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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St Peter , Llanbedr Painscastle

Llanbedr Painscastle Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Painscastle in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1414346395.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16814 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanbedr Painscastle Church, CPAT copyright photo CS974633.JPG

Summary

St Peter's church at Llanbedr (often referred to as Llanbedr Painscastle) is contained within a large churchyard on a spur some 12km south-east of Builth Wells. The church is a relatively simple structure, much of it of medieval date though the nave has been partially rebuilt. Some of the architectural detail is crude yet effective, but the only internal fittings surviving from the Middle Ages are the font and a stoup in the porch.

Nave is thought to be 14thC, but the west wall, the upper part of north wall and perhaps some of south wall are rebuilt; it may be significant that the diagnostic windows in the north wall are set in a matrix of 19thC masonry. Chancel is attributed to 15thC and retains most if not all of its medieval masonry, though the windows have seen varying levels of renewal; the east wall of the nave demolished when chancel was built and its successor is aligned with the chancel rather than the nave. The porch has nothing diagnostic and could even be 19thC.

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

History

Llanbedr does not possess any of the obvious indicators of an early medieval origin, but the fact that it served the settlement of Painscastle, newly emerged in the Middle Ages, indicates that it was probably well established by that time. In the 1291 Taxatio it appears as 'Ecclesia de Lanpedr' with a fairly average value of 5 6s 8d.

Jonathan Williams, in 1818, described the church as having a low tower containing three bells, but Kilvert on a visit here in 1872 considered the church to be a ruin.

The church was restored in 1879 by J. Evins of Hereford, at the expense of Captain Mynors and the people of the parish. In gratitude the vicar gave Mynors the Tudor chalice belonging to the church.

Architecture

The church consists of a nave with a west bellcote, a chancel on a slightly different alignment, and a south porch which is placed towards the western end of the nave. It is oriented fractionally south of true east.

Fabrics: 'A' of grey and grey-brown sandstone and shale; slabs and some blocks; irregularly coursed; better dressed sandstone for the quoins. 'B' as 'A' but primarily grey shale blocks, though in places more mixed. 'C' is of large blocks and slabs of fine-grained sedimentary rock (?mudstone), of irregular shape and much of it iron-stained. 'D' is of regular slabs of iron-stained sandstone; irregularly coursed.

'A' is 14thC, 'C' is 15thC, 'B' is 19thC, and 'D' is uncertain but could also be 19thC.

Roofs: slate with terracotta ridge tiles. Nave has a broken finial at east end, chancel and porch have complete ones.

Drainage: shale slabs set on edge in gullies along north and south sides, with bricks substituted along the three sides of the chancel. Only on the west side is there no obvious drainage.

Exterior

Nave. General. Nave thought to be 14thC. Bellcote has two openings both with cinquefoil heads with Fabric 'B' carried up to it.

North wall: 'A' and 'B', the former is the masonry for the lower part of the wall, rising to eaves height closer to the wall ends; centrally, however, 'B' drops well below window level in the central part of the wall and both windows are set in a matrix of it; possibly the north-west angle is also in 'B'. Remnants of limewash or render low down on the wall are on 'A'. Features from west are i) a massive and broad trefoil-headed light with chamfered dressings in grey sandstone; it is crude but effective; ii) a window with two lights that have cinquefoil heads; these are of red sandstone except for one stone and this plus the mullion are clearly replacements; the dressings chamfered.

East wall: there is little to see of the wall but undoubtedly the chancel abuts the nave.

South wall: in 'A', but it is conceivable that some of the masonry is 'B' though the wall face is much too weathered to be certain. From the west: i) the porch; ii) a two-light window, the lights with cinquefoil heads; possibly some of the dressings have been replaced; iii) mural tablets of 1801 and 1778.

West wall: mostly in 'B'. West window has three lights with cinquefoil heads and cusped panels over; together with the relieving arch a wholly Victorian feature, but replacing what Haslam termed 'debased Perpendicular tracery'.

Chancel. General. Chancel about 1m lower than nave. Fabric 'C'.

North wall: Fabric 'C', fresh appearance. Single two-centre arched window with three trefoil-headed lights with cusped panel tracery above; one jamb obviously replaced but appearance of small slabs as poor-quality infilling around window head may reveal that rather more has been replaced in the past. Nevertheless, an unusual Perpendicular window.

East wall: heavy pointing and more weathered than north wall. Small rectangular window with a single cinquefoil-headed light, high up in gable; all the dressings are chamfered, the head is in pink sandstone, the rest in grey. Much damaged wall tablet of 1860 to south of window.

South wall: from east the features are: i) similar three-light window to that in north wall, but more of it is original; ii) priest's door with depressed arch and small chamfers. The door itself has big hinges and could be 19thC; iii) a square-headed two-light window with cinquefoil heads, a larger version of that in the east wall, with some dressings replaced in yellow sandstone.

Porch. General. Fabric 'D'. Generally considered to be a modern replacement of an earlier structure.

East and west walls: plain, but the latter clearly abuts the nave.

South wall: plain rectangular entrance with thick stone walls supporting wooden boarded gable.

Interior

Porch. General. Flagged floor. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Roof of eight scissor trusses (Victorian?).

North wall: completely whitewashed, round-headed doorway, chamfered dressings with different stops on opposite jambs; jamb stones original with sharpening marks showing; arch stones replaced, thus throwing into question whether this represents the original shape, and indeed Kay in 1960 (NMR record) claimed a pointed arch; door relatively modern. On east side of door is a rectangular recess containing an hexagonal stoup with a horizontal moulded rib.

East and west walls: plain.

South wall: double wooden gates give access; erected subsequent to 1980 according to an inscription.

Nave. General. Slate floor covered by carpet; benches and modern furniture such as the organ raised on wooden boarding. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Roof of collars and scissor trusses comparable with porch; the trusses are slightly skewed to the axis of the nave.

North wall: wall leans outwards. Two rectangular splayed windows with only the dressings not whitewashed. Only fitting is an Incorporated Church Building Society plaque recording a grant in 1868.

East wall: round-headed, unchamfered chancel arch skewed to the alignment of the chancel; its date is uncertain - it could even be Victorian. At a height of c.2.5m the wall is inset and the wall face above this and to the south of the arch is irregular - this presumably indicates the position of a former roof beam in position before the chancel arch was created.

South wall: wall leans outwards but not so pronounced as north wall; one deeply splayed window; doorway reveal has a cambered arch, narrow chamfers on the jambs with stops at the top, and broken and replaced at bottom.

West wall: deeply splayed window.

Chancel. General. Floor as nave but one step up to sanctuary, and another to altar. Choir stalls on flush wooden block flooring. Much of sanctuary is carpetted and at least one re-used slab visible dating to 1740/1764. Walls as nave. Wagon roof of 24 panels.

North wall: wall leans outwards; deeply splayed rectangular window embrasure, the original dressings once limewashed. Six mural tablets, all but one of the 18thC.

East wall: plain but for small splayed window.

South wall: deeply splayed windows; doorway with a faintly splayed reveal, and a two-centred head which is eccentric to the outside arch. One mural tablet of the early 19thC.

West wall: chancel arch and three mural tablets of 19thC date.

Churchyard

This is a large irregular churchyard, giving the impression of curvilinearity though in fact formed of a series of fairly straight sections. It is sited on a broad spur between converging streams and though the enclosed area is relatively flat in parts, the land does fall away in the southern sector.

In view of its large size the churchyard is well maintained with the only overgrown areas around the perimeter. Unsurprisingly it is still used for burial.

Boundary: a stone wall in a variable state of repair defines the boundary for almost the whole perimeter, the exception being a short section of wire fence to the east of the north-west gate, though elsewhere, particularly on the south, the wall is reinforced by a fence. The wall appears in different guises, sometimes drystone, occasionally mortared and on the south-west has an intermittent facing of large slabs. There is little evidence to suggest the churchyard has a raised interior.

Monuments: these form an arc from the west round to the east side of the church and are confined pretty well within the earthwork around the south side of the church (see below). Within this arc they are packed in places. New burials occur to the south-west, while some at least of the weathered tombs to the south and south-east must be 18thC. The earliest inscription identified was of 1743.

Furniture: the circular base of what was once a cross-shaft now supports a lamp on a wooden pillar about 60m to the south of the west end of the church.

Earthworks: to the south of the church is a semi-circular scarp bank up to 2m high which curves back towards the south-east corner of the chancel. Whether it represents the perimeter of an earlier enclosure is impossible to determine, though it may be noted that a yew of some antiquity grows on its lip. East and north-east of the church is a faint scarp: this does not tie in with that already described and its purpose and origin remain obscure.

Ancillary features: the main entrance comprising small double ornamental gates hanging on stone posts lies to the east of the church and is linked to the porch by a concrete path. On the north-west is an ornamental field gate with a grass path through the churchyard. A disused stile is set in the perimeter on the south-west.

Vegetation: there are only two yews, one on the old bank to the south of the church, another beside a former footpath to the west of the church. Small trees have been planted along the northern perimeter and there are some bushes on the south.

Sources consulted

Church notes: n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 19 October 1995
Davies, 1905, 253
Haslam 1979, 242
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 Llanbedr Painscastle 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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