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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Gwrthwl , Llanwrthwl

Llanwrthwl Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Llanwrthwl in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SN9757263729.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16894 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanwrthwl Church, CPAT copyright photo 431-03.JPG


Saint Gwrthwl's Church at Llanwrthwl, some 4km south of Rhayader in western Radnorshire, is a simple two-celled structure which was completely replaced in the 19thC. It contains a Romanesque font but nothing else of particular interest. Its churchyard, once sub-circular, houses a large standing slab of rock which could conceivably be prehistoric.

Completely rebuilt in 1875.

Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1979 publication The Buildings of Wales: Powys by Richard Haslam


The dedication, location and morphology of the churchyard indicate an early medieval origin for the foundation. This conjecture apart nothing can be can established of its early history.

The 1291 Taxatio carries a reference to 'Ecclesia de Lanuchul' at a value of 5 6s 8d, while the 1535 Valor refers to 'Llanvthull'.

The rebuilding of the structure was undertaken by J.G.Finch Noyes in 1875. Little is known of its predecessor. Though the 1875 specification stipulates that stone from the old church should be re-used there is no sign externally that this instruction was put into effect.


Llanwrthwl church comprises a nave and narrower chancel, a south porch, and a vestry on the north side of the chancel. It is aligned almost precisely east to west.

Fabric: squared, blocks and slabs of a grey, granular stone, perhaps a coarse sandstone; random coursing. Buff sandstone for dressings.

Roofs: slates with ornamental, terracotta ridge tiles (except on porch); cross finials to nave, chancel and porch.

Drainage: a hint of a drainage trench around the southern wall, ambivalent evidence on north and west and tarmac on east.

Note: the whole building was rebuilt in the Victorian era. For that reason the following description is a brief summary only.


General. Chancel narrower and lower than nave; angle buttresses at corners and along north side of nave; low chamfered plinth around whole building, and additional decorative string-course on west front. Walls of bare stone except on west which is completely whitewashed, and has two linked buttresses, centrally placed, and probably represent the remains of a bellcote support. The vestry and porch are integral parts of the plan and used the same stone as the body of the church; there is a boiler room beneath the vestry.

Windows are single or paired lancets, including three in both the west and south walls of the nave, four in the north wall, and two in the south wall of the chancel. The east window consists of three trefoiled lights under a two-centred arch with a hoodmoulding that has plain stops.


General. One step up into porch which has a tiled floor, a roof of scissor struts, a tall two-centred arched doorway, and walls faced in yellow sandstone.

Nave is one step up from porch. It is completely carpetted while the chancel and sanctuary, one and two steps up respectively, have encaustic tiles. Walls plastered and whitewashed, except for the bare west wall of the nave. Roofs have close-set scissor trusses. There is a large chancel arch supported on round pillars. The whole structure is open, airy and totally Victorian, with 20thC brasses on the north wall of the nave.


The present churchyard is small and irregular in shape, but the slightly rounded perimeter in the north-east sector is the remnant of an even smaller but probably sub-circular enclosure, the low scarp of which is still apparent on the west and south sides. The River Wye flows less than 150m to the east and the church and its accompanying settlement lie on the valley floor.

Generally, the churchyard is level and is raised above the surrounding ground by up to one metre. It is well-kept and still used for burial.

Boundary: the perimeter of the extensions on the south and west are distinguished by a rough unmortared wall and iron railings respectively. On the east there is a retaining wall and some internal embanking, and this continues on the north until the external road gives way to a garden plot.

Monuments: these are spread throughout most of the churchyard, the densest groupings being on the north side of the church. Modern burials lie to the south-west, while there are a few 18thC gravestones to the south of the church, the earliest being from 1769. Three early 19thC memorials are propped up against the boundary wall near the gate.

Furniture: a large block of stone, sometimes classed as a standing stone is set by the south porch. Just outside the vestry door on the north side of the church is a bell beneath a canopy: it carries the date 1878 and was cast by J.Taylor and Co.

Earthworks: a low scarp bank little more than 0.3m high runs across the west side of the yard and curves back along the south side just within the railings.

Ancillary features: a single ornamental iron gate is the main entrance in the south-east corner, and there are adjacent projecting steps over the wall. A tarmac path leads to the porch.

Vegetation: two mature yews grow on what is presumed to be the old boundary to the west of the church.

Sources consulted

Church notes. n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 27 February 1996
Faculty 1875: NLW/SD/F/440
Haslam 1979, 355
NMR Aberystwyth
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 Llanwrthwl Church may also be found on the Swansea and Brecon Diocese website.

The CPAT Brecknockshire 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 ( 22:01:01 ).
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 -, website -

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