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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Michael and All Angels , Kerry

Kerry Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Kerry in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1471990100. At one time it may have been dedicated to St Gwyr.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16413 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Kerry Church, CPAT copyright photo CS922813.JPG

Summary

St Michael's church in Kerry, about 3 miles to the south-east of Newtown, is a double-naved structure with a large west tower. Of the original Norman church only the arcade survives, and from the 14thC is the chancel arcade and the tower which is in typical Montgomeryshire style with a timber-framed belfry. The main body of the church was rebuilt in 1882-3. Inside there are 14thC or 15thC roofs, a bell of around 1410, a Perpendicular font, together with an 18thC chest and a few monuments of the same century. The churchyard, a polygonal enclosure with a trace of curvilinearity, is set on high ground overlooking the valley of the River Mule. It contains the plinth for a sundial and a few pre-19thC monuments.

The earliest stone building was probably that of 1176. The nave north arcade survives from that time, and there are traces of a south arcade, implying aisles on both sides of the nave, perhaps fairly narrow. The Norman chancel probably occupied the last bay of the present nave.

A new chancel was added in the 14thC, on the basis of its northern arcade which also indicates that it had its own new north aisle. A two-storey tower with a timber-framed belfry in typical Montgomeryshire style was also added during this century on the evidence of the shouldered arches.

The date at which the narrow north aisle of the Norman church was replaced by a structure as wide as the adacent 14thC aisle attached to the chancel, remains uncertain. Jerman saw it as a later 14thC/early 15thC modification, and also thought that the old chancel wall on the north side of the nave was broken through at this time.

Elements of 16thC walling have been claimed at the west end of the north nave, and perhaps the tower buttresses are from this time, though an 18thC date has also been suggested. The restored east window of the north aisle was re-sited in the vestry in the 19thC.

The body of the church was rebuilt in 1882-3.

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

History

The location of the site as well as tradition indicates that Kerry was an early medieval foundation, and it is conceivable that its later collegiate status (see below) indicates a clas (or mother church) establishment. It was reportedly within the old diocese of St Davids for 400 years but in 1176, at a time when a new church was built on the site, it was the subject of an altercation between Giraldus Cambrensis, Archdeacon of Brecon, and the bishop of St Asaph who planned to take it into his own diocese. The confrontation is documented by Giraldus, and there is an 1818 commemorative plaque of the event on the west wall of the north aisle.

The rededication in 1176, presumably to St Michael, raises the question of an earlier dedication. Thomas pointed out that the bell with the inscription to 'Sante Egevire' (= Gwyr) might give an indication. The new church in 1176 was of stone, the only trace today being the remnants of the nave arcades. With its north and south aisles and perhaps a small chancel occupying what is now the east end of the nave, it was a building of some size and presumably importance.

In 1246 Henry de Bretun was presented to the living of 'Sancti Michaelis de Kery', and at this time it was a collegiate establishment. The church was recorded as 'Eccl'ia de Kery' in the 1291 Lincoln Taxatio with a value of 20.

The tower was built in the 14thC, and a new chancel was also added during the 14thC; again only the arcade remains. Rebuilding of the north nave took place, perhaps in the 15thC.

It has been suggested that the south aisle was demolished in the 17thC - there are records of a window on the south side of the church bearing the date 1613. A gallery existed by 1635, but this was enlarged in 1754 and lit by a dormer window. A second gallery was added at the east end of the north aisle about 1761.The buttresses on the tower may also date to this 18thC restoration work.

Minor repair work was carried out intermittently during the 18thC according to the church records, when the church was falling into disrepair. A detailed inventory of the church furnishings in 1765 is transcribed in Thomas.

The church was integrated into the diocese of St Asaph in 1849. In 1853, a report by T. H. Wyatt stated that the structure was in an unsatisfactory condition and should be pulled down, but no action other than some repairs to the tower was taken at that time.

The faculty for the restoration of the church in 1882 noted that it was in a dilapidated condition and required rebuilding. Soil around the church 'and within the walls' required removal, and monuments were sited inconveniently for worship; seats were uncomfortable and badly arranged. All the walls were to be rebuilt except for the tower and the west end of the church. The church was to be reseated, refloored with wood under the benches, and the chancel screens were to be of new wood. The work was carried out in 1883 under the direction of G.E. Street and the contractor was Edward Davies of Newtown. The rebuilt portions were of Llanymynech stone with Grinshill dressings. The medieval nave roof was under-pinned and left in situ, the north aisle roof was repaired and replaced and the chancel roof was completely renewed but the canopy which covered the sanctuary was repaired and replaced. The total cost was about 3777.

Considerable restoration work was undertaken on the tower in 1924: the stair turret was in danger of collapse, the walls needed repointing and the masonry repairing. The oak timber framing was also repaired and the roof was reslated and louvres were inserted in the top windows.

More recent work included the 1960 removal of a coke-fired boiler and the installation of an electric heating system.

Further restoration work in 1993/94 was necessitated by storm damage: some of the oak timbers were replaced by steel girders and the slate roof was repaired.

Architecture

The church might be termed as a double-naved structure though it is not usually classed as such. It consists of a nave, a slightly narrower chancel, a north aisle which is of similar length to the nave and chancel but has now had its eastern end converted to a vestry and an organ chamber, a south porch, and a tower attached to the west end of the nave. It is oriented

Fabrics: 'A' consists of small to medium linear blocks of grey and brown sandstone with some light grey mudstone and red sandstone. Larger blocks are used near the base of the tower; some coursing. Red sandstone dressings. 'B' consists of regularly shaped blocks of medium-grained limestone from Llanymynech Quarries; some coursing. Grinshill stone dressings. 'C' consists of mainly medium-sized slabs and blocks of medium grained sandstone, grey in colour, though also some in red.

'A' is 14thC (for the tower) and 16thC (for the north aisle), 'B' dates to the restoration of 1883, 'C' pre-dates the restoration but its age has not been established.

Roofs: slates, red ceramic, hipped, ridge tiles, cross finials of different designs at the east end of chancel and vestry. Nave and north aisle roof lines higher than the chancel and vestry roof lines.

Drainage: 19thC guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways. Flat stone slabs along the south side of the building could cover a drain; there is an open cut against the tower and on the west side of the porch, but evidence for a trench around the rest of the church is equivocal.

Exterior

Tower. General. In 'A' with some zoning of the masonry. A broad square tower which rises to a two-stage slatted timber bell-turret with a pyramidal slate roof surmounted by a weathervane dating to 1718. Largely untouched by the 19thC restoration. At a high level (except on the north where it is absent) is a solitary square-sectioned string course. On the north-east is a stair-turret which abuts the west wall of the north aisle and appears to be integral with the tower itself.

A variety of buttresses support the tower. That at the south-east overlaps with the nave's south wall. wall. It is stepped and in 'C' and has quarry-cut red sandstone quoins and large linear blocks of red sandstone for capstones; it is mounted on a plinth which is visible at ground level on the west side of the buttress, rising to c.0.2m above ground on the opposite side. At the south-west is a diagonal buttress, also in 'C', with much use of red sandstone, but no plinth. Both of these buttresses rise to half-way up the tower. Clasping buttresses of slimmer design at the north-west corner.

North wall: a single slit window with worn red sandstone chamfered dressings at ground floor level. Higher up, the string course begins close to the north-west corner. Three rectangular lights with wooden frames and louvre boards immediately below the slatted belfry.

The stair turret is in fabric 'A', and has red sandstone quoins at its north-east corner. Its lean-to roof meets the north wall of the tower just below the louvred lights of the belfry. Its north wall has a red sandstone pilaster buttress to a height of c.1.5m; there is one window slit at a high level, and a small square opening immediately below the roof line, but neither has sandstone dressings. The west wall has two slit windows, the lower in worn red sandstone with chamfered jambs, the higher one simply utilising regular blocks of 'A' but with a single yellow sandstone block forming the lintel; this is perhaps an addition. Near the top the west wall is inset, the masonry contains more red sandstone and could be reconstructed.

East wall: two tie-rod plates, a small rectangular light with grey freestone dressings and finally the three standard louvred openings as on the north side.

South wall: ground floor has a small slit window with worn red sandstone, chamfered dressings; affixed to the wall beside it is a memorial slab of 1835 in yellow sandstone. First floor has a two-centred window in red and grey sandstone with two ogee-headed lights; the foiled tracery is broken and the dressings are heavily weathered, while the foiled quatrefoil light above has been filled in. Just below the string course is a second pair of ogee-headed lights, these without an arch and the mullion and perhaps the jambs renewed. Finally, three standard louvred apertures at the top of the wall.

West wall: a small slit window in pink sandstone (though with few signs of weathering) at ground-floor level. High up, below the string course, is a small square opening in grey sandstone as on the south side, and there are two iron tie-rod plates just below this. Finally three standard belfry lights.

North aisle. General. All in 'B'. Divided from the organ chamber/vestry by a simple buttress and by a change in the roof line, the aisle itself being higher.

North wall: all features in their present form are 19thC. From the west end: i) a two-centred doorway with red sandstone voussoirs; heavy planked door with wrought iron fittings. It seems that there was a medieval predecessor. ii) a two-centred window with three foiled lights and Y-tracery. iii) two-centred window with a central round-headed lancet light flanked by longer foiled lights, and above a cinquefoil light. iv) small buttress below change in roof line.

West wall: in 'A'. Plain, but a low stepped buttress supports the wall and rests against the north wall of the tower stair turret.

Vestry/organ chamber. General. Of Victorian date. The same north wall alignment as the north aisle, and also entirely in 'B'.

North wall: features from west are: i) and ii) two-centred windows with two lights that have foiled ogee heads and a central quatrefoil above. iii) buttress, similar to that at the junction with the north aisle further west. iv) a two-centred window containing two foiled, ogee lights with a quatrefoil above, and has fluted chamfers to the jambs. It has red sandstone dressings, the arrises are generally sharp and probably largely renewed. Indeed it is conceivable that nothing of the original window survives, yet it is a survivor from the 14thC church and was the model for the windows elsewhere.

East wall: east window has three foiled lights under a two-centred arch, intersecting Y-tracery; some of the dressings have already had to be renewed.

Chancel. General. Lower and narrower than nave to west. All in 'B'. All fenestration is 19thC.

East wall: Perpendicular east window has a two-centred arch, three cinquefoiled, two-centred lights with foiled panel tracery above; in grey sandstone. A rather different window from those elsewhere in the church, and it is conceivable that the tracery of the lights might be original, though the stone seems to be the same as renewed stonework elsewhere in the window and there can be little doubt that the mullions and the frame are relatively modern.

South wall: from the east the features are: i) two-centred window over two cinquefoiled lights with a small foiled tracery light. ii) two-centred arch to priest's door; the jambs have half-round shaft mouldings, but are not convincingly original; there is a renewed hoodmould and original head stops. The whole heavily restored in the 19thC. iii) + iv) windows with two-centred arches with foiled panel lights of different designs.

Nave. General. All in 'B'. All fenestration is 19thC.

South wall: features from east are: i) two-centred window with two trefoiled two-centred lights and an irregular cinquefoil tracery light above. ii) base of a circular Norman column from the south arcade re-sited in an alcove at the base of the south wall during the 1883 restoration. iii) window with two-centred arch with three foiled lights with quatrefoil tracery lights above. iv) a second column base below. v) a third column base in the angle formed by the nave and the porch. vi) south porch.

South Porch. General. In 'B' but some red sandstone incorporated. East and west walls are plain without features. The south entrance consists of a three-centred wooden arch raised on wooden half-columns topped by capitals, and flanked by traceried open panels. Weatherboarding for the gable disguises two large raking struts, and there are decorated barge boards. The entrance was closed by wrought iron gates in 1992.

Interior

Porch. General. Open porch has tiled floors, plastered walls with long sandstone slabs forming benches along east and west walls. The roof of two bays with a central collar truss and above the nave door a tie beam with arch bracing and raking struts, similar to the outer truss. On it is inscribed 'Rebuilt AD 1176 Restored 1883'.

North wall: south door to nave. Two-centred arch of red sandstone, with a quarter-round moulding to the chamfer and a plain hoodmould; the stops and arrises are sharp and the hoodmould is certainly renewed.

Tower. General. The only entrance to the tower is through an arch about 1.4m deep at the west end of the nave. Ground floor of tower is adapted for use as a meeting room. The floor has been raised slightly above its original level and is now carpetted. Walls whitewashed with deeply splayed embrasures and steep sloping sills to the slit windows on the north, south and west sides. Flat ceiling with heavy wooden joists. The internal faces of the window embrasures are shouldered.

North wall: inner surround of the window has a jamb from a re-used part of a 12thC lintel with diaper work; left unwhitewashed.

East wall: two-centred arch to nave has long stone voussoirs.

West wall: two stone monuments of 1778/1779 and 1784/1793.

North aisle. General. Floor and walls as nave. 14thC or 15thC roof of arch-braced collars with quatrefoils between the raking struts; eight trusses form seven bays, with two tiers of cusped windbraces. Since 1976 the east end of the aisle has been set aside as a chapel on raised flooring, backing onto the organ, while the west end is now a baptistry and children's corner.

North wall: two splayed windows and a two-centred reveal to the north door. Two hatchments.

East wall: formed by the organ.

South wall: arcade as described for the north wall of nave, although the dressings of the second, outer order of the most easterly arch is not chamfered.

West wall: high, narrow, two-centred arch to tower stair, with pyramid stops to the chamfers. Eleven monuments of stone, brass and marble around the west end, though three are actually on the south wall.

Vestry/organ chamber. General. The most westerly part is given over to an altar on a dais, then the organ, next an outer vestry and at the east end, partitioned off by a panelled screen with a locked, wrought-iron gate is the main vestry. Walls plastered; floor carpetted; one heating grille. Roof of seven arch-braced collar trusses with quatrefoils between the struts. Little more than 0.1m separates the most westerly truss of this roof from the most easterly truss of the north aisle, indicating strongly that these two parts of the church were constructed at different times. The walls are lower than the north aisle and the trusses spring from stone corbels on the south arcade side and castellated wallplates on the north wall.

North wall: two 19thC window embrasures and at the east end the embrasure of the 14thC window.

East wall: splayed window embrasure and three 19thC marble memorials.

South wall: four-bay arcade (see below). Set in the eastern respond is a 14thC piscina in pink sandstone.

Nave. General. From the porch two steps down into the main body of church, largely the result of the 1883 restoration. Tiled floor with flush woodblock under the benches; walls plastered and painted. 14thC or 15thC roof retained from the earlier church; five bays formed by five arch-braced collars with short raking struts, though one has in addition a tie beam (the third from the west); except for the tie-beam truss which rests on the wall beams, the trusses spring from short wall posts; those at the east end have carved wooden corbels while the extreme westerly truss has wooden corbels that give a pseudo-hammerbeam effect; the cornices have trefoiled panels and are probably of 19thC date; three rows of cusped windbraces with exposed rafters and purlins, most of which have rib mouldings.

North wall: four-bay arcade in pinkish sandstone, a survival of the Norman church; three circular pillars with east and west responds; the columns themselves and the inner orders of the arches have been left free of plaster. The western respond is plastered over except for the moulded capital with its dog-tooth ornament; the third pier eastwards was originally a respond with a capital on one side only though this is not immediately obvious, and the stonework of the whole pillar is out of alignment. The present eastern respond is actually the octagonal pillar of the chancel arcade added in the 14thC; at its base is some re-used 12thC carved stone, possibly from a window but perhaps more likely from something like a font stem. The round-headed arches are of two orders; the inner arch is of chamfered sandstone blocks, though the chamfers with their pyramid stops were probably introduced in the 14thC; the outer is plastered over without evidence of any dressings. East wall: screen and two steps up to chancel.

South wall: two splayed windows and a slightly splayed, two-centred reveal to the south door.

West wall: two-centred doorway to the tower, effectively of two orders, and the outer with broach stops to the chamfers. Six marble wall monuments, all of the 19thC.

Chancel. General. Narrower than nave, as is shown by the slight inset in the north wall and the much deeper one in the south wall opposite it, where the 19thC screen crosses. Chancel finished as nave, but has encaustic tiles made by Godwins of Hereford. Two staggered steps from the nave and two steps to the sanctuary. The wagon roof over the chancel was replaced in 1883 and comprises 18 close-set arch-braced trusses springing from wallplates fronted by trefoil-headed panels. Over the sanctuary is a restored medieval canopy with moulded arch braces and four purlins, and bosses that have been recently re-gilded.

North wall: four-bay arcade of 14thC date: three octagonal piers in pinkish sandstone, with an east respond and a fourth, larger octagonal pillar which forms the 'respond' to the nave arcade; the octagonal piers support four round-headed arches of two orders (presumably copies of their Norman counterparts to the west rather than pointed arches in the current Gothic style) with different patterns of moulded capitals. two rows of ball-flower ornament around the capital of the central pier. A continuous hoodmould in pink sandstone is of the 19thC. Parclose screen in front of the arcade.

East wall: stone reredos below a stained glass window.

South wall: 14thC piscina set in red sandstone recessed into wall with 19thC trefoil-headed arch over, together with a hoodmould. Sedilia below sanctuary window. Priest's door has a two-centred head to its reveal.

Churchyard

The churchyard is a polygonal enclosure that incorporates an extension of 1884, occupying fairly level ground on the south side of the Mule Valley. It was closed for burials in 1919.

Boundary: takes a variety of forms. There are stone walls on the east and south, interspersed with the backs of buildings. On the north is a railed boundary.

Memorials: mainly 19th/20thC slate and stone slabs, fairly evenly distributed on all sides. Some railed graves, chests, crosses and pillars. Early weathered sandstone slabs are laid flat outside the south wall of the chancel, and several re-sited slabs lean against adjoining property on the west side of the south path. The earliest memorials seem to date from the late 18thC, and there is a metal gravemarker of 1783 at the east end of the chancel. Some work was undertaken in the churchyard in 1962, when a faculty was submitted for the removal of kerbstones, and chains and railings surrounding graves.

Furniture: south of the nave are the remains of a sundial consisting of a slim, fluted octagonal stem and plinth over 1m high; there is no plate or gnomon. A sundial is recorded in the 1765 inventory for the church.

Earthworks: a curving scarp bank on the north side marks the extent of the pre-1884 churchyard. The churchyard is raised on the west by between 1m and 4m, on the north, and by c1.5m on the east. It is, however, level on the south.

Ancillary features: main south entrance through a pair of wooden gates (1976) set in a short stretch of wall on the south side. A broad tarmac path leads up to south porch and around the church on all sides. Also a farm gate on the east side.

Vegetation: several yews of considerable age. The yew with the widest girth is located on the south-west side of the churchyard. Others near the north-west corner of the church and at the east end of the chancel.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings 1996
CPAT Field Visit 20 December 1995 and 1 May 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 189
Eisel 1986, 179
Faculty St Asaph 1882 (NLW): restoration
Faculty St Asaph 1882 (NLW): churchyard extension
Haslam 1979, 112
Jerman 1976
Morris 1891
NMR Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
Ridgway 1997, 109
Salter 1991, 13
Thomas 1908, 516
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 Kerry 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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