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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Beuno , Bettws Cedewain

Bettws Cedewain Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Bettws in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1227396827.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16711 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Bettws Cedewain Church, CPAT copyright photo CS955832.JPG

Summary

St Beuno's church occupies a prominent position overlooking the village of Bettws Cedewain on the northern edge of the small valley that carries the Bechan Brook to the Severn, about 9 miles to the south-west of Welshpool. It is a single-chambered structure with a western tower, set in a near-circular churchyard. The tower was rebuilt in the early 16thC, the nave and chancel in the second half of the 19thC. The building contains the important brass of Rev John ap Meredyth, the only pre-Reformation brass in Powys, a chest, a bier and a small amount of pre-Reformation stained glass. Little else survived the 19thC restoration.

Church retains a 16thC tower and a two-stage timber belfry. The rest of the building dates to 1868, though the extra thickness of the north wall might suggest that the medieval masonry was retained on this side.

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

History

The ancient church was reputedly founded by St Beuno in 6thC, and certainly its location and churchyard form indicate an early medieval origin.

With the rectory and vicarage it was recorded as 'Eccli'a de Bethus' in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 and as 'Ecclesia de Bethys' with a value of 5 in the Lincoln Taxation of 1291. Between 1254 and 1272 it became one of the appropriated churches of Strata Marcella, and remained so up to the Dissolution.

Some rebuilding supposedly took place in the 14thC.

The building of the present tower can be dated fairly accurately to the 1520s. The brass to Sir John ap Meredyth in the church, dated in his lifetime, 1531, states: 'Pray for the soul of Rev John ap Meredith of Powys, formerly vicar of this church of Bettws; in whose time the tower was built; and at different periods bells were bought and many other good works done in the said church'.

Some reconstruction probably occurred in the 18thC for Thomas mentions that the windows were rounded. There were pews in both nave and chancel, but much of the carved wood work had gone by the mid-19thC.

The early school was held in the tower until the schoolroom was built on church ground in 1852.

The nave was rebuilt in 1868 by W.E. Nesfield, in the Perpendicular style of the old church, at a cost of 1102. In addition to the general rebuilding of nave and chancel described below, underfloor heating apparatus was added and the western arch of the tower was opened up. Fragments of the screen were reputedly distributed around the village.

Architecture

The church comprises a nave and chancel as a single unit, a west tower and a north porch cum vestry. It is oriented slightly north of true west, but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabrics: 'A' is of small and medium sized greyish-brown sedimentary stone blocks of mixed grain and fairly regular shape. Possibly some of this material is re-used. Apertures have dressed yellow sandstone, and the body of the church is finished with sandstone quoins. 'B' is of small through to large, fine-grained grey sandstone blocks; irregularly coursed. Worn sandstone dressings.

'B' is 16thC; 'A' is 19thC.

Roofs: slates with black ceramic ridge tiles. Cross finial to chancel.

Drainage: trench around south and east sides, nothing obvious on north, and it is impossible to determine whether any disturbance around the tower.

Exterior

Tower. General. A single phase of building, historically documented to the c.1520s in fabric 'B', although there are signs on the wall faces of banding with different sized stone. Quoins are of the same fabric. The tower has angle buttresses on all corners. Buttresses rise to two-thirds of the tower height with dressed stone cappings and are slightly battered. There is a two-stage wooden belfry consisting of vertical studs and louvre boards beneath the slated pyramidal roof which is surmounted by a weathervane.

North wall: double plinthed, the lower plinth at 0.3m, the upper at 1.3m, and both continue around the angle buttress. A single rectangular round-headed slit aperture at second-floor level.

East wall: slit aperture at second-floor level.

South wall: a single plinth only, at 1m. Blocked rectangular slit window at second-floor level.

West wall: an original, two-centred arched doorway dressed with worn pinkish sandstone, weathered to grey; the complex outer mouldings of the arch are interrupted on the sides but reappear lower down, only for the moulded jambstones to stop completely at the top of the lowest stone plinth c.0.3m off the ground. A second plinth with a chamfered top (not a continuation of those on the north and south sides), i set at first-floor level between the apex of the doorway and the base of the window. Next a three-light window, with a faintly peaked top; lights have cusped heads, hoodmould with very worn human head-stops, and a relieving arch set in herringbone fashion. A single slit rectangular window as in the north wall.

Nave and chancel. General. No external differentiation. Constructed in fabric 'A' and all 19thC, though the thickness of the north wall might indicate the survival of a medieval masonry core. There is a projecting basal course (at a maximum of height of around 0.3m) on the south side of the chancel - this is of smaller stone and may be a foundation course, which in the nave is buried below ground level.

North wall: plinth c.0.7m high. Two two-centred windows containing two round-headed lights with cinquefoil tracery and small foiled lights above, a hoodmould and circular stops. No windows to chancel. Brick arch of an early boiler house visible at ground level; the present access via a pair of trap doors by west wall of porch/vestry.

East wall: plinth at 0.3m; diagonal buttresses at corners. Four-centred window has five lights with cusped heads, two sub-arches and intersecting panelled tracery above.

South wall: plinth visible in chancel but disappears in nave as ground rises; two angle buttresses. The 'A' masonry also incorporates some larger, re-used slabs of grey sandstone at foundation level in the nave wall; one may have some incised lettering. Nave lit by two four-centred windows containing three round-headed lights with cinquefoil tracery and panel tracery; hoodmoulds and circular stops. Chancel has two two-centred arched windows containing two lights with cinquefoil heads and small foiled lights above; standard hoodmoulds, and also decorative relieving arches of stone voussoirs.

Vestry. General. Fabric 'A', but of smaller stone than in the body of the church. North wall has single three-light horizontal window, the east wall, a single heavy plank door with wrought iron fittings set in two-centred arch doorway with hoodmould and circular stops. Chimney adjoins north-west corner along nave.

Interior

Tower. General. Tower forms main entrance porch to church, with two sets of doors in the thickness of the wall. Flagged floor; bare stone walls. High wooden ceiling with exposed beams. In the tower the wooden bell-frame is thought to be contemporary with the build of the tower itself.

North wall: solid planked bench, resting on stone ledge, with decorative panelling derived from former pews behind; these were retained from the pre-restoration building. Wooden stairway of a considerable age leads up to tower and belfry from first-floor level but access to this is by ladder only.

East wall: divided from nave by decorated wooden screen of 19thC date.

South wall: wooden seats with old pew panelling as on the north side, but for only part of the length.

West wall: entrance doorway, panelling to either side.

Nave. General. Victorian tiled floor. Raised flooring under benches to either side of central aisle. Under floor heating ducts run the length of both sides of the aisle, which is carpetted. Plastered and painted walls. 19thC roof to nave and chancel; nine bays with arch-braced collar trusses, raking struts and additional short collars above; the bracing rests on block corbels, probably of wood but painted; two rows of quatrefoil windbraces with wood panelling behind; wooden pegs in the purlins.

North wall: splayed windows and one 19thC mural tablet.

East wall: no differentiation between nave and chancel except for the steps, which have inscriptions on the risers.

South wall: splayed windows incorporate some 16thC glass. Two 19thC memorial tablets. Chest in south-west corner.

West wall: dominated by a high, relatively narrow tower arch, the angles not chamfered but angular insets with pyramidal stops (cf Aberhafesp). Brass of 1531 to south; 1775 bier against the north. Also north of the chancel arch is an open aperture, an early entrance to the tower stair, angled through the wall.

Chancel. General. Four steps up from nave; flooring as nave, one step to sanctuary. Walls and roof as nave.

North wall: piped organ; aumbry recess with a memorial inscription on metal on its back face.

East wall: splayed stained glass window flanked by two stone tablets carrying the Decalogue, and with decorated stone panelling below. Panelled marble reredos of c.1871 below window.

South wall: piscina from c.1893; 19thC memorial tablet.

Porch/vestry. General. Victorian tiled floor with heating grilles, plastered walls and ceiling. Fire grate against west wall..

Churchyard

Medium-sized, distinctively curvilinear enclosure, sloping to south, and set on edge of valley of the Bechan Brook. Still used for burial.

Boundary: hedged boundary for most of perimeter, but the back of the New Inn forms the boundary on the south-west and there is a revetment wall forming the south-east boundary where the enclosure abuts a garden.

Monuments: early worn gravestones are located on the east and south sides of the chancel: four stones laid flat alongside the south wall include dates 1771 and 1780; a group of three gravestones also on the south side of the nave date to 1756, 1758 and 1760; east of the chancel are stones of 1767 and the 1790s. In general the earlier burials are on the south and east side of the graveyard, the more recent 1980s-1990s burials located on the northern side.

Furniture: sundial with gnomon on a sandstone plinth of four clustered shafts, the dial inscribed 'Tho Wright London' and 'John Harris Esq'; no date. Located alongside south path.

Earthworks: raised by about 1m on the east and north-west, but perhaps 3m on the west, and on the south the drop into the valley must be closer to 10m.

Ancillary features: lychgate on south-east; pair of wooden gates hinged on dressed stone plinths; roof of two king-post trusses, the roadside tie beam bears the inscription 'Thy Will Be Done' on a dedication plate. Also a west entrance through a single gate, and a second entrance on the east with modern double gates. Tarmac paths. The church room on the north side of the graveyard has a datestone of 1852.

Vegetation: group of four yew bushes on northern edge of the graveyard, and the stumps of two others south of them. A slightly older yew tree located near east end of church.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings 1997
CPAT Field Visit: 12 November 1995 and 12 March 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 183
Eisel 1986, 174
Faculty: St Asaph 1952 (NLW)
Guy, Rev J R: pers. comm.
Haslam 1979, 80
NLW St Asaph Parish Records
NMR Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
Ridgway 1997, 37
Thomas 1913, 510
Williams 1990, 61
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 Bettws Cedewain 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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