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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Michael , Manafon

Manafon Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Manafon in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ1131002475.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16907 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Manafon Church, CPAT copyright photo 9235A37.JPG

Summary

St Michael's church at Manafon, about 8 miles to the south-west of Welshpool, is a simple, single-cell structure with a timbered belfry and south porch. The walls almost certainly date back to the 15thC if not earlier and the 15thC roof remains. But apart from a Perpendicular east window and two re-set lights in the vestry, all the fenestration is Victorian, dating to a restoration of 1859, with further works in 1898 when the interior was re-ordered. Little of pre-19thC date survives inside: a stoup and some stained glass, to which should be added an early bell. The church lies in an extended churchyard, formerly sub-rectangular though with hints of curvilinearity, on the valley floor close to the River Rhiw.

Plain, single-chambered church in 15thC (or earlier) fabric, though there are occasional signs that there may have been some rebuilding; the east window and two re-set vestry windows survive from the medieval era, the rest inserted about 1859 and an interior largely dating to the 1898 restoration.

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

History

The location apart there is nothing to indicate an early medieval foundation at Manafon, though it remains a possibility.

The church was recorded as 'Ecclesia de Manaon' with a value of 13s 4d in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 and in Pope Nicholas's Taxation of 1291 it had a value of 7 6s 8d. However, history is generally quiet about the church throughout the Middle Ages and, indeed, through the post-Reformation centuries.

The building was restored in 1859 when the windows were replaced and a vestry added. Prior to this there had been a five-light dormer window on the south side as shown in a pencil sketch of the mid-19thC (referred to in the listed building schedule).

In 1869 Glynne wrote that 'this church has been so completely renovated, as scarcely to retain any ancient features'. Portions of the walls were old and the roof was an original construction, there was a south porch and a modern timber belfry. The Perpendicular east window was clearly original but the other windows were new. The interior was well arranged with open seats.

Further work was undertaken in 1898 by John Douglas of Chester. The faculty of the previous year listed proposed alterations, including the building of a new heating chamber on the north side of the vestry, taking up the existing church floors and relaying them with concrete and woodblock, raising the chancel floor and repaving it with tiles, removing plaster from the walls before repairing, cleaning and pointing, re-seating the building, placing a new oak screen to define the nave and chancel, providing a new pulpit, lectern, oak seats and prayer desks in the chancel, adding altar rails, table and hangings, new sedilia and a credence, lighting the church by suspended Hesperon lamps, and generally repairing the roof, gables and walls. A new lych gate was also to be erected. During the restoration work the medieval stoup was rediscovered, and parts of the late medieval screen, then at the west end of the church, were removed.

Internally, the west wall underwent considerable repair in 1992.

Architecture

Manafon consists of a nave and chancel as a single cell with a timber belfry at the west end, a south porch and a vestry on the north. The building is aligned south-west to north-east, but for the purpose of description 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabrics: 'A' is of small to medium blocks, some tabular, of fine grained, greyish shale and sandstone(?), some iron stained; also some pebblestones, and rarely a block of red sandstone; irregular coursing; larger blocks used in the foundations, particularly at the west end; limewash residue. The quoins are frequently long slabs, though some dressed sandstone blocks were used at west end. 'B' is as 'A' but the stonework appears more jumbled with very little coursing and there is less tabular stone. 'C' is a more regularly cut grey shale, used for parts of the vestry and the stepped buttresses.

'A' is 15thC (or possibly earlier), but similar material - 'B' - may have been used (or re-used) to reconstruct the east gable and the wall tops, probably as late as the 19thC.

Roofs: slates with black ceramic ridge tiles; sandstone coping, kneelers and celtic cross finial at east gable end.

Rising from the nave roof at the west end is a square slatted timber belfry, painted white, surmounted by a pyramidal slate roof and weathercock. The north and south faces of the belfry have louvred, two-centred arched apertures.

Drainage: cast-iron guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways. Gravel chippings laid on all sides, though less obvious on east, probably disguising a trench.

Exterior

Nave and chancel. General. No external differentiation so the two elements are treated as one for description. Constructed in fabric 'A', with some 'B'.

North wall: the vestry is at west end followed by three square-headed windows of two rounded trefoiled lights, dating to 1859. Occasional signs that there may have been some rebuilding, particularly between the two more westerly windows, and at higher levels in the wall. The eastern angle may have been rebuilt - there is a subtle change in the evenness of the wall face.

East wall: most of the wall face is in 'A' but the upper part of gable rebuilt in 'B', and the north and south angle buttresses are in 'C'. A two-centred window with three foiled, two-centred lights, a transom and four sub-lights above; of mixed red and grey sandstone, some weathered and original including much of the tracery, but some jamb and archstone replacement; and a Victorian hoodmould and simple stops. Wire grille protects the window. Beneath it can be seen some disconformity in the stonework, and a local report suggests that the east window was raised in the 19thC.

South wall: in 'A' with some intermittent courses of slabs at lower levels, but again there is evidence that some localised rebuilding high up on the wall in 'B'. Three standard windows as on the north side, although the central one has three rather than two lights; a distinct vertical line in the stonework just to the east of the central window stops in line with its sill and probably marks its insertion line. Next the porch, and finally a single light window of standard design. Around this there are irregularities and it is probable that the wall around the window has been rebuilt in ?'B'.

West wall: gable end. Large blocks of stone form the basal layers, some at the north-west corner protruding at foundation level. Assessment of the wall face is confused by snail pointing and lichen cover.

Vestry. General. Attached to north wall of nave, it is an addition of 1859. Its east and west walls each contain a square-headed window with a trefoiled, two-centred light and sunken spandrels in worn sandstone, red in the east wall, grey in the west wall; the dressings of the former are less worn than the latter, and there is a suspicion that only the latter is original. Certainly the west window is re-set in its present location.

Boiler house slopes off the north wall of the vestry and a chimney rises between the two.

South porch. General. Constructed in fabric 'A'-type masonry in 1859, though the stones are predominantly small. Single open lancets in the side walls, and a two-centred entrance arch of dressed shale in the south wall. No door or gate.

Interior

Porch. General. Tiled floor, plastered walls with wooden benches and splayed window apertures, and the ceiling plastered above short collar beams, exposed rafters and through purlins. The north wall has a Victorian pointed entrance arch with chamfered sandstone dressings; a single heavy planked door with wrought iron fittings.

Vestry. General. Woodblock floor, plastered ceiling. Small iron grate in the north wall. East and west windows contain fragments of early coloured glass in the top foil. In view of the uncertainty about the authenticity of the east window it is worth noting that its internal chamfers are flat, those of the west window are slightly hollowed.

Nave. General. Red tiled floor, with benches on flush woodblock flooring. Bare walls, exposed in 1898. The two end walls are in random masonry and appear original, but the two side walls (in both the nave and chancel) are of more regular stonework and this suggests the walls were re-faced either in 1898 or at an earlier date. The 15thC roof (to both nave and chancel) of eight open bays formed by nine arch-braced collar trusses with raking struts; two tiers of cusped windbraces, and a planked ceiling behind the rafters. The arch braces spring from wall plates, and there are carved cornices in the chancel, though these are of 19thC date. Central heating pipes run behind the plates.

The west end of the nave has a lowered (1992) tongue and groove ceiling forming a final bay. A triple wooden arcade is set below it consisting of wide two-centred arches on either side of a narrower arch with carved spandrels. Two oak uprights rise to support the belfry, together with two wall posts on the north and south walls. Above the arches there is a principal truss and the face above is plastered in.

North wall: three splayed window apertures with stepped sills and oak lintels between red sandstone kneeler-shaped blocks; at the west end is the entrance door to the Victorian vestry. Two 20thC brasses.

East wall: two steps up to chancel, and a Victorian chancel screen.

South wall: a stoup set in the wall to the east side of main doorway. Three- and two-light window apertures as in the north wall. Two 20thC marble memorials.

West wall: The ends of four sawn-off beams that once supported the gallery are visible in the stonework. Dado panelling probably from box pews, along the wall. 19thC marble tablet.

Chancel. General. One step up from the nave, with encaustic tiles in the chancel and the stepped sanctuary, but woodblock under the longitudinal benches. Walls and roof as nave, except for dado panelling derived from box pews against the east wall and running down the sides, and carved modern wallplates. Stained glass in windows on south and east. 19thC brass on east wall.

Churchyard

The original sub-rectangular enclosure on level ground close to the River Rhiw was extended in 1923 by the consecration of additional burial space to the west. It is a well-kept churchyard, maintained by the parishioners.

Boundary: stone wall on south-east side with the road; the western boundary formed by the Church in Wales school and also a hedged boundary also on the west which continues to the north-west where there are open fields.

Monuments: well-spaced on all sides of the church with modern burials in the western extension. Mainly 19thC slate slabs, some crosses, a few chest tombs and cremations. Sandstone slabs near the south wall of the church date to 1762, 1767 and 1770. Fewer marked graves on the south side. The oldest sandstone slab noted, now placed on a red-brick plinth near the east wall, records Jane Higgins, wife of the rector of Manafon, who died in 1689, and the rector himself in 1702. Oldest chest tombs located under yews on eastern boundary.

Furniture: sundial now sited on a wooden plinth close to the south porch; gnomon inscription appears to be '? H. Rider, W'pool. ? Harris, ? Evans, Churchwardens'.

Earthworks: ground is banked up against retaining wall on the south side, but less than 0.5m.

Ancillary features: half-timbered lychgate was erected at the time of the 1898 restoration, and forms the main, south-west entrance. Three tie beams support a hipped slate roof with a cross mid-way along its length. Central tie-beam is inscribed in Welsh on the church side and the English on the roadside. Concrete paths lead in from the south-west lychgate entrance and the single gate in the south-east corner.

Vegetation: several yews of considerable girth are located on the south sides; the oldest two are on the west side of the lych gate and north side of the east gate. Very large fir by the roadside boundary. Other yews in the churchyard could be 19thC.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings for Manafon: 1997
CPAT Site Visits: 21 February 1996 and 18 February 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 204
Eisel 1986, 189
Faculty 1897 St Asaph (NLW)
Faculty 1923 St Asaph (NLW)
Glynne 1884, 93
Haslam 1979, 157
Lunt 1926, 469
Powys SMR
Thomas 1908, 489
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 Manafon 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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