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Radnorshire Churches Survey

Church of St Michael , Bryngwyn

Bryngwyn Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Painscastle in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1866549487.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 17248 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Bryngwyn Church, CPAT copyright photo 90MB0639.JPG

Summary

Bryngwyn occupies a south-east facing hillside about 8km north-west of Hay-on-Wye. Its history and perhaps its architecture date back to the 13thC, but much of the fenestration has been replaced and it is likely that a fair proportion of the fabric is not original. It is notable for several stone fixtures, as well as a number of early graveslabs in the otherwise unremarkable churchyard.

The degree of weathering and lichen cover is too great for an accurate assessment of alterations in the masonry.

The nave is perhaps 13thC on the basis of paired lancets in the nave. Much of north wall (other than eastern corner) could have been rebuilt with one re-set and two new Victorian windows, the west wall re-faced (see below), while the south wall is probably original. The date of the chancel remains uncertain, though again paired lancets and the east window (now in the west wall) point to a contemporary build with the nave.

Some 15thC (or later) modifications are indicated by the Perpendicular south doorway mouldings, as well as a couple of the windows. The chancel roof and perhaps the porch are also pre-Reformation.

The extent of Victorian reconstruction cannot be established.

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

History

Bryngwyn is typical of many small rural Radnorshire churches in that very little is known of its history. Its foundation date can only be guessed at, but it does appear in the 1291 Taxatio as 'Ecclesia de Bringwin' when it was valued at 5 6s 8d; and the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 records it by its present appellation.

It was restored by W. Crick of Hereford in 1874-7. The scale of the works is difficult to gauge and it was reported in The Hereford Times that '..the restoration has been carried out as nearly as possible on the old foundations', suggesting considerable rebuilding. Certainly, new window dressings were put in, the chancel doorway was moved from the south side to the north side, reportedly one new window was put in the north wall of the nave and another in the chancel, the west wall was re-faced, and a new east window was inserted and the old one placed in the west wall.

Architecture

The church consists of a nave, chancel, west belfry and south porch. It is aligned on an north-east/south-west axis, but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabrics: 'A' of slabs with occasional blocks of small to medium, brown, red and grey sandstone; some coursing and heavy pointing that is almost like render in places. Distinctive brick red colour of some masonry in this fabric and others due to a particular form of lichen. 'B' of slabs of yellowish-grey shaly siltstone, poorly coursed; fresh appearance without much lichen cover. 'C' is similar to 'A' but incorporates large blocks of sandstone; heavily lichened. 'D' medium-sized blocks and slabs of ?sandstone, heavily weathered and lichened, but perhaps originally brown in colour.

Roofs: reconstituted clay tiles, simple ridge tiles. Cross finial at east end of chancel.

There is a square bell-turret with tiled sides, rectangular louvred wooden windows on the north and south, a pyramidal roof and a cross above it.

Drainage: disturbed area alongside north wall could signal a drainage trench. There are chippings on the west side, and all around the south and east sides as well as north side of chancel, there are old graveslabs which may disguise a drain.

Exterior

Nave. General. Nave is a double square, perhaps of late 13thC date. Fabric largely 'A' on north, 'C' on south.

North wall: plinth lacking chamfered top at height of c.0.9m. Two diagonal buttresses, both with plinths though not at same height as that on wall, and both have stepped coping stones. It is possible that extreme north-west angle is completely rebuilt, and that the buttress at the angle may also be late. Three windows in wall which from west are: i) unusually broad square-headed window, the light having cinquefoil tracery within an ogee-head, and sunken spandrels above. All this is in reddish-brown freestone and a couple of large dressed blocks in similar material built into wall adjacent; chamfered jambs and sill in red sandstone could be later; ii) double lancet window in red sandstone, all Victorian; iii) one lancet, Victorian. West of this window there may be masonry changes suggestive of rebuilding, but the signs could be illusory. Just below this window the wall plinth finally acquires a chamfer and the fabric changes to 'B'.

East wall: nave is c.0.4m higher than chancel and slightly wider. Chamfered plinth continues until covered by chancel wall. On south side, chamfered plinth also visible and looks original. On north side of chancel the wall face is heavily pointed, but in line with the top of the diagonal buttress it is stepped in fractionally, suggesting a rebuild above this level.

South wall: wall face has plinth with slight chamfer and close to ground level a rough batter. From the east the features are: i) pair of small lancets, the dressings replaced; ii) a three-light window with cusped ogee-heads, hollow chamfers, and a rectangular head that integrates a hoodmoulding with human-headed stops; it is in Perpendicular style but the stonework is Victorian and there are faint signs of insertion; iii) porch; iv) mural tablet of 1801.

West wall: weathered masonry could be 'A'. Chamfered plinth. Three-light window with rectangular frame, the lights have two-centred arches with trefoil tracery, hollow mouldings, and a relieving arch over. Window dressings appear wholly Victorian and there are no signs that it has been inserted.

Chancel. General. Largely Fabric D.

North wall: wall has quoin-like blocks at the angle against nave. Triangular-headed embrasure for doorway with dressed sandstone for the unchamfered jambs; the wooden door is deeply recessed and has a two-centred arched top. Also a single trefoil-headed light in a two-centred arch, also in dressed red sandstone. Both these features look Victorian. Wall bowed outwards at north-east corner and the whole of it is perhaps rebuilt; at ground level is a projecting plinth of stones. from the earlier wall?

East wall: ground level plinth continues on this side for no more than 2m. Wall plinth battered to height of 0.8m+. Window has two-centred arch, hoodmould with floral stops and three trefoiled lights with quatrefoils above, all Victorian.

South wall: wall bulges at base, and has outward lean. At the south-west corner for a maximum length of c.1.5m and a maximum height of 0.4m is a projecting plinth that slopes down and peters out at ground level. If this is an original feature, it suggests that rest of wall may be rebuilt. One quoin at south-east angle carries the well-known carved figures (see below). Main window is rectangular with two square-headed lights; shutter and hinge marks on the dressings; a couple of the lower jambs could be original but the dressings are mainly Victorian. Further west are a pair of lancets with massive freestone dressings; these windows must be original, though other jambstones and the mullion are replaced.

Porch. General. Could be Fabric 'A'.

East wall: plain wall but has chamfered plinth, not horizontal.

South wall: chamfered plinth continues, and large blocks of stone used for quoins and some of wall facing. The entrance, closed off by small wooden gates and netting, is a great rectangular opening with old wooden frame. Gable has tie beam truss with king post, struts and stone infilling, all of some antiquity from their appearance.

West wall: bulges but otherwise as east wall.

Interior

Porch. General. Broad structure. Black and red tiled floor; plastered walls. A two-bay roof with an arch-braced collar truss at the centre, the outer one as described above, and the inner truss with tie beam and king post but largely replaced; one tier of quatrefoil wind-braces. 16thC.

North wall: four-centred arch with stopped chamfers and complex mouldings. Broad door. Wall also supports wooden panel of Incorporated Church Building Society (1874).

East wall: stone bench. Above it a medieval coffin lid.

West wall: stone bench and above it a grave slab/mural tablet to Thomas Williams (d.1724).

Nave. General. A broad structure. Tiled floor without vents, but carpet down aisle; benches are set on tiled floor. Plastered and whitewashed walls, except for window dressings. Ugly 19thC six-bay roof of tie beams on wall plates with arch-braced collars above. Most westerly truss reinforced by upright timbers to support bell-turret; most easterly truss is set against chancel wall (above arch) and has no tie beam.

North wall: wall leans outwards slightly; splayed windows; mural tablet of 1917.

East wall: two-centred chancel arch of Victorian build.

South wall: splayed windows and slightly splayed doorway embrasure; near south-west corner at a height of c.3m is a projecting stone, a little like a corbel for an earlier roof, though its function remains uncertain.

West wall: nothing of note.

Chancel. General. Single steps up to chancel, sanctuary and altar. All floors tiled. Plastered walls. Fine arch-braced roof of five bays with two tiers of wind-braces arranged as quatrefoils, and a half-row above; 16thC.

North wall: blocked doorway has two-centred arch with hoodmoulding, largely Victorian but some jambstones including those with basal stops look earlier. Windows have triangular-headed embrasures. Stone mural tablet of 1825, and a wooden plaque stating: 'this chancel was adorned 1845, Rees Lloyd Curate, Phillip Powell Churchwarden'.

East wall: nothing of note.

South wall: piscina, a composite structure set in a recess with a flat slab with hole in it as base, and a trefoil-headed arch at front of recess which is almost certainly a re-used window head. Splayed main window with sedile under it. Smaller west window has internal sill of some age.

Churchyard

Bryngwyn churchyard is D-shaped and reasonably level though the ground does drop away on the south side of the church. The level of the churchyard undulates - this could be a natural feature or might be due to burial practices. It is set on a natural shelf, the ground rising behind it to Bryngwyn Common and falling away to the south-east.

The churchyard is encompassed by a drystone wall, with material banked up against it internally on the west and north to a height of almost 1m. On the north-east the wall is less obvious; instead there is a bank with a hedge on top, but south of the main entrance and around the south side the wall continues, acting more as a revetment. Here too, the churchyard is raised, though by no more than 1m, while on the east and north there is little difference between the external and internal ground levels.

Monuments: these are spread throughout the churchyard except to the north and north-east of the church. There is a good range of graveslabs dating back to the early years of the 18thC; the earliest of 1692 is exceptional, though Howse (1949) mentioned two other gravestones, dated to 1662 (in Latin) and 1685. However, even the 19thC stones to the south and south-east of the church are generally in a poor condition.

Furniture: just to south-east of the porch is a sundial, its stone plinth and square base plate with incised rays surviving.

Earthworks: to the north of the church is a shallow scarp running east to west. There is no obvious explanation for it.

Ancillary features: the main entrance is on the east where there are small, double iron gates; a second entrance on the west has a single iron gate. The east entrance is linked to the porch by a tarmac path.

Vegetation: one large yew tree south-east of the church, another on the west where new growth from an old stump.

Sources consulted

Archaeologia Cambrensis 1876, 216
Church notes
CPAT Field Visit: 22 March 1996
Haslam 1979, 223
Howse, 1949, 243
RCAHMW 1913, 20
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 Bryngwyn 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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