Radnorshire Churches Survey
Church of St Michael , Llanfihangel Helygen
Llanfihangel Helygen Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Llanyre in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0457264388.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16853 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.
A simple single-celled church dedicated to St Michael, it is set in an irregularly shaped churchyard. Little is known of the history, and there is nothing architecturally that stylistically pre-dates the late 17thC. The only pre-Reformation feature is the
Simple windows of post-medieval date set in walls that have largely been rebuilt, though some original, but undated fabric may survive.
Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1979 publication The Buildings of Wales: Powys by Richard Haslam
Little is known of the early history, but it was a chapel of ease to the mother church of Nantmel until 1859, and had no rights of burial or baptism until after 1818.
It was reportedly in a dilapidated condition in 1689 and in poor repair in 1812. The walls were partly rebuilt c.1812, but Williams, in 1818, recorded that "the church is dedicated to St Michael, whose memory is little honoured in the meanness of its
structure, and in its total want of those appendages of accommodation generally found in places set apart for religious worship". It has also been stated that the pews and three-decker pulpit were brought here from another, unnamed, church in the early
part of the last century.
In 1851 it had 20 free and 50 other seats, with an average congregation of 27. An account at this time (in Davies 1905) recorded that a large part of the south wall had been re-built, together with the upper portions of the east and west walls; and in the
latter there were signs of two successive re-builds. A fleur-de-lys of iron, set upright in the ridge of the roof, was recorded where the chancel was supposed to have begun. The churchyard contained only two or three sod-covered graves.
An east window was put in after an appeal by the curate, Thomas Price, about 1854. Other phases of reconstruction have been mooted. The extent of rebuilding is not known but on the basis of limewash traces, it is possible that north wall not altered as
much as others.
The church was restored in 1956 by the Pilgrim Trust, with further work in 1994.
A little church of simple rectangular plan, the nave and chancel in one, the west end partitioned off for vestry, with a west belfry over. Ecclesiastical east' is used throughout the report though the church is oriented east-north-east/west-south-west.
Fabrics: 'A' of fine grained sedimentary rock, both tabular and blocks, some iron-stained; well coursed.
'B' presents more weathered appearance and stone tends to be tabular. All quoins of brick. North side heavily pointed and formerly limewashed.
Roofs: large slates, the bellcote towards the west end with timber sides and a slated, pyramidal roof.
Drainage: paving slabs around exterior wall faces may cover drain.
Nave/Chancel. General. All Fabric A, except west wall.
North wall: brick quoins at north-west and north-east corners; no obvious insertions or alterations though some possible disconformities; limewash traces extensive except close to corners; two windows only, one of three lights, the other of two: of
rectangular shape, the embrasures faintly splayed, with wooden lintels and slate sills.
East wall: one two-centred arched window of c.1854, with Y-tracery in wood, slate sill, and brick jambs and arch.
South wall: a very few traces of limewash; south-east corner has brick jambs and between this and most easterly window is vertical but intermittent break in stonework suggestive of infill or rebuild; first window has double leaded lights, rectangular
embrasure, wooden lintel and slate sill, RCAHMW suggesting it might be as early as late 17thC; near west end, a solid timber door in rectangular door frame with square head incorporating projecting wooden lintel of double thickness, the flagstones at the
entrance set lower than the stones around exterior face of building; west of door, another two-light window in a rectangular embrasure, with wooden lintel and slate sill.
West wall: in Fabric B, no features.
Nave/Chancel. General. Aisle and sanctuary carpeted, otherwise flagstones except for wooden or brick floor beneath a few pews. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Roof of arch-braced collar-trusses with raking struts, two tiers of cusped wind-braces, and
butt purlins: late medieval. There are hints that roof may be re-used or re-set: lower windbraces partly embedded in wall heads and some rafters have disused slots.
North wall: both windows splayed; two mural tablets.
East wall: splayed window; two lozenge-shaped mural tablets and a wall-safe.
South wall: splayed window, simple doorway and mural tablet of 1811.
West wall: wooden partition (see below).
Note: early seating plan. Pulpit in centre of north wall, with all pews facing it, so some have back to altar, though latter certainly post-1850.
Vestry. General. Separated from nave by timber and plaster partition, giving way to weatherboarding at eaves level. Floored with slabs of stone on edge with central walkway of flat slabs. Whitewashed walls, some in deteriorating condition, with nothing of
The churchyard is set on a ridge to the west of the River Ithon, with a gentle slope to the south into a shallow valley. It has an irregular perimeter, certainly not circular, and with little indication of being raised except on the west where there is a
drop of >1m to road below.
Boundary: on the west is a bank faced with a pletched hedge, the remainder consists of a low bank which increases in size towards south-west corner, with modern pig-wire fence on top.
Monuments: most of churchyard cleared of monuments, leaving small group to south-east of church, the oldest c.1870, the most recent 1989.
Ancillary features: the north-west corner has double gates and a kissing gate, all wooden. Opposite, in south-east, a former entrance now blocked by a 6-bar wooden gate. Church served by grass paths.
Vegetation: a single yew tree grows near the oldest graves.
Church Notes: n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 19 July 1995
Davies 1905, 277 & 343
Haslam 1979, 252
Menter Powys: church guide n.d.
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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 Llanfihangel Helygen 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 - firstname.lastname@example.org, website - www.cpat.org.uk.
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