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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Nicholas , Montgomery

Montgomery Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Montgomery in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO2236296518.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16914 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Montgomery Church, CPAT copyright photo CS011214.JPG

Summary

St Nicholas's church is a large building founded early in the 13thC on a low hill in the eastern part of the town. Much of the original structure survives, but a four-storey tower was added in 1816 and a south porch in 1868. Inside it retains a 15thC/16thC hammerbeam roof over the west end of the nave and a 16thC wagon roof over the eastern end, though the chancel roof is part of the 19thC restoration works. The 15thC rood screen was brought from Chirbury Priory together with the roodloft and the stalls with their misericords after the Dissolution. Other medieval furnishings to have survived include the font and two piscinae. The south transept contains a canopied tomb dated 1601 and two recumbent effigies. The churchyard is large and rectangular with an interesting range of memorials.

Early 13thC medieval church with late 13thC transepts added on, though at different times for the north transept is in similar stone to the nave, but the south transept is in rather different material. An extended chancel (though the evidence for this extension is tenuous) and a south door inserted; several original lancet windows in red sandstone remain, though set at different heights in the wall faces.

A four-storey battlemented tower with massive corner buttresses was built in 1816 adjoining the north aisle, to replace an earlier structure. Porch added in 1868, and a north vestry, also Victorian but earlier.

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

History

The church at Montgomery was a product of the foundation of the town itself in 1223. The first mention of the building is in 1227 and throughout the Middle Ages it functioned as a chapelry to the neighbouring priory of Chirbury.

The early 13thC church was a single-chambered structure, the nave and chancel together having dimensions of 77' x 26' (23.5m x 7.9m). Transepts were appended soon after, the Lymore Chapel on the south added sometime in the late 13thC, though it can only have acquired this name after the mid-17thC, the north (Brockton) transept more specifically around 1275, reputedly for the prior's tenants on his Court Calmore manor, which by the early 17thC seems to have had a separate dedication to St Laurence. It is possible, too, that the chancel was extended in the late 13thC.

Restoration work was carried out in 1543 when money was spent on a steeple, and it was probably at this time that the chancel screen was erected for the total cost was 155.

Further repairs to the steeple and the bells were recorded in 1655. The earlier tower was lower and wider than the present one, probably of two storeys with a low crenellated parapet without pinnacles and a plain string course below the parapet. Each of the walls probably contained a two-light aperture with quatrefoil head.

A door in the north wall of the nave was blocked up in 1762.

The early tower was taken down in 1816 and the present tower built at the north end of the north transept. A benefaction board records its erection at a cost of 1700, by Lord Clive, the third Earl of Powys. The plasterwork in the north transept ceiling may also date to this period.

A vestry was added between 1840 and 1850.

Major restoration work took place in 1868 under G. Beadnell. This included restoration of the west window, re-pointing and colouring of the walls, and the replacement of the chancel ceiling. The old porch was removed and a new one designed using an oak purlin from the wagon roof in the nave.

G. E. Street prepared a report on the church in 1875, in which he recommended that the north arcade be recreated and the chancel roofed according to whatever was found to have been the medieval intention. The work was done by Edward Haycock the Younger in 1877-8, when the north transept arcade was inserted in place of the existing iron pillars, existing galleries were taken out, the floor level at the west end of the church was lowered and the stone floor replaced by tiles, the old two-decker pulpit and box pews were replaced, the small doorway in the east wall of the south transept was reconstructed, and the west window renewed.

Further repairs were undertaken in 1893 and 1914.

Formerly in the diocese of Hereford, Montgomery was transferred to St Asaph in the early 20thC.

Major restoration work in 1969-70 under the direction of Anthony Catwin, included treatment to woodwork in the tower, and insertion of the new ceiling in the chancel.

Architecture

The church consists of a nave and chancel in one, north and south transepts, which are chapels rather than true transepts, a north tower, a south porch and a vestry on the north side of the chancel. The building is oriented south-west/north-east, but for descriptive purposes, 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted in the report.

Fabrics: 'A' of small to medium blocks of random red sandstone but mainly shale with grey and grey-green predominating; occasional fragments of brick inserted; irregularly coursed and weatherworn; red sandstone dressings; traces of limewash residue. 'B' is of large, roughly shaped blocks of grey/grey-green shale, coursed. Yellow ashlar for buttresses and dressings. 'C' consists of large blocks of grey, quarry-cut sandstone, regularly coursed; yellow sandstone dressings. 'D' is of grey and buff-grey shale, some quite regular blocks, some coursing; only one red sandstone block. 'E' is similar to 'D' but the masonry is rougher; medium-sized blocks.

'A' is original 13thC; 'E' may be 16thC, 'B' is from 1816; 'C' from 1840-1850, and 'D' is undated.

Roofs: slates with black ceramic ridge tiles, but red ridge tiles on the porch. Stone cross finials at the west end of nave, on the transepts and the porch (wooden), and a wrought iron finial at chancel end.

Drainage: 19thC guttering and downspouts lead to modern drainage indicated by a manhole on the east side of the tower. There is evidence of a trench around the south side of the porch, and along the north side of the nave is a slightly sunken concrete drain which continues round the west side of the north transept. Nothing obvious around the tower or the east end of the church.

Exterior

Nave. General. In 'A'. On the north side a render coat to the base of this wall and the west wall of the north transept.

North wall: top part of wall rebuilt for about 0.4m. Render course at base to a height of c.0.2m. To the west of the north transept are two small, early 13thC lancets with original dressings to either side of a blocked two-centred arched doorway with quarter-round jambs; sandstone dressings original; also 13thC. Diagonal buttress in 'A' at north-west corner constructed in grey shale with red sandstone dressings; the date is uncertain but Salter attributed it to the 16thC. West of the north transept is another short stretch of wall. It displays some evidence of patching with tabular stone, perhaps even a former window; and there is a corbel-like projection in the angle with the transept, about 3m+ off the ground.

South wall: features from the west are: i) a small, early 13thC lancet to west of porch. ii) south doorway, within the south porch. 'Of late 13thC date, with an inner order of filleted attached shafts continued to the apex within a pair of engaged shafts, with ring-moulded capitals between rolls' (Haslam); a worn, medieval sandstone head above the apex of the arch; some repair and modification in the 19thC, particularly on the west side, including the lowest dressings which were inserted when the floor was lowered in 1877, but mostly original. iii) on the east side of the porch, a two-centred window incorporating a pair of cinquefoil-headed lights and a hexafoil rose head all in pale yellow sandstone with hoodmould and floriated stops - this is 19thC, but probably in the position of an earlier window which shows in a drawing of 1793. The top of wall with more slabs than elsewhere may have been raised or rebuilt.

West wall: in 'A' but the stone looks grimy; large five-light Perpendicular window with panel tracery, completely renewed in pale yellow sandstone in 1868. West gable was raised slightly at the same time in 1868, when the masonry of the window was restored; top quoins in 19thC or later stone. North-west corner rebuilt to take the diagonal buttress.

North transept (= Brockton transept). General. Built about 1275. Constructed in fabric 'A'.

East wall: a broad, heavy stepped buttress with sandstone coping, possibly 19thC for the stonework looks to be the same as the organ chamber and vestry. A wide single-light window with a curious rounded head and thin stone voussoirs splaying out as a sort of relieving arch, comparable to those in the west wall; probably of medieval origin, but altered.

West wall: top part of wall probably rebuilt (0.4m). Buttress and window as east side, and iron hinges on the south side of the window suggest a former shutter. The window is broad and may have been modified with the loss of its tracery; a jambstone has the initials W A scratched on it; above is a relieving arch of edge slabs. Also a blocked medieval doorway, with a two-centred red sandstone arch rising to about 1.7m above current ground level and c.1.5m wide; the north side is partially hidden behind the buttress, and its base is also disguised by the render coat along the wall footings. Above the arch are relieving slabs set an angle to the rest of the masonry. It has been suggested that the earlier tower may have been the same width as the transept and this blocked archway was the original tower doorway, but the argument is not convincing.

Tower. General. In 'B'. Dates to 1816. Square four-stage tower on north side of the north transept, its stair in the south-east corner. Diagonal stepped buttresses at the corners rise to a level in line with the tops of the belfry windows, and those on the south side are extended to meet the side walls of the north transept. A basal plinth, c.0.3m above ground level, is continuous around the tower and the buttresses and three string courses divide the tower into four stages. Battlemented at the top with corner pinnacles, and surmounted by weathervane.

North wall: first stage contains a high, pointed, moulded doorway with intersecting tracery above a pair of heavy planked doors; second stage, a two-centred window with louvred light; the third stage, a clockface with small flanking lancets; the fourth (belfry) stage, a two-centred window containing two ogee-headed louvred lights.

East wall: second and fourth stages as north wall; the third stage has the two lancets, one blocked, the other louvred.

South wall: rising above the north transept, the third stage lancets and fourth stage belfry window are visible.

West wall: as east wall except for a clock face with the date 1816 on it between the two lancets.

Chancel. General. Fabric 'A'.

North wall: disguised by vestry, though some of the masonry is visible above its roof-line.

East wall: basal plinth at 0.2m; stonework heavily pointed. Large Perpendicular window with hoodmould and head-stops; a transom separates two rows of seven main lights with trefoiled heads, and there are sub-arches and panel tracery above. The tracery was renewed in 1859., but the jambs and some of the arch stones are original. Below the window are two blocked vertical slits, c.0.8m high, with shale dressings, equi-distant from the corners of the wall; red sandstone used for the blocking. Lloyd suggested they may have originally provided ventilation and light to a charnel house beneath the chancel.

South wall: from the west the features are: i) against the east wall of the south transept is a bulge in the wall marking the position of the roodloft staircase from the early 16thC, in 'E'; ii) a line of red sandstone jambs, with some signs of a chamfer, and these run fractionally behind the masonry of the staircase; iii) a second line of jambstones, the two of them supporting what is best described as a wooden lintel with rebuilt masonry above. The jambs stop in the upper part of the wall but the blocking between the two (in 'D') seems to descend to ground level. This is presumably the remains of a very broad window removed to make way for the loft stairs, the beam inserted to take the weight during the rebuilding; yet the blocking material is not the same as that used for the staircase wall, and there is no room for an arch unless the wall height has been reduced! iv) a small inserted lancet - 19thC. v) a wider lancet in 19thC yellow sandstone with a hoodmould. Inserted at the present chancel/sanctuary divide.

Vestry and organ chamber. General. Adjoining the north wall of the chancel. In large blocks of fabric 'C'. 19thC fenestration. Boiler house below ground.

South transept (= Lymore Chapel). General. Constructed in fabric 'A' with red sandstone quoins, but the masonry appears fresher and the buff and orange (iron-stained) tabular shale indicates a variation on 'A'; some red sandstone but more in south wall than east wall. Slight basal plinth on south wall, 0.1-0.2m above ground level.

East wall: a single wide lancet, from which tracery was removed in the 19thC according to Haslam; and to the north of it a shoulder-arched doorway of c.1875, replacing an earlier, original doorway.

South wall: a slight batter at base. A tall, narrow 13thC lancet, rising into the gable in the centre of the wall and a smaller, earlier 13thC lancet below and to the east of it; the latter possibly moved from the nave wall when the transept built. Both have original pink sandstone dressings, and show rebates for shutters.

West wall: battered at base to height of 0.4m. A single wide lancet centrally placed, which has lost its tracery like its counterpart in the east wall, and has its arch stones renewed; and to the south a small and very short medieval trefoil-headed window in pale sandstone.

South porch. General. Constructed in 1868, replacing a two-storey stone porch. Open, timber-framed structure supported on two courses of stonework similar to fabric 'C'. Two-centred wooden archway on south, the arch acting as bracing for a peaked collar with cusped struts above. Side walls have timber panels with trefoil heads.

Interior

Porch. General. Stone flagged floor; benches along both side walls. Roof supported by a single peaked collar truss with cusped raking struts and the ceiling plastered above exposed rafters. South doorway to church described above under nave entry.

Nave. General. 19thC tiled floor; flush wooden planks under benches; heating grilles in main aisles and elsewhere, though the system was superseded by radiators. Plastered walls with deeply splayed windows, the stonework exposed in the embrasures. Roof of two parts. The western end has a late 15thC/early 16thC hammerbeam roof with six cusped, arch-braced collar trusses forming five bays, and four tiers of quatrefoil windbraces with moulded purlins and rafters; the wallplates are decorated with blind, ogee-traceried panels; the hammerbeams spring from wooden wallposts on the north and south walls. The eastern part of the nave as far as the east side of the screen, is probably 16thC, and consists of a wagon roof divided into 80 square plastered panels defined by moulded ribs with coloured bosses at the intersections. In the 19thC it was confirmed that the arch-braced roof does not continue above the wagon roof.

North wall: two-centred arched soffit over recess to blocked doorway now contains central heating radiator and a memorial of 1787/1804. Three other 19thC marble memorials on wall plus a brass wall memorial. North transept divided from nave by double-bay arcade with circular central pier and two-centred arches, the mouldings on its capital and on the matching responds slightly different from those on the south transept; in red sandstone dating from 1877-8.

East wall: divided from chancel by 15thC rood screen and loft.

South wall: high, two-centred arch and soffit to south doorway embrasure. One 19thC marble memorial by Carline, a 20thC marble memorial, three 20thC brasses and a plaque commemorating the 1969/70 restoration at a cost of 10,000. Two-bay arcade gives access to south transept, the pier is circular and the capitals of the responds and the pier have fillet mouldings showing some degree of variation; the arches are two-centred in red sandstone.

West wall: deeply splayed window. Two 19thC memorials.

North Transept. General. Tiles with carpet over; heating grilles. Plastered walls and coved plaster ceiling. Now used as a Sunday school.

North wall: early 19thC entrance to tower, having a simple two-centred arch and glazed lights in the typanum above the door; 19thC benefaction boards either side of tower door plus a large board commemorating the erection of the tower in 1816 above it. Also one 19thC mural tablet.

East wall: red sandstone piscina, with a shallow basin and drain hole, in a moulded frame with a two-centred arch; in the wall near the arcade. Two 19thC memorials.

West wall: 'segmental-pointed rere-arch and the jambs of the west window enriched with a filleted shaft' (Haslam). Marble memorial of 1790, and another of 1865.

Tower. General. Ground floor now contains cloakrooms and modern toilet facilities. Tiled floor, plastered wall and domed ceiling visible to height of 1st floor. Pointed arch over pair of panelled doors with glass tympanum provide interior access to tower off north transept. Benefaction board on east wall includes dates of 1747 and 1752.

Chancel. General. On same level as nave. Encaustic tiles, heating grilles, and longitudinal choir stalls on raised planked floors to either side of the central aisle; one step up to sanctuary, two to altar. Round-armed seats at the rear of the screen and along adjacent walls (eleven along the south, eight on the north). Plastered walls. Modern ceiling of three arch-braced collars with king struts forming four bays; the long arch braces spring from stone corbels on both sides, except where the trusses coincide with window apertures.

North wall: organ set in chamber off wall and vestry access through a doorway on the east of the organ chamber recess. Marble wall tablet of 1762/1819 and another of 1875.

East wall: window contains stained glass from 1921, and the reredos below is constructed in red sandstone with marble, and has mosaic figures; of 1884.

South wall: heavy planked door set in a small two-centred arch in the south wall with chamfered but painted dressings; now blocked by seating - it provided access to the roodloft and the rectangular planked door above the loft is still in situ. Royal arms painted on board. Memorials of 1762/1819 and 1769/1803.

Vestry. General. Planked floors; plastered walls and ceiling.

South Transept (=Lymore Chapel). General. 19thC tiled floor, heating grille, two steps up to stone flagstones under the effigies on the south side. 17thC roof, restored in the 19thC (probably 1886), designed as a three-sided ceiling with sloping sides consisting on each side of 15 white side panels and a flat top of ten formed in two rows separated by black ribs. Panels are plastered and have decorated bosses consisting of gold stars. Oak beam exposed above arcading, but supporting the upper part of the transept wall, and supported on large timber corbels and braced wallposts.

East wall: plastered recess to exterior door; red sandstone piscina - medieval.

South wall: traces of wall paintings to west of window embrasure.

West wall: hatchment perhaps of 1801, and a 20thC memorial.

Churchyard

Long rectangular churchyard, occupying flattish ground within the town walls, though there is a gentle drop from south to north; no obvious sign of an extension. It has been suggested, though on what basis is unclear, that the plots to the west of the churchyard were sold off in the early 19thC and were formerly part of an earlier and larger enclosure. Well-maintained with modern burials and cremations located on the north side.

Boundary: a revetment wall on the north, east and south sides where it forms a boundary with roads. The stone wall varies from 1.25m to 2.2m in height. The western boundary, with the biggest drop, is now hedged to adjoining properties.

Monuments: mix of sandstone and slate slabs, chest tombs and crosses; fairly evenly distributed on all sides of the church. Several 18th to mid-19thC headstones and tombs of interest in varying styles which include chest tombs with urns such as that located in the south-east corner, in memory of Charles Gardiner Humphreys, solicitor (d.1803) and his wife. The earliest grave noted of 1760.

Furniture: octagonal fluted sundial located near the south porch; minus its plate and gnomon.

Ancillary features: the main entrance formed by a pair of wrought iron gates with an overarch and a light set in yellow sandstone pillars in the south wall; sunken path to the church door. North entrance has a pair of wrought iron gates and the path leads to the tower north door. Tarmac paths around the church.

Vegetation: several mature yews located on all sides of the churchyard; the largest near the south porch. Other trees of various species around the perimeter.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 8 February 1996 and 18 February 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 205
Eisel 1986, 190
Haslam 1979, 163
Lloyd 1979
Lloyd 1984
Powys SMR
Salter 1991, 21
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 Montgomery 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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