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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Gwynnog , Aberhafesp

Aberhafesp Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Aberhafesp in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0729292358.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16688 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Aberhafesp Church, CPAT copyright photo 411-23.JPG


The present church stands within a raised sub-circular enclosure, later extended to the south, and overlooking the Severn Valley. The building is largely 19thC but encapsulates medieval walling, on the north, south and perhaps the west sides of the nave. The 15thC nave roof has been retained and there are a few pre-Victorian wall monuments including a pair of fine early 18thC examples, but most of the furnishings and fittings date from after the restoration of 1857.

The earlier single chambered church was extensively renovated in 1857, when the early nave appears to have been clad on the south side with new stone; the north and west walls may have been retained. The nave has retained its 15thC roof though in modified form.

The chancel and south porch are 19thC, and the tower too was rebuilt during this restoration according to contemporary records, though there is a tradition, seemingly unfounded, that the lower stage of medieval date was retained.

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


The church is dedicated to St Gwynnog, who reputedly had to flee the country from the wrath of the Welsh Princes, taking refuge in Brittany where he died in AD 580. There is however no convincing evidence that this was an early medieval foundation.

It is first recorded as 'Capella de Aberhafh' in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 and 'Ecclesia de Aberhafesb' in the 1291 Lincoln Taxation. During this period it was a chapel subject to the mother church at Llandinam.

The pre-restoration church was a single chamber with south porch and a western tower rising to two storeys and surmounted by a pyramidal roof. There was a gallery at the west end, which was probably accessed from the blocked first floor doorway in the tower. Documentary evidence refers to a church school in the gallery in 1826, but a later school was built on church land in 1838.

In 1855 Sir Stephen Glynne visited Aberhafesp. He recorded a short tower which was lower than the nave roof, and was surmounted by a wooden belfry. There were late, square-headed windows, but a plain Norman window on the north side of the chancel and a single lancet in the east wall. The modern south porch was of brick.

The present church exterior is the result of 19thC restoration work. The main structural alterations took place in 1857, when in addition to considerable rebuilding, a new gallery was added at the west end (according to Thomas) and pews introduced. Glynne also commented that in 1860 new windows were inserted and a new tower added, but the roof was left untouched.

Further alterations occurred in 1866 when the gallery was taken down, pew doors were removed etc. Repair work in 1877 included the re-paving of the chancel, the provision of a new pulpit and reading desk etc.


The church consists of a nave and narrower chancel, a small west tower, a south porch, a north vestry off the chancel and a new church room annexed to the north side of the nave. The building is oriented almost exactly west to east.

Fabric 'A' consists of small to medium blocks of medium grained greyish sandstone and shale, randomly coursed, with dressings of the same material. 'B' consists of a mix of small and medium slabs and blocks of fine-grained sedimentary stone, grey and iron-stained; irregular coursing.

'A' dates to the restoration of 1857; 'B' could be medieval.

Roofs: slate tiles and black ceramic ridge tiles; no finials.

Drainage: the church is built into a slight slope which has led to some terracing on the north side and the emergence of a gutter. Elsewhere there is little sign of a drainage trench around the building.


Totally constructed in fabric 'A'. Except in the tower, the 1857 windows are trefoil-headed lights with trefoil tracery above, set in square-headed apertures. Only the chancel east window has a hoodmould and stops.

Western Tower. General. On the surface this is wholly from 1857. A basal stone plinth is continuous on all faces c.0.4m above ground level; continuous string courses above the first and second floor window levels; and topped by a battlemented parapet. Diagonal stepped buttresses at all corners. All lights are diamond-leaded, except for louvred apertures to belfry.

North wall - single lancet to the second stage, a quatrefoil in a round window for the thrid stage, and trefoiled, louvred lights set under a two-centred arch for belfry.

South wall: first stage contained a broad four-centred arched window with two four-centred lights, a lancet window as the north side, above which is a clock face of 1857 and then a standard belfry window.

West wall: access to ground floor through a two-centred arched doorway with chamfered jambs terminating in pyramid stops. Upper windows and clock as south side.

Nave. General.

North wall: a pair of trefoiled lights in a square-headed window to the east of the modern 20thC churchroom annex, set within a short length of wall that is in 'B'. It is not possible to determine whether the window has been inserted. Two two-light windows of similar design are retained in the north wall and now look into the churchroom extension.

South wall: 1857 stonework in 'A' acts as cladding to original 15thC south wall; chamfered plinth at c.1m, slightly battered. Diagonal buttresses at wall ends and a central stepped buttress, with Victorian windows to either side: three trefoil-headed lights set in square-headed apertures, but in a different style to those of the north wall. In the porch is a two-centred doorway with chamfered jambs and pyramid stops.

West wall: diagonal buttresses at both west corners. Single lancet light in wall to south of tower.

Chancel. General. Of 1857 in 'A', with chamfered plinth at a height of c.0.4m. Slightly narrower than nave. Vestry disguises most of north wall.

North wall: a worn, incised, sandstone block is inserted in wall and a second sandstone block is located several courses below it. The incised block has a two-centred arch inscribed on it, and appears to be a blind lancet head with an inner groove of similar form within it, and the lower stone a sill.

East wall: diagonal buttresses at corners. Three trefoil-headed lights with panel tracery above, set in two-centred arch; hoodmould with foliate stops.

South wall: single foiled lancet light.

South Porch. General. Roof gabled to south, sandstone coping stones and kneelers.

East and west walls: chamfered plinths at c.0.4m; no apertures.

South wall: small diagonal buttresses at angles. Two-centred entrance arch with trefoil in gable above.

Vestry. General. Slate roof, gabled to north, sandstone coping stones and kneelers.

North wall: diagonal buttresses at angles. Pair of trefoiled lights in two-centred arched aperture.

East and west walls: no features, but the west wall appears to have a wide chimney breast, though no chimney.

Churchroom. General. Modern meetings room from 1989 with cloakroom and kitchen attached to north wall of nave, incorporating two of the 1857 nave windows. Built in grey brick with slate roof, gabled to east and west. Two skylight windows in its slate roof face north.


Porch. General. Open porch has yellow, black and red tiled floor, a single wooden bench to either side, resting on sandstone corbels. Exposed interior stonework. Six scissor braces to the roof which is boarded above.

Tower. General. Accessed from the west end of the nave. Fenestration as exterior.

Ground floor: stone slabbed floor, plastered walls. Stone stairway leads up the north side to first floor which has a planked floor and exposed stonework. At this level is a blocked entrance doorway to the former gallery in the east wall, and also a dis-used bell on a stand. Fixed wooden open stair gives access to second floor, planked floor, exposed stonework. Fixed wooden stairs to belfry.

Nave. General. Red, yellow and black tiled floor, the result of 19thC restoration; unevenness to the floor at the west end where the flooring slopes down by around 0.1m. A central aisle separates two rows of benches, installed in 1877, on raised tongue and groove flooring. Plastered walls; the particularly deeply splayed recesses in the south wall and the inward splay suggest that this incorporates the original medieval wall. The south wall windows are more worn than their northern counterparts. Could they be original windows turned round and reset? A 15thC eight-bay roof with six arch-braced collar and three scissor-braced trusses, and one tier of foiled windbraces below a tier of quatrefoiled ones. The slightly arched scissor trusses are cusped as are their associated principals. Presumed to be original timberwork, they spring from the walls well below wallplate level. At regular intervals in three places (the third, sixth and ninth trusses from the west) they rest on or seem to incorporate wooden corbels which have flat faces and are surely the butt ends of sawn-off tie beams, which in turn confirm the presence of the original walls, about 1m lower than the present ones.

North wall: wall faintly battered. Two stained glass memorial windows now look on to the new churchroom, and a third stained glass two-light window to the exterior. Two 19thC marble memorials and one 20thC brass; high up on the wall above the pulpit is a coat-of-arms, probably in metal and of unknown date.

East wall: 19thC chancel arch with fluted chamfers and pyramid stops. Wall memorial of 1701.

South wall: three window embrasures, and another to the doorway. Three 18thC marble memorials.

West wall: fine, wooden poker-work panelling of 1893 surrounds the heavy planked tower entrance door in a segmental-headed recess; the central section of the wall face behind is inset from floor to ceiling, suggesting a tower arch which may in turn point to the survival of the medieval wall.

Chancel. General. Separated from nave by chancel arch and one step up. Victorian encaustic tiles for floor. Walls as nave. 19thC roof of exposed rafters and through purlins. Chancel and sanctuary stepped up from nave floor level.

North wall: two-centred arched doorway to vestry, again showing chamfered jambs with pyramid stops. 19thC wall memorial.

East wall: stained glass three-light traceried window.

South wall: single leaded light. 19thC marble wall tablet.

Vestry. interior unseen.

Churchroom. modern 20thC addition, plastered walls and ceilings. Carpeted floors.


Original raised sub-circular enclosure, now has a rectangular extension of 1890 to the south. The extent of the original enclosure is defined by a steep fall on the south side. The graveyard is well kept on the south side but very overgrown on the north side among the old tombs and railed family graves.

Boundary: the 19thC railed boundary remains on the west side; a hedged boundary to the road and lane on south and east; and a fence and hedged boundary to the north.

Monuments: the more recent burials are on the lower terraces of the churchyard. Chest tombs are located all around the church. Earliest burials include a gravestone of 1719 to the south-east of the church and a worn sandstone slab on a raised brick plinth on the south side of the church with dates of 1725 and 1757. Two large family railed graves are located on the north side of the church, one of which belongs to the Proctor family of Aberhafesp Hall, the benefactors of the church restoration. One of these has recently had its memorials removed.

Furniture: none noted.

Earthworks: embanked on the north side and also on the south side where a scarp bank denotes the extent of the original enclosure. Raised, too, on the east.

Ancillary features: the main south entrance is through a pair of wrought iron gates and a side gate set in the roadside wall. A central tarmac path leads up to the south porch. East of the church is a simple wooden gate with a tarmac path leading from it. The disused former churchyard entrance, prior to the extension, was located in the north-east corner.

Vegetation: several large yew trees, the oldest being on the south-west side and claimed to be over 800 years old. Several 19thC yews.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings: 1997
CPAT Field Visit: 21 November 1995 and 12 March 1998
Eisel 1986, 169
Glynne 1884, 90
Haslam 1979, 73
NLW St Asaph Parish Records
NMR, Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
Ridgway 1997, 32
Thomas 1908, 507
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 Aberhafesp 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 -, website -

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