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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Curig , Llangurig

Llangurig Church is in the Diocese of Bangor, in the community of Llangurig in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SN9078479909.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16873 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llangurig Church, CPAT copyright photo CS962108.JPG

Summary

St Curig's church originated as an early medieval clas (or mother church) in the hills beside the River Wye, about 5 miles to the south-west of Llanidloes. It was largely re-built in the 19thC by Scott, though the 15thC tower was retained. Some original tracery remains in re-sited windows in the body of the church, including Perpendicular windows in the north aisle and chancel, and a composite window in the south wall. There is a 19thC copy of the medieval rood screen and a medieval font, one of the few furnishings to survive the 19thC rebuilding.

The main body of the church was rebuilt in Early English Style in 1877-78 and the interior is largely the result of 19thC restoration work. Some of the 15thC nave wall survives internally and the south-east corner of the church may also be original medieval masonry. Medieval window tracery is retained in the north and south walls. The tower has been attributed to the middle of the 14thC, though it has been suggested by Haslam that its core might be as early as the 12thC on the basis of the slight misalignment with the nave. The spire and castellation are 19thC additions.

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

History

Llangurig is the site of a clas, reputedly founded by St Curig who died in 550.

Sometime after 1164, it came into the possession of the Cistercian abbey of Strata Florida in Cardiganshire. A date of 1180 is offered by the Quinquennial Report, though on what evidence is uncertain.

In 1254 the Norwich Taxation recorded that 'Ecclesia de Lankiric que est monachorum Cisterciensis ordinis' was valued at 1 6s 8d. Later, in 1295, there is a record in the Papal Registers of a priest named Goronue officiating at Llangurig.

The form of the medieval building is imperfectly known. The present tower dates to c.1350, but the nave axis is slightly off-set from that of the tower and it has been suggested that the early tower was refaced in the 15thC. It has been claimed that a north aisle was added and the church was extended to the east, also in the 15thC.

A rood screen and loft were added in the late 15thC.

During the 16thC, the font was removed from the church but replaced in 1660 and re-sited in the centre of the nave. An inscription inside the bowl probably records the first person to be baptised after it was re-sited.

In 1700, three new bells were hung and the old ones recast.

The lychgate was erected in 1740. In 1780 or thereabouts, the north wall of the church collapsed and was rebuilt, not on the old foundations but to a narrower form. Repairs were carried out on the 'bel clock' in 1798.

In 1836 the rood loft was removed and the church re-seated. Parker's drawing of the rood screen reveals its sophistication. Bits of the screen were subsequently removed and nothing of it was left by 1852.

Glynne visited Llangurig sometime in the mid 19thC. He stated that the 'whole [building] both within and without is very rude and rough'. Stone steps led to the rood loft and the fact that he referred to a large portion of the rood screen remaining suggests his visit was before 1852. In 1869 Hamer described the pre-restoration building.

The present church results from the 1877-78 restoration work by Sir George Gilbert Scott and Arthur Baker on behalf of J.Y.C. Lloyd of Clochfaen Hall. The work included reconstructing the roof in the style of the original medieval roof, fragments of which had been discovered in the tower; a copy was made of the old rood screen, which had been recorded by Parker prior to its removal; a new chancel arcade, organ, new seating and ten stained glass windows were inserted. The porch and south wall were rebuilt. The tower was castellated and the broach spire added. The east window and the vestry window on the north side retained their original tracery, and it was argued that these might have come from either Strata Florida or Cwmhir Abbey.

In 1984 work was carried out to save the tower from collapse and to cover the spire with sheet copper. The bells were rehung. The church roof was re-slated and the lychgate repaired.

Architecture

The church consists of a large western tower, a nave, a narrower chancel with a lower roof line, a narrow north aisle, its eastern portion forming a vestry and extending as far east as the chancel end, and a south porch. The building is aligned east-north-east to west-south-west but for the purpose of description 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted.

Fabrics: 'A' : small to medium-sized irregular blocks of grey sedimentary stone, perhaps a mud- or siltstone, some more regular slabs and blocks, occasional pebblestones and very occasional quartz blocks; irregularly coursed; selected stone for the quoins. 'B' is similar to 'A' in its masonry but of regular slabs, small, occasionally medium in size. 'C' consists of small through to large blocks and slabs of brown and grey stone; some very long slabs over 1m in length and these show signs of lamination through weathering; irregularly coursed. This masonry type shows some variation in its appearance.

Roof: slates with ornamental red ceramic ridge tiles; cross finials at nave and chancel ends and on porch.

Drainage: 19thC guttering and downspouts with original cast-iron cisterns lead to soakaways. Cobblestones have been laid at the base of the south wall, probably covering a drain. On the north the church has been terraced into the natural slope. Gravel around the walls of the tower.

Exterior

Tower. General. A large, square tower, in 'C' up to belfry string course level. Features common to all faces include a basal plinth, c.0.5m high, below which the walls are battered; and a string course, continuous around all the wall faces and the corner buttresses at a height of c.1.5m. At higher levels there is a tendency to use long linear slabs to create the impression of a pseudo string course which then carries around the buttresses as chamfered steps. Integral, stepped diagonal buttresses with worn greyish capstones at the north-west and south-west corners rise to the base of the belfry; angle buttresses at the north-east and south-east corners rise to the battlements; the latter were raised above the level of the belfry windows in 1877. Towards the top of the tower is a corbelled string course of ashlar blocks and a battlemented parapet. The masonry above this string course, and in places a little below it, is of 'B' type. Rising above the tower is a broach spire on a square base, with a weathervane above; the base is lit by rectangular, louvred windows which now have an outer protection of glass.

North wall: a protruding rectangular stair turret, which is of the same build as the tower, is built out from the north-east angle for c.1m, is individually battlemented and rises above the general level of the battlements on the tower; it is lit by four square-headed slit apertures which decrease in size as they ascend; these are formed of selected stone and show no freestone dressings. The belfry window has three trefoil-headed lights with panel tracery above, all in buff-yellow freestone; this is set beneath a segmental arch of voussoirs, and as with the rest of the frame, of selected stone not dressed freestone; all from the 1878 restoration.

East wall: nave roof abuts the tower and this wall shows only a belfry aperture, comparable with that in the north wall. There is some evidence for zoning of the masonry, though this is not at the same level as that in the north or west walls. Traces of a pseudo string course. The 1877 string course beneath the parapet dog-legs up to the parapet rather than going around the stair turret.

South wall: square-headed slit aperture about 3m below the standard belfry window. A row of three to four large rectangular slabs form the pseudo string course at around 6m-7m above ground level and might by related to the change in stages internally.

West wall: some zoning in the masonry at a high level. A wide segmental-headed aperture in selected stone contains a recessed doorway with a chamfered two-centred arch but plain jambs; this is presumed to be an original feature with surviving dressings. The first-floor window in Perpendicular style again has an aperture with a segmental head and a recessed window in worn sandstone: three trefoil-headed lights and panel tracery, much damaged; 15thC.

North Aisle. General. Rebuilt in 1750 (though narrower than before) and again during the 19thC restoration. The present north, east and west walls are of 19thC date. North wall: in Fabric 'A'. The easternmost section of what appears to be the aisle is in fact the vestry, though there is no external differentiation. Features from the west are: i) recessed window with a fairly recent yellow sandstone frame containing two trefoil-headed lights and a relieving arch of voussoirs. ii), iii) and iv) windows all from the Victorian restoration with two-centred arches beneath semi-dormers with fleur-de-lys finials; the apertures contain three cinquefoil-headed lights with sub-arches and panel tracery of varying designs. v) a square-headed frame has a doorway with a two-centred arch. Steps up to the vestry. vi) Perpendicular window of 15thC date. A worn reddish-pink sandstone two-centred window contains three cinquefoil-headed lights with sub-arches and panel tracery; some of the original stonework survives including tracery; stone voussoirs in a relieving arch. This was the original east window of the north aisle, re-sited in the 19thC.

East wall: plain; and flush with the wall of the chancel.

West wall: on the south this abuts the tower staircase. A shouldered-arch doorway gives access to a small room with one window ((i) in the north wall above) which is inaccessible from the interior. Stone quoins at the north-west angle suggest this part of the north aisle is a more recent addition.

Nave. South wall: rebuilt at the west end where it abuts the tower. That part of the wall from the porch through to the chancel is best classed as 'B'. Features from the west end are: i) a white marble memorial tablet set into the wall recording Rev. John Evans, vicar from 1852 to 1876. ii) a two-light window, the lights of differing designs; the west light has a two-centred head and the east light a round head, with both lights in worn redddish-pink sandstone and set flush with the wall; the round-headed light is set in a square-headed frame and the peaked light in a round head; that to the east has sunken spandrels; the heads are original but the jambs may be renewed. It has been suggested that this is a 13thC window retrieved from one of the Cistercian abbeys in the region, but there is no obvious reason to prefer this interpretation to one that sees a composite feature, probably of 19thC design, using windows from the earlier church. iii) porch. iv) + v) two windows from the Victorian restoration, of standard form but with varying tracery (as seen in the north aisle). vi) a block of stone at a height of c.3m with incised marks, perhaps a scratch dial.

Chancel. General. Lower than nave by c.0.5m and largely rebuilt in 'A' in the 19thC.

East wall: east window has a recessed two-centred arch with three trefoiled, two-centred lights and unusual panel tracery; some renewal of dressings, particularly the arch stones and the mullions, but otherwise 15thC; relieving arch of voussoirs.

South wall: two pairs of trefoiled, two-centred lights set in square-headed frames within segmental-headed recesses directly under the roof line. At the south-east corner is a disconformity in the masonry with quoins standing proud on this face and some visible variation on the east wall. Blocks of laminated stone suggest this might be earlier, a corner left from the previous church, and this view is strengthened by the fractional change in alignment of the east wall beyond this point.

South Porch. General. In 'B' with a sloping battered plinth at c.0.5m on the east and west sides. On the south the open porch is now closed off by a pair of vertically planked, modern doors with wrought iron fittings; the entrance way is of two orders with the inner order comprising a two-centred, moulded arch resting on half-round pillars and capitals.

East and west walls: grey-yellow sandstone frames contain quatrefoils with leaded lights.

Interior

Porch. General. Red and black tiled floor; grille. Plastered walls. Ceiling plastered above two arch-braced collar trusses with raking struts; a castellated frieze runs along each wallplate; exposed rafters and purlins with one tier of windbraces.

North wall: two-centred arch with complex mouldings and a hoodmould with floriated stops; completely 19thC.

East and west walls: stone benches against east and west walls and, above, splayed round-headed apertures to quatrefoil lights.

South wall: two-centred moulded arch.

Tower. General. Red and black tiled floor, and in the centre a stone plaque recording that the spire, tower and roof were restored in 1983/85; all stonework is exposed except for the west wall which is plastered; the ceiling below the belfry is whitewashed and there is a central opening for the bell ropes. Parts of the old bell-frame remain in the tower.

North wall: a narrow stone staircase off the north-east corner of the tower provides access to the belfry; a four-centred Tudor arch to the doorway, almost cyclopean in appearance because of the size of the stone.

East wall: a high, two-centred arch forms an open entrance to the nave, revealing the tower wall as c.1.3m thick.

West wall: large recess with segmental head for west door.

Nave. General. Red tiled floors and raised planked floors below the benches; heating grilles along aisle and beside south door. Except at the west end the walls are plastered and painted. Roof of three hammerbeam trusses springing from stone corbels and supporting a wagon roof of 42 panels - those at the west end are half-size where they abut the tower. Angels protrude off the arched beams and the horizontal ribs are decorated, as are the cornices. The whole is Victorian.

North wall: separated from the north aisle by a rather plain arcade of three wide, four-centred arches supported on two square stone pillars of reportedly 15thC date; the dressings are not chamfered. The responds are also considered to be 15thC, as is the surviving section of the north wall. But the arcade stonework is plastered and painted and there is now nothing to suggest a medieval date.

East wall: a high four-centred arch with chamfers, and much like the arcade arches. Under this is a screen which consists of four panels to either side of the central, peaked arch over the aisle.

South wall: segmental sandstone arch to the splayed reveal of the doorway; two splayed window embrasures; and one 19thC brass.

West wall: three steps up to the tower. The wall is dominated by a high, two-centred arch formed of large voussoir edge stones. The misalignment of tower and nave is clear here.

North aisle. Floor and walls as nave, though no obvious grilles in the former. The roof is a sloping wooden ceiling with heavy rafters and purlins and two braces supported on stone corbels off the north wall.

North wall: three dormers with narrow window ledges, not splayed.

East wall: a four-centred arch, a miniature version of the arcade arches, with a slatted screen to the organ chamber.

South wall: triple arcade to nave (see above).

West wall: plain.

Organ chamber. General. At the east end of the north aisle and effectively an extension of it. Access from the narrower, western arch of the triple arcade in the chancel. A modern wooden screen below a two-centred arch divides the chamber from the north aisle.

Vestry. General. East of the organ chamber and effectively an extension of the north aisle. Wooden floor with chimney breast in north-east corner. Plastered walls and ceiling. Wainscotting on north wall below window. Wooden panelling separates vestry from organ chamber on west side.

Chancel. General. A stepped entrance from nave and a stepped sanctuary with an encaustic tiled floor. Three-bay hammerbeam roof with arch-braced trusses, heavy rafters and purlins. Three hammerbeams spring from stone corbels with large carved wooden angels holding shields and supporting three arch-braced collar trusses with cusped raking struts; cusped windbraces. The eastern hammerbeam is set against the east wall.

North wall: the vestry and organ chamber are separated from the chancel by an arcade in white stone, with four-centred arches resting on moulded octagonal capitals, two orders to the arches, and a continuous hoodmould that terminates in floriated stops, while the central two, in the form of a shield and a head, double as corbels. The westernmost bay, giving on to the organ chamber, is much smaller than the other two, which contain a wooden screen that separates the vestry from the chancel, and is constructed in 15thC style. One 20thC marble memorial. In the north-west corner an aperture shows the position of the rood loft stair, the underside of two treads being visible. The loft itself was removed in 1836.

East wall: a wooden reredos on a stone plinth below the east window.

South wall: a credence in white stone is set below the eastern window of the south wall. Eight brass memorial tablets dating from the late 19thC to the early 20thC are placed on the wall between the two windows, with a modern embroidered hanging beneath.

Churchyard

The D-shaped churchyard, on the north bank of the River Wye, shows elements of curvilinearity on its north side. The ground drops from north to south, with the northern edge of the enclosure considerably higher than the church itself, and a stream runs around the western edge of the yard. The grave yard is well-kept and the vegetation well trimmed.

Boundary: rubblestone wall on all sides. It is surmounted by railings on the north side, and around the south and west, where the ground falls away to the river and a stream respectively, it forms a revetment.

Monuments: mainly 19thC slate slabs, some chest tombs, railed graves and crosses, though there may be a few 18thC gravemarkers which were not identified during the survey. Graves are closely distributed on all sides of the church, and a new municipal cemetery is now located on the north-east side of the village.

Furniture: a small sundial is located near the north side of the lychgate, a 1938 gift in memory of Thomas Hamer.

Ancillary features: the northern lychgate has curving tie-beams supported on stone walls c.2m high, and there is a central truss with raking struts; purlins and windbraces too. The tie-beam facing the road has a carved date of 1740 with names and initials of churchwardens: 'G.O' and 'S.H' with a 'W' over, refer to George David and Solomon Hamer. 'D.G' and 'I.O' with a 'C' over might indicate the carpenters. A gravel path from the north roadside entrance to the south porch and around the tower to the north aisle door. A small gate on the side near the river led to a lost footbridge over the Wye.

Earthworks: the interior of the churchyard is perhaps 2m higher than the ground level to the south and west.

Vegetation: several yew trees of no great age are established within the churchyard. A line of yews are located along the western boundary, one off the south-east corner and one by the south porch. Four yews on the roadside boundary. An Irish yew stands alongside the chancel east wall by a railed grave.

Finds: a coin hoard reputedly found in a grave in the churchyard in c.1753. No precise details are recorded but the coins were supposedly either of Henry I or from John to Henry III.

Sources consulted

Church guide n.d.
CPAT Field Visit 20 January 1996 and 31 July 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 192
Eisel 1986, 184
Faculty Bangor 1977 (NLW):
Fenn 1979
Lunt 1926, 191
Hamer 1869
Haslam 1979, 136
NMR Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
Quinquennial Report 1989
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 Llangurig 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 - chrismartin@cpat.org.uk, website - www.cpat.org.uk.

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