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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Meugan , Llanrhudd

Llanrhudd Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ1400257761.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 102594 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanrhudd Church, CPAT copyright photo 87MB915.JPG

Summary

St Meugan's church at Llanrhudd lies about 1.5km to the east of Ruthin and was formerly the mother church for that town. Possibly an early medieval foundation, it has nothing obviously earlier than the 15thC. The walls of the building may be of this date and there is one surviving Perpendicular window on the north side, but the majority of windows have been renewed or replaced; the south door and the porch should also be 15thC/16thC. Inside is a late medieval rood screen and some glass fragments, a 17thC altar table and a good range of wall memorials. The rectangular churchyard contains at least one fine late 17thC graveslab, and the shaft of a medieval cross; whether this was the yard's original shape remains to be determined.

Llanrhudd despite its simple plan presents more of a problem than some churches, because there are subtle variations in the fabric which may or may not be significant.

Arguably the structure as visible is largely of one build - Perpendicular period? - with windows renewed or inserted at different times. One, now blocked, in the chancel north wall is tilting and may be largely original, perhaps 15thC. Next to it a traceried four-light window is dated 1626, though renewed; Hubbard considered it 'unusually elaborate for 17thC work in the Vale of Clwyd but similar to the east windows of some double-naved churches, and [thus] may not be in situ'. On the south two windows that could be 17thC or perhaps could be original Perpendicular with deliberate use of two freestone colours.

Porch is late medieval on the basis of the roof timbers, with a south door to the church matching it.

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

History

The origin of St Meugan's church is obscure, though it seems to have been assumed that the dedication reveals an early medieval origin. The name Llanrhudd, however, appears to mean the 'church of red sandstone' and this implies that the present building was constructed after the name was bestowed.

Little is known of its early history, other than the fact that it was the mother church of Ruthin. It was termed as 'Ecclesia de Lanruth' with a value of 13s 4d in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 and in Pope Nicholas' taxation of 1291 with a value of 5.

It suffered during the wars of the later 13thC and compensation was paid by the Crown to the church for damage done.

Thomas believed that Llanrhudd was included with Ruthin in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, an indication of how their roles had changed.

In 1746 a mize was issued for the repair of the church and churchyard.

Glynne visited the church in 1844, approving the windows and the rood screen, and noting some ancient pews and the open roof, its timbers 'rudely carved'.

Restoration occurred in 1852, but few details are available about the work involved. Further restoration occurred in 1970.

Architecture

Llanrhudd church comprises a nave and chancel as a single cell with a south porch about half way along the south side of the building. It is oriented almost precisely east to west.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of irregular blocks of grey limestone, small to large-medium in size, and some blocks of red sandstone which frequently appear to have been fashioned into regular blocks (?re-used); the sandstone tends to appear at lower levels in the wall face; there are also very occasional fragments of brick, though these could have been inserted; random coursing and occasional limewash residues. 'B' is similar to 'A' but much of the stone appears smaller, and less regular, and limestone predominates; in places a distinctive light purple freestone is evidenced; limewash or render fragments are frequent in places. 'C' some small to medium lumps of limestone, but mainly slabs of grey shale plus occasional sandstone lumps; random coursing; quoins are mixed but they include some re-used sandstone; limewash traces.

Roof: slates with plain grey ridge tiles (red ridge tiles on porch). Cross finial at east end of chancel; bellcote at west end of nave.

Drainage: on the north side is a 0.5m deep x 1m wide trench, on the south a partially filled gully on either side of the porch; nothing obvious on east, and tarmac and grass on west side.

Exterior

Nave and Chancel. General. Nave and chancel dealt with as one because no external differentiation.

North wall: five buttresses of dressed limestone blocks with sandstone coping stones abut wall face, breaking it up into 'bays'. At the base of the wall and within the drainage trench (and thus below present ground level) is projecting masonry. Towards the east end this is regular enough to be a plinth but further west it is more irregular and disappears between the two most westerly buttresses. The possibility that this represents the foundation of an earlier and shorter church cannot be dismissed. From the west: i) the first window has a two-centred arch, three lights with cinquefoil heads and panel tracery above, a hoodmould with head-stops; all in buff-yellow freestone of Victorian date (1852?). Can be seen to be inserted with 'B' masonry around it, and this runs down to ground level. ii) next is a large two-centred arched window in buff-yellow freestone with four ogee-headed foiled lights, panels above and deeply hollowed chamfers; a date of 1626 is incised on one springer. It appears to be inserted into the wall but the signs are much less obvious than around the first window. iii) in the chancel wall is a blocked window; flat-headed with two lights, cusped, ogee heads and a curious mixture of dressings: one sill and the bottom of the mullion in red sandstone, much worn; the remainder of the mullion and the heads of the lights in buff sandstone; the jambs are single long slabs of pale grey freestone with limewash traces; and a second sill stone in a different grey freestone. How much of all this is original cannot be ascertained. Blocking material is predominantly limestone. East of this window the masonry contains more red sandstone fragments and also several fragments of brick. While there is no convincing evidence that this end has been rebuilt, it remains a faint possibility.

East wall: contains a window with a two-centred arch, four lights with cinquefoil heads and panels above, and a simple hoodmould, all in dark red sandstone; above is a decorative relieving arch in buff-yellow sandstone; wholly Victorian and of 1852? Window is clearly inserted and much of the gable appears to have been rebuilt in a variety of 'B'. The lower parts of the wall are in 'A' but as with the north wall there are considerable quantities of red sandstone, particularly near the north-east angle, as well as the occasional brick fragment.

South wall: generally in 'A', but some sections look closer to 'B'. From the east the features are: i) a four-centred arch with three lights with cinquefoil tracery. The upper jambs, the tracery and the mullions are all in the yellow buff sandstone that could be of 17thC origin, and the deeply hollowed mouldings might support such a view; lower jamb stones in (?)Victorian red sandstone. There is little indication that this window has been inserted. ii) sundial inscribed 'Dd Jones Rt Rouland Wardens 1736'; in sandstone and in reasonably good condition. iii) square-headed window with two two-centred arched lights with cinquefoil tracery, a mixture of red and buff-yellow dressings; the label has foliate stops and looks Victorian, but the mouldings could be 17thC or even earlier. iv) porch. v) a flat-headed two-light window, the lights almost round-headed but without cusping; the mullion and sill have been replaced, some of the jambs are in the same grey freestone used in the blocked north window, while the heads in deep red sandstone are already flaking. Above the window is what could be almost classed as a lintel of slabs. No signs of insertion.

West wall: appears to be in 'A', but at eaves level there is an almost continuous band of red sandstone and above this the masonry is predominantly limestone. West doorway of dull red freestone, a two-centred arch with stopped chamfers and almost certainly Victorian, but it houses a large studded door which should be earlier. Above the door is a two-light window with almost round heads, a modern insertion in pinkish sandstone.

Bellcote above, with two bells, and is a mix of limestone and sandstone with dressing slabs overarching the apertures which are of different sizes, not obviously Victorian.

Porch. General. In Fabric 'C'. Largely featureless.

East wall: plain but there could formerly have been a small slit window formed from ill-matched stones; it appears to correspond with an alcove internally.

South wall: end walls which are made up largely of quoin stones support a tie beam truss with cusped struts above, and a decorated boss on the underside. Late medieval.

West wall: as east wall but no real sign of window opening.

Interior

Porch. General. Now used for storage, the main entrance to the church being at the west end. Slate slab floor, two of which are graveslabs, one of 1724. Rendered walls. Roof of two principal trusses; the inner one has tenon slots on the underside of the tie beam (for earlier wall-posts?), plus decorative ornament at the centre of the underside immediately above the apex of the doorway; purlins, rafters and windbraces; late medieval.

North wall: a peaked four-centred arched doorway of 15thC or later date in red sandstone; chamfered dressings and a hoodmould with much worn head-stops; formerly painted and a Welsh inscription on the arch but this has almost completely gone. The bottom two jambstones on the west side are rounded and not chamfered - these are surely re-used, perhaps bases or capitals from earlier arches; those on the east are too worn for meaningful consideration.

East wall: small alcove with splayed sides, formerly a window. Wooden bench on limestone rubble supports.

South wall: wooden-framed wire gates.

West wall: as east wall.

Nave. General. Coloured quarry tile floor down aisle, wooden block floor around font and elsewhere, and also under the box pews; immediately in front of the chancel is a brass of 1807 set into the floor. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Roof is continuous over nave and chancel; seven bays with arch-braced collars springing from just above wall-plates; all the trusses have rafters and raking struts with cusping, and the third from the west has two sets of struts, though one member is definitely a replacement (or a reinforcement); two tiers of cusped windbraces. The last two bays, over the chancel, are distinguished by having foliate decoration on the purlins. At the west end is a gallery dated 1721, with turned balusters; now used only for storage, with a vestry beneath it on the north side.

North wall: from the west are i) a splayed window with 19thC dressings to the embrasure and stained glass of 1859; ii) three mural tablets of 1782 (stone), 1708 and 1765 (both marble); iii) a 19thC window with only the soffit stones unpainted; its east splay is set inwards in order not to interfere with the screen.

East wall: screen.

South wall: two windows, that to east with exposed dressings, that to west painted over. South door has a splayed embrasure with a four-centred arch like the outer face. A range of mural tablets and memorials, but only one (of 1797) is pre-19thC.

West wall: splayed doorway. At gallery level two Benefaction Boards, that to the south dated to 1852.

Chancel. General. One step up from nave to chancel, one to sanctuary, one to altar. Woodblock floor, the choir stalls simple benches on flush flooring; wooden boarding around the altar, some carpet. Walls and roof as described under nave.

North wall: four wall memorials of 1686, 1664, 1653 and 1586 (west to east), that of 1653 in an alcove which presumably is the blocked remains of the north chancel window.

East wall: splayed window and two wall memorials of 1829 and 1812 to the north of it.

South wall: splayed window. In the south-east angle two memorials of 1729 and 1670 at right-angles and near the screen further memorials of 1784/85 and 1777.

Churchyard

Llanrhudd churchyard is rectangular and virtually flat though there is a very slight slope from west to east as the ground starts to fall to the shallow valley of Dwr Ial. Extensions to the churchyard have been added on the south and west, probably around 1914 and 1948.

The churchyard is well maintained and there are recent burials (1994) in the core area just to the south of the porch.

Boundary: a mortared stone wall acting partially as a retaining wall lines the churchyard on the north, and there is another retaining wall on the east; on the west and south holly edges are set on low stone walls

Monuments: these are concentrated but not densely set in the yard. Some of the slate stones are cracking badly, and some ledgers are almost entirely grass covered. A fine slab on a chest tomb (later?) commemorates Grace Parry (d.1689) and her husband Simon (d.1692) and was the earliest external monument seen by the writer. There was also a table tomb of 1719 south-west of the church, and a good collection of 18thC gravestones within the yard.

Furniture: churchyard cross shaft south of porch, with a chamfered octagonal plinth and with a square head for cross socket (a scheduled ancient monument - De188). On each of the chamfered corners of the shaft is a tablet flower and mask head, much worn; and about 1.7m above the stops each chamfer has a small crudely incised face and beneath it a flower symbol. Owen recorded that on the east side of the shaft were the letters E I and the date 1677 (or 1672).

Earthworks: churchyard is raised by 1m or more on the north and 1.5m or so on the east. On the other sides external and internal levels vary by only slightly.

Ancillary features: double wrought iron gates on the north-west, gaps in the boundary give access to the extension on the south. Tarmac paths to the porch and to this extension.

Vegetation: several yews including an arc of older trees around the west and north, and a row of younger ones along the eastern edge.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 8 November 1996
Crossley 1946, 32
Glynne 1884, 179
Hubbard 1986, 233
Lloyd Williams and Underwood 1872, pls 22
Mize for repair, 1746: DRO/DD/DM/115/3
NMR Aberystwyth
Owen 1886, 131
Quinquennial Report 1989
Quinquennial Report 1996
Randall 1984, 4
Thomas 1911, 116
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 Llanrhudd Church may also be found on the St Asaph Diocese website.


The CPAT Denbighshire 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 ( 22:01:50 ).
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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