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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St Michael , Llanfihangel Nant Melan

Llanfihangel Nant Melan Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of New Radnor in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1801358186.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16855 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanfihangel Nant Melan Church, CPAT copyright photo CS953934.JPG

Summary

St Michael's church at Llanfihangel, some 12km west of Kington (Herefordshire), is a Victorian structure completely rebuilt in Norman revival style in 1846. It contains but two monuments and a font of earlier date. The churchyard is potentially interesting: now sub-rectangular, it may have had a sub-circular predecessor that shows as a raised platform.

The church is a complete rebuild of 1846.

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

History

Nothing of the origins or development of Llanfihangel church is known. An early medieval genesis is at least a possibility: its location and the fossilised circuit of an earlier enclosure are suggestive in this context. Howse recorded a tradition that the church is "said to have been placed within the ring of a stone circle; an ancient stone will be noticed embedded in the hollow trunk of one of the yews". Howse's leaning to a pagan origin for other church sites in Radnorshire should be noted.

The church belonged to William de Breos and was given in the later 12thC to the Knights Hospitallers. It does not appear in the 13thC Taxatios, but in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, 'Llanmyhangell Llan Melan' is recorded at the unexceptional value of 4 13s 4d.

Jonathan Williams in 1818 described the predecessor of the present church as "a very low and mean edifice, constructed with the perishable stone of the country, and externally whitewashed. Its internal appearance contains nothing worthy of notice."

As noted above it was completely rebuilt in imitation of the Norman style by Thomas Nicholson of Hereford in 1846, and it is said to have been consciously modelled on Kilpeck church in Herefordshire.

Architecture

Llanfihangel church comprises a small nave with a bellcote at the west end, a south porch, a north vestry, and a semi-circular apse. It is oriented almost precisely east to west.

Fabric: rectangular blocks of shale, generally coursed. No evidence of re-used stone.

Roofs: slate.

Drainage: some signs on south side in vicinity of porch.

Exterior

Note: the following description is restricted to a brief summary because of the age of the present church.

Pointed stonework. Nave and apse have lesenes with horizontal tooling. Roll-moulded windows, and a corbel-table, but these cease on the plain north side.

Nave has four single-light windows on north side with relieving arches. Seven illegible gravestones lean against north wall. Large west window has shafts and zigzag ornament; two buttress-like lesenes at corners. South wall has two windows only, and two mural tablets of 1838 and 1839 attached to wall.

Semi-circular apse to chancel with three window and further lesenes. Corbel table around the whole curving face.

Porch has south door with shafts and zigzag ornament.

Interior

Porch has slate slabs. Roof has simple vaulting with ribs rising from scalloped capitals. Shouldered arch for main south door of church. Slate-topped benches along side.

Nave has floor of slate flags, carpetted, with raised wooden floors under seats. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Panelled roof of ribs and purlins. Chancel arch has engaged columns and a roll moulding. North wall has two mural tables of 1793/1812 and 1834. South wall has one mural tablet of 1779.

Chancel approached by one step and another to the sanctuary. Floor and walls as nave, while the roof has vaulting ribs.

Churchyard

The churchyard is set on the edge of a river terrace less than 20m to the south of the Summergil Brook. Its present form is sub-rectangular, and its level falls from south to north.

Boundary: it is defined by a well-made stone wall on the south side where the ground level is higher externally, though it is internally banked towards the south-east corner (see below). Elsewhere, the boundary consists of a hedge set on a low, stone-faced bank.

Churchyard well-maintained and has modern burials.

Monuments: 7 illegible tombstones lean against external north wall. Within the yard variable density of tombstones, but all on south, east and west sides; and some leaning. No pre-19thC tombstones observed.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: the church is perched on a level platform which is of striking appearance (2m+ high) on the north where it incorporates the river terrace edge. However, it is also apparent on the west and south-west, thus revealing its artificial character, and may link to a slightly curvilinear embankment in vicinity of south-east corner of present churchyard.

Ancillary features: wooden gate at south-west angle of churchyard perimeter; metal kissing-gate at south-east corner with tarmac path to church.

Vegetation: five mature yews with sixth cut down, in close-set ring around southern side of church.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 4 August 1995
Davies 1905, 176-8
Haslam 1979, 252
Howse, 1949, 260
Silvester 1994, 102


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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 Nant Melan 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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