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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Stephen , Bodfari

Bodfari Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Bodfari in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ0925570118.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16719 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Bodfari Church, CPAT copyright photo CS981924.JPG

Summary

The church of St Stephen lies in the centre of the small settlement of Bodfari on the edge of the Vale of Clwyd, about three miles to the north-east of Denbigh. Traditionally the first foundation was in the early medieval period, but today its late medieval tower is accompanied by a rebuilt nave and chancel from 1864-5. Inside are a 16thC font, an altar and pulpit both from 1635, the Mostyn monument of 1671and a ring of three bells cast in 1636. The churchyard is rectangular and contains memorials going back to the early years of the 17thC.

Western tower in late Perpendicular style, though its lower stages may be rather earlier. The nave and chancel however were totally rebuilt in 1864-5.

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

History

There is a tradition that the first church on the site was founded in the 7thC by Deifar or Diar, whose well was located c.100m south of the church. But the first record is in a charter of 1093, when William de Punterleya (Pounderling) gave the monks of St. Werburgh's Abbey, Chester, the church and manor of 'Batavari'. The church is recorded in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 as 'Ecc'a de Bottewara' at a value of 30s, and in the Lincoln Taxation of 1291 as 'Ecclesia de Bottervaum' at 4 6s 8d.

The tower was constructed in the 15th or perhaps the early 16thC. Between c.1535-1600, an aisle was added on the south side to replace a chapel of ease - Capel Hwlkyn.

In 1592, the great bell was recast by Thomas Orrell, bellfounder from Wigan. The lesser bell was recast in 1596 by Thomas Ffrier, who is also recorded as recasting the great bell in 1597. These castings appear to have taken place in the churchyard and suggest that the great bell was recast twice. All the bells were recast some 40 years later as present inscriptions verify.

In 1715 records report the flagging of the church, and carrying the pulpit and rails from Llaweny; in 1733 repairs were undertaken to the churchyard.

Repairs to the church in 1734-42 included plastering the church and steeple and repairing the interior, which involved propping up the pillars. Repairs were made to the roof of the church in 1745 and the church wall in 1764. Lime was purchased to whitewash the exterior walls in 1767, a lock was repaired on the church chest and repairs were made to the frame in the steeple.

Between 1827-34, the church roof was repaired and repointed and the interior was completely limewashed. Glynne's 1839 report on the church recalls coarse and plain architecture, a cross at east gable, windows with contracted arches on square heads, and a three-light east window with stained glass. The building at this time consisted of an undivided nave and chancel with a south aisle and six-bay timber arcade, though Glynne suggested that the south aisle had been rebuilt at some time. He specifically referred to the 17thC pulpit and the font.

Despite repairs, a report on the dilapidated fabric of the church in 1862 opined that it was beyond repair. A new church built by Wyatt in 1865 is presumed to follow the old plan. A chancel arch was constructed over the screen (itself later removed in 1928-9), and the chancel was raised four steps above the nave and tiled.

Architecture

The church consists of a west tower, a nave, chancel and south aisle with a south porch, and a vestry at the eastern end of the aisle. The church is oriented north-north-east/south-south-west but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here for descriptive purposes.

Fabrics: 'A' is of small to medium blocks and slabs of limestone; very occasional lumps of ?siltstone; irregular coursing; dressed limestone quoins. Some limewash residue. Walls in this fabric tend to have extremely heavy mortar pointing. 'B' is of large, randomly laid blocks of limestone; not coursed. 'C' is of squared, small to medium blocks of quarry-cut limestone with pecked limestone quoins and yellow sandstone dressings. 'D' is primarily of grey (?)siltstone blocks with some limestone; irregular coursing.

'A' is certainly medieval but whether 13thC, 14thC or 15thC is not known. 'D' is 15thC or possibly early 16thC. 'B' is undated. 'C' is of 1864-5.

Roofs: slates with blue ridge tiles. Cross finial at east end of chancel.

Drainage: cast iron guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways. Slabs around the north wall could disguise a drain, but there is no convincing signs of a drain elsewhere.

Exterior

Tower. General. The lower wall faces are in 'A', the upper faces from a level about in line with sills of the belfry windows are in 'D', suggesting that the top of the tower has been rebuilt or perhaps more likely, heightened. The base of the wall has been strengthened by the addition of masonry splays, effectively wedge-shaped buttresses in 'B', up to c.3.5m high. It is assumed but not proven that the splays were not original features, but they certainly pre-date the 19thC restoration. The upper courses of the west face and all of the north wall show signs of remnant limewash. The tower is of at least three storeys with a continuous square-sectioned string course below the parapet; a flagpole at the south-west corner.

North wall: small square-headed slit window to first floor with pale sandstone dressings, much worn. Belfry window consisting of two rather coarse two-centred, louvred lights; worn, buff coloured sandstone dressings that look original, except for the mullion. A waterspout projects from the string course near the north-west angle.

East wall: the division between 'A' and 'D' is much clearer on this face. Belfry window as north wall, and again the mullion has been renewed. The parapet contains a round-headed aperture with chamfered dressings which was the former opening for the Sanctus Bell.

South wall: slit window as north side, with rough sandstone dressings. Belfry window as north side, but the lights have trefoiled, round heads. Waterspout near south-west angle.

West wall: the original west entrance appears to have been blocked and in its place a round-headed window with two trefoil-headed lights and a quatrefoil above, though different sandstones have been used. Beneath the sill is blocking material in 'C'. Higher up is a small slit window with pale sandstone dressings, but topped by a small chamfered, foiled head in red sandstone and above this a clock face of 1912. Standard belfry window with foiled heads as south side; some renewal including jambstones.

Nave. General. In 'C', with quoins of the same fabric. Windows are square-headed with labels and limestone relieving arches above.

North wall: in this wall alternating two-light and three-light windows with cinquefoil tracery; the most easterly of the four (with three lights) has tracery of a slightly different form from the others; two ordinary buttresses.

Chancel. General. In 'C' but narrower and lower structure than the nave; the vestry abuts the south wall. Also a plinth about 0.5m above ground level. North window as nave with two cinquefoiled lights, while the east window is Perpendicular-style with three cinquefoiled two-centred lights with panel tracery above set in two-centred arch with a hoodmould terminating in simple stops; relieving arch in limestone.

Vestry. General. Two-centred doorway in south wall, foiled lights in square-headed windows in the south and east walls, the latter with a dormer gable above.

South Aisle. General. In 'C' with lean-to roof against the nave.

South wall: windows as north wall of nave. One buttress at the juncture of the aisle and vestry; two standard windows to the east of the porch, one of two lights, one of three; one two-light window to the west of porch.

West wall: one two-light window with adjacent buttress.

Porch. General. In 'C' with a low plinth at the base of the wall. On the south an entrance with a two-centred archway and a hoodmould and head-stops below a limestone relieving arch. Single quatrefoil lights in the east and west walls.

Interior

Porch. General. Stone flagged floor, plastered and painted walls, and a ceiling of rafters and collars.

North wall: wall face is painted blue; south doorway to church has a two-centred arch with stopped chamfers. Two steps up to nave.

East and west walls: quatrefoil lights under pointed arches. Benches along the sides and an Incorporated Society for Buildings and Churches' plaque of 1863 on the east wall.

Tower. General. Ground floor in use as boiler room with modern boiler set in pit along south wall, but formerly this was an entrance porch and the outline of an earlier door with jambs, leading into nave, is visible. Stone flagged floor, c.1m below level of present nave, includes some early grave slabs. Plastered walls, vaulted ceiling.

West wall: reveal a four-centred arched reveal, c.1.3m deep.

A ladder leads to the clock chamber, its boarded floor patched with cement. An old, part spiral timber staircase leads up to the belfry with a rough timber floor and exposed stonework. A ladder leads to roof.

Nave. General. Stone flagged floor, carpetted throughout; benches on raised planked floors; walls plastered; roof of nine trusses, arch-braced collar trusses with king and arcing struts, springing from moulded corbels, alternating with similar trusses that spring from the wall plates; through purlins and rafters.

North wall: splayed windows; one marble memorial tablet of 1671 and a brass of 1910.

East wall: a two-centered chancel arch of two orders, the inner rising from short columns on foliate corbels; hoodmould with foliate stops.

South wall: arcade of four two-centred arches mounted on three circular stone piers with east and west responds; continuous hoodmould with head stops above the piers.

West wall: peaked arch and soffit to tower. Three marble memorials of 1810, 1813 and 1837.

Chancel. General. Four steps up from nave to chancel, with two steps up to he sanctuary; encaustic tiled floor, notably in the sanctuary, and planks below longitudinal benches in the chancel. Wagon roof of 24 panels, the wall plates with quatrefoil friezes.

North wall: nothing to note.

East wall: painted blue; rich mosaic reredos; decalogue boards on either side of east window.

South wall: organ set under two-centred arch which opens also onto the vestry.

South Aisle. General. Very much the same as the nave with stone flagged floor, carpetted aisle, and all walls plastered and painted. Roof of four bays defined by principal rafters supported by sloping struts off stone corbels above the arcade; between these are close-set rafters and one through purlin.

North wall: arcade as nave.

South wall: splayed windows; benefactions board and a board recording past rectors, either side of the south door.

Vestry. General. Enlarged in 1952 when its screen was moved further west; the floor level was lowered at that time to that of the nave and aisle.

Churchyard

Possibly there was a sub-oval enclosure here but the only hint of this is the curvilinearity of the south-west end shown on the tithe map. It is now sub-rectangular, tapering towards the south-west, and reflecting an extension on the north-east in 1898 with an additional strip of land included along the north-western boundary. Well-kept, but closed for burials in 1958.

Stone walled boundary consisting of a revetment wall though along the south-east and south-west it also rises internally. Repaired over several centuries; in 1847 all stiles were removed from the churchyard walls and the gaps filled, apart from the link with the old rectory, where a gate was placed (though this has now been removed).

Monuments: a large number of 18thC and some 17thC examples. A stone in Latin to Robert Jones (d.1610), south-west of the porch, is the earliest, though later re-used for the bottom section records deaths between 1764-1804. Other early stones include Humphrey Hughes (d.1678), south of the vestry, David Edwards of Lleweny Green (d.1698) and Margaret Price (d.1705).

Furniture: a sundial with the inscription '1794 Edwd. and Charles Jones, Churchwardens. R. Griffith, Denbigh, Fecit'. It is now broken. One part is set in the ground by the porch, the rest is supposedly inside the church.

Earthworks: church is set on a natural spur so that the ground falls away on all sides except the north-east. This explains the drop of over 6m on the south-east and the south-west. On the north-west a 2m drop evens out to less than 0.5m. A steep bank, 3m or so high, on the north-east defines the pre-1898 extent of the churchyard.

Ancillary features: lychgate of 19thC date with open timberwork frame on dwarf stone walls. Twenty-seven steps lead up through this into the churchyard. A hearse house remains against the north-west boundary: in 1898, its south-east side was removed to allow a path to the new burial ground. Tarmac paths all round the church.

Vegetation: yews and firs line south-eastern boundary. Bush yews on the north-west side.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 31 October 1996 and 19 April 1998
Clwyd SMR
Faculty: St Asaph 1898 (NLW): churchyard extension
Faculty: St Asaph 1952 (NLW): vestry extension
Glynne 1884, 84
Hubbard 1986, 327
NMR Aberystwyth
Quinquennial Review
Roberts 1978
Thomas 1911, 2
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 Bodfari 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 ( 22:01:24 ).
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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