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Wrexham Churches Survey

Church of St Mary Magdalene , Penley

Penley Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Maelor South in the county of Wrexham. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ4131740047.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 15845 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Penley Church, CPAT copyright photo CS963014.JPG


The church of St Mary Magdalene was built in 1899, its predecessors going back to perhaps the 16thC. Little of pre-19thC date survives except for two 18thC brasses and an 18thC marble memorial, and a font bowl probably from the same century.

Built in 1899-1901.

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


A chapel of ease to Ellesmere, Penley may have been established in the 16thC. There is a record of an earlier church constructed of lath and plaster which was taken down in 1793.

In 1794 a new church was built in a mix of Gothic and Georgian styles with a rectangular ground plan. Constructed in brick with stone floors, it consisted of a wide nave and square west tower with a pyramidal roof. The windows had wooden mullions and were square-headed, vernacular in style. Only the south-east window contained stained glass incorporating 15 heraldic shields and crests. The interior had oak box pews, the best of which were subsequently reused at Llanerch Panna Hall.

The accommodation was enlarged in 1819, through the addition of a gallery at the west end.

By 1887 the church was declared structurally unsound and plans for restoration were drawn up by a Mr Stringer. It was later decided that the siting of existing graves and the vaults and yew trees necessitated the construction of a new church to the north of the existing one on ground provided by the Dymock Estate.

The present church was constructed between 1899 and 1901 to the design of Charles Hodgson Fowler, Architect, of Durham. The old church was demolished in 1901 after the new church and burial ground had been consecrated.

Penley remained in the diocese of Lichfield until 1920 when it was transferred to St Asaph.

In 1923 the church was re-seated, electricity was installed in 1946 and the organ was replaced 1964.


The church consists of a nave and chancel, a south porch and a north vestry with a bellcote at the west end of the nave. The church is aligned north-west to south-east but for the purpose of description 'ecclesiastical east' is used here.

Fabric 'A' is of generally medium blocks of fairly regularly coursed well-dressed red sandstone with dressings of the same fabric.

Roofs:- red clay tiles and plain ridge tiles. Cross finials on the east gable and on the porch.

Drainage:- guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways. A hollow around the walls suggests a drainage trench.

The church was entirely rebuilt at the end of the 19thC and for that reason the following description is no more than a summary.


General. A stone plinth, c.0.4m above ground level, is continuous around all the walls. There is also a drip moulding just beneath window sill level which is stepped up on the chancel walls and at the west end of the north side of the nave.


North wall:- two square-headed windows containing two cusped, ogee-headed lights with small tracery lights above, in Decorated style.

South wall:- to the east of the porch two windows as on the north side but with three lights. A straight buttress at the east end.

West wall:- there is a central, stepped buttress which separates two, two-centred windows with hoodmoulds and simple stops over pairs of cusped,ogee-headed lights with quatrefoils above. Small square-headed slits appear above both windows. The gable rises to a single bellcote with a two-centred aperture, its projecting face supported on the top of the buttress.

Vestry/organ chamber - General. Abuts the north wall of the chancel and part of the nave, but is set back slightly from the chancel at the east end. A subterranean boiler room with access via a flight of stone steps leading down alongside the north wall of the vestry.

North wall:- three, grouped, square-headed lights set directly into the stonework and a single square-headed light to the west.

East wall:- a pair of ogee-headed lights, but of a different design to the main church, are set directly into the wall. A blocked aperture at ground level to the boiler room.

West wall:- a shouldered arch above the panelled door.

Chancel - General. Inset slightly from the nave but only on the south side. A continuous plinth and string course as on the nave.

North wall:- obscured by vestry.

East wall:- the east window has a two-centred arch with hoodmould and three stepped, cinquefoiled lights with subsidiary lights. Above the window a stepped string course and a square-headed slit aperture in the gable.

South wall:- two two-centred windows, one with three ogee-headed lights, the other with two. A foundation stone in red sandstone at the south-east corner has a weathered inscription indicating it was laid by Lord Kenyon.

South porch - General. The small open porch is entered by a two-centred chamfered archway of two orders; the drip moulding is carried over the arch as a hoodmould; two steps into the porch.


Porch - General. Red tiles on the floor, plastered walls and a roof of three close-set collar trusses.

North wall:- two-centred doorway of two orders with chamfered dressings, one hollow-moulded, the other convex; bar stops to the chamfers.

Nave - General. Red tiles on the floor with flush woodblock floors under the benches; heating vent grilles, now superseded by pipes along the walls. Plastered and painted walls with dressed stonework exposed in apertures. Panelled wagon roof painted blue with white ribs; 77 main panels and small panels above the moulded wallplates. Three metal tie-rods span the nave.

North wall:- shouldered arch to vestry. Marble tablets of 1784 and 1843.

East wall:- a wooden chancel arch supported on red sandstone corbels and chamfered jambs with broach stops. To the north of the arch is a photograph of the church from 1901.

South wall:- segmental reveal to the south door. Brass of 1782/1804 with an accompanying brass plate indicating that the former is no longer above the burial spot of those memorialised. Another brass of 1908.

West wall:- windows and a bell pull from the roof.

Chancel - General. Two steps up from the nave to a red tiled floor, carpetted; patterned tiles in the sanctuary; woodblocks under the choir stalls, plastered and painted walls. Roof as in the nave but narrower and with 25 panels, but those over the sanctuary sub-divided into fours.

North wall:- organ set in a recess under a segmental arch.

East wall:- wooden reredos. The window aperture has engaged pillars supporting an inner arch.

South wall:- a trefoiled two-centred piscina in the sanctuary wall, all in pink sandstone. Also a brass of 1725 with a plate referring to its reinstatement in 1911.

West wall:- nothing to note.

Vestry - General. Located behind the organ. Woodblock floor, plastered and painted walls, sloping planked ceiling.

West wall:- door.


The original churchyard was extended northwards when the new church was built at the end of the 19thC, and this creates the present rectangular plot. It occupies level ground and is reasonably well maintained. In 1968 graves and monuments were moved to facilitate roadworks. An additional burial ground was added to the north side in 1973.

Boundary:- a red brick wall on the south and southern part of the eastern side, which may have been constructed at the same time as the 1794 red brick church. Hedges on the east, and also on the north and west sides, the latter accompanied by a wire fence, the former with a wooden fence.

Monuments:- the south side contains a mix of 18thC to mid 19thC graves, a few chest tombs and crosses; the earliest slab noted was of 1768 near the south wall of the churchyard. On the north-west side of the churchyard, the graves are mainly those of Polish soldiers and their dependents. In 1946, two Polish Hospitals were established at Penley Hall and Llanerch Panna. More recent burials located on the north side of the church.

Furniture:- the square granite pillar of a sundial minus its gnomon is sited on a grave to the north of the church.

Ancillary features:- the main, wooden entrance gates are set in the south wall, and there are well laid concrete paths leading to the south porch and all around the church.

Earthworks:- undulations in the ground surface mark the location of the earlier church.

Vegetation:- five mature yews line the side of the east wall and may be contemporary with the building of an earlier church in the 17thC or 18thC. A single yew near the west wall.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visits: 12 July 1996 and 15 January 1999
Flintshire County Record Office: D/DM/295/1 (1899) Building plans
Hubbard 1986, 415
Pratt 1980
Quinquennial Report 1996
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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 Penley 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 -, website -

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