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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St John the Baptist , Carno

Carno Church is in the Diocese of Bangor, in the community of Carno in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SN9632496477.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16736 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Carno Church, CPAT copyright photo 9247A12.JPG


The church of St John the Baptist lies in the centre of Carno village, on the north bank of the river of the same name, just under 10 miles west of Newtown. The building itself was erected in 1867, replacing what was probably a medieval structure associated with the Knights Hospitallers and their adjacent grange of Caer Noddfa. Virtually nothing other than the bells survived the Victorian rebuilding, though an early medieval inscribed stone, found in the village, now resides in the church. The churchyard is large and rectilinear containing monuments from the end of the 17thC onwards.

Church totally rebuilt in 1867 in Gothic style. The masonry may include some re-used material on the north side of the church.

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


The location of the site might support an early medieval origin and the presence of the early inscribed stone could be suggestive though there seems to be no direct association with the church site. Overall the evidence for an early medieval foundation is equivocal.

The Knights Hospitallers established a grange here in the early 13thC if not earlier, and this is probably to be identified with the earthwork of Caer Noddfa, adjacent to the church. Whether they took over an existing church and re-dedicated it to John the Baptist remains unknown. However, it became a place of sanctuary in the Middle Ages.

The medieval church was recorded in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 as 'Ecclesia de Carno que est Hospitalariorum' at a value of 13s 4d, but is not mentioned in Pope Nicholas's Taxation of 1291.

A schedule for re-seating the church dates to 1631, when the church may have consisted of a nave and chancel with a south chapel.

In 1812, the single-chamber church was recorded as 20yds long by 9yds wide, with a tall steeple containing three bells, sited in an almost square churchyard. The churchyard was partly surrounded by a stone wall and had three yew trees. A later record, from the time of the Victorian rebuilding, referred to a barn-like interior, a descent of several steps into the interior which was whitewashed, and a three-decker pulpit, square pews, a singers' gallery and window frames which were smaller than the present ones and made of oak. A large almost square tower resided at the west end of the church. There was apparently little of significance inside.

The present church was built in 1867 by Poundley and Walker (though Haslam claims 1863), and a plan of 1890 records a single chamber as 75' 6" long; the tower adjoins the porch with the vestry added on the north side. A section through the tower and porch illustrates the west elevation of a slim three-storey tower with battlements and corner pinnacles but appears to have been only a projected design.

The church underwent renovation and redecoration in 1894, and in 1899 a faculty was submitted for permission to raise the tower and board the ceiling; the tower was apparently not visible from the north at this time. The buttresses were added in the late 19thC. Some restoration occurred in 1909.

More recent restoration work was undertaken in 1957, 1977 and in 1989-1990, when the church was said to be in a very poor state of repair. The work of 1977 included the removal of the top of the spire but this was rebuilt in 1990.


The present building consists of a single-chamber nave and chancel, with a small tower abutting the west side of the south porch, and a north vestry; all the result of the 19thC rebuilding. It is oriented south-west/north-east, but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabrics: 'A' is mainly medium-sized quarry-cut grey sedimentary stone, with fairly regular coursing and large stone quoins in the same fabric. 'B' is of small to medium blocks of the same material, a much poorer cut stone with very irregular coursing; possibly there is some re-use here. 'C' consists of squared blocks and slabs of grey sedimentary stone together with some pebblestones and rare occurrences of red sandstone; some regular coursing. Again possibly re-use of earlier masonry.

Yellow sandstone dressings throughout.

'A' and 'C' used on the south side of the church, 'B' on the north side.

Roofs: reslated in 1989-90. Nave and chancel under continuous gabled roof with grey, toothed, ceramic ridge tiles along the nave and raised quatrefoiled ironwork over the chancel; cross finial to chancel. Black ceramic tiles used for porch. Tower has a two-tier slated spire.

Drainage: modern guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways. The ground has been cleared around the walls to avoid dampness.

Note: the church is a completely Victorian rebuild, and as a consequence only a brief description is provided here.


Tower. General. Adjoins west wall of the porch; in fabric 'A' with large stone quoins. Narrow, square tower, battered at base on south and west sides. Single two-centred window at ground floor level on west side only; belfry windows on south and west have two-centred arches over louvred openings. A decorative stone frieze divides the second stage from the timber clock tower and the tall pyramidal spirelet.

Nave and chancel. General. No external differentiation between nave and chancel. 'A' and 'C' in south wall, a variation on 'C' in the east wall, and 'B' in north wall. Two-centred doorway on south side within porch. Four windows on south and five on north, alternating single lights with quatrefoils above and double lights with hexafoils, the hoodmoulds with simple stops, and the use of pink and buff-yellow sandstone dressings for decorative purposes. The east wall has a large two-centred window with a hoodmould and head stops over a pair of two-centred sub-arches containing paired lancets with quatrefoils above and a central hexafoil light. At the western end of the north wall is a straight vertical line in the masonry like a butt joint, and rising for nearly 2m. However, it is difficult to identify a context in which such a joint might have appeared. West wall is pebbledashed with only the stone quoins visible, and holds three circular lights under a two-centred arch. Irregularly designed and placed buttresses - two on the south against the chancel, two more against east wall, one against north wall of nave.

South porch. General. Adjoins the east wall of the tower. Open porch with a two-centred arched opening with hoodmould, and a recessed, trefoil-headed arch. Small two-centred window with recessed lights in east wall.

North vestry. General. A single light in the north wall, a square-headed doorway set into the east wall and ordinary windows with brick frames in the west wall.


Porch. General. Tiled floor, plastered walls with a single wooden bench along the east wall. An entrance door to the tower in its west wall and the south door to the nave in the north wall. Both have chamfered dressings and pyramid stops, the south doorway also having bar stops. Scissor-braced roof.

Tower. General. Ground floor room has a concrete floor, whitewashed walls, wooden tongue and groove ceiling with a trap door providing ladder access to upper storeys. Bells rung from ground floor.

Nave. General. One step up from porch. Tiled floor, carpetted down the aisle and elsewhere, separates two rows of benches with raised plank flooring below. Plastered and painted walls, with splayed window apertures; two 20thC brasses on the north wall and an early medieval stone against the south wall, with nearby a plaque of 1990 recording the gift of spire and clock as a memorial to Laura Ashley. The east wall is defined by a low stone wall screen on either side of a two-stepped entrance to the chancel. The roof of six big scissor trusses with diagonal bracing, each truss resting on wall posts supported on stone corbels. That over the nave/chancel division has arch bracing and the soffit is decorated by twelve pierced quatrefoils. The space between the arch bracing and the scissors has a panel pierced by a cinquefoil. The wall posts are supported on elaborately carved corbels.

Chancel. General. One step up to the sanctuary, another to the altar. Floor of encaustic tiles and carpets, the walls as the nave. Further scissor-braced trusses over the chancel, that in the middle without wall posts. The north wall sports one 19thC memorial and a high arched entrance to the vestry, its door painted. The south wall has sedilia set into the wall as arched recesses, one 20thC brass and 19thC stained glass.


The large level rectilinear churchyard is situated on the valley floor of Afon Carno, and the ground within it slopes only very gently. It was extended on its north-east side in 1926. It is well-maintained.

Boundary: a stone wall forms the south-western boundary with the Carno-Caersws road and there is a walled boundary too on the north-west side. The south-eastern boundary is formed by adjoining cottages and a house called Ty-mawr, which once had a doorway opening directly onto the churchyard. On the north-east is the extension, now fenced.

Monuments: there are a few early graves; a 1674 gravestone was noted in the stable at Ty-mawr in the late 19thC, a 1696 stone is sited to the south of the church, a fine but weathered 1769 chest tomb with winged putto on the south side, and four worn sandstone grave markers located near the south-east corner of the church, dating to the 1720s and now mounted in a low stone wall. Otherwise mainly 19thC slate slabs, some chest tombs and pillars, and laid out very regularly to the extent that there must have been some re-siting.

Earthworks: raised by around 0.5m on the north side, but generally little evidence that the churchyard as a whole is raised up.

Furniture: Octagonal stone pillar of a sundial, minus the plate and gnomon, located between Ty-mawr and the church porch.

Ancillary features: main south-west entrance is through a pair of wrought iron gates set in tall decorative cast iron pillars. A path leads up to the south porch and continues eastwards to a single wrought iron gate adjoining the churchroom at the south-east corner; the path branches east off the chancel towards the new burial ground.

Vegetation: an old yew against the north-west boundary and a second north-east of the churchyard. Irish yews are sited outside the south porch and several holly trees are located around the churchyard.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 10 November 1996 and 18 September 1998
Davies 1903-4
Eisel 1986, 175
Faculty: Bangor 1890 (NLW)
Haslam 1979, 87
Lunt 1926, 191
NMR Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
Putnam 1972
Quinquennial Reports 1985 and 1990
Silvester 1997, 74
Spurgeon 1961
Williams 1990, 60
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 Carno Church may also be found on the Bangor 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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