Montgomeryshire Churches Survey
Church of St Nicholas , Churchstoke
Churchstoke Church is in the Diocese of Hereford, in the community of Churchstoke in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO2711293988.
At one time it was dedicated to St Mary.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16746 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.
The large parish church of St Nicholas in Churchstoke, lies about 8 miles south-south-east of Welshpool and very close to the English border. What can be seen now is largely the result of 19thC rebuilding, but it retains its 13thC tower with a later timber
belfry. From the period prior to the 19thC, only a font, a stoup and a chest have survived up to three phases of restoration and reconstruction. The church is situated in a raised sub-circular churchyard which has been extended in recent times.
A 13thC square western tower, reduced in height in 1812, with a typical Montgomeryshire-style timber-framed belfry and a pyramidal slate roof. The main body of the church with its large high pitched roof dates to the second half of the 19thC, though the
sequence of construction is not completely clear.
Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1979 publication The Buildings of Wales: Powys by Richard Haslam
The morphology of the churchyard and its location immediately above the Camlad suggest an early medieval origin.
The name 'Churchstoke' appears in Domesday Book and suggests a village built around a church. A further Domesday entry for nearby Chirbury refers to two churches: one St Michaels and all Angels at Chirbury, the other at Churchstoke, which at that time was
part of Chirbury Parish.
The medieval church probably functioned as a chapel affiliated to Chirbury which was run by the Augustinian Monks. It has been argued that they built the present tower in a defensive style typical of the Montgomeryshire border.
The tower was used as a place of refuge during 14thC feuds and later Civil War battles. Parliamentarian soldiers attacked Royalists, who were planning to camp overnight at Churchstoke in Spring 1646. The Royalists took refuge in the church; in the ensuing
battle the Parliamentarians set fire to the church door forcing the Royalists to surrender. Only a few signs of musket shots remain after the 1812 restoration, notably on the soffit of the upper storey round-headed window tower north wall window.
In 1751, permission was granted to take down the south wall of the church and erect a new aisle 25' by 10' with a door into the churchyard. The measurements indicate that the old church was a much smaller structure than its 19thC successor.
The church underwent several periods of restoration. The 1812 restoration by Joseph Bromfield of Shrewsbury involved taking the old church down and building a new nave using stone from Churchstoke Hall and Churchstoke Quarries. It was roofed with slate
from Corndon. The new church included a schoolroom and galleries, and had a seating capacity of 565. The present pulpit was sited against the north wall. The present iron columns, made in Coalbrookdale, presumably carried the galleries. They now support
the lowered roofline. The tower's wooden belfry and the spire above it were added in 1815.
The phasing of the Victorian restoration is rather unclear. It is stated in the listed building schedule that the church was remodelled around 1867 in the late Decorated style: the chancel was supposedly added along with the north and south transepts and
south porch, the nave windows were replaced and the interior was re-ordered. But the present writers have not encountered any supporting documentation for this phase of work, although there is in the church a copy of a sketch of the building, of putative
19thC date, which shows windows of simpler Gothic design than the present ones and a south porch off the chancel.
Concrete evidence for rebuilding and restoration work comes with a faculty of 1881, when it was planned that the schoolroom and galleries should be removed along with the old box pews. The interior was then laid out in its present form. The exterior
buttresses were added and the ground level was lowered around the church. And it was at this time, not earlier, that the nave windows were added, the north and south walls of the chancel were rebuilt, and a new south porch added.
Re-dedication presumably took place in 1881, St Nicholas replacing St Mary. The church clock was installed to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887.
Restoration work on the tower in 1950 included repairs to the stonework, renewal of the woodwork and lead flashing and repointing at the base of the spire. Further repairs to the tower, buttresses and guttering took place in 1979.
The church comprises nave and aisles under a continuous roofline, a chancel which is narrower than the nave, and the vestry and organ chambers forming short north and south transepts. The picture is completed by a south porch and a west tower. The building
is oriented fractionally south of west.
Fabrics: 'A' consists of medium blocks of grey and grey-brown sandstone and siltstone with occasional red sandstone and other inclusions; sandstone dressings; totally random coursing. Used for the body of the church.
'B' consists of small to medium slabs and blocks of grey sandstone and siltstone with quoins of the same fabric; of more regular appearance than 'A'. Restricted to the church tower.
Roofs: slates with black ceramic ridge tiles. Cross finials on the porch and south transept, and the remnant of one at the east end of the chancel.
Drainage: 19thC guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways. No convincing evidence of drainage trench.
Tower. General. Square three-stage western tower, the sides slightly battered for around 4m or more. The tower rises to around 10m high and is surmounted by a slightly inset wooden belfry, its timber cladding replaced in c.1982; square-headed louvred
apertures on three sides and a clock face on the north face. Above this is an octagonal spire with louvred lights in its sides and surmounted by a ball-finial and weathercock.
North wall: partly ivy-covered. A small flat-headed aperture with worn red sandstone dressings is just visible beneath ivy cover at ground floor level behind the 19thC headstones placed against the wall. The third-floor ringing chamber is illuminated by a
small lancet light, almost round-headed with red sandstone dressings, though not as worn as might be expected and probably not original. Four tie-rod plates.
East wall: nave roof is carried up to belfry level.
South wall: the ground floor has a two-centred doorway, its dressings with hollow chamfers and holding a square-headed slatted door with a traceried panel in wood and glass above, wholly a late 19thC feature. Standard lancet light to third floor with
weathered stonework, and four iron tie-rod plates showing in upper part of wall
West wall: lancet light to tower stair, centrally placed and at second-floor level. It has worn chamfered dressings but the head has been renewed in grey freestone.
Nave and aisles. General. Main body of the church under one roof. Fabric is 'A'. On the north, three stepped buttresses with a diagonal buttress at the north-west corner form four bays each with a Perpendicular-style window of three lights with
cinquefoiled ogee-heads and elaborate panel tracery under a two-centred arch that has a hoodmould with simple stops. A similar design appears on the south wall, but two buttresses form three bays with three identical windows, and west of the porch some ivy
cover. Plain west wall.
North transept/vestry. General. Protrudes slightly north off north aisle. Continuous string course from chancel at c.2.5m above ground level; diagonal buttresses; three-light window with stepped cinquefoil-headed lights in Y-tracery in north wall; narrow,
two-centred arched doorway in square-headed door frame with decoration in its spandrels in the east wall. Below ground boiler house on west side.
Chancel. General. Continuous plinth at 0.5m above ground level and a continuous moulded string course at c.2.5m; diagonal buttresses at the east corners; and a variety of windows - a two-centred window with two foiled lights and a quatrefoil in the north
wall; a two-centred east window with three trefoil-headed lights and complicated tracery with a hoodmould and foliate stops, and two single trefoil-headed windows with trefoils above in the south wall.
South transept/organ chamber. General. Continuous stone plinth at c.0.7cm above ground level and a string course at c.2.5m; diagonal buttresses at corners; two single trefoil-headed lights with hoodmoulds in the south wall with above them a central round
window featuring a traceried 'Star of David', and hoodmould with floriated stops.
South Porch. General. Double plinth to a height of c.0.9m, string course at c.1.8m; gargoyles at the corners; parapet and pedimented gable on the south. Square-headed apertures containing cinquefoiled ogee-headed lights in the east and west walls, and in
the south wall a two-centred entrance arch with hollow-chamfered jambs, and above this a highly decorative ogee-arched niche with pinnacles.
Porch. General. 19thC tiled floor, plastered walls and ceiling above exposed rafters. East and west walls have deeply splayed apertures.
Tower. General. Stone flagged floor with carpet over, plastered walls and ceiling. Used for storage and bellringing.
North wall: small splayed aperture, blocked, and now hidden by a wall-cupboard. Also an old slate clock face hanging on wall (early 19thC?).
East wall: two-centred arched doorway; slightly splayed reveal.
South wall: doorway with a splayed reveal.
West wall: staircase behind wood-panelling leads up to the second and third stages.
[The listed building schedule reports that the internal window heads in the third stage have been truncated, suggesting that the tower was originally higher].
Nave, north and south aisles. General. The nave and aisles have herringbone woodblock floors with plain tongue and groove planking below the benches. Tiled floor from 1967 below the stone font at the west end of the north aisle, and one metal grille (for
a heating vent?) at the east end of the north aisle. Wainscotting has been placed around the modern childrens' corner, but all other walls are plastered. At east end of north aisle is a two-centred arch of two orders, panelled off with access to a vestry.
At the east end of the south aisle is the organ and a second vestry.
North and south aisles divided from the nave by arcades of six bays surmounted by a frieze of timber arcading (see below). Each arcade is raised on a stone corbel on the west wall, five metal columns, and terminates in a corbel on the chancel arch; the
columns have octagonal stone bases, hollow Coalbrookdale iron columns and square decorative capitals. The columns originally supported galleries in the aisles, but these were removed at the time of the 1881 restoration.
Nave of six bays under a roof consisting of seven tie-beam trusses, supported on short arch braces, with plain king and raking struts intersecting with cusped struts, and the tie-beams having crenellated tops; the wallposts drop over a wallplate with a
frieze of two-centred arches c.1m high; exposed rafters and purlins. The frieze design is echoed in the spandrels of the wooden arcading. The aisle ceilings are sloping and each consists of two rows of 12 square raised ribbed frames containing tongue and
Walls: splayed apertures for windows. At the east end the chancel arch of two orders has Corinthian capitals rising from octagonal plinths between the side arches, with plain capitals under a hoodmould with foliated stops; chancel screen of three open
cinquefoil-headed panels to either side of a central doorway, plain panels beneath a frieze of crosses and a large central cross over the doorway. In the west wall a two-centred doorway with complex mouldings and a hoodmould gives access to the tower.
Above and to the south is a disconformity in the wall suggesting the former entrance to the gallery. At the west end of the south aisle is a modern internal porch of large glass panels. 19thC memorials on the north and south walls and 20thC brasses on the
Chancel. General. One step to the chancel from the nave, and further steps to the sanctuary and altar. Encaustic tiles throughout chancel and sanctuary. North and south walls have double arches to the transepts with parclose screens. South wall of
chancel contains a piscina beneath a cinquefoil-headed arch linked to a triple sedilia, with a continuous hoodmould and foliate stops; also three 19thC brasses.
Chancel roof of three arched principles springing from wooden wallplates with stone corbels, the arched ceiling panelled with raised ribs giving a total of 30 panels.
North transept/vestry. General. Separated from main body of church by double arch from chancel and single arch from north aisle; tiled floor, plastered walls and ceiling; fireplace in north-west corner.
South transept/organ chamber. General. Separated from main body of church by double arch from chancel and single arch from south aisle.
An irregularly shaped churchyard which in its original eastern half is broadly curvilinear and raised, located at a high point in the village, overlooking the valley of the Camlad to the west. At the west end of the church the ground drops steeply away to
meadows and the Camlad: this is a graveyard extension which was consecrated in 1868. The graveyard around the church is well kept and only overgrown on the north-west side.
Augering during restoration work on the tower suggested that the old ground surface was originally c.1.3m below that of the present ground level around the tower. It has been claimed that the ground level was presumably built up before the 13thC when the
tower was constructed. An old track runs downhill from the tower to the now disused graveyard extension to the north-west, but the track may have been an earlier route from a river crossing.
Boundary: the stone wall on the east side of the churchyard was rebuilt in 1812 when the ground was cut back: the raised grass verge on the roadside may have been the earlier perimeter. The revetment wall continues around the rest of the perimeter, but
there are iron railings on the north-west.
Monuments: even distribution of burials on all sides. Mainly of 19thC date, including chest tombs, crosses, pitched cross slabs, slate and stone slabs. A slab of 1776 placed by south wall of church, and a memorial of 1781 on the north side but the
earliest grave noted was a sandstone slab to Sarah (d.1749) and Hugh Pugh (d.1768). Modern cremations placed on south side of church.
Furniture: sundial without gnomon located on south side of church near the entrance porch; a tapering square-sectioned pillar on a pedestal base.
Earthworks: signs of an earlier enclosure around the north and west sides of the church, while there is a raised internal bank (up to 0.8m) on the east side.
Ancillary features: two pairs of wooden gates form south-east and north-east entrances. Tarmac paths lead all round the church.
Vegetation: yew trees on all sides of no great age, but three older yews close to the church itself.
Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings for Churchstoke Community: 1996
Church notes (by W.T.Bryan) n.d.
Churchstoke W.I. Churchyard Survey 1991
CPAT Field Visit: 8 December 1995 and 1 May 1998
Eisel 1986, 178
Haslam 1979, 93
Faculty: Hereford 1881 (HRO)
Faculty: Hereford 1950 (HRO)
Faculty: Hereford 1979 (HRO)
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 Churchstoke Church may also be found on the Hereford 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 - firstname.lastname@example.org, website - www.cpat.org.uk.
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