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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St Harmon , St Harmon

St Harmon Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of St Harmon in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SN9889272857.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16957 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

St Harmon Church, CPAT copyright photo 435-32.JPG

Summary

St Garmon's church occupies a near circular churchyard on the east bank of Afon Marteg less than 5km to the north of Rhayader. The church was completely rebuilt in 1821 with subsequent modifications in the early 20thC but historically it is potentially a most interesting site as the mother church of the district in the early medieval era. Internally, it has little of interest other than an early font comparable with those at nearby Rhayader and Llanwrthwl, and some interesting early 19thC memorials.

Hall-church of 1821 with a chancel added; and early 19thC features replaced by more conventional fixtures of 1908.

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

History

St Garmon's monastery was founded in about 6thC, and possibly dissolved after 1066. It was a clas foundation and developed as the mother church of the region. Its precise site is unknown, though it may have been within the present circular churchyard.

It appears in the St Davids' Episcopal Registers as 'Glascarmon' in 1500, and as 'Sanharmon' with a value of 9 12s 4d in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535.

Williams described the church in 1818 as consisting of a nave, chancel, porch, and a low turret containing one small bell, all in a very dilapidated condition. The old church was built in a barn-like fashion - low, long and dark, but "some years ago its reduction in size [became] necessary".

It was demolished in 1821 and a smaller church was erected by W. Evans. The Regency Gothic windows, pyramidal west bellcote, ball-finials, etc., that were designed by Evans were replaced by the present fixtures in 1908.

The 1907 Specification indicates that a flue stack/turret at the west end was to be pulled down, the floors were to be taken up, a new chancel, sanctuary and vestry were to be added together with all windows and door openings, the west gallery taken out, and heating grilles were to be inserted.

Francis Kilvert the diarist was vicar of St Harmon in 1876-7.

The bell turret of 1908 was demolished in the 1930s.

Architecture

St Harmon's church consists of a nave, a south porch attached to the nave, a north vestry and a short chancel. The church is oriented west-north-west/east-south-east but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for this description.

Fabric: fabric consists of small to large slabs of weathered grey shale, though fresher on north side where grey-brown; better dressed stone used for quoins.

Roofs: slate with red ceramic ridge tiles; cross finials at west end of nave, north end of vestry and east end of chancel.

Drainage: probable drainage trench around at least part of exterior, visible as grass-covered depression, particularly on north side.

Exterior

General. Relatively plain exterior. Masonry plinth about 0.3m above ground level and projecting about 0.1m runs around building. Windows with two-centred arches containing three lights with cinquefoil tracery. East and west windows have panels above the lights, four-centred arches and hoodmouldings, all in yellow sandstone. Additionally, a small trefoiled lancet is set high up in west gable. Rings inserted under eaves at regular intervals on both north and south windows: purpose unclear. One mural tablet to a rector, Llewelyn Davies (d.1827), on east wall though church guide suggests this may have been inside the church in 1982.

Vestry conforms to same pattern, but has modern toilet block built adjacent to it, and in the space between is hung the church bell.

Porch is notably high and has a two-centred arch for main entrance.

Interior

Porch. General. Tiled floor. Rafters etc for roof. Unplastered walls with stone benches. Two-centred archway with hollow chamfers and hoodmoulding leads to nave. Above it an inscribed tablet stating that church was rebuilt in 1821.

Nave. General. Carpetted floor, with heating vents beneath, though underfloor heating no longer in use. Flush wooden block flooring beneath seating. Roof of seven bays with tie beams supporting arched-braces and small king posts; corbel supports. Walls plastered but window dressings bare. Three 19thC mural tablets on north wall, and two behind choir stalls on south side.

Chancel. General. Three steps up to chancel, sanctuary and altar. Carpets over tiles, though tiles exposed in sanctuary. Roof simply of rafters and purlins. Plastered walls.

Churchyard

St Harmon's churchyard is raised and also one of the most circular examples in Powys. Its northern sector is relatively flat but then the ground falls away to the south. Church and churchyard lie on east side of Afon Marteg on what is probably a river terrace.

It is well maintained.

The boundary consists of a well-made stone wall. Internally the ground is embanked, in places to a height of 1m. Externally there is a consistent drop to the ground outside; at least 1m on east, the drop is greater elsewhere, and on the west where the ground has been altered by the passage of the former railway line, the drop is nearer 4m.

Monuments: on the south and west these are regularly spaced and quite dense. 20thC graves predominate on the north and south-east, while older graves are found around the south side. These earlier ones are generally in poor condition with largely illegible inscriptions: a chest tomb of 1773 and several other 18thC gravestones could still be recognised.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: there is some terracing on south side to accommodate graves, and the same side exhibits a broad bank inside the stone wall which could be of early date. There are references to a mound at the south-west corner of the church and the association of Garmon churches with preaching mounds may be recalled. However, there is now no sign of this feature.

Ancillary features: double iron gates at south entrance with tarmac path leading to church.

Vegetation: no yews, but a few deciduous and coniferous trees around perimeter.

Sources consulted

Church Guide 1982: by R. Clew
CPAT Field Visit: 27 February 1996
Davies 1905, 275
Faculty 1907: NLW/SD/F/602
Haslam 1979, 274
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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 St Harmon 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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