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Eastern Conwy Churches Survey

Church of St Mary , Llannefydd

Llannefydd Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Llannefydd in the county of Conwy. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SH9820970599.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16841 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llannefydd Church, CPAT copyright photo CS971203.JPG

Summary

The Perpendicular church of St Nefydd and St Mary lies at the heart of its village about 5 miles south-east of Abergele. It is double naved with relatively uniform windows throughout, and cyclopean doorways. Inside the roofs remain from the late medieval era. Several 14thC fragments from sepulchral slabs and effigies survive, together with a little stained glass of medieval date. From later centuries are the 17thC font, Hanoverian Arms on plaster and a range of memorials. The churchyard appears to have been curvilinear in its original form but modifications have occurred particularly on the south side. It retains a good range of 17thC and 18thC ledgers.

Though superficially of one build - 15thC on the basis of the windows - the north and south naves have masonry of faintly different appearance and the east and south sides of the latter have a chamfered plinth, while the west side has a projecting foundation, both of which are missing from the north nave. Primacy here cannot be ascertained with certainty but it appears likely that the north nave is earlier. One window - that lighting the north chancel - is atypical and may be of slightly later date.

The porch may be an addition.

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

History

The dedication and the churchyard morphology points to an early medieval beginning for Llannefydd. The eponymous 5thC founder is said to have been a grandson of Brychan Brycheiniog.

A local tradition refers to a saint being buried at the back of the churchyard within a circular ditch and with stones on edge around him. Known as Frymder's grave, this was cleared in the 1890s.

In the medieval period it was a chapel subject to the cathedral at St Asaph. In the 1291 Taxatio it appears as 'Ecclesia de Laundid est Capella Cathedral' at a value of 16.

It has been argued that the church acquired its second dedication - to St Mary - at the time that it was extended into a double-naved structure in the 15thC.

The Rural Dean's report in 1729 noted that there was a pew belonging to a member of the gentry adjacent to the north communion table, that the church roof on the north side needed re-slating, that the wainscot above the communion table was in need of repair but that the church was generally in good condition.

The church was whitewashed externally as well as internally at the beginning of the 19thC.

Glynne visited the church in 1855 noting an open bell gable with an aperture for two bells, untouched Perpendicular windows, a plain porch and 'foliated figures cut over the beams'.

Restoration occurred in 1859 when the windows were repaired, the building re-roofed, and the present bellcote was erected replacing an earlier one of 1799, though there is some confusion over the dates and sequence. The cost was 636.

Further restoration in 1908-9 was by Harold Hughes of Bangor. The old vestry (on the west side?) was demolished, the box pews removed, heating added, the chancel renovated and the floor levelled and repaired, at a cost of 1124. There is a reference too at this time to a gallery at the west end of the south aisle which was taken down. Drains were dug around the church and a disused parish room was removed from the churchyard.

By 1966 the roof of church was in very poor condition and it was suggested the building should be demolished. However, it was renovated and reopened in 1972.

Architecture

Llannefydd church comprises two equally sized naves with a south porch and a west bellcote above the gable of the south nave.

It is oriented west-south-west/east-north-east but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for the church, though not for the churchyard. The terms 'north nave' and 'south nave' are used here, though it is recognised that the north nave no longer functions as such.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of medium to large, roughly dressed blocks of limestone showing some coursing; quoins of better dressed stone. 'B' is similar to 'A', but there are occasional grey shale blocks incorporated, and the coursing is less regular.

Roof: slates with grey clay ridge tiles; cross finials in stone at the east end of both cells.

Drainage: a brick-lined gully dug around all sides except the east. Continued around east side of porch but not the west.

Exterior

North Nave and Chancel. General. No external differentiation between nave and chancel. Fabric 'B'.

North wall: masonry has homogeneous appearance and wall plates are exposed at eaves level. Under the most westerly window for a distance of little more than a couple of metres is a projecting foundation, now beneath ground level but exposed in the drainage gully: its origin is unclear. Three windows; the two lighting the nave have ogee heads each with two four-centred lights with cinquefoil cusping and complex hollow chamfers - the original stone is a greyish-pink sandstone but there has been much replacement including the hoodmoulds with their simple stops. Chancel window has a three-centred arch and three lights with two-centred heads and pronounced cinquefoil cusping; the mouldings and the hoodmould are similar to those in the nave, and most of the dressings have been renewed; signs, too, that this window has been inserted.

East wall: north-east angle has dressed sandstone quoins: it is not clear whether these are replacements. East window has a two-centred arch with five cusped, two-centred lights, a transom at springing level, sub arches and panel tracery; most of the dressings appear original. Above is a hoodmould with original head stops, each of the four on the two east windows is different, though the northern example on this window stands apart in a different coloured sandstone - perhaps a replacement, though weathered.

West wall: weathered quoins at north-west angle also in sandstone. Doorway in this wall face with a two-centred arch and chamfered dressings, but of plain appearance. No indication that this doorway inserted. Rendered chimney projects from wall face.

South Nave and Chancel. General. No external differentiation between nave and chancel. Fabric 'B'.

East wall: at base of wall is a chamfered plinth to a height of c.0.4m which stops just to south of the valley between the two cells. East window is to the same design as that in north chancel and its dressings are largely original; the head stops to the hoodmould are original but weathered to the point that that on the south could be ballflower rather than a head.

South wall: chamfered plinth continues from east wall. Features from east are: i) three-light window with ogee head and cusping that is less pronounced than counterpart on north side; dressings much renewed. ii) blocked priest's door with two-centred arch, cyclopean unchamfered limestone stonework. iii) ogee-headed three-light window, the lights with round heads and trefoil cusping, probably original; hood mould has been renewed. iv) porch. v) standard ogee-headed window but there are two lights with broad trefoil cusping; mullions renewed, but hoodmould might be original.

West wall: plain. At ground level and below are projecting and battered foundations, stopping abruptly at the valley between the two naves. There is however no convincing indication of which nave is earlier. Double bellcote in well-dressed limestone masonry.

Porch. General. In 'A'; no plinth.

East wall: small rectangular light with chamfered freestone dressings, now blocked. South of this is a weathered sandstone panel with a partly unintelligible Latin inscription, undated.

South wall: simple two-centred archway in unchamfered limestone blocks; wood and wire screen with door. Tie rod plate above arch.

West wall: plain but for another sandstone plaque with Latin inscription referring to Evan Morris (no date).

Interior

Porch. General. Flag floor but no re-use; plastered and painted walls except north wall; simple roof of purlins and rafters.

North wall: two-centred doorway, cyclopean of unchamfered limestone blocks. Door claimed to be the original 15thC door, refaced in 1908.

East wall: plain but for stone bench along wall.

West wall:- as east wall with addition of notice boards.

North Nave. General. Wooden block floor throughout. Walls plastered and painted, including window splays but not dressings. Roof of eight bays across chancel as well (five bays to the nave). All trusses have moulded arch-braced collars and spring from the walls; raking struts and principal rafters are cusped above the collars; two tiers of cusped windbraces. Much of the timber work looks original. Rear of nave is curtained off to form vestry.

North wall: two splayed windows; between these a wooden board with the names of farms and individuals painted on together with a few brass plates, a deteriorating stone benefaction board and the tester from an earlier pulpit. Above the north chancel step are two stone monuments of 1614 and 1618.

East wall: step up to chancel.

South wall: three bays of five-bay arcade with two-centred arches, two orders of which one chamfered the other hollowed, heavy octagonal capitals and octagonal pillars with moulded ribs above the bases; masons marks on the dressed stone.

West wall: slightly splayed west door now curtained off and not used. Two graveslabs of 1679 and 1680 pinned to wall.

North Chancel. General. Stone slab floor throughout on which are some benches and a subsidiary altar. Walls as nave. Roof as described under nave.

North wall: one splayed window. Several memorials either built into wall, pinned to it or resting against it; these are all 17thC or 18thC and include a brass of 1741.

East wall: splayed east window containing fragments of medieval glass in upper panels; a number of stone and marble memorials ranging from the 17thC to the 20thC and including a marble plaque of 1908 recording three graveslabs to the Foulkes family which were removed during the restoration of that year.

South wall: two bays of the five-bay arcade, that to west with a parclose screen. For the description of arcade see north nave. Respond at east end has some stone replacement in its pillar.

West wall: nothing.

South Nave. General. Two steps down from the porch. Wooden block floor as north nave. Walls plastered and painted as north nave. Roof of eight bays extends across chancel, and in appearance is precisely similar to that in north nave; again much of the timber looks original.

North wall: four bays of arcade (see north nave). At west end a small undated but inscribed stone plaque pinned to wall.

East wall: 20thC screen.

South wall: two splayed windows and a splayed doorway, part of the eastern splay cut away to form an alcove, perhaps for a statuette or a stoup. Royal Arms, two 19thC brass memorial plaques, a couple of framed prints and a brass commemorating the restoration of 1908-9.

West wall: plain.

South Chancel. General. one step up from nave, another two to sanctuary and altar. Stone floors partly covered with carpet. Walls and roof as nave.

North wall: two bays of arcade.

East wall: splayed window, the upper panels of the window containing early glass fragments. Wall marks indicate where memorials were formerly set on either side of the window, these now removed to north chancel. 14thC slab pinned to wall north of window.

South wall: deeply splayed alcove of former priest's door left open. Splayed window and sill has two small effigy stones set on it.

West wall: screen.

Churchyard

Llannefydd churchyard is set on a gentle slope, the ground falling to the north. It is relatively small and its present polygonal shape has a hint of curvilinearity to it, particularly on north-east. A rectangular extension on the south side was added in 1907 with a further extension in 1923.

Boundary: stone revetment wall on east which is extended around north where it is accompanied by a hedge, giving way to an ordinary wall on the west.

Monuments: in the original yard the memorials have been spaced and re-set in rows. Some are of considerable age: rows of ledgers south and east of the chancel include dates of 1667, 1698, 1746 and 1779. Elsewhere there are ledgers of 1671, 1673, 1700 etc. Memorials are regimented, too, on the north side. Slabs used as steps down to west door.

Furniture: west of church is a sundial without a gnomon, inscribed 'Thos. Heath Londini Fecit.'; ornate but no obvious date, though Owen thought he could decipher the date 1756 on it and also claimed two mason's marks on the top of the shaft. This shaft is octagonal with stops to four of the sides. At base is a big square plinth with stopped chamfers at the angles. The base and shaft are part of the former cross which was originally set up outside the east wall of the churchyard, was moved to the vicarage grounds in 1871 and to the churchyard in 1978.

Earthworks: former southern boundary shows a s scarp dipping down into interior of old churchyard. Churchyard is raised, 1m-1.5m on east and about 1m on north. However, little if any drop on west.

Ancillary features: small wooden gates on east, a pair of simple iron gates on west; tarmac path from east, concrete path from west. Small store shed against north-west boundary.

Vegetation: six mature but not ancient yews randomly placed to south of church; a smaller one at south-east corner.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 6 March 1997
Faculty 1907: NLW - churchyard addition
Faculty 1908: NLW - restoration
Faculty 1923: NLW - churchyard addition
Glynne 1884, 102
Gresham 1968, 120; 131; 150; 158; 243
Hubbard 1986, 200
Jones 1995: Church Guide
Lloyd Williams and Underwood 1872, pl 1
Owen 1886, 127
Parish Documents: DRO/PD/52/1/27; 1908/9 restoration
Quinquennial Review 1989
Thomas 1911, 43
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 Llannefydd Church may also be found on the St Asaph Diocese website.


The CPAT Eastern Conwy 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 ( 22:01:21 ).
Further information about this and other churches surveyed is available from the Regional Historic Environment Record, Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, Curatorial Section, 7a Church Street, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7DL tel - (01938) 553670, fax - (01938) 552179, email - chrismartin@cpat.org.uk, website - www.cpat.org.uk.

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