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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St Mary , Gladestry

Gladestry 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 SO2306255106.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16780 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Gladestry Church, CPAT copyright photo 95150023.JPG

Summary

The church of St Mary the Virgin at Gladestry, some 6km to the west of Kington and close to the English border is set in a near rectangular raised churchyard. It is first referred to in the mid-13thC and the earliest architectural features date to that period; the amount of 19thC and 20thC restoration appears to have been limited. It contains a medieval font and an early capital converted into a piscina.

The earliest architectural features are the south wall of the 13thC nave and, from the 14thC, the chancel arch and the main south doorway. A tower may have existed at this time.

Late in the 14thC the nave and possibly the chancel were widened, though a 16thC rebuild for the chancel has also been suggested; on the basis of its windows the north aisle is also 14thC, together with its arcade.

In the 15thC, the nave roof was replaced and the south porch added. In the 16thC windows were replaced in the chancel and its roof replaced.

The splay-foot spire was added in 1719 to accommodate new bells, and this time the early tower was modified and perhaps even lowered. The church was restored in 1910 and most of the stained glass dates from the earlier 20thC.

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

History

The origin and early development of Gladestry are not recorded but there is nothing to indicate an early medieval beginning.

It is recorded as 'Ecclesia de Clandestr' with a value of 5 6s 8d in the Taxatio of 1291.

Glynne visited the church in 1870, noting the lancet windows, the open seating, and the trefoiled piscina near the altar.

Some restoration took place in 1910, though the Specification suggests this was primarily concerned with the roof tiling and repointing of the walls.

Howse mentions having seen in the 1920s a heap of 15thC glass and tangled lead lying in the churchyard - removed to make way for a modern stained glass window.

Architecture

The church consists of a nave, a lean-to north aisle, a chancel with a bellcote, a south porch and a west tower with spire. The building is aligned south-south-west/north-north-east, but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabric: 'A' of coursed rubble, predominantly thin shale slabs with some larger blocks. 'B' is a variation of the above, containing fresher stone, some sawn. 'C' is similar to 'B' the stone showing more iron staining. The distinction may have no chronological or structural significance. 'D' is of slabs interspersed with squarer blocks.

'A' is perhaps 13thC; 'C' is 14thC, 'B' is 15thC, and 'D' could be 14thC or 16thC..

Stonework is pointed externally and internally, except for limewashed interior of porch.

Roofs: tower has slates, recently replaced at higher levels. Nave, north aisle and chancel roofs of shale slabs, the first of these with fleur-de-lys ridge tiles. Sanctus bell over east end of nave.

Drainage: no evidence of drainage trenches.

Exterior

Tower. General. Fabric 'A'. a very low step at the base, now concrete covered, giving appearance of projecting plinth. Rectangular-sectioned string course above first stage windows. Splay-foot spire, rising from low pyramidal roof, claimed to be c.24m high, surmounted by weathervane in form of flying serpent with date of 1709 and churchwardens' initials.

North wall: lower part blocked by lean-to shed. Slit window with shale jambs in second stage; above, a broad-silled, square-headed louvred window with freestone dressings, lighting belfry - of late date.

East wall: narrow belfry window with square head to window and chamfered jambs.

South wall: ground floor has small, trefoil-headed modern doorway; above it is an original small foiled window with leaded lights; the second stage has a slit window and the belfry window is louvred with unchamfered freestone dressings, one with a plugged hole suggesting the stone is re-used; wooden window frame as on the north side. There is a butt joint with the nave above 2.5m but it is bonded in at lower levels.

West wall: slit windows above and below the string-course and a belfry window comparable with that on east, its dressings chamfered and the window probably earlier than those on the north and south.

North aisle. General. Walls largely of Fabric 'A', but of fresher appearance than tower.

North wall: two windows, that to west is a single square-headed light with original dressings, complex tracery and a foiled ogee head, its disproportionate size suggesting it may have been cut down for re-use? To east is a double light of simple design, also with original dressings, foiled two-centred heads and sunken spandrels in a square-headed window. Both date to the 14thC; these windows are said to contain fragments of 15thC glass. Three buttresses, all Victorian additions. East wall: three-light window with panel tracery, a Victorian or later addition.

West wall obscured by lean-to structure.

Nave. General. It appears to have been heightened or rebuilt on south side and probably on north, reportedly late in 14th century. Sanctus bellcote at east end with bell of 1921.

North wall: restricted wall face because of aisle. Fabric 'C', heavily pointed; drip-course above aisle roof.

East wall: higher than chancel by c.0.6m.

South wall: in Fabric 'A' except for uppermost 1.5m in Fabric 'C', spreading down above lancet window. Three windows from west: i) west of porch, a single lancet, a replacement; ii) east of porch is a single lancet; iii) further east is a double lancet. Al have chamfered dressings which are renewed in pale freestone. Large buttress at south-east end could be pre-19thC.

West wall: visible only in north-west corner where uppermost courses built around existing tower.

Chancel. General. Walls generally Fabric 'D'; upper courses less weathered, or perhaps raised? (cf. nave).

North wall: two square-headed 16thC Perpendicular windows, both of three lights, with foiled ogee heads; in sandstone though most dressings replaced, only the jambs original. Infilled roundel between windows of unknown purpose. Buttress at north-east corner is an addition.

East wall: Fabric 'D' incorporating some sandstone blocks; four-light window with foiled two-centred heads, sub arches and panel tracery, sandstone dressings renewed in 1910 throughout. Some visible evidence that roof raised.

South wall: two three-light windows with sandstone dressings, comparable with those in north wall; much replacement leaving only jambs. Priest's door with a two-centred arch (13thC?) and chamfered sandstone jambs that have stops near the base; stonework appears fresh but it is not clear how much has been renewed. Two buttresses, the more westerly having a (?re-used) slab which shows an illegible inscription at height of 1.6m from ground. 19thC mural tablets on wall.

Porch. General. A high porch, perhaps of 15thC date. Fabric 'B'.

East and west walls: butt jointed against nave.

South wall: an (?)original doorway with pointed arch, chamfered jambs, yet little weathering.

Interior

Porch. General. A stone slab floor with stone benches against east and west walls. 15thC roof has foiled windbraces and three trusses with peaked tie beams, collars and raking struts.

North wall: main doorway to nave, 14thC, with pale sandstone dressings, the chamfers ending in pyramidal stops; some jamb stones replaced. Door itself has elaborate strap hinges.

East wall: two niches at height of c.1.9m, and a broken stoup by nave doorway.

Tower. General. Not accessible.

North aisle. General. Stone slab floor with cast iron heating vents running alongside rear pews. Simple 19thC/20thC roof of three bays with arch-braced tie beams and intermediate close-set arch-braced collars.

North wall: window embrasures different, that to east meeting at shallow point, that to west having shouldered arch. Stone benefaction tablet of 1744 set near east window.

East wall: inner arch of window embrasure probably original, sill tiled; altar set against wall with shallow piscina adjacent.

South wall: see north wall of nave.

West wall: three marble mural tablets, one of 1767.

Nave. General. Floor of stone slabs. Roof dates from 15thC, with corbels supporting arch-braced tie beams, king-posts and close-set collars and braces - some replacement?

North wall: arcade of three bays with responds and thin moulded capitals on octagonal piers; two roof corbels with carved heads of man and woman between bays; the rest are plain.

East wall: eccentric 14thC chancel arch - lofty, double-chamfered, with inner order dying into wide responds; oak screen removed since 1922.

South wall: three square-headed splayed window embrasures, the most westerly showing evidence of replacement.

West wall: tower doorway, also eccentric; a simple pointed arch with relieving slabs above, and chamfered jambs; approached by two steps up from nave.

Chancel. General. On same level as nave, but one step up to sanctuary and two to altar. Floor partly tiled, partly stone slabs; choir stalls and altar raised on wooden plinths; organ on north side. Fine 16thC roof of arch-braced collar construction with six narrow bays, 16 oak studs carved on the underside of each truss; two and a half rows of quatrefoil windbracing.

North wall: two windows, splayed embrasures, wooden lintels, sills hidden.

East wall: window only.

South wall: two windows with details as north wall; priest's door with higher reveal, turned in sandstone and untidy infilling above door itself; it also has (or had in 1922) an original oak bolt; a fine piscina beneath more easterly window, formed from a transitional Norman to Early English capital for a four-shafted pier, hollowed as a bowl, the decoration being interlaced foliage with fleshy leaves, set on a slab projecting from the wall; adjacent is an aumbry, plain with a pointed arch, but its back face originally painted light red.

Churchyard

Gladestry church occupies a medium-sized, rectilinear churchyard, set on flat ground above the Gladestry Brook, the valley of which is steep-sided but relatively shallow. There is no sign of an earlier perimeter or any extension.

The boundary varies from the north-west corner where there is an external stone wall with soil banked up internally, a relatively formless bank in the vicinity of the south-west corner, no boundary above the stream on the south-west, and a stone wall with no internal bank from just west of the south gate around the east and some of the north side, though there is an external drop beyond wall.

Monuments: isolated chest-tombs lie immediately to the south of the church, but otherwise this part is clear. The main burials are to the north, and to the east where they are tightly packed with some tipping over; there is also a small group of burials in the south-west corner. Earliest are three ledgers to the south of the nave, the most legible being of 1738.

Furniture: a modern cross, acting as a War Memorial is set on the earlier, square, three-step base of the churchyard cross near the east gate; the shaft of the earlier cross was seen by Glynne in 1870.

Earthworks: to north-east of the church is a slightly raised curvilinear area (up to 1m high), the south-east side fading into the natural slope. Could it be natural or perhaps rubble from earlier church?

Ancillary features: main wooden gate on the east, a smaller wooden gate on west, and a metal gate on south-east.

Vegetation: yews along west and south edges of churchyard, one of those on the south being of some age.

Sources consulted

Biggerton-Evans 1922
Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings for Gladestry Community: 1995
CPAT Field Visit: 18 May 1995
Davies 1905, 173
Faculty 1910: NLW/SD/F/173
Glynne 1897, 51
Haslam 1979, 232
Howse, 1949, 251 & 258


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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 Gladestry 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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