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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St Michael , Cefnllys

Cefnllys Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Penybont in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0849261506.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16743 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Cefnllys Church, CPAT copyright photo 356-29.JPG


The remote church of St Michael at Cefnllys, a little more than 2km to the east of Llandrindod Wells, is basically a medieval structure that has witnessed substantial post-medieval restoration. The 15thC screen is arguably its most interesting feature, while the font, piscina and aumbry can also be attributed to pre-Reformation times. The church occupies an irregularly shaped churchyard which contains a relatively small number of monuments.

Elements of church are believed to date to the 13thC, primarily the outline plan and lower courses of some walls, including perhaps the tower base; the round-headed south doorway looks early and could well be of this date, though conceivably it could be 17thC.

On the basis of paired lights in the east and north walls, some reconstruction work in 16thC, including construction of porch and by analogy, the priest's door. Work may have extended more widely over south side where there were flat-headed windows prior to last decade of 19thC.

More drastic rebuilding at the end of the 19thC. Work included rebuilding walls including much of tower, the east wall of the chancel above window level as demonstrated by change in thickness and disappearance of slit window shown on old photograph, large parts of south wall, replacing windows and adding a new hammerbeam and arch-braced roof. Early photos in the church show the building before restoration.

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


There are few early references to this church, and a medieval rather than early medieval origin seems likely. St David's Episcopal Register refers to 'Kevenllice' in 1513, while 'Kenllys' is recorded in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535.

The parish book indicates that there were some repairs to the church in 1684, and that a new gallery was added in 1724/25.

In 1893, the rector of Llandrindod Wells had the roof removed from the church to persuade the parishioners to attend the new church in the town. This move was unsuccessful and the church was restored in 1895, probably, Haslam thought, by Nicholson & Sons of Hereford, because of similarities in their work at Old Llandrindod in 1894.


The church consists of nave and chancel in one, a west tower and a porch. It is oriented west-north-west/east-south-east.

Fabrics: 'A' is of roughly quarried stone or irregular shape (shales, volcanic ash, etc), poorly coursed in places, with more regular blocks selected as quoins. 'B' is similar but with less variation in stone type and blocks more regular in shape. 'C' distinguished by large quarried blocks of shale, particularly for quoins.

Roofs: all slates, some renewed, tiled apex to nave.

Drainage: no obvious sign of drainage around base of building.


Tower. General. Fabric C. Batter on base for 1.8m, and is earlier part of tower for there are quoins in distinctive volcanic stone only on batter. Small, squat, broach spire, supported on corbels at eaves level.

North wall: in first stage, a Victorian lancet, hoodmould, relieving arch of dressed stones; second stage has a similar window but hoodmould integrated with string-course at springing point.

East wall: plain, no features.

South wall: as north wall.

West wall: details as north wall but double lights rather than single lancets; in third stage, a window roundel with trefoil moulding.

Nave/Chancel. General. All Fabric A. Similarity in fabric between older and newer parts of south wall implies re-use of older materials.

North wall: three windows; from east: i) Victorian lancet with trefoil head and hoodmould; ii) paired lancet lights with dressed stone for mullion, worked stone for jambs (perhaps re-used?), large sill stone and single block for the lights (originally medieval but perhaps more likely to be 16thC or even later); and iii) double-light, pointed arch of Victorian date.

East wall: shows considerable variation in stone of Fabric A; a window of two lancet lights, again likely to be 16thC or later, with dressed stone jambs and mullion, more southerly light has volcanic ash used for arch; incomplete relieving arch over window; wall probably rebuilt above window level where faint change in fabric.

South wall: Fabric A but more variety in stone towards east end; two windows plus two doors; from east: single light Victorian window with hoodmould; then priest's door, four-centred slightly irregular arch of tooled stone, modern door in reveal; two-light Victorian window; main doorway (in porch) with chamfered, rounded arch; beneath west window, wall shows distinct inset and west of this the surface of wall more uneven, suggesting earlier build, probably continued as foundation course further west.

West wall: Victorian lancet with hoodmould and stops to north of tower; to south of tower, similar window with hoodmould stop flush to tower wall; south of window and below it wall stepped out, suggesting earlier survival comparable with south wall.

Porch. General. All Fabric B, heavily pointed. Thought to be 16thC.

East wall: two large grave slabs held by metal staples, one of ?1752, the other 1775/1795.

South wall: four-centred arch, dressed stone jambs comparable with priest's door, modern wooden gates.

West wall: nothing of interest.


Porch. General. Formerly limewashed; tiled floor, benches along east and west sides, and modern wooden roof.

East wall: 1773 memorial slab or gravestone against wall.

North wall: south door of church and the main entrance. Round-arched doorway with chamfered jambs.

West wall: tablet recording Hendry Bank Common rights (1885), with photo of old church hanging above.

Tower. Not accessible.

Nave/Chancel. General. Whitewashed plaster, arch-braced, hammer-beam roof, exposed rafters, boarded underside; the chancel trusses are distinguished by pierced apex treatment and quatrefoil ornamental wall-brackets, all recent; Victorian tiled floor throughout, except for wood block floors beneath seating and stone base of font. South wall slopes slightly outwards. Chancel raised above rest of church.

North wall: deeply splayed windows; medieval or later double-light window has eroding stonework and some replacement of jamb and mullion stones; most easterly window has pointed arch, the others are flat-topped; two mid-19thC mural tablets.

East wall: window deeply splayed, pointed arch and dressing originally limewashed. Prior to 1893, internal arch was round-headed. Wall face set back at c.5m above ground level and just above eaves level. Early wood-lined aumbry low down to south of altar.

South wall: simple, early piscina in rectangular niche between most easterly window and south-east corner; priest's door has low flattened arch, two-light window a flat-headed embrasure; and main south doorway a somewhat irregular, segmental, arch; one mural tablet of 1806 near south-west corner.

West wall: pointed arches to both Victorian lancets; tower doorway has steep, two-centred arch; wall face set back above eaves level but lower than the step in the east wall; stone mural tablets of 1825 and 1832, and wooden example of 1771 over tower door.


In a remote setting, where the River Ithon loops round isolated hill, this the setting of Cefnllys Castle. Formerly the centre of a borough, but now nothing more than a couple of ruins and some indeterminate earthworks.

Church and churchyard set on lip of river terrace with Ithon to west. Churchyard irregular in shape defined by stone wall of unmortared dump construction on south-west, giving way to revetment wall on west and north where ground level higher in churchyard than outside, and a low wall set forward of an even lower bank.

Monuments: spread sparsely and lying in main to east and south-east of church. Nothing pre-dating the 19thC except for slabs against porch wall, and most recent burial from 1991.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: none.

Ancillary features: wooden kissing gate and field gate on south-east, metal kissing-gate on south; stone paths from both lead to porch.

Vegetation: yews spaced irregularly around whole perimeter.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings: 1993
Church leaflet n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 19 July 1995
Crossley and Ridgway 1949, 224
Haslam: 1979, 224
Morris 1919
Silvester 1994, 30
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 Cefnllys Church may also be found on the Swansea and Brecon Diocese website.

The CPAT Radnorshire 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 ( 22:02:45 ).
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 -, website -

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