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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St Padarn , Llanbadarn Fawr

Llanbadarn Fawr Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Llanbadarn Fawr in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0869864302.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16810 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanbadarn Fawr Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0323.JPG

Summary

St Padarn's church sits on a terrace beside the River Ithon some 4km to the north-east of Llandrindod Wells. Present building erected in 1879, replacing a structure with some Norman features, but retaining the fine Romanesque south doorway. There are few other pre-19thC furnishings and fittings of any interest and the churchyard is not of distinctive form.

Church completely rebuilt, except perhaps for some limited masonry re-use. Haslam claimed "a successful rebuilding internally but not pleasing outside". Some 19thC features (e.g. small round-headed window on south side and roll-moulding to inner part of south door) mimic earlier architectural features.

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

History

The origins of Llanbadarn Fawr are lost, but an early medieval date for its foundation seems likely on the basis of its dedication and location.

Surviving architectural features indicate a stone church here in the first half of the 12thC, and around the year 1176, when engaged in an ecclesiastical dispute, Giraldus Cambrensis reputedly took refuge in the church (Howse).

In the 13thC the church was perhaps enlarged and lancet windows introduced. And Llanbadarn Fawr is probably to be equated with the 'Ecclesia de Lampadern' valued at 5 6s 8d in the 1291 Taxatio.

Williams, in 1818, described the church as a small edifice, consisting of only a single nave, or aisle. An old photograph (pre-1878) in church shows a long building with a small timber bell-tower and broach spirelet, and small windows. Plans and elevations of the pre-restoration church by Williams (see below) depict a flat-headed window at the west end and simple lancets elsewhere, while Williams also noted a small lancet window high up in the north wall which he thought had lit the rood loft.

Church was rebuilt by Stephen Williams of Rhayader in 1878-79 using local Llanfawr stone externally, and red Grinshill stone for the dressings. The Specification required the careful storage of sound masonry from the earlier building, presumably for re-use, and the preservation of a part of the east wall though this does not seem to have happened in practice.

A new vestry erected in 1905, the old vestry being used for the organ.

Architecture

Church consists of nave and fractionally narrower chancel, a vestry, with boiler house under, attached to north-west corner of former, and an earlier vestry adjoining north side of chancel, and a south porch with tower and spire over. Church is oriented a little south of grid west, but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabrics: 'A' is of fairly regular blocks of grey sedimentary rock (?a fine sandstone), randomly coursed; buff yellow sandstone dressings and quoins. 'B' is of more mixed sandstone rubble with some more granular rock, randomly coursed; of limited extent.

'A' is Victorian, 'B' could be indicative of selective re-use or in situ survival of earlier masonry.

Roofs: slates with toothed ridge tiles; cross finials of various types.

Drainage: gravel chippings all round church walls suggests drainage trench c.0.3m wide. Downpipes.

Exterior

General. Whole church built in Fabric 'A' except for small patch of 'B' at base of north wall of nave near north-west vestry, and just possibly at base of south wall. North-west vestry of slightly different masonry from rest of church.

Simple lancet windows, three at both east and west ends, individual elsewhere. One window, most westerly on south side, is round-headed imitation of what was there prior to restoration. East wall has battered plinth, west end a stepped string-course and angle buttresses. Porch has large two-centred arched doorway with complex mouldings and angle buttresses; simple lancet windows but belfry windows more ornamented. There is an attached stair turret protruding from west side.

Interior

Porch. General. Victorian encaustic tiled floor. Roof of flat ribbed panels. Victorian build but incorporating earlier stonework.

North wall: = south doorway of church. Claimed by Haslam as one of only two Romanesque carved tympana in Wales. "The reset oblong stone in the tympanum carved, not with the Christ-figure typical of the second half of the 12thC, but with two leaping lion-like animals with trefoiled tails in profile, facing a tree (of life) which grows from the frontally placed head of an animal. Beneath the smaller creature on the left is a sun-disc. Tau-pattern on lintel, which rests on two imposts, the west carved with a head, the east similar but defaced. These motifs are old ones, suggesting a date of c.1100-1150. The doorway has a pair of engaged columns, the west on a moulded base with the cushion capital decorated with fantastic creatures, the east on a fluted base with a capital decorated with two figures (Adam and Eve?) and between them a head not unlike the tympanum's. On these are two abaci, the west ornamented with lozenges, the east with serpents. They support the hoodmoulded arch, of two orders, the outer with incised zigzags, the inner with out-turned zigzags, which confirms an early 12thC date for this outlying work of the Herefordshire carvers" (Haslam). Limited replacement: one jambstone and undecorated part of tympanum. Victorian door is painted purple!

East wall: two Romanesque heads inset high up on wall, reportedly a Janus-type head and a 'sheila-na-gig'.

West wall: Roman inscribed stone.

Tower. Not accessible.

Nave. General. Patterned tiled floor with carpet over large parts, one heating grille, and wooden boards under benches. Roof of 7 bays with cusped trefoils above collars and arch-braces set on corbels; two tiers of windbraces. Bare walls of pink sandstone with deeply splayed windows. A large two-centred chancel arch with a hoodmoulding finishing in head-stops. South door has a roll-moulding in keeping with Norman predecessor. Recessed Caernarvon arch gives access to tower.

Mural tablets of 19thC date on north wall.

Chancel. General. Floor as nave but tiles more patterned; one step up to chancel, one to sanctuary. Wagon roof of 50 ribbed panels. Bare walls with deeply splayed window embrasures.

Mural tablets of 1733 and 1798 on south wall.

Churchyard

St Padarn's lies in north-eastern sector of an irregular rectilinear churchyard that occupies level ground on the river terrace of the Ithon.

Churchyard is well-kept (the best in Radnorshire in 1995).

Boundary is distinguished by stone wall with large coping stones which according to local information was put up around churchyard as late as 1892. Internally material is banked up against wall to maximum height of 0.5m, and overall external ground level is lower by between 0.5m-1.0m. At time of visit several lengths of wall on north side were being rebuilt.

Monuments: these are reasonably dense on south and south-west, and also on north where mainly of 19thC and 20thC. A few 18thC monuments but earliest is graveslab of 1735 leaning against south wall of nave.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: none.

Ancillary features: main entrance on north-east of double iron gates with adjacent kissing gate in same material. On west is gap in wall leading into farmyard, but now disused. Tarmac paths.

Vegetation: five yews and reasonable number of stumps.

Sources consulted

Church guide: n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 13 February 1996
Crossley and Ridgway 1949, 235
Davies 1905, 299
Faculty 1878: NLW/SD/F/241
Faculty 1905: NLW/SD/F/244
Haslam 1979, 240
Howse, 1949, 258
NMR Aberystwyth
Williams 1874, 51
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 Llanbadarn Fawr 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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