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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St Cynllo , Nantmel

Nantmel Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Nantmel in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0343466372.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16918 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Nantmel Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0313.JPG

Summary

St Cynllo's church is set in what was formerly a sub-circular churchyard on a south-facing hillside above the River Dulas, some 6km to the east of Rhayader. The church was almost totally replaced in the late 18thC, and consequently falls largely outside the scope of this study. The churchyard does have features of interest and a fine range of 18thC memorials still in place.

Church almost totally rebuilt at end of 18thC, leaving only the base of the?pre-17thC tower, and not much of that if the tablet inside tower is an accurate guide. Neo-Romanesque remodelling in 1881.

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

History

An early medieval origin seems likely on the basis of the dedication and the original curvilinear enclosure around the church, but not surprisingly nothing of this date has survived. Traditionally, however, it was founded by St Cynllo in the 5thC.

Nantmel appears as 'Ecclesia de Nantmayl' in the Taxatio of 1291 when it was valued at the relatively high rate of 13 6s 8d. The list of incumbents starts with Richard ap Eynon in 1349.

The base of the west tower is at least 17thC or earlier, though the local tradition that it goes back to the 13thC cannot be substantiated.

In 1792 most of the tower as well as the nave were rebuilt by David Thomas of Rhayader.

In 1818, Williams mentioned very large and old yew trees in the graveyard, and also a sundial.

The church underwent general restoration in 1881. It was re-seated and re-roofed, new windows and doorways were added, a vestry was built, soil to a depth of 18" was removed internally, and re-use of some old material was advocated.

Architecture

Nantmel church consists of a nave and chancel in one, a west tower, a south porch centrally placed to the nave and a north vestry. It is aligned fractionally south of grid west.

Fabric: 'A' is of small to medium blocks with some slabs of mixed stone (shale and sandstone) with colours ranging from brown through to grey; some coursing; better finished slabs for quoins. On north side of nave the masonry is cleaner revealing additional stone types including quartzite and other sedimentaries.

There is a strong possibility that much of this masonry is re-used.

Roof: of reconstituted clay tiles in patterned bands; decorated ridge tiles; cross finial above chancel, simple finial above otherwise undifferentiated eastern end of nave. Porch similar with cross finial.

Drainage: church terraced into slope on north side, thus giving impression of trench. Nothing on the west side but hint of grassed over gully on south with downpipes leading into it.

Exterior

Tower. General. Angle buttresses with tops curving in to tower wall. Single string-course below crenellated parapet. Weathervane with weathercock above.

North wall: lean-to shed against base. Plain wall up to round-headed, louvred, belfry window, voussoirs of mustard yellow freestone, but no jambs.

East wall: nave apex to just below belfry window. This is the same as the window on north, but for one dressed jamb. Between this and nave roof, individual slabs project in stepped sequence like intermittent string-course.

South wall: simple slit window, halfway up side. Standard belfry window with one freestone jamb.

West wall: west doorway in large blocks of buff-coloured freestone. Imitation Norman with round-headed arch, three-quarter round pillars and scalloped capitals. Not pretty. Above it an almost flat relieving arch, broken in centre by insertion of this doorway. Belfry window as north side.

Nave. General. Relationship with tower not determinable because of heavy pointing.

North wall: at north-west corner a couple of foundation stones protrude, a solitary indicator of the earlier structure. Three round-headed windows with three-quarter round pillars and scalloped capitals; bricks used beneath windows.

South wall: two standard windows with yellow sandstone blocks used below.

Chancel. Exterior. East wall has three 'Norman' windows with a continuous hoodmoulding. Mural slab of 1817 pinned to same wall. South wall has one standard window, and one patch of heavier pointing to fabric.

Vestry. General. Wholly Victorian.

Porch. General. Standard 'Norman' doorway on south; plain side walls, but with ornamental corbel tables at eaves level.

Interior

Nave. General. Tiled floor, but carpets in aisle and over heating grilles. Benches on flush wooden boarding. Walls plastered and whitewashed with shallow-splayed windows. Roof of nine bays for whole nave and chancel, with double arched-braced collars, one above the other, the lower springing from corbels.

North wall: three marble mural tablets, all 19thC and 20thC; one brass.

West wall: Norman tower arch.

South wall: three 19thC marble mural tablets.

Chancel. General. Decorated tiled floor with carpets. Four steps in all from chancel up to altar. Roof (see nave). Aumbry in north wall.

Porch. General. Tiled floor. Roof of collars and rafters. North door is standard 'Norman'.

Tower. General. Tiled floor, high wooden ceiling with bell ropes.

North wall: two marble mural tablets of 1798 and 1836.

South wall: stone set in base of wall records rebuilding in 1792 from bottom of stone (i.e. near ground level) upwards; churchwardens named.

West wall: segmental head to reveal of main door.

Churchyard

Nantmel churchyard is of medium size and is placed on a south facing spur above the River Dulas, with a dry valley immediately to the west and a stream valley to the east. The ground within the churchyard drops from north to south, and the church is terraced shallowly into the hillside.

It is well-kept and is still used for burial.

The boundary is provided by a revetment wall on the west with a wire fence above it and a drop of between 1m and 3m to the dry valley below; this revetment continues on the south where the external ground level is perhaps 1m lower, and on the south-east where the ground level is banked internally. On the north is a modern wire fence, with the old boundary bank inside (see below).

Monuments: these are locally dense to south of church and cover most of churchyard on this side, spreading round to east and west sides as well. Most are in reasonable condition though many show signs of weathering. Included is an excellent range of in situ 18thC monuments from 1700 onwards.

Furniture: to south-east of porch is a sundial by John Rogers, dated 1773, and set on a modern marble plinth.

Earthworks: on north side of churchyard within the present boundary is a curving bank and external ditch, both much disturbed and scrub covered. This appears to be the earlier 'llan' perimeter. Around the south side is a scarp bank, some 10m inside the present boundary with a couple of yews on top of it; on the south-east it fades into irregular undulations. It could be an earlier boundary, the churchyard on this side being subsequently enlarged.

Ancillary features: on west is main entrance under a lychgate that is possibly 18thC: slate roof, stone side walls, one wooden gate and one wooden stile. Just to south of lychgate is metal field gate, and in south-west corner is wooden stile; further stiles on east and on north, the latter just closed under a footpath diversion order. Tarmac paths.

Vegetation: yews around south side, some of them mature and of considerable age.

Sources consulted

Church notes
CPAT Field Visit: 5 March 1996
Davies, 1905, 271
Faculty 1880: NLW/SD/F/510
Haslam 1979, 258
Howse, 1949, 261


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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 Nantmel 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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