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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Tysilio , Bryneglwys

Bryneglwys Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Bryneglwys in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ1448747367.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16725 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Bryneglwys Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0129.JPG

Summary

The church of St Tysilio at Bryneglwys occupies a slight knoll above the small village that extends to the south of it, 8km north-east of Corwen. The church itself is considered to be Perpendicular with a further cell, the so-called Yale Chapel, added in the reign of Elizabeth. Subsequently much rebuilding occurred. Internally it has an interesting range of 17thC patterned panels built into the present chancel furniture, and a 14thC sepulchral slab, but little else. Mention should also be made of the wooden columns that divide the chancel from the Yale Chapel. The churchyard is raised and polygonal in shape.

The body of the church retains much of its original west wall and the lower part of the north wall, but some of the south wall and much of the east have been rebuilt, with the large east window re-set. The Yale Chapel has the look of a Victorian rebuild using new stone with only a small portion - at the base of the east wall - original. But the picture is not wholly clear and from the masonry alone the reconstructions of the nave and chancel on the one hand and the Yale chapel on the other would appear to be of different dates, unless the former was fashioned from re-used masonry in contrast to the Yale Chapel.

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

History

Nothing is known of the early history of Bryneglwys church. A note in the church proposes that the first building on the spot, of turf and wattle, was erected in 575. There is no substantive evidence for such an assertion.

Between 1247 and 1254, the tithes of the church were granted to Valle Crucis Abbey and in 1291 it was recorded in the Taxatio as 'Ecclia de Bryne Eglwys' with the relatively low value of 3 6s 8d. The Valor Ecclesiasticus return in 1535 recorded it under Valle Crucis as 'Capella de Breneglois'.

The present building is thought to be 15thC or early 16thC, with Elizabeth I's privy councillor, de Ial, building the Yale chapel in 1575.

A faculty was granted in 1730 for the repair of the church and churchyard, and a mize was issued in the same year. What was involved is not known.

Glynne visited the whitewashed church in 1853 and noted the Perpendicular style, the large porch, some rude, open benches in the nave, the altar hemmed in by pews, and the font let into the wall like a stoup.

Restoration by Arthur Baker occurred in 1875, comprising the repair of roof and walls, rebuilding the bellcote, taking down the gallery, re-seating the nave, putting up panelling in the chancel, altering existing windows and adding one new one, and building a new vestry. The Yale Chapel underwent similar renovation and reconstruction.

Owen noted the presence of the steps and base of the churchyard cross in 1878 a short distance south-west of the porch. By 1886 these had disappeared.

Architecture

Bryneglwys church comprises a nave and chancel in one, a separate chapel to the south of the chancel, a south porch in the angle of the nave and chapel, and a vestry beyond the north-west corner of the nave. The church is oriented north-east/south-west but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here for descriptive purposes.

Fabrics: 'A' is of irregular blocks and slabs of buff-grey and grey rubble, perhaps shale, and some more rounded blocks, some of which may be limestone; randomly coursed and partially masked by very heavy pointing; traces of limewash. 'B' has smooth-faced slabs of iron-stained shale or siltstone, with blocks of grey limestone in key places around windows etc; coursing, pointing and limewash as 'A'. 'C' is akin to 'A' but there is a predominance of grey limestone blocks, of relatively regular appearance.

'A' appears to be original; 'B' and 'C' indicative of a rebuilding.

Roof: slates with?reconstituted clay ridge tiles. Wooden finial to porch, elaborate stone cross finials to Yale Chapel and chancel. At west end a bellcote with a single opening and bell.

Drainage: a gully filled with chippings, up to 0.4m wide, on the north and a similar feature outside the south (Yale) chapel. Tarmac paths on the west and east.

Exterior

Nave and Chancel. General. The two elements treated as one because there is no external differentiation. The grey limestone of 'B' is strategically placed near new windows. West end hidden by vestry, and adjacent to this but below ground level is a boiler house. Perpendicular.

North wall: 'A' rises to a height of c.1.3m, the bottom of the windows; above this is 'B'. From the west: i) square-headed window with hollow chamfers, three lights, some of dressings may be original; iron pins for hinged shutters; ii) square-headed window with two lights that have trefoiled ogee heads and a quatrefoil above; all in yellow sandstone, completely Victorian; iii) a similar window of three lights which illuminates the chancel. Immediately to the east of the window there is a disconformity in the masonry down to ground level - the wall face protrudes slightly and 'A' gives way to 'B'. At the north-east angle the quoins are large dressed blocks of limestone.

East wall: most of this wall appears to have been rebuilt in 'B' but below the main east window and angling gently upwards to form a wedge to the south is 'A', predominantly of rounded blocks and boulders. At the base of the wall a foundation course projects but this gradually disappears beneath the tarmac as it runs northwards. The fine Perpendicular window thus appears to be re-set. It has a two-centred arch, three lights with trefoil heads, and panels above; chamfered dressings in yellow sandstone, the mullions replaced but the rest original.

South wall: most of the south side is disguised by the Yale Chapel and further westwards the porch masks much of the wall face. West of the porch is a square-headed window with two lights and chamfered dressings, similar to the three-light window almost opposite in the north wall; part of the mullion has been renewed; pins for shutter hinges. The masonry around the window is probably 'A' but above the porch the presence of grey limestone reveals a variety of 'B'.

West wall: much of this is in 'A' with rougher quoins at the south-west angle and a wall face that is irregular with swelling in places; heavy pink pointing. At the north-west angle the quoins have been replaced with limestone blocks as at the north-east corner. To a height of c.0.6m the base of the wall projects almost as a plinth. The bellcote is set into the top of the gable with dressed stone surrounds.

South (Yale) Chapel. General. Of Elizabethan date.

East wall: at the base of the wall is a continuation of the masonry ('A') visible in the east wall of the chancel, disappearing at the south-east angle. The rest of the wall face is in 'C' and the quoins at the south-east angle are the limestone blocks familiar in the vestry and on the north side of the church. The window is square-headed, has three lights with cusped, two-centred heads. The dressings are in yellow sandstone and though the mullions have been renewed the rest appears to be original.

South wall: all in 'C'. Two square-headed windows, both in yellow sandstone. That to the east is original (except for one mullion stone), with two lights that have almost round heads over the cusping. The similarity of their design to the east window in the chancel suggests they may have been re-set when the original south wall was taken down to accommodate the Yale Chapel. There are iron pins for shutters. The window to the west is a Victorian copy.

West wall: in 'C', with one long narrow trefoiled lancet - Victorian.

Vestry. General. Fabric incorporates limestone blocks as a variety of 'B' and well-dressed quoins (cf the north-west and north-east angles of the church itself). Chimney built into north wall. Two-light square-headed window in west wall, and a two-centred arched doorway in east wall. The whole is Victorian.

Porch. General. The fabric is a variety of 'C' with limestone predominating. On the west is a small two-light wooden window and on the south is a similar three-light example and also a modern doorway featuring an arch-braced cambered tie beam with struts above, and decorative barge boards.

Interior

Porch. General. Tiled floor; bare walls, and a 19thC or later timber roof of rafters and purlins; one roof truss set into the external gable (see above), a second above the south door of the church.

North wall: a simple two-centred arched doorway lacking chamfers to the dressings, and all in buff-yellow sandstone which could be Victorian or perhaps earlier. On that part of the south wall of the nave that is visible, there are limewash remnants, and the bottom 1.5m could be original walling; the upper part may be rebuilt. Attached to the wall is a brass of 1758/1740.

East wall: Victorian doorway to Yale Chapel.

Nave. General. Nave floor is one step down from porch. It has a tiled floor with only one obvious heating grille, near the main door, and heating is now provided by pipes and radiators along the walls. Carpet covers much of the floor, and the benches are raised on wooden boarding. Walls plastered and whitewashed. The roof has three complete bays and one half bay; the main trusses have arch-braced collars with raking struts, and that above the chancel steps has plaster infill above the collar. There is evidence on the underside of the collars that the roof was once ceiled over.

North wall: splayed window embrasures fitted with secondary glazing. Victorian two-centred arched doorway to the locked vestry. One mural tablet of 1758.

East wall: chancel steps only.

South wall: the embrasure of the two-centred arched doorway could be largely original though the basal jamb stones appear to have been renewed. The wall carries one 20thC brass, an Incorporated Church Building Society plaque of 1873, a wooden board recording extracts from Flora Yates' will (1882) and another which could be a Welsh version of it.

West wall: the wall is plain, but is probably faced with regular blocks of stone which show as ghosts beneath the plaster.

Chancel. General. One step up from the nave, one within the chancel and one to the sanctuary. Floors have encaustic tiles, and there are raised choir stalls. The walls are as in the nave. A wagon roof with 48 ribbed panels and floriate bosses at the intersections -- attributed by RCAHMW to the 19thC.

North wall: one splayed window. A coat of arms on a board and a marble monument of 1760/1793.

East wall: splayed window, the dressed stone of the embrasure painted to match the colour of the window dressings themselves.

South wall: an 'arcade' gives onto the Yale Chapel and is supported by two wooden pillars resting on square stone blocks. The pillar to the west is original, that to the east is better finished and later in date; the former is slightly facetted and has an octagonal wooden base and an octagonal capital all carved from a single timber.

South (Yale) Chapel. General. Tiled floor with benches resting on wooden boarding. Walls as nave. Roof of three bays with arch-braced collars but the tops of the collars and the raking struts are cusped; only one of the trusses certainly original. Windows have secondary glazing, other than those with stained glass.

North wall: see south wall of chancel.

East wall: one splayed window. Two marble monuments, one of 1867, the other commemorating members of the same family from 1789 to 1821.

South wall: two splayed windows.

West wall: doorway to porch.

Churchyard

Bryneglwys churchyard describes an irregular polygon on top of a slight knoll. The ground within drops gently from south to north, but outside the boundary the ground falls away in all directions. It is well-maintained and is still used for burial.

Boundary: the churchyard is enclosed by a mortared wall of slate slabs, though there is a hint of an earlier bank, externally on the west side. It is raised inasmuch as there is an external drop on all sides, ranging from about 0.5m on the west to over 2.5m on the north. Some, though not all, of this fall can be accounted for by the topographical location.

Monuments: these spread over most of the churchyard though they are less dense on the south side where the older stones are encountered. Quite a number of 18thC monuments survive, though there is considerable weathering, particularly of ledgers. The earliest stone noted was of 1740.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: an extension to the churchyard on the northern side is known from 1901, but there is very little trace of this on the ground. Pennant claimed that the church was built within an old camp but there is no substantive evidence for this belief.

Ancillary features: the only entrance is provided by a pair of ornamental wrought iron gates with a lamp over, on the south side. A tarmac path leads to the porch and around the east and west sides of the building.

Vegetation: there are three yews on the south side of the church, all mature specimens, and conifers along the east and west boundaries with one further yew on the east boundary to the north-east of the chancel.

Sources consulted

Clywd SMR
CPAT AP 1995, 95-004-0019 to 0022; 0031 to 0033
CPAT Field Visit: 5 September 1996
Faculty: St Asaph 1875 (NLW)
Faculty: St Asaph 1901 (NLW)
Glynne 1884, 257
Gresham 1968, 140
Hubbard 1986, 111
Mize for Repair: 1730 (DRO/DD/DM/115/1)
NMR Aberystwyth
Owen 1886, 3
Quinquennial Report: 1988
Quinquennial Report: 1994
Ridgway 1997, 45
Thomas 1911, 268
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 Bryneglwys 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 ( 22:01:23 ).
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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