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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Illog , Hirnant

Hirnant Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Pen-y-Bont-Fawr in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ0504422953.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16414 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Hirnant Church, CPAT copyright photo 2396-01.JPG

Summary

St Illog's church is located in the remote village of Hirnant in western Montgomeryshire, about 15 miles north-west of Welshpool. A single-chambered structure, it retains medieval fabric on the north side, but the rest was rebuilt in 1886-92, and the west end including the bellcote had to be rebuilt again in 1996. Inside are a medieval font but other fittings have been removed for safety during current renovation work. The churchyard was originally sub-circular but has been truncated, probably in the mid 18thC.

A single-chambered church, the north wall retaining masonry which is probably medieval, while the south and east walls and all the fenestration are from 1886-1892. The west end was rebuilt in 1996.

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

History

The dedication (to St Illog, a 7thC Welsh saint), the location, and the morphology of the early churchyard all point to an early medieval foundation.

A church at Hirnant was first recorded in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 as 'Ecc'a de Hyrnant' with a value of 10s. In Pope Nicholas's Taxation of 1291, the name remains the same, but the value was 4 6s 8d.

Glynne visited Hirnant in 1869, recording 'a small narrow church arranged as usual; not rebuilt, but thoroughly uninteresting, and devoid of character'. There were no windows on the north side, and those on the south and east were all modern. There was an original roof, partly ceiled though some of the old timbers were visible. A further source (1880) refers to a gallery at the west end with a school room beneath it. The timberwork was covered by a plastered ceiling and was reported to be in a good state of preservation. A sketch of the same period shows segmental-headed windows on the south side and a south doorway of rather similar design, but no porch.

However, the old church was taken down and a new church rebuilt on the site between 1889 and 1892, under the direction of Laurence Booth of Manchester. The 1889 faculty for rebuilding indicated that the church was too dilapidated to repair. Material from the old church at Llanwddyn had been purchased and it was intended to erect it at Hirnant as soon as possible. The new church was consecrated in 1892.

The medieval north wall was retained during the rebuilding. The medieval font appears to have been thrown out at some point and was being used as a flower container in the adjoining rectory garden, from which it was later rescued. It has been suggested that the stone dressings, principals and spars of the roof together with the pulpit and altar rails came from Llanwddyn.

The church was closed and declared redundant in October 1994, due to the small congregation, high running costs and the dangerous state of the west wall. Various grants and the pledge of work by the local community resulted in the beginning of a programme of rebuilding and refurbishment which continues at the time of writing. Plans included the rebuilding of the west wall with 19thC material, the strengthening of this wall with breeze blocks, the reslating of the roof, the replastering of the interior walls and a general upgrading of the interior to include toilet and kitchen facilities. It was hoped the church would also be used as a community centre to affray costs.

Architecture

The church consists of a single chamber with a west bellcote. The church is aligned north-east to south-west but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabrics: 'A' is a mix of mainly small to medium sized blocks of shale and sandstone, with some blocks of quartz; irregularly coursed. 'B' is a grey, medium-grained, quarry-cut stone (?dolerite) in regular blocks and slabs, showing more regular coursing.

'A' is of putative medieval date, 'B' is from the restoration of the late 19thC.

Roofs: slates with reconstituted clay ridge tiles. Stone cross finial at east end.

Drainage: a gully on the west but no obvious trench on the north or south sides.

Exterior

Nave and chancel. General. Considered together as no external differentiation.

North wall: in fabric 'A', except for the extreme east end where the corner is rebuilt in 'B'. Two inserted restoration windows, a single trefoiled two-centred light in a square-headed frame at the east end and a similar window but with two lights, further to the west; both have 19thC sandstone dressings, but the single light is in buff-yellow freestone, the other in grey.

East wall: gable end in 'B', with yellow sandstone quoins at south angle. The two-centred east window has three, stepped, trefoiled, two-centred lights, smaller lights above, and a relieving arch in stone voussoirs around the apex of the window.

South wall: two square-headed windows, both with two lights, comparable with those on the north side; yellow and grey sandstone dressings, all 19thC, but the yellow is probably renewed stonework. A south entrance doorway with a broad two-centred arch of two orders with chamfered dressings: again 19thC.

West wall: datestone of 1996. Stone similar to 'B'. One Victorian window with a square-headed frame, a foiled, two-centred light, in buff sandstone, off centre in the wall. The bellcote above has ashlar dressings and a two-centred aperture for a single bell.

Interior

Nave. General. Continuous nave and chancel under one roof. Red tiled floor with wooden planks beneath the benches which are currently not in place. Walls plastered above a plain dado derived from the old pews. Roof of six arch-braced collar trusses, springing from wallplates, with cusped struts; five full bays with half bays at the east and west ends; through rafters and purlins; wholly 19thC.

The walls are devoid of fittings, except for a safe of 1814 set into the north wall.

Chancel. General. A step up from nave to chancel, one step up to the sanctuary, one to the altar. Floor of encaustic tiles with woodblock under the choir stalls. Walls (including the dado) and the roof as in the nave.

North wall: alcove for aumbry.

East wall: the window aperture is not splayed.

Churchyard

The churchyard is now an irregular shape, in part because the wall on the north side was inserted, probably in 1749, and the enclosure originally continued beyond it. Together with the slight earthworks of the former boundary outside the present north-east wall, this implies that there was originally a more circular enclosure. It slopes down from north to south with the church terraced slightly into the slope. It is well maintained.

Boundaries: surrounded by a stone wall, probably rebuilt at the time of the 1889-92 restoration work, except for that on the north-west which may be mid-18thC. On the south-east the back of Church Cottage acts as the boundary.

Monuments: fairly densely distributed on all sides; mostly slate slabs. The earliest dates - from 1768 and 1770 - are on slabs laid flat near the south wall, and there are several other 18thC examples.

Furniture: none seen.

Earthworks: former boundary bank just outside the north-east wall. The interior is raised though not by much: perhaps 0.5m on the west and east and 0.3m on the south.

Ancillary features: main gate on the south-east side, a grassed over gravel path leading up to the south door; single gate to the old rectory in the north-west boundary.

Vegetation: yews and firs on the south-west boundary include two old yews on the west. Also one yew to the east and deciduous trees on the south.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit 3 February 1996 and 25 September 1998
Eisel 1986, 178
Evans 1880
Faculty St Asaph 1889 (NLW); rebuilding
Glynne 1885, 39
Haslam 1979, 112
NMR Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
Ridgway 1997, 102
Thomas 1911, 218
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 Hirnant 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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