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Wrexham Churches Survey

Church of St Mary , Overton

Overton Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Overton in the county of Wrexham. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ3733041817.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 100152 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Overton Church, CPAT copyright photo CS963004.JPG

Summary

St Mary's church is set in the centre of Overton, a short distance east of the River Dee. Its tower and nave are from a 14th-15thC building while its aisles are later additions. The interior contains several carved stones of 14thC date, some 17thC and 18thC wooden furnishings and elaborate 18thC memorials. The rectangular churchyard contains the shaft of an early cross and a large number of old yews.

Tower in Decorated style from the 14thC and the core of the nave is 15thC Perpendicular.

The western piers of the arcades have responds on their east sides and parts of walls on their west/tower sides suggesting that these arches were let into the existing nave walls during the 15thC when the remainder of the arcades were constructed. Yet the two western arches are pointed whereas the remaining bays consist of four-centred chamfered arches.

The chancel was constructed in 1710 and restored in 1870. The north aisle rebuilt in 1819 but wider to bring it in line with a pre-existing transept whose date is unknown; the north aisle also carries a datestone of 1844. The south aisle was rebuilt in 1855, adding on to a south-west vestry also of 1819. The interior was largely the result of 1870 restoration work by W. M. Teulon.

Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1986 publication The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd by Edward Hubbard

History

Overton is a planned town which developed in the late 13thC and it is therefore likely that the church was founded at this time. It has been suggested that the present tower was constructed in the 14thC with a nave that was shortly after replaced with one of cruciform plan. But the earliest record of the church is from 1402 when Overton was a chapelry to Bangor Is-y-coed.

The chancel was added in 1710, and the north aisle was rebuilt in 1819, bringing it into line with the existing transept.

The west gallery was removed during restoration work in c.1854, and at more or less the same time the south aisle was built to match the north.

The church remained in the diocese of Chester until 1861 when it was transferred to St Asaph and it was given parochial status in 1868, its patron the Duke of Westminster.

Major restoration took place in 1870 under the control of W.M. Teulon. This included the introduction of new seats, floors, windows and a new stone chancel arch to replace the wooden one. A new external gable and buttresses were added. The cost was over 1,000. This work on the chancel was followed by the restoration of the nave which included removing the low pitched roof, inserting new open seats, transferrring the organ from west end of the north aisle to the transept and opening the arch to the tower; the remains of the rood screen at the west end of the north aisle were thrown out, but during the subsequent incumbency fragments were discovered and built into parclose screens. A clerestorey was added at this date, the low arched lath and plaster walls of the nave being raised c.1.2m above the arcade and a new hammerbeam roof introduced. The ceiling was boarded and the floor lowered. During the restoration work, the north transept was enlarged to take the organ and it was given a steep pitched roof with hammerbeams and boarded ceiling.The cost was 2,000.

Glynne visited the church on the day it reopened in 1871.

In the 1920s, the organ was moved to its present position at the east end of the south aisle and the north transept was made into a side chapel.

In 1935, the choir stalls were replaced by new carved oak ones. 20thC restoration included the oak floor covering the marble one in the sanctuary, panelling on the east wall, and a carved oak reredos.

1959-60 restoration work by Clark and Heaton included renewing the lead valleys in the roof, curing dry rot in the timbers, and reslating the south aisle. Seating was relaid on concrete floors, woodblock laid in the centre, granolithic material in the aisles and new stone paving under the east end benches. The tower was repaired and decayed stones were replaced.

Architecture

The church consists of a nave and chancel, north and south aisles, the former incorporating a north transept, and a west tower. It is aligned slightly north-west to south-east but for the purposes of description 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabrics: 'A' is of red sandstone ashlar, generally regularly cut and regularly coursed. 'B' is of tooled red sandstone ashlar, similar to 'A', but the blocks a little larger. 'C' is of medium to large blocks of fine-grained red sandstone with some recent repair work in ashlar. 'D' is in red sandstone, small to medium blocks of rough-faced stone, random coursing.

'C' is of the 14thC, 'A' can be attributed to the period from the 15thC through to the 18thC or 19thC, 'D' is of 1855, and 'B' dates to the later 19thC and 20thC restoration. .

Roofs:- slates and plain black ceramic ridge tiles. Clerestory fenestration set under slated dormers on the north and south sides. Cross finials to the north transept, the west end of the north aisle, the east end of the nave and chancel, and broken finials to the south aisle.

Drainage:- cast iron guttering and cisterns. Gravel laid around the base of the north, south and east walls to facilitate drainage, and probably disguises a drainage trench.

Exterior

Tower - General. In 'C'. Battlemented eastern tower in Decorated style with four stages, though the lower two may equate with one floor; diagonal stepped buttresses at the north-west and south-west corners and straight buttresses at the east ends of the north and south walls; the former incorporates the tower stair. A continuous stone plinth with a double hollow-chamfered, moulded coping around all the walls and this continues around the buttresses. A concave string course just below the battlements, in places rather fragmentary. Flag pole on the north side of the flat roof.

North wall:- the third stage has a single square-headed slit window with a new lintel. The fourth stage has a louvred, belfry window with a two-centred arch and trefoiled two-centred lights with cusped tracery above and a hoodmould. All the dressings are renewed and the window is surrounded by replacement ashlar. On the east side of the north-west buttress above the plinth is a white marble tablet to Arthur Reuben Holt (d.1882). The north-east corner buttress enclosing the tower stair abuts the nave and rises above the level of the tower battlements as an octagonal turret, with chamfered corners and broach stops at the base and battlements above. The stair is lit by three long square-headed slits. The remnant of what is supposedly an old stoup is set in the angle between the staircase and north wall of tower at a height of about 3m.

East wall:- abuts the nave and appears to have only the belfry window, which has been completely renewed, though it is impossible to determine whether there is anything lower down this wall.

South wall:- the lowest stage is obscured by the south-west room. The third stage has a square-headed slit, and a sundial on the south-east buttress is inscribed with 'Carpe diem sic vita', the date 1803, and the churchwardens' and designer's names, though these are much worn. The fourth stage has a standard belfry window, mostly renewed though some of the jambs may be original. Most of the wall face at this level has been renewed or rebuilt. A drain pipe runs down the south side of the tower.

West wall:- a two-centred, chamfered doorway of two orders, the wave-moulded chamfers ending in broad broach stops. Its hoodmould and headstops are probably Victorian, and conceivably the whole doorway may have been renewed. The second stage has a Decorated window with a two-centred arch and hoodmould over a pair of trefoiled two-centred lights with cusped tracery; the mulllion has been renewed but the tracery may be original? The third stage sports a blue clock face with gold Roman numerals from 1862. The fourth stage has a standard belfry window. The wall as a whole shows considerable masonry replacement.

North aisle - General. Constructed in mainly large blocks of fabric 'A', a rebuilding of 1819. Basal plinth with hollowed coping and topped by a roll moulding.

North wall:- a continuous plinth, c.0.5m deep, with red sandstone coping, and in places a much lower plinth just breaks the surface. Could this be from an earlier structure? Four bays form the aisle (the fifth bay is the earlier north transept). Four straight buttresses with two diagonal butresses at the corners, topped by gabled canopies. Three four-centred windows with four foiled, two-centred lights and small tracery lights, but the most westerly window though conforrming to the same pattern is narrower and has only three lights. A stone in the third bay from the west is inscribed 'Vt - 1844'.

West wall:- four-centred chamfered doorway with large broach stops; a pair of panelled doors.

North transept - General. Projects from the nave, its cross-gable roof rising above that of the north aisle. The masonry is a variety of 'C'.

North wall - part of the continuous north wall, but it pre-dates the building of the aisle. The moulded plinth continues from the east wall of the aisle, dipping beneath the window; this is deeply moulded and less than 1m above ground level, and as with the north aisle there is a lower plinth. In its single bay is a window which has a large four-centred arch with five cinquefoiled lights, the three central ones with ogee heads, the outer two with round heads; sub arches, a transom and panel tracery. Some of the tracery and most of the jambs are original. The east end has been extended in 'A', and this was presumably when the north aisle was built.

East wall:- the gable end of the aisle is also the east wall of the north transept. A moulded plinth at c.0.5m above ground level. No windows, but a diagonal buttress at the north corner.

Nave - General. Its walls of 1870 rise above the aisles and chancel, and include three north and south clerestory windows with two cinquefoiled lights with quatrefoil lights above; gabled dormers with canopied heads.

Chancel - General. An 18thC addition to the nave and aisles, but remodelled in 1870. Constructed in blocks of fabric 'A' which are larger than those of the aisle. The roof is wider and lower than the nave. Diagonal south-east and north-east stepped buttresses with yellow capstones and a plinth at c.0.6m, its topped simply chamfered off. There is a string course at eaves level on the north and south sides, following the gable on the east side.

North wall:- two-centred window with three cinquefoiled, two-centred lights, and cusped panel tracery above; Victorian hoodmould with head stops; a relieving arch of voussoirs in pink sandstone.

East wall:- the east window in mustard-yellow sandstone has a two-centred arch and five cinquefoiled, two-centred lights, sub-arches and panel tracery; sandstone voussoirs for a relieving arch, and a hoodmould with head stops. Beneath the window is a plinth resting on a pilaster corbel, probably a projecting sill from the 18thC window.

South wall:- the priest's doorway has a two-centred chamfered arch with a hoodmould above and chamfered jambs ending in bar and broach stops. A weatherworn wall tablet is set into a recess above the east side of the door; it is mounted on a plinth with a pedimented head, but the inscription if it ever existed is now illegible. Also a window as on the north side of the chancel.

South aisle - General. Constructed in 'D' with larger blocks for the plinth. Continuous plinth, c.0.3m above ground level with simple chamfer, rising towards the east end.

East wall:- a two-centred window with three cusped, ogee-headed lights with panel tracery and sub-arches above; all in red sandstone.

South wall:- five bays formed by four straight buttresses and south-east and south-west diagonal buttresses. Four two-centred windows containing three cusped,ogee-headed lights with mixed tracery above, but the westernmost bay has a two-centred window with two cusped two-centred lights with a cinquefoil light above. All the windows in red sandstone. A dentilation course below the eaves.

West wall:- gable end. Abutted by south-west corner room.

South-west corner room - General. Constructed in 1819 in 'B'. Located in the angle between the south wall of the tower and the west wall of the south aisle, with a diagonal south-west corner buttress. The walls plinthed at c.0.5m and with a concave string course below the parapet. A chimney rises from the top of the south-west buttress.

South wall:- a four-centred window with three trefoiled, two-centred lights with tracery above.

West wall:- no apertures.

Boiler house - General. 19thC. Located below south-west room with access via steps of brick and stone leading down the south wall to a square-headed basement door. Retaining walls of staircase constructed in brick.

Interior

Tower:- General. Ground floor forms entrance porch. Stone flagged floor with heating grille; walls have all stonework exposed, and these reveal occasional repairs in fabric 'B'. Ceiling is a heavy planked floor below the clock chamber.

North wall:- a square-headed doorway with inset frame to the tower stair, approached by one step. A wooden board lists church fees and is presumed to be 19thC. Also brass plaques of 1912 and 1981 recording work on the bells.

East wall:- tower arch to nave filled with a pair of panelled doors with leaded lights, and the typanum, too, with leaded lights. The arch itself is broad and rather short and of two orders which spring from the walls.

South wall:- five steps and a modern doorway lead to the new south-west room. To the east of this a Benefactions board from the 1750s. Built into the wall are two long slabs of red sandstone. These are indicative of some masonry re-use.

West wall:- recess c.1m deep to exterior door, with a four-centred soffit though the archway outside is two-centred.

North aisle - General. Stone flagged floor with iron heating grilles, flush woodblock flooring under benches, carpet in places, and modern concrete slabs at the east end. Walls of roughcast plaster. Roof of three and a half bays with four trusses: tie-beams rest on wall plates with support from short wall posts resting on stone corbels and arch bracing. Above the beams are short queen posts with arch bracing between and trefoiled tracery in the spandrels. Many of the timbers are moulded.

North wall:- Marble memorials of 1696 and 1853, together with 20thC war memorials.

East wall:- a richly carved oak traceried screen retains some of the 15thC work from which it is copied, and separates the aisle from the Lady Chapel. One of the principal trusses in the roof is directly above.

South wall:- arcade (see nave below). Against the most westerly pillar is a 19thC seated figure of Christ. By the second pillar are three medieval sepulchral fragments.

West wall:- two steps lead up to the four-centred dorway, the inner dressings with a hollow chamfer.

Lady Chapel/ North transept - General. The chapel was created 1924. Woodblock floor. Walls as north aisle. The altar, raised up on two steps, is set in an alcove created by the insertion of a large four-centred arch, the chamfered jambs terminating in pyramid stops, all in buff-coloured sandstone. However, the base of the arch is established on pink sandstone blocks of an earlier date. On the southern base of the arch is a brass recording that 'this is the way leading to Llanycefn Vault'. A gabled roof runs north to south with a large tie-beam against the north wall; moulded purlins.

North wall: dado formed of old pew panels. Dedication tablet of 1924.

East wall:- hanging on the east wall a large painting, and on the north and south sides within the alcove marble monuments of 1708, 1756 and 1791.

South wall:- parclose screen, also incorporating some old woodwork. One brass of 1693.

Nave - General. Floor as north aisle. All stonework exposed. A steep hammerbeam roof of 19thC date rises from long stone pillars on stone corbels, placed between the arches of the arcades; clerestorey windows are inserted as dormers. Five bays formed by five hammerbeams, the fifth beam against the east wall and above the chancel arch. At the east end of the nave a step up to the last bay in which are the choir stalls.

North wall:- five-bay Perpendicular arcade of pink sandstone with four-centred arches of two orders supported on four octagonal piers with moulded capitals; the western bay, though, has a narrow two-centred arch of two orders and is cut through earlier straight walling, so the first pier from the west end was originally a respond. Wrought iron lamps hang in the bays, and there is one 20thC brass attached to a pier. One course above the apices of the arcade arches is evidence that the wall was heightened for the clerestory; the stonework is fresher in appearance.

East wall:- two steps through a broad, two-centred, chamfered chancel arch of two orders with engaged, ringed shafts.

South wall:- arcade as north wall. A cross slab is built into the base of the pier at the west end and above this is a brass tablet of 1901. Evidence of wall heightening as on the north side.

West end:- the line of an earlier roof can be seen as a 'ghost' mark about 0.4m below the present roof line.

Chancel - General. Two marble steps through the chancel arch and one step to the sanctuary and two to the altar. Carpetted central aisle and stone slabs; polished wooden floor to sanctuary. Walls of roughcast plaster with exposed dressings. Wagon ceiling with three arch-braced collars sprung from wall posts and stone corbels; three and a half bays.

North wall:- five marble memorials of 1681 (in the sanctuary), 1720, 1790, 1794, and 1857. Two 19thC brasses, one in the window.

East wall:- wooden reredos; marble memorials of 1728 and 1808.

South wall:- a two-centred doorway with chamfered dressings. Marble memorials of 1780, 1787 and 1835; brasses of 1734, 1769, two 19thC examples, one of them commemorating the installation of a stained galss window, and one brass undated.

West wall:- nothing to comment on.

South aisle - General. Floor as north aisle including heating grilles, but concrete under the benches. At the west end the font is set on a mosaic floor. Walls as north aisle. Roof of four and a half bays formed by arch-braced collar trusses with king and raking struts. The most easterly bay is occupied by the organ.

North wall:- considerable variation in the stonework above the arcade, lacking the finish seen in the nave; and the highest stage of this wall is formed of brick.

East wall:- nothing other than the east window.

South wall:- marble memorial of 1783 and three of the 19thC, and one cartouche in stone, probably 19thC. 19thC and 20thC brasses.

West wall:- pointed arch over door to south-west room, approached by four steps. One 19thC marble memorial and two brasses form the 19thC and 20thC.

Churchyard

A well maintained rectangular churchyard on level ground which was subject to considerable clearance work in the 1970s and 1980s.

Boundary:- a red sandstone boundary wall, recently repaired. West wall surmounted by railings.

Monuments:- generally cleared. Re-sited headstones line the inner side of the east boundary wall and part of the south wall. Cremations in the angle between the chancel and north aisle. Chest tombs still in situ on all sides of the church, the earliest noted with a 1763 date on the north-west. A slab of 1783 against the east wall.

Furniture:- a much weathered red sandstone shaft, c.0.9m high, thought to be part of the churchyard cross, is on the north side of the west gates.

Earthworks:- ground raised 0.3m on the south side, 1m on the west and 0.5m on the north.

Ancillary features:- the north-west corner has a metal kissing gate, and in the south-east corner metal gates lead in from School Lane. The main entrance is opposite the west tower, a pair of iron gates set in sandstone pillars. Gravel paths laid all round the church.

Vegetation:- churchyard boundary is lined with 20 yews of considerable age. There are also two clipped yews in the south-west corner and firs planted outside the tower to conceal the heating boiler. One of the clipped yews was planted by Queen Elizabeth in 1992 to commemorate the Royal Charter granted to Overton by Edward I in 1292.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings 1994
Church guide n.d.
CPAT Field Visits: 10 July 1996 and 15 January 1999
CPAT SMR
Crossley and Ridgway 1945, 193
Denbighshire Record Office: D/BP/902 (1869): proposed alterations
Faculty: St Asaph 1870 (NLW) restoration
Glynne 1885, 127
Gresham 1968, 88; 102; 122
Hubbard 1986, 410
RCAHMW 1912, 111
Quinquennial Report 1995
Thomas 1908, 456
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 Overton Church may also be found on the St Asaph Diocese website.


The CPAT Wrexham 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 ( 22:03:19 ).
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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