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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St Bridget , Llansantffraed in Elvel

Llansantffraed in Elvel Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Glascwm in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0997254868.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16888 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llansantffraed in Elvel Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0330.JPG


St Bridget's church at Llansantffraed sits on the north-eastern edge of a small group of houses, 7km north-east of Builth Wells. Most of the church was reconstructed at the end of the 19thC leaving some original masonry and only the late medieval font. The irregularly shaped churchyard may well enclose a smaller and earlier 'llan'.

Church largely rebuilt at end of 19thC. Much of the north wall and less of east and south walls could however be from the earlier building, though the possibility of masonry re-use cannot be discounted. The windows were completely replaced except perhaps for parts of a Perpendicular window in the north wall. The porch was also rebuilt.

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


An early medieval genesis for this foundation seems a reasonable though unproven assumption.

A Cistercian nunnery was founded at Llansantffraed before 1176 by an early abbot of Strata Marcella, and possibly dissolved before 1186. Its location, however, has never been identified.

The Taxatio of 1291 refers to 'Ecclesia de Lansanfreyd' at a value of 5 6s 8d.

Davies (1905) record that the church was "in a ruinated state" before its restoration in 1895 by F. R. Kempson. A pre-1895 photograph in the church illustrates a timber gable at the west end, a wooden window or door in the same wall, the porch in poor condition, and a dormer window (for a gallery?) in the nave roof over the porch. The specification for the rebuilding required the demolition of the old church and the re-use of the masonry where sound, the old oak beams and old flags; a three-light window in the nave and a two-light window in the chancel were to be re-used in the north wall of the nave.


The church consists of a nave and chancel in one, a bellcote over the west end of the nave and a south porch near the south-west angle. The church is oriented west-south-west/east-north-east but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for this description.

Fabrics: 'A' is mixed slabs and blocks of various sedimentary rocks in white, brown, red and grey; random coursing. 'B' is of blocks of grey-brown shale weathering to grey, and coursed.

Roofs: slates, ceramic ridge tiles, cross finials at east and west ends of main cell.

Drainage: possible narrow drainage trench on north side, <0.2m wide; nothing obvious on south side.


Nave and Chancel. General. No differentiation between the two elements externally.

North wall: Fabric 'A' with some 'B' mixed in at higher levels. Two windows: more westerly (in the nave) has three lights with cusped tracery and 16thC heads - these are in olive-grey sandstone and could be original but the mullions and jambs replaced in brown sandstone. A second window lights the chancel and has two lancet lights under a two-centred arch, the whole of it being Victorian.

East wall: mainly 'B' but base could be 'A'. East window has three lights, cinquefoil tracery in ogee heads, small panel lights above, and a two-centred arch with a hoodmoulding, all in Victorian red sandstone. Three 19thC gravestones rest against wall.

South wall: as east side with 'A' below 'B'. Three windows; one in the chancel has two lights, the others have three lights. All have cusped heads, those in nave have hoodmouldings and all are in red sandstone. Nine mural tablets (?originally inside the church) are leant against wall.

West wall: in Fabric 'B'. Wall is thickened to carry bell recesses in gable. Below the two bells is a window with an ogee-headed light and cusped tracery, all in red sandstone.

Porch. General. Masonry is Fabric 'B' the side walls are plain, and the south wall has a wooden gable and a wooden door frame which must be 19thC.


Porch. General. Flagged floor; walls roughly plastered and whitewashed; roof has rafters, purlins and one tie-beam truss with struts - some old timbers.

North wall: doorway has two-centred arch with stopped chamfers. Above it a mural tablet of 1839.

East wall: mural tablet of 1840.

Nave. General. Flagged floor with matting over; wooden benches on raised wooden plinths. West end panelled off for vestry. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Nine-bay roof of tie-beams, arch-braced collars and one tier of wind-braces, reputedly a replica of the original.

North wall: deeply splayed window, the soffit of wood. Modern (1992) slate plaques on wall.

East wall: chancel defined by a tie-beam only.

South wall: deeply splayed window while doorway only slightly splayed.

West wall: one deeply splayed window and two upper windows showing the bells beyond.

Chancel. General. One step up to chancel from nave, one to sanctuary and one to altar. Stone flags with carpet over; a graveslab of 1730 in Latin in front of altar, another illegible one to the north of it, and an 18thC slab to south of altar. Choir stalls on plinths. Walls and roof as nave.

North wall: deeply splayed window; 20thC brass.

East wall: splayed window.

South wall: piscina with quatrefoil bowl and four-centred arch over; above is a deeply splayed window.


The present churchyard is in the shape of an irregular 'D', but it is unlikely that this is its original form, and something closer to a small curvilinear enclosure can be envisaged.

The ground within the churchyard is relatively level, and the faint drop from north to south may be a result of the earlier enclosure. It is set back on a spur, the land dropping away gently to the north, east and south.

Boundary: throughout the perimeter there is evidence of a low wall or revetted bank usually with a hedge on top of it or enveloping it. On both the east and south-west the external ground level is up to 1m lower than that inside.

Monuments: Earliest gravestones noted: 1750, 1767. Well-spaced 19thC and 20thC graves to north of church, denser as well as earlier burials to south.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: traces of an inner bank exist, particularly to the east and south-east of the church, with only faint signs on the west. Nowhere it is much more than 0.5m high.

Ancillary features: main entrance to the south-east of the church has heavy, ornamental iron gates and a tarmac path to the porch. Stiles on the eastern and western perimeters are accessed by grass paths.

Vegetation: near-complete ring of mature yews around church, except on north-east. Two at most are beyond this the ring.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 29 February 1996
Davies 1905, 329
Faculty 1894: NLW/SD/F423
Haslam 1979, 254
Knowles & Hadcock 1971, 272
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 Llansantffraed in Elvel 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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