Montgomeryshire Churches Survey
Church of St Idloes , Llanidloes
Llanidloes Church is in the Diocese of Bangor, in the community of Llanidloes in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SN9538284682.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16880 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.
St Idloes' church is assumed to be of early medieval origin and is set on the south bank of the River Severn within the later planned town of Llanidloes. It is a medieval structure with a typical Marches tower and two-stage timber belfry, probably of 14thC
origin. The body of the church was constructed around the same date but there was considerable rebuilding in the 16thC when both architectural features including the arcade and the south door and also a fine hammerbeam roof were imported from the former
Cistercian monastery at Cwmhir. The church was restored at the end of the 19thC. It retains a limited number of pre-19thC furnishings including a 14thC font, a chest and some fittings from a 16thC tomb.
On the basis of one corbel it is suggested that the tower dates to the 14thC, and an unsupported statement in the church guide attributes a date range of 1350 to 1400 to it. A later, Perpendicular, window and door were inserted into its west wall, and at
some point the top of the stone section has been rebuilt. Salter attributes a similar date to much of the south wall of the nave. This may be medieval but it is not certainly 14thC.
The five-bay arcade, the hammerbeam roof, the south door and perhaps the east window tracery all reputedly came from Cwmhir Abbey after its dissolution in 1536. A date of 1542 is to be seen on one of the shields on the roof and it has been assumed that
some of the church was rebuilt at that time, presumably to accommodate this new roof and arcade. The north aisle was added and probably the porch, and part of the south wall by the main door could also date to this build; the former east window was re-set
in the east wall of the aisle. Salter implies that the chancel was extended eastwards at this time but Haslam's analysis of the arcade (see below) indicates that the extension was already in place. The hammerbeam roof was erected in the nave at a level
c.3m higher than old one.
Some reconstruction occurred at the time of the 1816 restoration. The extent of this is uncertain but it has been claimed that the south wall was rebuilt, and the north also looks to have been partially constructed.
The east end of the church was redesigned by Street during his restoration of 1882. Again the extent of the rebuilding is difficult to gauge.
Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1979 publication The Buildings of Wales: Powys by Richard Haslam
The church, dedicated to St Idloes, an early 7thC saint, is almost certain to have been an early medieval foundation, even though the surrounding settlement appears to be a medieval plantation. It was a dependency of the mother church at Llandinam.
Unsurprisingly, no evidence of the early church survives.
The church is recorded in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 as 'capella de Lanidloes' with a value of 13s 4d.
The tower is thought to have been built sometime between 1350 and 1440. Much of the church is claimed to have been rebuilt around 1542 when the roof, the arcade and some window tracery were brought from Cwmhir Abbey. The nave was heightened by around 3m to
take the hammerbeam roof, and the north aisle was added.
There are non-specific references to considerable repairs at the beginning of the 18thC.
Considerable restoration work also took place at several times during the 19thC. In 1816 box-pews were erected, the rood screen was removed along with the old altar rails, oak pulpit and carved seats. Wall paintings on the north aisle were removed, and it
is possible that new windows were inserted in the south wall. It has also been suggested that the south and east walls were taken down and rebuilt at this time.
Two galleries, one above the other, were removed from the west wall in 1846 and a single gallery was erected to house the organ.
In 1880-2 the church was restored to the design of G.E.Street. The west gallery was removed and the organ sited in the east bay of the north aisle. A small priest's doorway in the south wall of the chancel and the window over the south porch were blocked
up. The east wall appears to have been rebuilt and the buttresses added. New windows were inserted and the interior re-seated. The aisle roof may have been raised at this time.
The reredos and the oak panelling were inserted in the chancel in 1900. In 1956 a Lady Chapel was added.
A new church room was annexed to the north-west corner of the church in 1982.
The church consists of a large western tower, a nave and chancel, a shorter, north aisle and a south porch. There is also a new church room from 1982. The church is aligned east-north-east to west-south-west but for the purposes of description
'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.
Fabrics: 'A' : medium to large blocks and some small slabs of local brown and grey, fine-grained sedimentary stone, perhaps a siltstone or mudstone; some coursing.
'B' is similar to 'A', but incorporates smaller stone; some coursing.
'C' comprises a mixture of grey and brown shale, some with quartz veins, brown sandstone, and some pebblestones; larger stones used towards wall base; irregular coursing.
'D' consists of medium-sized slabs of shale/slate, some lumps of quartz, and some pebblestones.
'E' is akin to 'A', but the masonry is more regular with squarer blocks and slabs of dark grey and brown sedimentary rock; irregular coursing.
'F' consists of brown and dark grey slabs and blocks, small to large in size and somewhat irregular in appearance, some quartz and pebblestones and occasional lumps of red sandstone; random coursing.
'A' is thought to be 14thC, and 'F' is also perhaps medieval though whether 14thC remains uncertain; 'D' may be 16thC; 'C' is undated - it could be as early as the 16thC, but it is possibly more likely to be early 19thC; 'B' is almost certainly later
19thC, as is 'E'.
Roofs: slates with red, toothed, ceramic ridge tiles; cross finials at the east end of the church and over the porch.
Drainage: 19thC guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways. No clear evidence of a drainage trench around the church but the possibility of something on the south side.
Tower. General. A low and rather squat, square western tower, of typical Welsh border style, with pyramidal roof over a stepped, two-tier wooden-boarded belfry with two square, louvred apertures in each side. Above the tower is a weathervane. In fabric
'A' with random, large, greyish, fine-grained freestone blocks for quoins. Walls around 2m thick and battered at the base which is topped by a square-sectioned string course at a height of about 2m. Also a string course close to the tower top, and
evidence of rebuilding (see below)
North wall: a new church hall adjoins this wall at ground floor level. Red brick patching on the north-west corner above first-floor level. (The stonework of the north wall of the tower is visible within the corridor that leads from the north aisle to the
new church hall). A square, louvred light perhaps lighting the ringing chamber. There is also a broken string course with a hollowed soffit, but this stops about 2m away from the north-west angle, indicating some rebuilding of part of the tower top.
The tower staircase protrudes from the north-east corner, abuts the north aisle and rises to the full height of the tower. On the north side there is one slit window and a string course, above which the masonry tapers to merge with the tower wall face at
eaves level. All in 'A'.
East wall: the nave roof rises to the eaves of the tower roof. A fragmentary string course is visible towards the south side, but does not continue as far as the angle. Toward the north end a disconformity suggests further rebuilding.
South wall: high up is a louvred aperture as in the north wall. A continuation of the east wall string course occurs just below the aperture, but is interrupted towards the south-east corner. It is clear that the south-east corner has been rebuilt in 'B'
for a joint in the masonry can be detected at the angle from about 2m below the string course, and runs diagonally up towards the centre of the wall. Indeed, it is likely that the whole wall face above the string course has been rebuilt and this probably
holds true for the other wall faces as well. There is a further anomaly in this wall for from a height of about 3m, there is a blocking of small stones between the quoins of the tower and the nave wall. This seems to indicate that the bottom 3m of the
tower projected further east than at a higher level, but this is not matched at the south-west angle, although the wall continues to taper inwards. Regardless of this, it is clear that the nave abuts the earlier tower structure at this point.
West wall: west entrance consists of a low, broad, four-centred Perpendicular doorway with chamfered jambs terminating in worn stops - this is wholly original although different stone was used for the arch and the jambs. The string course above the batter
rises to form a label over this doorway, and over the label is a relieving arch of voussoirs. The window to the first floor has a two-centred arch, hollow chamfers, and two cinquefoil-headed lights with panelled tracery above; it shows signs of insertion
and is of yellow Victorian freestone - there are no original dressings; a relieving arch of stone voussoirs follows the curve of the window. Above this the masonry is 'B', illustrating how the window was renewed. The upper string course is again
North aisle. General. In 'C', but there are changes in the appearance and size of this fabric and it is possible that the upper part of the wall was rebuilt when the Victorian windows were emplaced.
North wall: divided into five bays by four stepped buttresses of 19thC date. The central bay has a below-ground entrance to the boiler room and an octagonal stone chimney that rises above the roof; the boiler room is lit by a below-ground, square-framed,
two-light window, the lights with cinquefoil tracery, and entered by a doorway with a segmental head; all Victorian. In the north aisle wall are four windows of 1881 with square-headed yellow sandstone frames, flush to the wall and three trefoil-headed
lights; but the two more westerly windows have panel tracery, the two to the east have longer lights; all four windows have relieving arches of stone voussoirs. The easternmost bay has a square-headed yellow sandstone frame for an ogee-headed doorway to
the vestry. Then a fifth window to the east of the doorway with three ogee-headed lights, the outer ones asymmetrical; panel tracery above and a relieving arch. Finally, there is a sandstone headstone of 1821 mounted on the wall, while slate headstones are
propped up against the wall throughout its length.
East wall: a single window with three plain, two-centred lights and panel tracery in patched worn red and yellow sandstone; some original pale yellow dressings but some of the mullions and arch stones have been renewed. This is an original window and it
has been claimed that this window was probably the original east wall of the old chancel until 1542 when it was moved to make way for the Cwmhir Abbey window. The base of the window is set on a wedge of masonry classed here as 'D', for which there is a
clear edge on the north and a less evident one on the south. Above this and around the window is 'C'. Several slabs lean against the wall.
West wall: plain without apertures, in 'C'.
Nave. General. In 'F'.
South wall: in 'F' and possibly largely original, though whether 14thC as has been suggested cannot be ascertained. Two 19thC stepped buttresses form three bays, the most easterly of which is then extended to form the chancel. Two windows are set in
four-centred, almost round-headed apertures with casement mouldings and three cusped lights, with relieving arches of stone voussoirs immediately above; the more westerly window appears to be inserted. West end is blocked off by the south porch. Above this
the outline of a window, now blocked in more regular stonework, which lit the gallery.
Chancel. General. In 'E' with yellow sandstone quoins at the north-east and south-east corners, probably entirely the result of Street's restoration.
North wall: a single window with two cinquefoil-headed lights and panel tracery; relieving arch above; 19thC. Several grave slabs lean against the wall.
East wall: large 19thC east window, reportedly a copy of its predecessor. The five-light window consists of two tiers of five cinquefoiled lights divided by a transom, two sub-arches and panel tracery; the frame is in yellow sandstone recessed under a
two-centred arch with a relieving arch of stone voussoirs above. Six memorial slabs dating from 1831 to 1873 are built into the east wall and were probably moved when the chancel was rebuilt.
South wall: this wall is slightly inset from the line of the nave wall to the west, although it should be stressed that this break does not conform with the present internal division between nave and chancel. The wall appears to be in 'E'. At the west end
is a single window which has a two-centred arch with three cinquefoiled ogee-headed lights and panel tracery, all in pale yellow sandstone and of 19thC date. Memorial slabs affixed to the wall.
South Porch. General. Masonry is closest to 'F'. Open south porch with a low basal plinth of concrete about 0.1m above ground level.
East and west walls: large stone quoins at the south corners; walls without windows.
South wall: two-centred entrance arch is completely concreted over.
Church room. General. From 1982; a square stone-built structure with pyramidal slate roof joined to the north aisle by a hallway which is built up against the north wall of the tower and west wall of the north aisle.
Porch. General. Floor of slabs within a border of red and black tiles. Walls plastered but not painted, leaving only the stonework of the nave doorway visible. Roof of seven close-set, arch-braced collar trusses of more recent date than the porch itself
which may be 16thC.
North wall: the main church doorway is of three orders with jambs and filleted shafts, the outer two with Corinthian capitals in Early English style (early 13thC?). It was reputedly brought from Cwmhir Abbey. Some of the dressings have been renewed
including the whole of the arch itself except perhaps for one stone in the innermost order.
East wall: a deep and wide water stoup is set into a simple square-headed recess. All but the bowl is completely plastered over.
Tower. General. Modern slab floor with a tile surround; exposed masonry with deeply splayed apertures. Open to belfry level where there is a rib-vaulted ceiling with random slate infill, and in its centre an opening for raising the bells. Four simple,
tapering corbels support the stone vaulting; three are worn but the fourth displays deep scrolled moulding of 14thC style.
North wall: tower staircase built into the north-east corner; the doorway with a segmental arch.
East wall: a plain, high, two-centred arch opens to the nave. Large stone voussoirs form the arch.
West wall: splayed reveal to doorway with segmental head. Modern blocks for the soffit of the window embrasure above the doorway. South of the doorway is a flaking slate memorial tablet, perhaps of 1708. North of it a marble and slate memorial of 1811.
North aisle. General. Stone slabs to floor with borders of red and black tiles; heating grilles. Walls rendered but not painted. A sloping ceiling: the principal rafters forming five bays are supported on cusped braces off the north wall and arching
braces off the arcade wall; intermediate rafters and through purlins. A Lady Chapel was constructed at the east end of the north aisle in 1956 by the insertion of a screen on the east and south sides. The organ is sited between the Lady Chapel and the
vestry in the eastern bay of the arcade; a slate slab at this juncture is inscribed 'Entrance to the Family Vault of T.E.Marsh 1837'.
North wall: splayed windows and two 19thC and 20thC memorials.
South wall: a five-bay arcade with two-centred arches of six orders, in Early English style, brought to the church from Cwmhir Abbey after 1536. Haslam's detailed assessment is repeated here. 'The arcade was set up from the east where the (then
unbuttressed) respond has leaned out. The line is slightly wide of the earlier north wall, and the fifth (westernmost) arch had to be rebuilt narrower than the others, to fit with the tower. One wonders why the spacing was not measured first. The base
height of the piers are uneven; the last two to the east are higher than the rest, which indicates the position of the former raised sanctuary. [Alternatively this might reveal that the Cwmhir Abbey piers were shorter and had to be built up, particularly
as the respond exhibits even more exposed base than the pier to the west. R J Silvester]. This splendidly solemn arcade is part of the fourteen-bay aisled nave of the Cistercian church at Abbey Cwmhir some 10 miles south-west across the hills. There is no
doubt that the material was carted away after the Dissolution and re-erected in slightly jumbled order at Llandiloes. The Grinshill stone piers are formed of eight groups of three shafts each, the middle one filleted - twenty-four in all - applied on
square piers set diagonally (cf Strata Marcella). The responds have one triplet only and four larger shafts like those of the south doorway. Arches with roll mouldings to the nave, but chamfers only to the aisle, where the outer step is defective all
along. [In fact the most westerly bay does have mouldings on the arcade side. R J S]. The system is that one filleted and one plain roll rise from each cluster of pier shafts, except on the longitudinal angles, where three rolls rise, all filleted.
The stiff-leaf carvings of the round capitals - one to each triplet of shafts - are instructive examples of the development of this quintessential Early English decoration. The masons for the reconstruction clearly did not distinguish between the six or
more patterns at their disposal............. Of the earliest type (c.1190?) seem to be two, almost variants of the water-leaf form, on the third pier from the east. On this same pier, three capitals show the genesis of stiff-leaf: bunches of four shapes,
basically the 12thC trumpets, are at the very point of metamorphosis when from the left a hesitant spray of leaflets pops out. If this type is of c.1200, then so perhaps are the two sorts of fleur-de-lys designs. These are of flowers, one to a shaft,
either beneath a band with a wavy line, or with their tops extended like a crenellation. Examples occur muddled together on all the piers. On the third pier from the east again (south-east side) is another indecisive kind, two capitals with wavy patterns
meshed behind stalks. That leaves the true stiff-leaf, richly curled on the east respond, in two rows on the first pier, with more on the fourth pier and on the west respond, where the heads droop and are most deeply undercut. The evolution from
Transitional to the fully achieved style probably implies nearly a generation in time; Cwmhir's nave would therefore appear to be building by c.1190 and still in progress c.1215'. Note the good collection of masons' marks on the stonework.
In the south-west angle is a masonry projection up to the level of the capital. This now acts as a rest for the 16thC helmet (see below), but is actually the remnant of the thicker earlier wall.
West wall: plain, but for the new doorway to the church room.
Vestry: occupies east end of north aisle but is not accessible.
Nave. General. Central aisle has stone slabs with tiles along the edges; heating grilles; flush woodblock flooring under the benches. Walls as north aisle. The hammerbeam roof, reputedly from Cwmhir Abbey is divided into 19 bays and extends over the nave
and chancel. The hammerbeams with carved spandrel-pieces are mounted on stone corbels (four of which, at the west end, are carved with foliage); the base of each bracket is carved with various grotesque heads and figures such as an archer drawing his bow
and a bird of prey. Carved, gilded angels are attached to the hammerbeams. The angels are an addition to the roof and hold shields of various shapes; they were probably added to the roof when it was inserted in the church; some of the shields are blank
but a few are inscribed including 'ANO DNI 1542' and 'RESTITUTA 1882'. 'The hammerbeams support curved ribs and principals, forming a sort of tunnel-vault. The framing is all delicately moulded. The corbels are odd masonry bits including stiff-leaf from
Cwmhir' (Haslam). Above the collars are curved raking struts. The three east bays of the roof were added by G.E. Street during the 1882 restoration, and the last four collar trusses have simpler struts. The roof was repaired by Street when many of the
timbers were replaced.
North wall: plain apart from the arcade.
East wall: no division from the chancel apart from one step up.
South wall: there is a shallow reveal to the south door but on either side the wall is thickened by perhaps 0.25m for a length of around 2m - the most obvious explanation is that this is associated with the insertion of the Cwmhir doorway in the 16thC. Two
West wall: two-centred arch to the tower with exposed dressings. Axe pinned to wall (see below).
Chancel. General. Step up from the nave; floor carpetted; carved longitudinal choir stalls on tiered wooden flooring; four steps to the sanctuary and altar; the floor of encaustic tiles, but also a slate slab recording the Evans family from 1810 to 1845.
Walls and roof as nave.
North wall: one bay of the arcade. One 19thC marble memorial.
South wall: 19thC piscina under a pair of trefoiled arches and sedilia under a pair of cinquefoil arches. One 19thC memorial.
West wall: one 19thC memorial.
The present churchyard is of an irregular rectilinear shape and it is not possible to establish the original form, although it is known to have been extended to the south-west in 1846. Some of the churchyard is flat but the church itself is set close to
the river terrace, and immediately to the north of the building the ground falls away to the river. Parts of the churchyard was formerly paved with river pebbles, a practice that reputedly was formerly common in Montgomeryshire. The cobbling was destroyed
or covered in 1944 during work in the churchyard. The churchyard is well kept.
Boundary: the yard is bounded on the south-west and south-east sides by a rubblestone wall with the addition of a trimmed hedge to the former. There is a stone wall on the west and also on the north where there is also a hedge. The walls were repaired in
Monuments: mainly 19thC slate gravestones, with a few chest tombs. Burials are evenly distributed but entirely on the south side. Successive work in the churchyard and rebuilding of the church has led to many of the slabs being re-sited. Some are built
into the church walls, some lean up against the walls and the east wall of the churchyard has slabs of 19thC date against its entire length. The earliest memorials noted are from 1742 and 1759 (against the east wall of the north aisle) and 1758 (north wall
Furniture: an octagonal, worn yellow sandstone sundial plinth is located under an Irish yew tree near the south-east gates. Plate and gnomon made by W and S Jones, London, reportedly in 1836.
A small bowl, like a stoup, supported on a ribbed baluster stem, all in sandstone, is sited near the south porch.
Earthworks: the churchyard is raised by between 0.4m and 1.4m on the east and between 0.5m and 1m on the south.
Ancillary features: the main south entrance is formed by a pair of wrought iron gates set in stone pillars with an overarch. A small single gate in the north-east corner of the churchyard is the Cripplegate leading to the 'Severn Porte', the river gate of
the old medieval town. The west entrance has been widened and a new pillar and section of the wall was built onto the north side when the churchroom was constructed in 1982. The area around the churchroom and the tower is now concreted. Tarmac paths lead
to the south porch and all around the church. The modern extension has paths all around it.
Vegetation: five Irish yews on south side of church. A single older yew, though of no great age, stands near the south-east gate. Some deciduous trees.
Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings 1989
Church guide n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 31 January 1996 and 24 July 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 197
Eisel 1986, 185
Faculty Bangor 1881 (NLW): restoration
Haslam 1979, 139
Lunt 1926, 191
Quinquennial Reports 1984 and 1989
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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 Llanidloes 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 - firstname.lastname@example.org, website - www.cpat.org.uk.
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