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Denbighshire Churches Survey

Church of St Mwrog , Llanfwrog

Llanfwrog Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Ruthin in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ1136057825.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16951 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanfwrog Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0145.JPG

Summary

St Mwrog's church occupies an eminence projecting into a valley less than one mile south of Ruthin. It is a double-naved structure which has undergone major modifications, its present nave and chancel being a 15thC addition to a church of unknown date which was largely rebuilt in the 19thC, though at its west end the tower, probably of 14thC date, was retained. Few fittings of medieval date survived the restoration, although the nave and chancel roof appears to be original. The remnants of a sub-circular churchyard are still apparent and this holds a number of interesting early memorials.

West door thought to be 14thC, the only datable feature of the tower, for the belfry windows are all replacements though of Decorated style, and the upper storey may be largely a rebuild.

North aisle rebuilt in its entirety in 1869, except for lowest courses of east end. However this was probably the original position of the nave and chancel, and the southern nave was added in the 15thC.

Porch is a 19thC rebuild but its roof incorporates earlier timberwork. All the windows are from the 19thC restoration and according to Hubbard include Perpendicular tracery of a type alien to the region.

Arcade is perhaps reconstructed, the wide arches suggesting to Hubbard that it was originally of four bays, but what is now visible is a post-Reformation feature of uncertain date. The view is strengthened by the fact that the west respond appears to be a truncated pier.

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

History

The location and dedication of the church together with the morphology of the churchyard signal an early medieval origin. A 7thC date has been suggested on the basis that this was when Mwrog was active.

In the Norwich Taxatio of 1254, the church 'de Lammitant' was valued at 13s 4d, while the later Taxatio of 1291 recorded it as "Lanmurrock" with a value of 4 0s 10d.

Glynne, at a date unrecorded, found a whitewashed church with late Perpendicular windows, barn-like roofs except for the chancel, and an arcade which appeared to be of Norman character though he doubted whether that was in fact the case.

J. D. Sedding of Bristol restored the church in 1869-70 at a cost of 1300. The north aisle was rebuilt, windows were renewed, the chancel restored and separated from the nave by a low screen modelled on its predecessor, the box pews and a gallery at the west end were removed, and the nave roof was repaired and raised by 18", and the base of the tower converted into a vestry. The tower was restored separately in 1906 at a cost of 100.

Architecture

The church at Llanfwrog is a double-naved structure, the nave and chancel on the south with a north aisle forming the second cell. Attached to the latter is a west tower, and there is also a south porch. It is oriented south-west/north-east but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here. Conventional directions are retained for the churchyard.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of medium to large lumps of grey limestone, with smaller slabs of red sandstone, and occasional lumps of grey?shale mixed in; irregularly coursed. Large limestone dressed for quoins. 'B' consists of relatively regular blocks of grey limestone with very occasional slabs of red sandstone. Randomly coursed but of regular appearance.

Roof: slates, toothed terracota ridge tiles; metal cross finial to porch, stone one to chancel.

Drainage: trench less than one metre wide around north, south and east with concrete edging and a fill of stone chips.

Exterior

Tower. General. In Fabric 'A'. Broad and squat, no batter; a string course just below the parapet, square-sectioned and with waterspouts; the stair built into the north-west angle. Saddleback roof rises above tower and there is a flagpole in south-east corner. The tower alignment is skewed slightly to that of the church itself.

North wall: standard fabric although at one level a course of red sandstone slabs runs for half the length of the wall. Belfry window has a two-centred arch with a hoodmould over, two cusped lights with a quatrefoil above, all in Victorian mustard-coloured freestone. In the north-west angle are four small lights vertically aligned to light the tower stair: those at the top and bottom have limestone jambs, the intermediate ones in red sandstone are more worn and with wider apertures. Between the middle two and closer to the angle is a horizontal recess, perhaps reflecting no more than a dislodged stone.

East wall: apex of north aisle roof rises to around half way up tower face. Standard belfry window, and upper stage of tower from window base upwards may be rebuilt for the limestone is lighter, more regular and the stones more closely set.

South wall: fractionally below half height is a broad, squat window, unglazed, with red sandstone jambs, so worn that it is not clear whether they were originally chamfered. Standard belfry window. Above and to one side is a waterspout and beneath this a projecting stone, perhaps a more primitive predecessor. Faint indication that the uppermost part of the wallface has been rebuilt.

West wall: at ground level a broad, slightly asymmetrical two-centred arched west doorway, the jambs in pale red sandstone with wave mouldings, the arch much weathered and most of the hoodmould gone; all original. At a higher level is a standard belfry window and a projecting stone waterspout. Stonework at belfry level appears more regular.

North aisle. General. Fabric 'B'. Chamfered plinth to height of c.0.4m max., the chamfer in dressed stone. Juncture of north aisle and tower gives no indication of primacy.

North wall: all new (i.e. 19thC) masonry with no sign of any rebuilding. Three two-light windows, the lights with trefoil heads under two-centred arches, and all in mustard coloured sandstone.

East wall: at the base of the wall is a stepped foundation to a height of 0.3m and projecting outwards for 0.4m; this does not continue under the chancel. Lowest courses of the wall may thus be medieval but above these to a height of around 3.5m the masonry is a variation on 'A' with a predominance of red sandstone. Then, to the apex of the gable, the masonry is an untidy variation on 'B'. Thus most of the wall rebuilt but with medieval stone re-used at lower levels. Square-headed east window of Victorian stone has three trefoiled lights under round heads, and the spandrels filled with smaller lights; simple hoodmould.

Nave and chancel. General. Described as a single cell because no external differentiation.

East wall: lower part of wall to base of window is of large blocks of limestone with some courses of red and grey sandstone and shale, a variation on 'A'. Above this red sandstone predominates, and then from just below the eaves level of the south wall, small to medium blocks of limestone, i.e. 'B'. More of this appears below the window indicating the extent of rebuilding. The window itself is Victorian with three lights and panel lights above, under a triangular-headed arch and hoodmould.

South wall: in Fabric 'A' that consists of massive blocks of limestone, though the topmost courses are Victorian replacements in 'B', together with the freestone coping. Features from east are: i) a square-headed window with three lights having two-centred arches and cusped heads, all in recent red sandstone. Signs of insertion below and to one side of window. ii) two light window similar to i) but original for the dressings are much worn and there are no sign of insertion. iii) porch. iv) wall to west of porch also original, tapering inwards towards top.

West wall: massive blocks of 'A' below with 'B' around and above window. Another Victorian variation with two trefoiled lights having ogee heads and four quatrefoils above, under a square head.

Porch. General. Victorian. Dwarf walls in 'B' with freestone chamfer. Above is a wooden superstructure faced with small vertical slates. The east and west sides each have four small wooden windows. The south entrance extends across the full width, wall posts resting on the dwarf walls support a tie beam, collar and intermediate struts, the gap between the struts panelled with a small circular light.

Interior

Porch. General. Outer metal gates locked and porch not accessible. Floor of stone flags; wooden sides, roof of two bays, with variation in the principal trusses. The central one is cambered with arch-bracing, that next to church door has a decorated tie beam which does not appear to be particularly old, the outer one described above. Purlins, rafters and one tier of windbraces. Some of the timberwork is certainly original.

North wall: two-centred arch to church doorway in red sandstone which has a fresh appearance and is presumed to be Victorian replacement.

Tower. General. Entered through west door. Carpetted; walls plastered and whitewashed; ceiled at height of about 5m, just above the apex of the tower arch. North-west corner partitioned off for storage, bell ropes etc.

North wall: simple two-centred chamfered archway to tower. Above this an undated 'instruction board' to almsmen and women of 'Llanvorock'. Chimney also projects from the centre of this wall.

East wall: tower arch of four orders, the innermost chamfered, fading into side walls, all in red sandstone. Infilled with glass and wood panelling.

South wall: covered by four benefaction boards and three mural tablets.

West wall: recess of west doorway with window embrasure above; two framed 19thC drawings of the church.

North aisle. General. Tiled floor; plastered and whitewashed walls. Roof of five and a half bays, the trusses of braced collars rising from wooden wall posts on the south and the wall plate on the north; possibly some re-used timber but the roof as a whole of the 19thC? At east end a modern screen in line with the nave/chancel division separates the aisle from its eastern extension (see below).

North wall: wall panelled below window level; two splayed windows with Victorian dressings; two marble mural tablets.

East wall: screen.

South wall: two bays of arcade in red sandstone, the arches of two chamfered orders and the piers of four clustered shafts each with a square cap chamfered to an octagon; the piers are set on splayed bases with rounded mouldings. The western bay terminates in a respond which appears to have been a complete pier deliberately truncated.

West wall: tower arch as recorded above. Above this but off centre is a small blocked aperture, probably a window, suggesting that the north aisle roof may once have been lower.

North aisle extension. General. Floor and walls as north aisle, but a barrel roof with some ornamentation, lower than the north aisle roof. This part of the church now provides further accommodation for the congregation, with seats facing the altar in the chancel at right-angles.

North wall: one splayed window with modern dressings.

East wall: to south of Victorian east window is a shallow and curving alcove with a segmental head which runs behind the respond of the arcade. It now holds an octagonal font though its original purpose is not clear. Above it a mural tablet of 1776.

South wall: one bay of the arcade with a true respond at the eastern end, unlike its counterpart at the west end.

West wall: screen.

Nave. General. Floor and walls as north aisle. Roof of seven bays includes chancel: arch-braced collars resting on simple wooden wall posts, and two tiers of arcing windbraces, largely original and probably 15thC.

North wall: arcade as described above.

East wall: 20thC screen.

South wall: inner porch has heating vents, and organ in south-west corner. One splayed window with Victorian dressings, and a marble mural tablet of 1838.

West wall: splayed window and mural tablet of 1746.

Chancel. General. Two steps up from nave, with further steps to the sanctuary and to the altar. Carpetted floor, though choir stalls on stone. Roof included with nave.

North wall: arcade as described above.

East wall: 19thC window.

South wall: one splayed window, Victorian; piscina and sedile also Victorian.

West wall: screen.

Churchyard

Llanfwrog churchyard has an irregular shape. Its original curvilinear perimeter is retained on the south, but on the south-west it has been extended at some time in the past and on the north-west and north-east the present straight boundaries almost certainly reflect minor modifications with the original line a little further out at the north corner. It is set on the edge of a river terrace at a point where the valley edges round a slight spur and as such is in a prominent position. The interior is relatively level, though there is a slight slope from east to west.

It is reasonably well-maintained if a little overgrown in places.

Boundary: on the north side a buttressed stone wall surmounted by railings rises above the valley and continues round to the west. From the lychgate around the south side there is a stone retaining wall up to 4m high above the road, and on the east buildings below churchyard level.

Monuments: nowhere are these dense, and they are generally sparse on the south side. A few indicate ongoing burial in the yard though the majority of modern interments are in the cemetery on the opposite side of the road. There are a fair number of 18thC examples including a group of ledgers south of the tower; on the north side of the chancel a broken ledger of 1628, and against the south wall of the churchyard near the lychgate a stone in Latin of 1640

Furniture: sundial of 1806 by George Davies of Holywell on round plinth and column, to the north-west of the tower.

Earthworks: eye of faith can detect a slight bank where the original boundary angled back to the west of the tower.

Ancillary features: hearse house in the south-west corner, stone built with a Welsh inscription and a date of 1835. Lychgate with timber superstructure on stone walls, the principal truss on the church side having an arch-braced tie beam with raking struts, while the other two principals lack the bracing; also one tier of windbraces, and the whole looks early. At the east end of the churchyard is a second, smaller lychgate of broadly similar design though lacking the early trusses; the external tie beam carries an undated inscription in Welsh. Could be 19thC. Tarmac paths to church porch and west door.

Vegetation: three yews to west of church, not of great age.

Sources consulted

Church guide 1985
CPAT AP: 1995, 95-006-0017/0021; 95-C-0145/0149
CPAT Field Visit: 20 August 1996
Crossley 1946, 30
Glynne 1884, 174
Hubbard 1986, 213
Neaverson 1953-54, 9
Thomas 1911, 101
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 Llanfwrog 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 ( 22:01:46 ).
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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