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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Beuno , Berriew

Berriew Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Berriew in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ1877900818.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16709 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Berriew Church, CPAT copyright photo CS962127.JPG

Summary

St Beuno's church is sited within a large sub-oval enclosure in the centre of the village on the north bank of the Afon Rhiw, about 5 miles south-west of Welshpool. The present church dates to 1802, though it underwent a major phase of rebuilding and restoration in 1875. Of its medieval predecessor nothing survives and the only pre-19thC furnishings are three late 16thC/early 17thC effigies from a tomb.

Present structure is an 1875 enlargement in Gothic style of an original 1802 nave and three-storey square tower.

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

History

Reputedly a prince of Powys gave the township of Aberriw to St Beuno to establish a church, and his early home is supposed to have been at Berriew. He later settled at Clynnog Fawr near Caernarvon, and was buried in AD 642. This association together with the location and morphology of the churchyard are clear indicators of an early medieval origin.

The church is recorded in the Norwich Taxation of 1254, and the Lincoln Taxation of 1291 refers to 'Ecclesia de Aberyw' at a value of 20 6s 8d. It was one of the churches appropriated to Strata Marcella, and on the basis of a sketch of 1798 in 'The Gentleman's Magazine', appears to have been a single chambered structure with a north aisle and traditional Montgomeryshire timber belfry.

A ground plan in the present vestry shows the seating arrangements of 1799 and a large tomb, c.2m square, located at east end of the then north chancel aisle. Three large recumbent effigies in white marble, presumed to be of late 16thC or early 17thC date lay on the tomb; they have survived but the tomb itself was destroyed during the 1802 rebuilding.

The church built in 1802 had a large nave with round-headed windows, north, south and west galleries, and a pinnacled tower. The main entrance was under the west tower leading in to a baptistry. A new circular font replaced the old red sandstone font, which was given to Dolanog Church. The present font dates to 1875.

Faculties were submitted for the restoration of the church in 1858 and 1874 but the work does not appear to have been carried out until 1875. Then restoration by Edward Haycock of Shrewsbury amounted to a complete rebuilding of the main body of the church leaving very little evidence of the earlier nave, although the round-headed arch over the tower recess survives from the earlier nave. North and south aisles were added with their arcades, and new arches gave access to existing small rooms at the west end of the aisles. The west tower door was replaced by a window, a porch added to the north side, and the south room at the west end converted into a south porch; windows were renewed in early Gothic style; a vestry and organ chamber were added on the north side of the chancel; galleries were removed and the pitch altered when the new roof was built; buttresses were added along with the string courses and capping to the tower; the church was reseated. The total cost was 3500.

Architecture

Berriew church comprises a three-storey western tower with small rooms to the north and south (described below as the north-west and south-west corner rooms), a large nave with side aisles, a chancel narrower than the nave and an adjoining northern vestry. The church is oriented east/west.

Fabrics: 'A' is of small to medium blocks of greyish/yellow fine grained sandstone with irregular coursing, Ashlar quoins and worn red sandstone dressings. Note: the 1802 church was constructed in red brickwork but any remaining brick is now faced with stone.

Roofs: slates with red clay ridge tiles; red slates for roof of tower; cross finials to nave, chancel and porch.

Drainage: 19thC guttering and castellated cast iron cisterns above downspouts lead to soakaways. Slab edging around the whole building, though overgrown on north, may cover drainage trench.

Note: the building is a 19thC structure and as a consequence the following report is an outline only.

Exterior

General: an ashlar plinth, c.10cm and one block of stone high, is continuous around the church.

Tower. General. A large square three-stage tower surmounted by a wide pyramidal roof with a wrought iron weathervane. Two string courses divide the tower into three stages. The tower protrudes slightly to the west of the north-west and south-west rooms and has large ashlar quoins at the north-west and south-west corners.

North wall: the north room slopes off this wall. A round aperture in second stage. The belfry window has a two-centred arch with hoodmould containing a pair of trefoil-headed louvred lights and open tracery above.

East wall: abuts nave. Standard belfry aperture only.

South wall: lower part of wall disguised by south-west room. The second stage has an open aperture. Above a belfry window as other walls.

West wall: a blocked entrance doorway superseded by a two-centred arched window with hoodmould and vine leaf stops; above this is a large trefoil-headed window. Second stage has a blue clock face with gold Roman numerals. Belfry aperture as other walls.

North-west Corner Room. General. Two trefoil-headed windows on west with a separate quatrefoil light above; and paired lancets with a quatrefoil above in two-centred arch on the north; corner buttress shared with the porch.

North porch. General. Open porch adjoins north aisle. Short clasping buttresses at north-east and north-west corners. In the north side a two-centred entrance arch with slim hoodmould and worn vine leaf stops set below narrow slit in gable apex. Paired rectangular lights in side walls.

Nave. General. East wall visible only above the chancel roofline, and on the south side of chancel.

North and South aisles. General. Windows have two or three lights with early Gothic tracery, the dressings in pale freestone. String course runs over windows as hoodmould. Angle buttresses, one on the south wall forming a chimney which rises above the roofline.

Vestry. General. Under same roof as chancel. Pair of two-centred lights with a cinquefoil light above each in the east wall and a shouldered arched doorway and three-light window in the north wall.

Chancel. General. Narrower and lower than the nave. Stone plinth rises to c.0.4m above ground level on the south side and has ashlar capstones. Angle buttresses at east end. String courses - two on south, three on east - are stepped over windows to form hoodmoulds. Complex three-light window in east wall, and a three-light window and a separate single light in the south wall.

South-west room. General. A second porch with clasping buttresses at corners. A pair of shouldered arched lights under a two-centred arch in west wall.

Interior

Porch. General. 19thC tiled floor, exposed stonework and ceiling plastered above rafters and three tie beams; benches along side walls. South doorway has two-centred moulded arch with hoodmould and vine-leaf stops.

Tower. General. Ground floor converted into a small chapel separated from the nave by a large two-centred arch in red and white freestone with hoodmould and head stops. Narrow aisle separates two rows of benches on a modern raised floor. Plastered wall and ceiling. Several marble monuments including the 19thC Glansevern memorial on the north wall, three 19thC tablets on the south wall, and one on the west.

South Room (= south porch). General. Planked floor. Plastered walls and ceiling. External entrance in south wall and access from south aisle through a two-centred arch which is narrower and lower than the central arch to the tower. Access to belfry is from a staircase that runs up the north wall.

North Room. General. 19thC mixed tiled floor. Plastered walls and a ceiling which slopes to north. Used for storage. Access from north aisle by pair of double doors set in arch comparable with that in south room.

Nave. General. 19thC tiled floor, with heating grilles, though these are now filled in. Walls plastered except for dressed stonework, and painted blue above the chancel arch. Roof of four bays formed by straight-brace collars, springing from cusped wall posts, and above these are king struts piercing sub-collars. Roof plastered above exposed rafters and through purlins. Separated from aisles by four-bay arcades in red and white freestone, with central octagonal stone pillars flanked by circular pillars; continuous hoodmoulds with vine-leaf stops over arcades. Above the chancel arch, the wall is painted blue with gold fleurs-de-lys. In west wall above the tower arch is a blocked round-headed window, the alcove now containing a painting of the Madonna and Child.

North and south aisles - General. Sloping roofs; struts supported by stone corbels on nave walls above the arcading. 16thC effigies at the east end of north aisle. East wall of south aisle carries a tablet of 1796/1814 and the Brithdir Hall Vault brass (see below), the south wall a 19thC brass.

Chancel. General. Separated from nave by plain two-centred arch in white freestone, above a two-step entrance with low stone wall to either side. 19thC tiled floor, longitudinal choir stalls. All walls plastered. Two steps to the sanctuary with encaustic tiles. Stained glass in chancel. 19thC Owen monument on the south wall; aumbry in north wall of sanctuary, as is a square-headed doorway to the vestry, and a two-centred arch to the organ chamber. A sedile in the south below the window.

Organ chamber. General. Separated from north aisle by a two-centred arch

Churchyard

Large sub-oval enclosure on raised but relatively level ground above the north bank of Afon Rhiw. The churchyard is extremely well kept but was closed for burials in 1891, when a new burial ground was consecrated.

Boundary: stone revetment wall forms the southern boundary; on the north the boundary is demarcated by the backs of half-timbered houses including the Lion Hotel plus intervening tenement walls. The Old School House adjoins the churchyard on the east side and a row of five cottages bounds the west side towards the river.

Monuments: scattered burials; many unmarked graves presumably grassed over, and the south side is relatively clear of stone suggesting the clearance of markers. Churchyard contains a wide variety of chest and table tombs, crosses, pillars and pitched cross slabs, which are rather more classically designed than those in most Montgomeryshire churchyards. Mainly 19thC sandstone slabs, some slate. Cremations on north side.

Furniture: a glacial boulder located on the north side of the west path marks the meeting point of the three townships of Berriew, Cil and Lower Vaynor.

Earthworks: the whole churchyard is raised by nearly 2m on south, and is also raised on the other sides though less dramatically.

Ancillary features: main entrance is through the lychgate, erected in 1919 and set in the stone wall to the west. Single gates are located on the north, east and south-east sides and concrete paths lead around the church.

Vegetation: several old yews near the south-east gate, south-west corner and south-east corner. Two on the western boundary near the river and one on the north side of the church. Irish yews line the south-east entrance path to the south porch. West path lined by an avenue of 10 tall lime trees.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings: 1995
CPAT Field Visit 29 November 1996 and 18 February 1998
Berriew Church Notes n.d.
Eisel 1986, 172
Faculty: St Asaph 1858 (NLW)
Faculty: St Asaph 1874 (NLW)
Faculty: St Asaph 1944 (NLW)
Haslam 1979, 76
Lloyd 1972
Powys SMR
Ridgway 1997, 35
Thomas 1913, 128
Williams 1990, 59
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 Berriew 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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