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Wrexham Churches Survey

Church of St Chad , Holt

Holt Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Holt in the county of Wrexham. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ4121054104.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16796 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Holt Church, CPAT copyright photo CS971803.JPG

Summary

St Chad's church on the eastern edge of Holt is a late Perpendicular building with nave, aisles and a west tower, which benefitted from the patronage of the Stanley family in the late 15thC. There is a fine south doorway and some impressive Perpendicular windows and, inside, arcades of earlier date. It houses a richly carved sandstone font, a chest and some intersting 17thC and 18thC brasses, but most of the remaining furnishings and fittings are 19thC. The churchyard is rectangular with a sundial pillar dated to 1766.

Nave has pointed arches to its arcades which are late 13thC/early 14thC Decorated. This would indicate that the early church had aisles, though these were probably narrower than the present ones on the basis of masonry details in the west wall of the south aisle.

West tower added in the mid to late 15thC, though one of Hubbard's collaborators suggested it could be as late as 1679; it is difficult to accept this belief.

Aisles rebuilt and chancel and aisles extended to the east at the end of the 15thC, sometime before 1495; west window in the tower added at this time.

Further restoration work in the 1730s and a major restoration in 1871.

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

History

The church is dedicated to St Chad, the Saxon bishop of Lichfield, but there is no evidence to suggest that this was an early medieval foundation. Indeed the earliest documentary reference is as late as 1397. However, the town of Holt was a planned settlement by the Warren family, almost certainly in the early 1280s and the church was no doubt established around that time.

The early church was initially appropriated to the mother church at Gresford, but then passed to St Stephen's, Westminster. In 1547 it was transferred to the Dean and Chapter at Winchester, and included in the See of Chester.

Additions to the church and the late 15thC remodelling are attributed to the Stanley family. Sir William Stanley held the Lordship of Bromfield, and with it Holt Castle, from 1483 until he was executed by Henry VII in 1495. His work included taking down the outer walls of the aisles and the east wall of the chancel to sill level. Wider aisles were added and also extended to the full length of the chancel. The nave walls were also raised though without clerestoreys and continued to the east end to form the new chancel. The tower pointed arch was raised to correspond to the height of the new roof and a west window added. Large new windows were introduced into the aisles. To explain anomalies at the east end of the south aisle it has been suggested that because the east window of the aisle was too large for the wall to support, an external buttress had to be placed nearer to this window than was planned. An internal pillar was then constructed where the exterior buttress should have been sited.

In 1604, the right of Bostocke and Crue to an oratory or chapel in the church is mentioned in Bishop Gastrell's 'Notitia'. The presence of a brass in the north aisle chapel to Thomas Crue (d.1666) by Silvanus Crue is relevant here.

During the Civil War of the 17thC, the church was occupied by Parliamentary forces; bullet marks on the wall and pillars at the west end of the church remain from this time.

In 1714, six bells were made by Rudhalls of Gloucester, and in 1720, Lord Grosvenor presented the church with a clock, which remained in the tower until 1901.

In 1732 the church was renovated. On the south face of the church a parapet replaced the Stanley battlements, and this incorporates a commemorative datestone 'John Rowe, Joshua Powell Church Wardens 1732'. The rood loft and screens were removed. A figure of 1,939 is recorded for this restoration.

Glynne visited the church at least twice, firstly at an unknown date and later in 1853. On both occasions in his fairly full description he noted that some of the old stalls survived in the chancel, and in 1853 that there were fragments of stained glass, presumably medieval. He also thought there was a crypt under the church. Thomas, too, noted remnants of the roodloft.

In 1861 the church was transferred to the diocese of St Asaph.

A major restoration took place between 1871-73. Planned by Ewan Christian it was carried out by Douglas of Chester. It included renewing the oak panelled roof of the nave, and in more elaborate fashion that above the sanctuary; completing the stone groins in the tower; re-laying the floors; and re-seating the nave. New oak screens were introduced to divide the chancel from the north and south chapels, the choir was refitted with oak seats and window tracery was renewed. Many memorial tablets were removed during the renovation of the interior and whatever remained of the rood screen and stalls was stripped out. The cost was nearly 4000.

The bells were hung in a new iron frame in 1896, the weathervane added to the tower in 1897, and in 1902 a new clock with Cambridge chimes was introduced.

More recent work includes the introduction of improved lighting and heating in 1960, and the construction of the boiler house. In 1963 there was restoration work on the tower and re-covering of the roofs.

Architecture

The church consists of a nave and chancel, north and south aisles and a west tower. It is oriented almost due east/west.

Fabrics: 'A' is of dressed red sandstone; coursed. 'B' medium to large rectangular blocks of paler red sandstone ashlar.

'A' is original late medieval stonework. 'B' is used for more recent restoration work.

Roofs:- the roof over the nave and aisles is reputedly covered in copper sheets. The flat roof over the tower is constructed in concrete and covered in asphalt. A cross finial to the chancel.

Drainage:- lead downspouts project rainwater from the parapets of the tower, and the water from the tower by gargoyles mounted on the string course below the battlements. Gravel laid at the base of the walls presumably disguises trenches on the north and south sides of the building.

Exterior

Tower - General. A square western tower with a double plinth with chamfered coping at a height of c.0.7m; four string courses define four stages but only on the south and west faces. Battlements renewed in sandstone ashlar ('B'), and surmounted by a flat roof with a weathervane on the north side, and a central flagpole; gargoyles at the angles. There are stepped diagonal buttresses at the north-west and south-west corners, the steps in line with the string courses, and the buttresses terminating at belfry window springer level; and a straight buttress on the north side near the east angle rises above the north aisle, and is matched by a projecting stair turret on the south side.

North wall:- only the upper step of the basal plinth is visible. A slit aperture with chamfered dressings in the third stage and above this a string course with a two-centred belfry window above, containing two louvred, trefoiled, two-centred lights and an angular quatrefoil above; a hoodmould. The chamfered dressings are worn. Above the belfry level a worn string course with gargoyles.

East wall:- rises above the nave. In the third stage is what may be a doorway with a peaked hoodmould over it (though there are difficulties in observing this feature), and in the next stage a standard belfry window with worn dressings. The highest string course has beneath it a row of grotesque heads, rather like a corbel table.

South wall:- a slit window in the third stage has worn chamfered jambs but perhaps a new lintel. A standard belfry window in the fourth stage with original dressings. At the south-eastern angle a projecting stair-turret which is corbelled outwards at two points, rises to the full height of the tower and is topped by battlements. Its walls have five window slits, all on the south face. The masonry in the angle between the south wall of the tower and the stair turret includes the trefoiled head of a window and higher up a second carved stone.

West wall:- the ground floor has a two-centred doorway of two orders with roll-moulded chamfers and a renewed hoodmould; all the dressings are weathered. The twin doors themselves are studded. The second stage has a window that appears to post-date the construction of the tower, presumably relating to the late 15thC remodelling elsewhere in the building. It has a two-centred arch with a renewed hoodmould over three cinquefoiled, two-centred lights with foiled panel tracery above. The third stage has both a single square-headed slit with chamfered jambs and an open ironwork clock, while the fourth stage has a standard belfry window, though the hoodmould appears to have worn head stops. Beneath the top string course is another row of grotesque heads, but these are closer together than on the south wall.

Boiler House - General. Located below ground level in the angle between the north wall of the tower and the west wall of the north aisle. There is a stepped entrance alongside the tower wall. Its concrete roof is set below the sill level of the north aisle's west window.

North Aisle - General. Constructed in fabric 'A' with large linear blocks at the base of the walls. A two-tiered stepped plinth, variable in height from 1m to 1.5m above ground level, is stepped down in three places on the north wall to compensate for the ground slope which falls from west to east.

North wall:- a north-west diagonal buttress, five straight buttresses and an angle buttress at the east end together form six bays. The sixth bay, at the east end, is of almost double width and includes two windows. The east corner buttress and the three buttresses to the west of it rise to crocketed pinnacles with grotesque carvings, and are indicative of the replacement of the aisle by the Stanleys. A moulded string course with concave soffit runs below both the plain parapet of the three western bays and the battlements in the eastern bays, and also contours around each buttress. The six four-centred windows have hoodmoulds with simple out-turned stops, and four foiled lights with sub arches and panel tracery above. The easternmost window is narrower than the rest, presumably to accommodate it in the wide bay, but of the same design. It shares a hoodmould with its neighbour. Most of the windows show some renewal to their dressings, but especially the mullions of those at the east end. The second bay from the west contains a square-headed doorway with a moulded label which is then stepped down to form a string course running only as far as the buttresses to either side; there is a four-centred inner arch to the doorway with quatrefoils in the spandrels, and fluted chamfers to the jambs and arch. A broad studded door.

East wall:- double basal plinth and string course continue from north wall. The east window, which is set higher than those in the north wall, has a two-centred arch with hoodmould over five tall, foiled, ogee-headed lights with sub arches and panel tracery above.

West wall:- abuts the tower buttress and is clearly later. The window has a weathered, four-centred arch with a much damaged hoodmould over four foiled, ogee-headed lights with sub arches and panel tracery above.

Nave - General. Nothing of this is visible externally from ground level.

Chancel - General. Only the east wall is visible externally.

East wall:- stepped basal plinth and two string courses. There are two straight, stepped buttresses which terminate in trefoiled canopies and crocketed pinnacles. These divide the chancel from the aisles to either side, but these are not precisely the same for the stepped plinth goes round the one to the north but not that to the south. Below the lower string course which arches over a niche with fluted chamfers is a memorial slab set into the wall to Jasper Peck (d.1712) and his wife Mary (d.1740). Above this is a large, wide four-centred window with a transom dividing the shallow arched, cinquefoiled lights below and inverted arches on its upper side which lie at the base of cinquefoiled tracery lights; sub arches and foiled panel tracery; hollow chamfered jambs and a hoodmould. All the dressings look original. The parapet at the apex carries an inscribed slab stating 'The Reverend John Adams Minister 1732'. The stonework of this wall carries some carved names and initials such as 'Thomas Baker 1794' and 'Tho. Gee'.

South aisle - General. Wider than the north aisle, but of similar height and design, and similarly displays an eastern extension by the Stanleys.

East wall:- the double plinth of this wall does not line up with that of the chancel. The window with a wide, four-centred arch and hoodmould over six foiled, ogee-headed lights with sub arches and panel tracery above. Very similar to the equivalent window in the north aisle, but extra embellishments, with a sort of pseudo-capital below each springer. The mullions may have been renewed.

South wall:- in 'A' but some 'B' at the east end. Along the whole length is a plain parapet with capstones rather than battlements, a result of a restoration in 1732 which is recorded on a datestone in the second bay from the west above the doorway (see above). Windows as on the north side, also showing mullion renewal. Underneath the more westerly of the paired windows in the most easterly bay are two stones projecting step-like from the lower plinth: could there have been a doorway here originally? The second bay from the west contains a more ornate doorway than the north aisle, since it was the approach from the castle at Holt. The square-headed doorway has a label with foliate decoration and much weathered stops, and above this is a panel depicting the Annunciation. The masonry is extremely weathered but there are carved spandrels which include the Arms of Henry VII, and a mitred figure which is in relief on the hollow chamfer. The doorway has a four-centred arch and chamfered dresssings, hollowed and fluted. Above the doorway is a projecting string course with fluted underside, and about 1.5m above this is a carved frieze of small quatrefoils with its own string course above. As on the east side there is grafitti on the stonework surrounding the door including 'I.C. 1730'.

West wall:- a standard four-light window as in the west wall of the north aisle. This wall abuts the tower staircase turret.

Interior

General. The walls of the interior show carved initials, some of which may have denoted the owners of adjacent pews. There are masons' marks on the internal stonework.

Tower - General. Ground floor forms main entrance to the church and there is a disabled ramp from the tower into the main body of the church which is effectively two steps lower than the tower. Red and black tiled floor. Walls have exposed stonework. The ceiling was vaulted by Douglas with eight ribs; the springers reportedly already existed, but it is worth remarking that in the south-west corner the vaulting springs from a large stepped corbel, but in the other corners it emerges directly from the walls. The second floor has the clock mechanism and the bell ringing chamber, with a planked floor and ceiling. The third floor is the belfry.

North wall:- some masons' marks visible on the sandstone blocks. Wooden plaque of the Incorporated Society for Buildings and Churches from 1871, and brasses recording the installation of electric lighting in 1936 and the clock and chimes in 1902.

East wall:- a high, narrow, two-centred chamfered arch of two orders; the inner arch with engaged capitals, the outer directly from the wall faces. The arch rises almost to the clock chamber, having been raised by the Stanleys.

South wall:- doorway leads to spiral staircase, with one worn step in the tower. The doorway has a rectangular frame with moulded chamfers and pyramid stops. Wooden boxing running up the wall encases works associated with the clock.

West wall:- an inner porch with one step down. Segmental head to the reveal. The door itself of some antiquity, as noted above.

North aisle - General. Red and black tiled floor, and flush, planked floor below benches. Stonework of walls all exposed. Roof of ten camberbeams form eight bays for the full length of the roof, and the principals are supported on short wall posts resting on head stops of medieval date. The camberbeams are moulded - are they original? The west end is screened off as a modern vestry. The east end is occupied by a chapel - formerly the Crue chapel. It is fully carpetted with modern oak fittings, and is separated from the aisle by a large pipe organ which fills the width of the aisle.

North wall:- four-centred arch to the reveal of the north door which is now disused. The door itself is similar to that in the west wall of the tower. On the threshold stone rests the carving of an animal, probably from a corbel course or the like. There are brasses of 1767 and 1784, one marble memorial of 1712/1731 and two 19thC marble memorials. Initials carved on the wall include '1707 I M' and 'C I 1711' in a square frame, and are generally held to be the initials of adjacent pew owners.

East wall:- an organ divides the aisle from the north chapel, this at the end of the fifth bay.

South wall:- a five-bay arcade, of Decorated style, of high, narrow, sharply pointed two-centred arches on octagonal stone piers, with moulded capitals and bases. To the east of the fifth bay the wall is fractionally outset and in ashlar. Above the apices of the arches, the wall has been set outwards (i.e. to the north), but only one course before the roof starts.

West wall:- a bell of unknown date rests on the window sill.

North chapel - General. Carpet throughout. Walls and roof as north aisle.

North wall:- a fine brass of 1666.

East wall:- the window of this wall but also those in the north wall, a ledge has been cut into the sill of the window, an original feature.

South wall:- arcade with two four-centred arches, heavily moulded. The octagonal piers have slightly hollow faces, and there are octagonal capitals and bases. The more westerly bay has a parclose screen, that to the east is separated from the chancel by a low stone wall interrupted by a two-step entrance.

West wall:- the organ.

Nave - General. Floor as north aisle but aisle carpetted. Walls as north aisle, but a change in the masonry above the arcade arches indicates that it has been heightened. The high roof which was raised by the Stanleys, is unusual for the absence of clerestories below it. It is continuous across the nave and chancel, but in the nave its four camberbeams create five bays, with a fifth beam over the screen. These are moulded and the spandrels above the wall posts are decorated. Moulded ribs between the camberbeams create 40 panels to each bay. The principals are supported on stone corbels, some carved; and the bosses at the intersections are carved with Tudor rose motifs.

North wall:- arcade as described above. Some initials carved on the pillars, with one particular one which has something along the lines of ' C S 16?2' overlain by 'JM T I 1742' representing a palimpsest which reinforces the view that these were the initials of adjacent pew holders. A change to ashlar masonry at the extreme east end of the nave.

East wall:- two steps up to the chancel and a 19thC oak screen of five bays, the upper part filled with tracery and the beam ornamented with cresting.

South wall:- five bay arcade comparable with north arcade. Above the pillar supporting the most westerly arch an alcove or slot in the masonry - perhaps for a gallery timber? Again an obvious change in the masonry at the east end.

West wall:- two-centred tower arch of two orders; the moulding on the capitals of the inner order is carried across the outer order where there is no capital. One brass of 1784.

Chancel - General. Two step up from the nave and two to the sanctuary. Carpetted central aisle with longitudinal choir stalls on raised planked floors. The sanctuary has an encaustic tiled floor and modern fittings. Roof of two main bays which are sub-divided; the camberbeams are heavily decorated but the central one of the three is not supported on corbels. Smaller panels wiothin each bay with bosses at the intersections of the ribs, and larger bosses on the undersides of the camberbeams; tracery in the panels over the sanctuary. Note that the alignment of the chancel is fractionally different from that of the nave.

North wall:- the chancel is separated from the north chapel by a two-bay arcade as noted above. The chancel wall is clearly outset from the nave wall on this side.

East wall:- against the wall, the south arcade is supported on a corbel comparable with the capital heads, and carved with an angel carrying a tablet on the underside.

South wall:- as north wall.

West wall:- screen as noted.

South aisle - General. Floor, walls and roof of eight bays as north aisle. However while the western bays have principals which are in alignment across the two aisles, the eastern principals are not in alignment with those in the north aisle. There is no obvious reason for this anomaly. Camberbeams rest on stone corbels, some worn. The west end is used as a baptistry. At the east end is a Lady Chapel, tiled and in places carpetted, with modern oak fittings.

North wall:- arcade as on north side, with five bays to the nave and two to the chancel.

East wall:- against the east wall a respond but this does not rise higher than the abacus. This looks as though it ought to have completed the arcade yet it does not and it is out of alignment. It has been argued that it buttresses the wall because of the large-sized east window. Could it just represent poor building or as Hubbard suggested a change of plan?

South wall:- in the chapel is a red sandstone piscina in Decorated style; it has an ogee-head to the niche with thin pinnacled buttresses to either side resting on animal-head corbels. And the ledge has a corbel depicting the head of a green man; yet there is no bowl. The piscina pre-dates the fabric of the wall, and is obviously reset. Three consecration crosses on the south wall of the chapel. Internal wooden porch to the south door.

West wall:- the wall reveals two phases of construction for beneath the window is a butt joint though with projecting bonding stones giving a stepped pattern. The masonry to the north of this joint is more worn than the ashlar to the south, and also this ashlar is visible around all of the window which looks to be inserted into the earlier wall.

Churchyard

The original rectangular churchyard was extended to the south in 1881 as a result of an 1880 enquiry into its crowded condition. Though there was plenty of space on the north-west side further ground was also enclosed on west where there had been a back lane to Church Street. The ground immediately around the church was closed for burials at this time. There was a later extension in the south-east corner. The ground slopes naturally from west to east where it overlooks the River Dee.

Boundary:- red brick wall beside the west path, along the west side of the churchyard. Hedged boundaries to the north and east and a stone wall on the south. Garden wall to the north-west of the church.

Monuments:- no marked burials on the north side. Scattered marked burials on the south and east sides include several chest tombs of mainly early 19thC date. Gravestones of 1776 and 1780 on the south. Some gravestones laid flat for paths.

Furniture:- the red sandstone pillar for a sundial is mounted on a stepped circular base, and has acircular shaft becoming octagonal above a roll moulding. The octagonal faces are incised 'TP WR CW 1766'. No dial. It has been suggested that it may originally have been part of a Roman column.

Earthworks:- not raised, though there is a drop of perhaps 0.5m on the north side.

Ancillary features:- the main entrance to the churchyard is along a narrow drive between property on the east side of Church Street. There are wrought iron ornamental gates, made in Wrexham in 1816, sited where an earlier lychgate had stood. Tarmac and slab paths laid along the north, south and west sides of the church. Store shed in north-west corner.

Vegetation:- 19thC yews mark the original rectangular layout.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings 1996
CPAT Field Visits: 27 March 1997 and 12 February 1999
CPAT SMR
Crossley 1946, 25
Denbighshire Record Office: PD/39/1/43 (c.1880)
Glynne 1885, 125
Hubbard 1986, 182
Lloyd Williams and Underwood 1872 pl 33-34
Palmer 1910, 169
Powell 1973, 11
Pratt 1965,
Quinquennial Report
Soulsby 1983, 144
Thomas 1913, 259
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 Holt 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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