Radnorshire Churches Survey
Church of St Clement , Rhayader
Rhayader Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Rhayader in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SN9693268157.
At one time it was dedicated to St Cynllo.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16940 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.
St Clement's church lies on the north-western edge of Rhayader overlooking the Wye Valley. The present church was completely rebuilt in the period 1887-1897 and retains only an early font and some 18thC gravestones in the rectangular churchyard.
Church completely rebuilt in late 19thC, the only remnant of the earlier churches being the font.
Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1979 publication The Buildings of Wales: Powys by Richard Haslam
It has been suggested that the original church was probably built by the Lord Rhys to serve his castle at Rhayader. Now dedicated to St Clement it was traditionally dedicated to St Cynllo.
The church is recorded as 'Ecclesia de Raedr' in the 1291 Taxatio when it was valued at only 6s 8d.
One predecessor of the present building fell down about 1772. Its successor was described by Jonathan Williams in 1818 as "built in the form of an oblong square...a plain but neat edifice, consisting of a nave, chancel, tower and a porch; a timber
partition separates the chancel from the nave; on the east side is a large window with a semi-circular head; two windows of similar construction are on the south side and one on the west. The old church was much more spacious than the present one,
containing an aisle on each side of the nave and chancel..... The quadrangular stone-tower, embellished with turrets, was erected in the year 1783". On digging the foundation for this new tower, a great number of skeletons were discovered about a foot
below the ground surface.
The present structure was built anew by S. W. Williams of Rhayader between 1887 and 1897 in the Early English style. The north aisle appears to have been a late addition in 1897.
Rhayader church has a nave and chancel, a north aisle, a west tower with a store room on its north side, and a south porch almost centrally placed to the nave. It is aligned west-south-west/east-north-east, but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical
east' is adopted.
Fabric: small to medium slabs with a few blocks of grey micaceous shaley rock; random coursing. Some minor variations in colour with the chancel in particular showing more variety. Window dressings, quoins etc in yellow sandstone.
Roofs: slates with slate ridge tiles; cross finials at east ends of north aisle, nave and chancel. Chimney protrudes from north-east corner of north aisle roof.
Drainage: church terraced into slope on north side, and downpipes on this side may feed into deeper drainage gully. Nothing obvious on south though there are downpipes, and around tower the ground is tarmac.
Tower. General. Battered base to c.1.3m terminating at a freestone string-course. Wall then plain up to a cavetto string-course at the base of a battlemented parapet. Stair turret in south-west corner with weathercock above. South wall has round-headed
doorway with voussoirs, and a plaque above gives date of construction as 1887. Windows are simple trefoil-headed lights with chamfered dressings, hoodmouldings with decorative stops and relieving arches: Early English style. Belfry windows are louvred, and
south, west and north sides have slit windows in addition to standard windows.
Body of building. General. Chamfered plinth forms base for all walls. Chancel additionally has string-course below window level. Nave only buttressed. Windows of standard pattern as tower, but east window of three plain lancets with continuous
hoodmoulding, and on south nave has one window of paired lancets. Porch has a high south doorway with a two-centred arch and chamfers with broach stops; otherwise conforms to general uniformity of structure.
Tower. General. Modern tiled floor. Wooden ceiling on corbels. Plastered and whitewashed walls. Benefaction board of 1810 on south wall. East wall has two-centred arch to body of church.
North aisle. General. Floor as nave, but carpet between benches which face to the south. Roof of seven bays with collars and purlins, including screened east end which acts as organ chamber and vestry. North wall has one painting and war memorial plaques.
Nave. General. Wooden parquet flooring. Walls plastered and whitewashed. A roof of seven bays of arched-braced collars resting on corbels runs across part of chancel (two bays), the divide between nave and chancel being marked by more ornate corbels and
wall posts. North wall has three-bay arcade with two-centred arches and hoodmouldings over, the south wall one 20thC brass.
Chancel. General. Haslam describes the arrangement of the chancel as an intelligent compromise between the local single-chamber plan and Victorian convention. The choir keeps the width and height of the nave but has special treatment in the south window
(with its clustered wall arcade) and in the north parclose screen; only the sanctuary narrows with an arch. One step up to chancel, one to sanctuary, three to altar. Entrance to sanctuary has large two-centred arch with hoodmoulding. Sanctuary has
patterned tiled floor and carpet, and over it an angular wagon roof. North wall contains a further bay with the parclose screen, behind which is the organ. 20thC brass and aumbry in sanctuary. East wall has polychrome tiles behind altar. On south a metal
plaque of early 20thC date and a sedile.
The churchyard is rectilinear and is placed on the eastern lip of the Wye Valley with a steep drop to the valley floor immediately to the west. The ground level within slopes from north to south.
It continues to be used for modern burial and is untidy in places though not overgrown.
The boundary now consists primarily of a stone wall, though on the north this is not in evidence; instead there is a bank with a hedge on top, and the external ground level is some 0.5m higher than the interior. The stone wall picks up on the east and
notwithstanding some internal banking the external ground level is 0.5m lower. Buildings and the stone wall continue on the south, and on the west the wall rises above the valley drop and again there is some evidence of the churchyard being slightly
Monuments: the churchyard is well packed with visible graves, though more densely on the south than on the north where the majority are later 19thC and 20thC. Some late 18thC gravestones and slabs on the south side of the church. The earliest noted is
Earthworks: the interior is irregular with terraces that are presumed to be largely the result of grave digging. The southern third of the area is distinguished by a scarp running the full width which indicates an earlier boundary linking to a change in
alignment on the western side.
Ancillary features: ornamental metal gate in extreme north-east corner gives access to grass path running around the perimeter. Main entrance in middle of east side with double wooden gates and a tarmac path. In the south-east corner is a pair of metal
gates with a tarmac path along the southern edge to a modern burial area.
Vegetation: yew hedge to west of tower, and five yew bushes on the aforementioned earlier boundary. Large pines on north-west and along west edge.
CPAT Field Visit: 27 February 1996
Davies, 1905, 282
Faculty 1867: NLW/SD/F/572
Faculty 1897: NLW/SD/F/573
Haslam 1979, 272
Howse 1949, 244 & 262
Silvester 1994, 146
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 Rhayader 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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