were removed in 1861 and replaced with open oak benches). In 1833, the walls were rebuilt and a gallery was erected at the west end of the church, partly of oak and partly cast-iron; buttresses were added in 1836; a vestry built in 1837; in 1838-9, the tower was constructed and an addition made to gallery; and the south porch was ornamented and a large trefoiled, outer doorway added in 1840. The roof was ceiled with panelling and bosses and the east window made by David Evans in 1837. In 1842, a tall ornate octagonal chimney was erected in the south wall for a fireplace which has now been removed; part of this chimney is now sited over the north vestry and parts of it are used as plant holders outside the south porch; and in the same year, while part of the old screen was left in situ, other parts were re-used for altar rails, a pulpit, a desk and the front of the gallery. The ceiling and walls were plastered and painted. Finally, in 1843 a painted window was added to the south wall and the nave oak floor laid, and two years later the chancel was planked with oak. In 1848 a wall had been built around the churchyard and dwarf yew trees and cedars planted.

In 1858 Glynne found 'a small church, originally mean and unpretending, but now altered and ornamented in a very questionable manner, though at some expense and with the best intentions'. The earlier walls were 'rude and plain; that on the north little altered, and [it] has bad, mean windows. On the south is a plain double-window of two obtuse-headed lights. One window is a mere slit'.

A second restoration occurred in 1892, at the expense of Mr Whitley Owen of Fronfraith Hall. Work was carried out by W.H. Spaull. The wagon ceiling was removed exposing the fine oak roof, the church was re-slated and the interior was tiled. The east wall and part of the north wall were rebuilt. The present east window was inserted as a copy of the original, which was re-erected against the churchyard wall to the east of the church. The gallery was removed and parts of it re-used as a screen, and Parker's pulpit also went. An organ replaced the harmonium.

In passing it may be noted that on the north side of the church wall, there was a rusty chain for fastening cattle which were auctioned after church services. The chain has disappeared but the links remain.

Architecture

A single-chamber church with a south porch, a tall slim western tower adjoining the west wall of the nave, and a north vestry off the chancel. It is oriented west-south-west/east-north-east but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here for descriptive purposes.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of small to medium-sized blocks of fine grained, greyish sandstone and mudstone with quoins of the same selected material, and occasional inclusions such as brick pebblestones and lumps of quartz; possibly some re-used material; randomly coursed and contemporary dressings are in yellow sandstone. 'B' is of small and irregular lumps of dark sandstone, some pebblestones; random coursing.

Roofs: slates with plain red ceramic ridge tiles. Decorated finials to the chancel, the porch, the diagonal buttresses at the east end, and the south dormer, and a cross over the east gable of the tower.

Drainage: north and south wall guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways. Signs of a narrow trench around the building.

Exterior

Tower. General. A tall slim west tower showing Gothic influence. Constructed in fabric 'A' and bearing two datestones: '1838' mid-way up the south face, and '1839' on the dressed sandstone corbel-table, signifying its completion. Slightly battered walls to about one-third height. Plain walls for about two-thirds of its height, then a moulded string course with foliate decoration at the angles. The saddleback roof is supported on a highly decorated corbel-table, and has a cross rising above its eastern apex.

North wall: eight stone steps lead up to a segmental-headed doorway, about 1.5m above ground level. Stone wall adjoins east side of the tower, creating a storage area between the steps and the west wall of the nave. The belfry has a pair of louvred lancets.

East wall: the belfry window has a two-centred arch with hoodmould and decorative stops; it contains a recessed pair of trefoiled lights with a circular aperture above. In the gable above is a chamfered rectangular slit.

South wall: just under half way up the wall face is a rectangular slit window with the datestone above it. Belfry window as on the north.

West wall: slit window as south wall, and higher up a belfry window and rectangular slit as in the east wall.

Nave and chancel . General. Not differentiated externally. All in 'A', except at the north-east corner; the stonework is more regular at higher elevations.

North wall: two stepped buttresses divide the nave into three bays to the west side of the vestry. Two four-centred windows with two trefoil-headed lights and small panel lights above, and further east a two-centred arch with a single light. East of the vestry the wall is in 'B' and has a slighly protruding base.

East wall: a vault against the wall. Diagonal stepped buttresses in better dressed stone at the angles rising to triangular capstones with finials. The east window of 1892 has a pointed red sandstone arch, with a triangular, moulded, hoodmould above, and contains two trefoiled lights with a small tracery light above.

South wall: two ordinary buttresses divide the south wall into three bays to the east of the porch. From the east: i) paired lancet lights. ii) buttress. iii) a single lancet light. iv) buttress. v) a semi-dormer window with a pair of trefoiled, round-headed lights with an ornate hoodmould above; the date AD 1843 is incised above the hoodmould and there is an almond-shaped light flanked by knot patterns all below the gable apex of the dormer. v) the porch. vi) a single lancet window.

West wall: plain, both to the north and south of the tower. Some residual limewash may indicate re-used stone.

Vestry. General. The north wall has a central chimney stack protruding from the wall, rising to a highly decorated yellow sandstone chimney which has been re-sited after its removal from the south wall; the chimney has ringed shafts and dog-tooth mouldings between. The west wall is plain, the east has a shoulder-arched doorway and a pair of wide lancets set in a square-headed aperture.

Porch. General. Walls in a coarse 'A' fabric with some limewash residue. Ornate entrance with pinnacles rising above the angles: the trefoil-headed opening is set within a round-headed outer arch with dog-tooth mouldings, and a hoodmould which has attached fleur-de-lys carvings is interspersed with the inscription 'Keep thy foot when thou goest into the House of the Lord'. An 1840 date is inscribed in the gable below a large foliate boss.

Interior

Porch. General. One step up from the outside path; open fronted; red tiled floor; carved oak bench against the east side only. Roof of rafters and chamfered purlins. The north wall (= south wall of nave) contains a simple two-centred doorway with chamfered yellow sandstone dressings.

Nave. General. One step up from porch. Red tiled floor with flush planking under benches. Wainscotting on north and south walls, which are unplastered. Low roof of 14th/15thC date, and consisting of 22 closely-set, arch-braced collar trusses sprung from north and south wallplates; wooden pegs. Diagonal braces at east end of nave look much more recent.

North wall: organ set in north-west corner in 1927; pulpit at the east end lit by a single-light window; grey slate War Memorial slab between the two two-light windows, and a modern, carved wooden plaque above it.

East wall: screen.

South wall: flat, pointed arch over the south door, and a stepped sill to the dormer window. One 20thC memorial.

West wall: adjoins tower. The masonry appears to be rough and irregular and could be early; a beam is immured in the wall at the level of the north and south wall eaves.

Chancel. General. Separated from nave by screen, with two steps up from the nave and further steps to the sanctuary and the altar. Mosaic floor with wooden floors under the longitudinal choir stalls. Roof as described under nave with a further ten arch-braced collars.

North wall: the only features are the vestry archway with half-round jamb mouldings and a pointed head, and adjacent an alcove, much broader than the single window set in it - no explanation can be offered for the feature. An irregularity in the north-west corner matches the masonry change on the exterior.

East wall: splayed window with stained glass.

South wall: a small, rectangular recess as an aumbry, low down in the sanctuary wall; flat slabs to top and bottom. Also an early font bowl placed on window ledge in sanctuary. The large, 19thC, Lloyd family wall monument between the chancel windows.

Vestry. General. Tiled floor, unplastered stonework, and wooden ceiling with exposed rafters. Doors and windows as described elsewhere.

Churchyard

The churchyard is one of the more circular examples in Montgomeryshire and is distinctively raised. Indeed the RCAHMW considered it to a re-used prehistoric hill-top enclosure. It is well maintained and still used for burial.

Boundary: stone wall on the south and east side, datable to 1840, but on the west an earlier rubblestone wall is visible below the hedge; a fence forms the north side and it does appear that there has been some modification to the boundary on this side.

Monuments: scattered gravestones and markers on all sides; the churchyard has not been levelled and unmarked graves show as hummocks, though there are open areas south of the church. There is a 1706 burial near the south wall, and the next earliest is of 1775. The Jones family memorial was removed from the interior of the church and placed in the graveyard during the 1892 restoration. Adjoining the east wall of the church is a vault with a brick wall plinth c.0.6m high, enclosing seven slate slabs, none of them inscribed.

Furniture: two worn, octagonal, yellow sandstone blocks are located outside the south porch. The shafts, of differing height, are now used as bulb planters but were originally part of Parker's ornate chimney, the remainder of which is still sited above the vestry.

The old Decorated east window has been set against the boundary wall on the north-east side and encased in masonry; it is in worn and discoloured red sandstone and consists of a pair of two-centred arches, one clearly foiled, set below a triangular head which contains a small foiled light.

Earthworks: an earthen bank c.3.5m wide and 0.7m high is built up against the inside of the stone boundary wall. Generally the churchyard is raised, about 0.5m on the east, 0.7m on the north-east and up to 1m on the north. However, there is little if any rise on the west and any drop on the south is likely to be distorted by the sunken road on this side. The church itself appears to be set on a slight platform of its own at the west end.

Ancillary features: a pair of iron gates set in large stone pillars form the main south entrance with a tarmac path leading to the south porch; adjacent is a stile with a date of 1842. A second stone stile set in the wall on the east side bears a 1848 datestone and a path leads to the south porch and continues west to a pair of modern iron gates set in a short length of wall.

Vegetation: a ring of eight yews set just within the boundary on the east, north and west; 19thC yews and rhododendron bushes line the south path.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings for Llandyssil Community: 1997
CPAT Field Visit 3 March 1996 and 1 May 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 197
Eisel 1986, 186
Faculty St Asaph 1891(NLW): restoration
Gibbings and Jones 1935
Glynne 1884, 92
Haslam 1979, 148
Lloyd n.d.
NMR Aberystywth
Powys SMR
RCAHMW 1911, 122
Thomas 1908, 533
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 Llanmerewig Church may also be found on the St Asaph 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 - chrismartin@cpat.org.uk, website - www.cpat.org.uk.

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