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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St David , Rhulen

Rhulen Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Aberedw in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1377449839.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16944 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Rhulen Church, CPAT copyright photo CS033208.JPG


To Haslam the most unassuming of all the Radnorshire rural churches, a compliment in itself. The church of St David lies in the hills some 10km east of Builth Wells. Despite its small size it possibly has quite a complex architectural history commencing in the 13thC, and it has been claimed as one of the earliest churches in Radnorshire. Apart from the font there is little of medieval date inside, but the churchyard was originally sub-circular and the foundation is likely to have emerged in the early medieval period.

A lack of diagnostic architectural features complicates the dating of specific phases and there is no general agreement amongst the writers on Rhulen.

Nave and chancel thought to be in one originally, probably in the second half of 13thC. East end extended but not dated, possibly in 14thC, and certainly prior to 1723. West end also extended for c.3m, perhaps as late as 18thC, and the partition wall inserted at an unknown date; windows in extension subsequently blocked. West wall rebuilt 1985. The former west wall would have had a central doorway but was replaced by the present south door which could be 14thC or much later. Porch reputedly added in 17thC though the dating evidence is not clear. Some restoration in 1723(?) when window inserted in sanctuary (inscription and date carved in the frame), and perhaps barrel ceiling inserted.

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


The location and the shape of the churchyard point to an early medieval foundation, but nothing of this date survives.

Similarly the later history of Rhulen is largely unrecorded though it appears to have been a chapelry annexed to Builth. There is a 1291 Taxatio reference to 'Ecclesia de Royl' which is thought to refer to this church, though the quoted value of ś10 13s 4d is remarkably high for such a small rural establishment.

The church was partially restored in 1723, but escaped Victorianisation. It was re-roofed in 1961/2 using local stone slates as before; and in 1985 the west wall was taken down and rebuilt re-using the same stone.


The church consists of a nave and chancel in one, a belfry over the west part of building which has a separate external entrance and a south porch. It is aligned west-south-west/east-north-east, but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted.

Fabrics: 'A,' is of roughly coursed slabs of shale. 'B' is uncoursed or poorly coursed shale, frequently in thinner slabs, than 'A'.

However, the whole structure is heavily limewashed, internally and externally, effectively disguising detail.

Roofs: shale tiles.

Drainage: drain with concrete cover (or base?), around south side up to and including west wall of porch.


Nave and chancel. General. Primarily Fabric A.

North wall: east end inset in line with chancel division (cf. interior), but on same alignment and no noticeable fabric difference; solitary window just to west of inset: crude single light with unusual trefoiled head, more like three miniature lancet heads carved from single block of stone; possible crude ashlar jamb on east. Simple splayed window known to have existed in west extension of nave no longer visible.

East wall: base battered for first 0.7m; no window; memorial slab of c.1730 affixed to wall; two projecting but broken stays high up in centre of wall indicate removal of some fixture.

South wall: largely Fabric A (though poor quality, east of porch), except for short length of wall in Fabric B west of porch; tie-beam terminals project beyond wall face (though nothing survives internally). West of the porch the wall terminal of the earlier church and blocked splayed window within the earlier masonry no longer visible because of whitewash. East of porch and lighting the chancel is a single square-headed wooden window with three round-headed leaded lights, the frame dated 1723.

West wall: door with wooden lintel; slit window above, projecting beam terminals, all obviously modern replacements.

The belfry is a wooden, pyramidal structure with weather boarding and louvred windows, surmounted by a metal ‘Celtic’ cross.

Porch. General. Fabric B, its apex at height of base of nave roof. No windows.

East wall: grave slab of 1803 placed against it.

South wall: of weather boarding with timber doorway, all black stained.

West wall: plain.


Porch. General. Roof on simple A-frame; floor of stone slabs. Wooden benches against east and west walls.

North wall: Cyclopean doorway with sloping shoulders and narrow flat top (cf. altar alcove), perhaps inserted into earlier wall; heavy door of 17thC date with metal hinges, its shape not conforming to doorway, and perhaps re-used.

Nave and chancel. General. Stone-slabbed floor except for dais in front of altar which has terracotta tiles. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Barrel ceiling with wall-plates set back from edges of nave walls.

North wall: inset at east end, matching exterior; one splayed window embrasure; three memorials of mid 18thC.

East wall: altar ‘table’ cut into thickness of wall with shouldered, truncated ogee arch over, comparable with south doorway; above this a moulded wooden beam that probably once supported a rood, with simple engraved decoration and the upper wall also cut back to a thickness comparable with altar alcove - this ledge traditionally said to be sleeping place of visiting priests before the Reformation! One mid-18thC memorial tablet set to north of altar.

South wall: splayed window embrasure, said to have possible consecration cross scratched on sill.

West wall: plain party wall separating chamber beneath belfry; date uncertain but it partially blocks former splayed window in north wall.

Belfry room: not accessible. Appears to be a simple lower chamber with stone-slabbed floor and wooden ring-beam built into wall to take belfry weight..


Church and churchyard are set on the edge of a valley just above stream confluence. Valley reportedly called Cwm Tillo, a pointer perhaps to a former dedication? It has an irregular outline, but is broadly curvilinear, except for the angular south-east corner which is bounded by straight alignments that mark undated extension. Outside both the east and north sides is a scarp bank, its line continued as a more gentle slope across the south-east quadrant of the present churchyard.

Boundary: stone wall around present perimeter except where it disappears coincident with south-east corner extension.

Monuments: well spaced, the majority to north-east, east and south of church. Some may go back to 18thC and the most recent dates to 1994.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: none, other than scarp noted above.

Vegetation: massive yews of considerable age on east and south.

Sources consulted

Church notes (in church) n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 18 May 1995
Crossley and Ridgway 1949, 250
Davies 1905, 317
Haslam 1979, 274
NMR , Aberyswyth
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 Rhulen 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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