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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St David , Colva

Colva Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Gladestry in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1996853133.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16751 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Colva Church, CPAT copyright photo CS974713.JPG


St David's Church is set in a small rectangular churchyard high in the Radnorshire hills about 10km south-west of Kington; it has a single chamber which may date back to the 13thC, although much rebuilt, a timber bell-turret at the west end and a 15thC timbered porch. Inside the font dates to c.1200, and several wall paintings were uncovered during the 1980s.

Church is of at least four periods. The lower walls are original and on the basis of a re-set lancet in north wall are claimed to be part of a 13thC structure; however the south door, probably 15thC, could be equally relevant in dating this earliest surviving masonry. The upper walls as well as the gable ends are rebuilt, presumably in the 19thC, though Kay (referenced in NMR) argued that the rebuilding of the east end was later than that of the side walls. If the rectangular window in the north wall is the same date as the surrounding masonry (18thC) this could well be the case. The porch is in part 15thC.

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


Nothing is known of the origin and early history of Colva church. Davies (1905) records that the chapelries of Colva and Rhulen were attached to Glascwm, and this would explain the absence of a reference to the church in either of the 13thC Taxatios or in the 16thC Valor Ecclesiasticus.

It is evident that the church has been restored on at least one occasion in the last two hundred years, but no information as to when this occurred has been recovered. A restoration in 1955 included work on a replacement roof, the excavation of the drainage trench along the north side of the building, renovation of the bell turret, and internally work on the floor and the plasterwork. Further restoration apparently occurred in the 1980s.


Colva church comprises a single chamber with a pyramidal timber bell-turret over the west end, and a south porch. It is oriented north-east/south-west, but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here for descriptive purposes.

Fabrics: 'A' is of grey shale slabs of broadly rectangular shape but showing some variation. 'B' is similar to 'A' but the slabs are thicker and more regular in shape, and on the west wall in particular they show iron staining. Plaster residue is apparent on both types of masonry.

'A' is original fabric though whether this is medieval is unclear; 'B' was used in the Victorian rebuilding.

Roofs: wooden shingles, but bell turret may have slates.

Drainage: terrace on north side may act as drain but now overgrown. Nothing elsewhere.


Bell turret. General. Pyramidal roof. North and south sides have weather boarding and louvred windows; east side lacks window; stonework of west wall carried up to form this side of turret; perhaps 18thC; two bells.

Nave and chancel. North wall: wall face bows inwards along its length. Fabric 'A' for first metre from ground level, then 'B' for rest of face, except at extreme north-west corner where the latter appears to drop to ground level. At the interface between the two there is a narrow plastered band for well over 50% of the length of the wall; its purpose is not entirely clear but possibly it is reinforcing poor quality masonry. Fabric 'B' lips over it from above, Fabric 'A' beneath it is inset slightly, and where the plaster dies out the wall face has a flatter more vertical face. Features from west are: i) the top of a blocked lancet window showing as a crumbling shale arch, probably 13thC in date; high up on wall face, built into matrix of Fabric 'B', and with the blocking in the same material; no jambs are apparent and it is clear, given its position in the wall, that it is re-set as an architectural curiosity; ii) a rectangular window set across the divide between the two fabrics; only one dressed jambstone, woodwormed lintel, wooden window frame and mullion to form two-light window of late date, perhaps 18thC; iii) small slit window lighting chancel with dressed sandstone jambs, chamfered lintel and sill, all original.

East wall: bulging wall primarily in Fabric 'B', but 'A' towards base of north-east corner. Two-light Victorian window, the lights with trefoiled heads and a relieving arch in slabs on edge; gable more heavily pointed than rest of wall face; 19thC and 20thC gravestones lean against wall.

South wall: again Fabric 'A' for lower part of wall and Fabric 'B' for upper, the juncture of variable height but generally between 1.3m-1.6m; the lower part of the wall bulges and is faintly battered, the upper part is closer to vertical and set back very slightly; at south-west angle 'B' dips down to ground level. From east are: i) two-light window with pointed head, chamfered sandstone dressings, Victorian; ii) window with two round-headed lights, chamfered shale dressings flaking and cracking, and arch formed of slabs on edge which are supported on small 'corbels' at springer level; 18thC; iii) porch; iv) small rectangular aperture, not splayed, wooden window frame, high up in a surround of Fabric 'B'.

West wall: in Fabric 'B'; plain.

Porch. General. In Fabric 'A', and dated to 15thC.

East wall: plain and rather irregular surface; top 0.3m of the wall could be later heightening.

South wall: entrance consists of an arch-braced tie beam springing on the west from a modern stone wall stub and on the east from a rotting wall post; the gable has principal rafters and minor struts, and most of this timber is original.

West wall: plinth at c.0.3m, almost level with internal bench; wall slightly bowed and at a height of c.1.3m the wall is inset suggesting heightening (or rebuilding) of the top 0.3m-0.4m.


Porch. General. Floor has stone slabs; one step up to door. Walls bare, except for north wall. Roof has two bays, the outer trusses (including that on outside) have arch-braced trusses with soffit chamfers, springing from wall posts; the central truss has a collar beam with cusped apex, and there are also cusped windbraces; new rafters.

North wall: = south wall of nave, plastered and whitewashed. Two-centred arched doorway, with ornate mouldings in sandstone, original, and almost certainly 15thC. Above door, the distinction between Fabrics 'A' and 'B', visible externally, can be traced under plaster as an inset. The wooden door is itself of some age and is reinforced by modern struts.

East wall: stone bench with slab seats; bulging wall; repointed masonry.

West wall: as east wall. but only minor outward lean. Anomaly in masonry in north-west corner between last truss and nave wall, but for which no obvious explanation.

Vestry. General. Two concrete steps up from nave; floor carpetted. Belfry 'floor' near eaves level.

East wall: partition, partly a support for the bell-turret (and also see below).

South wall: deeply splayed window but asymmetrical.

West wall: whitewashed but not plastered.

Nave. General. Floor has stone flags at entrance, then one step up into nave; stone flags behind benches, under font etc; tiles down central walkway, part carpetted; red painted concrete under benches. Kay (in NMR record) claimed that flags included some re-used graveslabs at west end. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Roof of five bays (including sanctuary) with arch-braced collar trusses on moulded stub ties (or 'corbels'), two of them with tie beams, the ties chamfered with ogee-stops; three rows of through purlins.

North wall: wall leans outwards at a height of about 2m, and in the area of the only window, the wall is outset just above it, suggesting perhaps some rebuilding, though it does not appear to coincide with the masonry change on external face; there is also a disconformity in the plaster face that might correspond with the blocked lancet window. Wall has dado of old box pews to height of c.1.0m except behind organ which was the location of the former stove; deeply splayed window embrasure with wooden lintel to the soffit. Six fragmentary wall paintings including skull and cross bones.

South wall: wall battered to height of 1.3m; higher up slight offset just below tie-beam level, visible intermittently for whole length of wall. Box pews used as panelling as on north. Deeply splayed window with wooden lintel. Doorway has rectangular reveal with wooden lintel; door itself of some antiquity. Three wall paintings.

West wall: unplastered plinth supports re-used beam (with occasional peg-holes) and above partition wall of lathe and plaster with studs, separating nave from vestry. Simple rectangular door to vestry. Above the partition is a tie beam and an 18thC coat of arms rests on this.

Sanctuary. General. Step up from nave; carpet on floor. Walls plastered and whitewashed.

North wall: deeply splayed window, the splay asymmetrical, and there is a flat sill in contrast to other windows. To east of it a mural tablet of 1833.

East wall: deeply splayed window lacking any ancient stonework. An offset in the wall above the window provides ledge for former tie beam. Two wall paintings above four mural tablets of 1789, 1773, 1779 and 1807.

South wall: splayed window embrasure with wall painting above it.


The rectangular churchyard, oriented on a north-west/south-east alignment is set on a slope that drops reasonably gently south-eastwards. The church is terraced into this slope.

There is no sign that it has ever been extended, it is still used for burials, but particularly on the west and north is badly overgrown during the summer months.

Boundary: separating the yard from the road to the south-east is a stone wall with flat ground behind and a 2m drop to the road. The other three sides are similar in that the boundary is a wall often incorporating large blocks of stone, but earth has banked up behind the wall and a wire fence has been added to keep out stock.

Monuments: these are of variable density and are largely to be found to the south and south-east of the church. Many are lichen covered with their faces flaking off. One chest tomb of 1779 was noted but the majority are 19thC and later.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: none.

Ancillary features: simple wooden gate on the south with a grass path leading to the porch. In addition there is an ornate garden gate to the field on the east.

Vegetation: six yew trees scattered irregularly in front of the church, two on the perimeter bank.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings: 1995
CPAT Field Visit: 28 July 1995
Davies 1905, 172 & 317
Faculty 1955: NLW/SD/Arch. Rep. 1
Haslam 1979, 226
NMR Aberystwyth

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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 Colva 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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