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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St Matthew , Llanelwedd

Llanelwedd Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Llanelwedd in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0466651788.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16845 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanelwedd Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0328.JPG


St Matthew's church at Llanelwedd faces Builth Wells across the River Wye, less than one mile away. A few architectural details and rather more masonry survive from the medieval structure that underwent substantial restoration in 1877. However, it retains none of its medieval fittings other than two fonts. The churchyard is rectilinear and contains a wide but typical range of monuments.

The tower is medieval but was rebuilt in Victorian restoration from belfry level; slit windows may be only surviving architectural features of what has been claimed as 14thC.

Nave has original masonry in south wall but is otherwise largely reconstructed with replaced windows. Chancel retains original masonry on south but is rebuilt on east; its priest's door might indicate a 14thC date, despite considerable replacement of the stonework, and south window would thus be later. Porch perhaps retains original masonry, north aisle is largely rebuilt.

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


It is claimed that the first church in the locality was at Cae Henllan, on a spur half a mile north of the present church. The date at which this was abandoned in favour of the present site is not known, and the location of the present church could well suggest an early medieval origin.

The Taxatio of 1291 records 'Ecclesia de Lanelwech' at the relatively low value of 2.

It has been claimed that a fundamental restoration occurred in 1877, but that the architect, John Norton, preserved or copied the old work where possible. The 1877 Faculty does suggest considerable retention, particularly in the tower, chancel, porch and south wall of the nave. Davies (1905) recorded that in 1877 "the quaint but disfigured old church of Llanelwedd was restored, enlarged, and converted into one of the most beautiful little churches in the Principality. The character of the tower was slightly altered". He also noted that an old rood loft window in the south wall was not preserved.


Llanelwedd church consists of a nave, chancel, north aisle, south porch and west tower. It is oriented north-east/south-west, but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for descriptive purposes.

Fabrics: 'A' is formed of generally small, irregular lumps of olive-grey sedimentary rock (?gritstone), randomly coursed; selected blocks of same material used for quoins. 'B' is of medium to large blocks of grey (?)sandstone, randomly coursed; quoins of same material. 'C' is of mixed grey, olive and brown blocks of sandstone, many irregularly shaped, irregularly coursed. 'D' is of slabs of brown and pink sandstone, randomly coursed and showing traces of former limewash; random coursing.

'A', 'C' and 'D' are medieval, though appearance of 'C' often heralds re-use; 'B' is 19thC.

Roofs: slates though of varying type, the most recent on the north side. Cross finials at east ends of both nave and chancel.

Drainage: no obvious trenches although there is a depression beside the side of the north aisle.


Tower. General. Plain with no batter or string-courses, but machicolations beneath the parapet in pink sandstone (a Victorian feature); and a low pyramidal roof surmounted by a cross. Considered by Haslam to be essentially 14thC.

North wall: chamfered rectangular window in pink sandstone at ground level; inserted though this is not obvious. Above this is a simple slit window without chamfers. Belfry lit by paired lancets, chamfered in pink sandstone, louvred. All in 'A', but from the level of the belfry windows in 'B'. Oil tank and vegetation disguise lower part of wall.

East wall: apex of nave roof reaches to base of belfry windows; these as on north side. Fabric 'B' from lower part of these windows upwards.

South wall: exactly as north wall but clear signs that ground floor window inserted. Change in masonry from 'A' to 'B' could be from below belfry window.

West wall: lower part of wall hidden by boiler house and store-shed. Slit window in pink sandstone and belfry window as on north side. 'B' from below belfry window level. 1877 faculty indicates that at least some part of this wall rebuilt.

Nave. North wall: fabric 'C'; plain.

East wall: visible for a maximum of 0.4m above chancel.

South wall: wall in vicinity of porch could be original, elsewhere upper wall face probably rebuilt though lower foundation courses could be original. Gable as on north side of north aisle; Victorian buttress at south-east angle; windows as north side. West of the porch the window is of standard form and most of wall rebuilt except perhaps for the south-west angle. 19thC graveslabs leaning against wall.

West wall: original fabric 'C' with limewash remnants.

North aisle. North wall: appears as variation in Fabric 'B' and is rebuilt though earlier stone re-used in core. Three two-light rectangular windows, the lights with trefoil heads, and all in Victorian pink sandstone. Towards the east end, a gable projects above the eaves line and this contains a fourth window (though the third from the west end) with a two-centred arch and a quatrefoil above the lights. The angles have tooled blocks for quoins.

East wall: lower part of wall in 'B' but in the gable there could also be some 'C' masonry, perhaps indicative of re-use. Single lancet in pink sandstone; two gravestones leant against wall.

West wall: fabric 'C'; interlocking joint with nave wall. Lancet window in pink sandstone; kneelers and coping stones certainly 19thC, rest of wall may be.

Chancel. North wall: possibly fabric 'C'. No features but appears to bond with east wall of north aisle, so fabric may indicate re-use.

East wall: in Fabric 'C' though south-east angle probably 'D', almost to eaves level, suggesting that most of wall rebuilt. East window has triple lancets in pink sandstone with ornate hoodmoulding. One chest tomb lid leant against wall.

South wall: Fabric 'D'. Rectangular window with two cusped lights, chamfered, in pink and cream sandstone; whole window could possibly be inserted. Priest's door with two-centred arch in pink sandstone; the threshold stone, 0.3m above the ground level is in similar material. Some of the jambstones in this material appear to be original, the rest replacements. Three graveslabs - one of 1788, the other two of the 19thC - leant against wall.

Porch. East wall: fabric appears to be a variation of 'D' in that masonry is generally larger; render remnants.

South wall: fabric as east wall, though conceivably rebuilt. Two-centred arched doorway with grey and red dressings, broach stops to the chamfers; most of this probably but not certainly replaced.

West wall: Fabric 'D' with inserted window having two-centred arched light with cusped tracery. Mural slabs of 1801 and 1812 against wall.


Porch. General. Flagged floor with one step up to nave. Walls faced in red sandstone with engraved texts (Victorian). Roof of two bays with three arch-braced collars.

North wall: round-headed doorway with chamfered dressings; not Victorian but not Norman either.

South wall: iron gates.

Tower. General. Used as vestry. Tiled floor with heating vents. Walls have wooden panels derived from old box pews. Wooden ceiling.

North aisle. General. As nave (see below), but roof less elaborate, lacking cusped timbers and windbraces.

Nave. General. Completely Victorianised internally. A tiled floor with carpets over, boarded floors under the benches; bare walls in pink sandstone; roof of seven bays with arch-braced collars, alternately springing from the wall and the wall plate. All are cusped above the collars but those from the wall in addition have raking struts. Two tiers of windbraces. The roof is entirely Victorian as are those in the north aisle and chancel. Radiators for heating.

North wall: three-bay arcade with two-centred arches and heavy, ungainly piers, chamfered and of 15thC type.

East wall: two-centred arch in pink sandstone.

South wall: 19thC and 20thC brasses.

West wall: virtually a triangular-topped doorway to tower, and above it, high up on wall, a small square window.

Chancel. General. Altar four steps higher than nave. Tiled floor with carpets over; choir stalls raised on wooden plinths. Bare walls. Two-bay roof with arch-braced collars springing from corbels.

North wall: an extension to the arcade, though narrower it forms arched entrance to organ chamber.


The churchyard spreads across level ground, though the south-west sector is a little lower than the rest. This is the northern terrace of the River Wye, exaggerated by the railway cutting below the churchyard, and occupying a low spur formed by a damp valley on the east and the alignment of the terrace on the south-west.

The churchyard is still used for burial and is generally well-maintained except in the extreme south-east.

Boundary: a retaining wall edges the churchyard on the west with a drop of around 2m (the river terrace edge) beyond; on the south is a tumbled stone wall reinforced by a wire fence inside, and externally a drop to the railway cutting. At the east end the churchyard has been reduced in size by an arc of upright gravestones, and beyond this it is overgrown. A hedge and fence separate the churchyard from the rectory garden to the north and north-east, and there is a mortared wall edging the road on the north.

Monuments: almost all of the churchyard contains gravestones, though they are generally not densely packed. Modern burials lie to the east and north, older ones going back to the later 18thC are to the south. The oldest, of 1702, lies just to the south of the nave.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: none.

Ancillary features: access from the main road is by double, ornamental iron gates and there is also a gate from the rectory. Tarmac paths lead to the porch.

Vegetation: one old yew in the eastern sector and yew bushes around the perimeter.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 29 February 1996
Crossley and Ridgway 1949, 240
Davies 1905, 326
Faculty 1877: NLW/SD/F/319
Haslam 1979, 250
Howse, 1949, 260

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 Llanelwedd 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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