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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St Cewydd , Disserth

Disserth Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Disserth and Trecoed in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0344058360.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16771 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Disserth Church, CPAT copyright photo CS974923.JPG

Summary

St Cewydd's church at Disserth lies in a loop of the River Ithon less than 4km south-west of Llandrindod Wells. It is a fairly simple structure with nave and chancel in one and a west tower, but its importance lies in the fact that as Haslam notes 'it stands very much as a Victorian architect, called in for advice, might have found many of the Radnorshire churches'. The absence of 19thC restoration has left an interesting interior with box pews and decked pulpit of the early 18thC together with wall paintings and some monuments, and from an earlier age, the font and fragments of the rood screen. The churchyard is large and rectangular with some 18thC monuments, much overgrown.

Tower supposedly of c.1400, and of one build, though there is a blocked doorway on the north side; the battlements are thought to have been added within the last two hundred years or so.

No windows in body of church earlier than 16thC and wooden windows are probably later. However, the walls where not rebuilt, could be earlier, in keeping with the south doorway, and the single cell nave and chancel might be 14thC. Externally, it does appear that the tower butts up against the west wall of the nave though there are internal tower buttresses which RCAHMW thought were part of an earlier nave structure.

An in-depth analysis of the building sequence is required at Disserth.

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

History

The church is dedicated to St Cewydd, one of the less commonly commemorated saints who is thought to have lived in the 6thC. The location is also suggestive of an early medieval origin, but as is normal in the rural churches of Powys there is no direct evidence of such an early beginning.

In the Taxatio of Pope Nicholas it is recorded as 'Ecclesia de Dysserch' at a value of 6 13s 4d. 'Disserthe' also appears in the Valor Ecclesiasticus, its value at 16 seeming excessive for a small parish church.

Glynne visited Disserth, probably in the mid-19thC. He thought that the tower windows had a Decorated look, and that beneath the wooden east window the wall contained a flat-arched recess. Most of the other windows were modern and of the 'worse kind' The nave was ceiled and the chancel had a coved roof with ribs, while at the west end the gallery had been built across the tower arch. No mention was made of exterior whitewash.

There was no Victorian restoration, although the roof was ceiled over by the churchwardens in 1839. Except for the section over the sanctuary, the roof timbers were re-exposed by F. E. Howard in the ?early 20thC. Restoration took place in 1979.

Architecture

Disserth church comprises a nave and chancel in one, a west tower and a south porch. The building is aligned west-south-west/east-north-east, but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabrics: 'A' comprises medium to large blocks and slabs of light brown sedimentary stone; larger stones selected for quoins; some coursing. 'B' is of whitewashed masonry which appears to incorporate more rounded lumps than 'A', but more precise definition is not possible.

Roofs: slates, some newer than others; plain terracotta ridge tiles. No finials. Porch has large lozenge-shaped slates with lead flashing along the ridge. Tower has weathervane.

Drainage: none immediately obvious but there may be a filled-in trench, now bramble covered, along the north wall.

Exterior

Tower. General. Fabric A. Battered base topped by rectangular-sectioned string course. Second string course accompanied by waterspouts, just below battlemented parapet. Tower attributed to around c.1400 on the basis of ogee-headed windows, and one window reputedly contains a re-used piece of Decorated tracery. The battlements were added in the 18thC or early 19thC according to Howse.

North wall: tower stair in north-east corner revealed by swelling in wall, but only as high as belfry level. Lower string course stops at the point where the wall swell starts and there is a recess in the wall to a height of c.2.5m and some obvious infill in the plinth, indicating that there was originally an external door here. The stonework that forms this swelling abuts the nave and is evidently later in date. Above the recess is a simple slit window with single unchamfered stones for jambs - this lights the stair. Higher up the second stage are two centrally placed, belfry-like windows, one above the other, though it must be presumed that only the upper one lights the belfry. The lower is a rectangular window with a label, two two-centred arched lights with cinquefoil tracery and louvre boards. All the dressings are of creamy coloured freestone and look like 19thC/20thC renewals though there is no evidence of insertion in the masonry surround. Above is the second, larger, belfry window; it has a two-centred arch with hoodmould, two cusped lights with ogee-heads and a quatrefoil light above. If it is not possible to determine from ground level how much replacement of the dressings has occurred. Two waterspouts on upper string course.

East wall: nave roof apex rises to a level slightly lower than that of the lower of the two-light windows, and at the point where it abuts the tower is an arch of edge stones, indicative of another window. A wide slit window lights the stair just over half way up the wall face. Higher up is a standard belfry window, most of the dressings probably replaced.

South wall: main upper windows as on north wall; most if not all of the dressings renewed. Two waterspouts.

West wall: a little over 2m above ground level is a west window, identical but for the louvre boards with the belfry windows. Above this the standard square-headed and belfry windows seen in the other walls. All the dressings renewed. At base of wall are three slabs that may give access to a heating chamber.

Nave and chancel. General. Nave and chancel undifferentiated externally. Whitewashed rubble masonry, Fabric 'B'. Walls bow inwards and are sometimes plumb, sometimes not.

North wall: wall plate visible for entire length and acts as lintel to three windows. All are rectangular with wooden frames, leaded lights, and tooled blocks for jambs. Just to west of second window, the wall face is suddenly inset to a depth of about 0.15m; this patch of walling, reaching almost to the third window and down to within about 0.4m of ground level, is certainly rebuilt, and has a flatter surface. The older, bulging wall continues east of the third window, but close to the north-east corner, may again be replaced by a newer wall.

East wall: tapers upwards. A rectangular four-light window in wood, the lights with trefoil heads and sunken spandrels above; painted in maroon with red on lintel, and comparable except in its material to the window in the south wall of the chancel; attributed to the 16thC or perhaps the 17thC. Beneath the window the masonry looks like an infill but it is not clear what this signifies.

South wall: wall bulges and is very rough with wall plate projecting beyond wall top. From the east is: i) a chancel window of stone with three trefoil-headed lights under a label with sunken square stops; ii) standard two-light window in wood. Possibly the wall to the west of this is rebuilt - it tapers here more than elsewhere, and there are differences in the appearance of the masonry on either side of the window; iii) porch; and iv) a smaller two-light window in wood. Brooksby (RCAHMW) refers to a blocked priest's door: this was not seen at the time of the field visit.

West wall: tower butts up against this wall which at the south-west angle, has large well-dressed quoins.

Porch. East wall: single slit window and gravestone of 1821 set against wall.

South wall: two-centred arch with modern dressed stone for voussoirs, and cusped barge-boards, again modern. No gate.

West wall: as east wall.

Interior

Porch. General. Floor of flagstones and cobbles. Walls rendered. Roof ceiled and plastered, reportedly hiding an early timber roof.

North wall: two-centred arched doorway, with large unchamfered monolithic jambs, though to be 14thC by Haslam and perhaps a survival of the earlier church; formerly limewashed.

East wall: one small splayed window; stone bench with wooden seat, backed by old pew panels.

South wall: door reveal has socket for hinges.

West wall: as east wall.

Tower. General. Not accessible. Haslam noted that the stair doorways have chamfered jambs, the bottom one also a shouldered head and straight lintel. Also dressed stone from earlier windows used as jambs.

Nave. General. One step down from porch. Flagged floor but no obvious re-use of graveslabs; some carpet at entrance. Box pews throughout. Walls plastered and whitewashed, except for west (tower) wall which has only a coating of whitewash. 15thC roof - though Brooksby of RCAHMW thought it could be as early as the 14thC - of five and a half bays, with arch-braced collars above tie beams (perhaps inserted), apart from the second bay from the west which has a cusped, scissor truss; two tiers of deeply foiled windbraces and some panelling along the wall-plate.

North wall: the wall slopes outwards and this is more pronounced where reconstruction has occurred. Two deeply splayed windows. Two fragmentary wall paintings, a coat-of-arms to the east and panel with text to the east.

East wall: upright wall posts and rood-screen beam only.

South wall: splayed window; a high reveal for the door, considerably higher than the external arch, and its soffit more four-centred than two-centred. Just to east of the doorway is a fragmentary wall painting, and irregularities around this indicate some rebuilding of the wall.

West wall: a large voussoired, pointed tower arch, largely blocked off except for a modern doorway with a segmental head. At the angles are stepped buttresses, which RCAHMW thought might be part of earlier nave walls. No convincing evidence of the blocked window, the upper part of which is visible externally and also, reputedly inside the tower.

Chancel. General. Flagged floor, with one graveslab of 1850, perhaps in situ. Altar and sanctuary raised, and box pews on either side of the former. Walls as nave. Roof of three bays, ceiled over, .

North wall: splayed window and one mural tablet of 1752.

East wall: wall face slopes outwards; the side of the window embrasure are only slightly splayed but it has a deep sloping sill. An alcove just south of the altar, found during restoration works in 1953/54, has a cusped head and is of unknown age, though presumably medieval; and there is also a recess in the wall behind the altar. Also to the south is another wall painting. On the north side of the altar a mural tablet of 1822.

South wall: deeply splayed window; mural tablet of 1826, and a weathered 17thC slab leans against the wall.

Churchyard

Disserth churchyard is rectilinear, though with three somewhat rounded corners. It occupies level ground on the valley floor of the River Ithon which bends round the northern and western sides of the enclosure less than one hundred metres away. Despite some irregularities in the ground surface to the north of the church there are no traces of an earlier boundary.

It is still used for burials but is overgrown in places.

Boundary: this is defined by a stone wall in variable condition, though usually mortared. In places it is reinforced by a hedge and/or fence. Earth etc has been banked up against the inside of the wall, but generally there is little evidence to indicate that the interior of the yard is raised.

Monuments: these are spread across the southern part of the yard, and around the west of the church but there are none to the north. Locally dense, many are overgrown and in poor condition. A reasonable number of 18thC monuments are spread around with a few chest tombs close to the southern boundary. Modern burials lie to the west of the church.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: none.

Ancillary features: the main entrance in the north-east has a single long wooden gate and an adjacent kissing gate. Stile in south wall. Grass paths only.

Vegetation: four yews along eastern boundary, and three others to the west and south of the church: none of great age. Northern edge of the yard covered with mixed vegetation, some of it deliberately planted.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 13 February 1996
Crossley and Ridgway 1949, 228
Glynne 1897, 51
Haslam 1979, 229
Howse 1952
NMR Aberystwyth
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 Disserth 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 - chrismartin@cpat.org.uk, website - www.cpat.org.uk.

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