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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Mary , Llan

Llan Church is in the Diocese of Bangor, in the community of Llanbrynmair in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SH8841200779.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16383 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llan Church, CPAT copyright photo CS955607.JPG


St Mary's church in the centre of Llan is a single-chambered church which dates back to the 15thC if not earlier. There is an early bell turret supported by four oak uprights, a 16thC south porch and a north transept of unknown date. Inside is a 13thC font, a small fragment of medieval glass, and some post-medieval woodwork. The churchyard is a raised circular enclosure with an 18thC sundial and graveslabs going back to the previous century.

The core of the church is thought to be 14th or 15thC, though there is nothing to confirm the earlier date, and there are indications that the nave walls may have been heightened or rebuilt. The one surviving window is 15thC but it is now re-sited in the north transept and lacks the top of its original square-topped frame. The south porch is claimed to have been added in the 16thC, though without much confirmatory evidence, and indeed the entrance might suggest it is 18thC. Nor is the date of the north transept known: it may not be of a single build yet its north wall could be of 1688. The western bell-turret, retains its original oak uprights and may have been erected in the 17thC, although it is much repaired.

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


The church was traditionally founded in the 6thC, but its original dedication is unknown and it is thought to have been rededicated to St Mary in the 12thC.

It is first recorded in the 1254 Taxation, when 'Brenmeyr' was grouped with Cemmaes at a value of 1 6s 8d. It was recorded as 'Ecclesia de Brynmeyr' in the Lincoln Taxation of 1291.

There is no evidence to suggest when the north transept was built (though the Quinquennial Review speculates that it is 19thC) or indeed partitioned off for use as a schoolroom. An alternative date of 1688 has been postulated for changes to the transept, though again on what evidence is not known.

In 1748, the west gable end of the church was rebuilt and the porch repaired. The wagon ceiling was erected at this time for the vestry minutes refer to a local carpenter being employed to erect (or rebuild) new trusses. The transept was re-roofed and repaired in 1775, and was ceiled in 1790.

In 1812, the schoolroom was re-flagged and plastered, and a new window was made opposite the door. An 1847 report refers to 41 girls and 36 boys being taught in the church school, the schoolroom being boarded off from the church itself. A new school and master's house were built across the road on glebe land in 1856. The school partition was removed in 1860 and the north transept opened up, with only a small part kept as a vestry.

The roof was repaired and reslated in 1854.

An earlier western gallery was accessible from the first floor of the belfry; the doorway is still visible but the gallery was removed in 1860. The 1860 restoration also included replacing old pews with open seating, removing the wagon ceiling and exposing oak timberwork, renewing or inserting windows except for one in the north transept, re-erecting the old font on a new base, replastering the interior, re-pointing the outer walls and completing various small repairs.

About this time the church passed from the Diocese of St Asaph to that of Bangor.

A faculty survives for restoration work in 1901, and further works took place in 1993.


The church consists of a nave and chancel as a single chamber, a north transept and south porch and a bell turret over the western end of the nave. The church is oriented north-east to south-west but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabrics: 'A' is of small to medium blocks of grey and brown local sedimentary rock (perhaps shales and/or siltstone) with occasional larger stones; irregular coursing; limewash residue particularly on the south side. 'B' is in similar stone to 'A', but reasonably regular blocks and some longer slabs; regular quoins and regular coursing.

'A' is medieval and is considered to be 14th/15thC, though there is some rebuilding in similar material. 'B' is from 1748.

Roof: slates with worn red ridge tiles; cross finial set back slightly from east end. Pyramidal slate roof on bell turret with red ridge tiles has been recently renewed. Note also that the transept roof is higher than that of the chancel.

Drainage: renewed guttering and downspouts lead to soakaways. There appears to be a gully around the north side including the transept, and on the south side east of the porch. A gravel path edges the west side.


Nave and chancel. General. Considered as one because there is no external differentiation. All in fabric 'A'. There is a continuous string course around both the nave and chancel at a height varying from c.0.5m to 1m. Below the string course the walls are slightly wider and slightly battered.

North wall: beneath the bell turret is an unsplayed doorway with a segmental arch. Double doors give access to the old bier house, which is probably of 19thC date and contemporary with the interior vestry that was constructed below the bell-turret at that time. East of the bier house entrance is a square-headed but frameless three-light window with trefoiled, two-centred heads and sunken spandrels, probably a 19thC restoration window. On the east side of the transept the top of the chancel wall leans outwards considerably at the top.

East wall: projecting plinth at the base of the wall. A two-centred east window of Victorian date with three stepped lancets, all flush to the wall face. The top of the wall has been rebuilt to permit the insertion of the window: the masonry is of type 'A' but the stones are somewhat smaller than elsewhere.

South wall: the stonework above the string course at the east end of the chancel is more regularly coursed than in the nave further west, and it is also possible that the upper courses of the wall have been reconstructed at some point. East of the porch are three square-headed windows all with two, two-centred foiled lights, and small triangular foiled lights above. The two lighting the nave are in grey freestone with no original dressings surviving. No light to the sanctuary while the window to the chancel, though perhaps in an original position, is almost wholly renewed. The trefoiled heads are in worn red sandstone, perhaps original, but the sill and mullions and part of the west side are in yellow sandstone and the east side is a reddish sandstone. West of the porch the wall again leans outwards. The plinth stops about 2m short of the south-west corner, and its disappearance presumably relates to the rebuilding of the west end of the church in 1748.

West wall: contains large blocks at the base, and is in 'B', appearing slightly battered. Set in the wall is a square-headed window with foiled two-centred lights; Victorian in buff-yellow freestone.

The western bell turret rises above the west wall. Half-timbered on the north, east and south sides, it has two louvred apertures on each of these, and a clock face on the south side. On the west it has a gambrel roof, re-slated in 1994. The turret is surmounted by a pyramidal roof with a new wrought-iron weathervane.

North transept. General. In 'A', though its stonework is slightly more regularly coursed than in the nave and chancel. Its roof line is slightly higher than the adjoining nave roof.

North wall: possibly to be identified as 'B'. A re-sited Perpendicular window of three trefoiled lights, with open spandrels above, all now set in a splayed aperture with a coarse two-centred, almost segmental, arch formed of edge stones. The original flat-headed top has gone, and there is considerable renewal of the dressings including the central light head and possibly much more as well.

East wall: the wall has an irregular appearance and is 'A'-type masonry. There is a two-centred arch to the door and a three-light window, the lights with trefoiled heads; both are Victorian.

West wall: the overall appearance is confused by heavy pointing, and the classification of the masonry is uncertain, although it appears that the north-west angle has been renewed or rebuilt. The wall shows a distinctive bulge. One standard square-headed window with three foiled lights which has clearly been inserted. It is similar in appearance to that in the north wall but not precisely the same.

South porch. General. In 'B'-type masonry, though this is more regular in the south wall than in the east and west ones.

East and west walls: plain walls, no windows.

South wall: semi-circular entrance arch with stone voussoirs, and jambs of selected stone; a pair of wrought iron gates, approached by two steps of large flags.


Porch. General. Red tiled floor with the homogeneous stonework of the side walls bare but showing signs of past limewash. Exposed rafters and purlins to the roof, the latter with stopped chamfers.

North wall: the south entrance of the church consists of a two-centred arch, with chamfered dressings, deep fluting and pyramid stops. This is all in pale Victorian freestone and is probably inserted. There are traces of early render around the doorway, and the stub of a beam for the former gallery protrudes above the arch.

East and west walls: wooden benches on stone plinths against the side walls.

South wall: the south doorway has a round-headed arch with stone voussoirs similar to that in the south entrance of the porch. Limewash residue in evidence.

Nave. General. Woodblock flooring on a continuous level in the nave. All walls are plastered and painted, and the side walls display a slight batter. Roof formed by four king-post tie-beam trusses to the east and three collar trusses with king struts at the west end. The collar trusses spring from the wall plates, the most westerly is immured in the west wall, and the most easterly has arch bracing, while the central one has a collar that is reinforced by additional timberwork. The tie beams of the king-post trusses are chamfered and set high into the wall but below the wall plates. Exposed rafters and through purlins, the lowest of the purlins just below the wall plates; close-set rafters, and the whole looks rather crude. It seems likely that these two elements are of different date, the king-posts perhaps relating to the rebuilding of 1748, the collar trusses of late medieval date. The west end of the nave is partitioned off, immediately west of the south entrance, for the ground-floor access to the bell turret, a vestry and the bier house.

Ground floor beneath the bell turret. General. Separated from the nave west end by oak panelling with an entrance door towards its south end. Behind the partition, a dog-leg staircase leads up to the turret and a second door leads directly into the old ground floor vestry.

Four massive oak uprights with chamfered edges form the frame of the bell turret and are carried on timber spreaders, although repaired at several points in the past; an additional timber upright was inserted in 1994. Two of the uprights are now set on concrete plinths in the bier house and two are located in the old vestry.

Vestry. General. Floor raised by two steps above nave level. Walls plastered above a dado which appears to consist of old pew panels.

Bier house. General. Stone flagged floor; wooden planked ceiling formed by the tower floor. Tongue and groove panelled partition to vestry. Exposed stonework of the early church interior on other walls is now whitewashed.

Bell turret: first floor: heavy planked floor. Planked panelling to nave, with some exposed lath and plaster panels on its east wall. Also in the east wall is an entrance door to the old western gallery (removed in 1860), now blocked. Exposed stonework and much of the original timber framing remains. Heavy cross-braces and chamfered oak uprights continuing up through the floor and the planked ceiling which forms the floor of the belfry. Fixed ladder in north-east corner provides access to belfry.

Belfry: planked floor, slatted walls and roof. Timber framing supports three bells.

North wall: window embrasure has a square-headed aperture. Decalogue boards to either side of the window. At the east end of the nave and the west end of the chancel is a break in the wall with squared-off butts. This is now filled by a modern (1980s) wooden partition with a wooden door to the north transept. Originally it would presumably have been open, though in later times it was boarded off for the schoolroom. A one and half-bay arcade spans the gap, and there is a twelve-sided oak column with facetted abacus and braces to the tie beam above, with a further abacus immediately below the tie beam. Another wooden pier, five sided, acts as a respond against the eastern abutment. This too has a facetted abacus or collar, but it is much less pronounced. The beam supported on these piers acts in turn as a support to three of the tie beams for the roof.

East wall: two steps up to chancel.

South wall: south doorway has a splayed, square-headed reveal. Two window embrasures have square-headed, deeply splayed, apertures. Two 19thC marble memorial.

West wall: oak panelling below a plastered wall; four bays or five if the plastered partition with a doorway at the south end is included. This two-centred arched doorway provides access to tower. The central panel is set between decorated uprights indicating a central doorway and there is a timber two-centred arch, a sort of tympanum above. The remaining uprights have chamfered edges with stops. Boards attached to the panels include one of the Incorporated Society for Building and Churches, a 20thC plaque recording the safe-keeping of the Middle Temple archives here during the war, and a Welsh benefaction board of 1883. A collar beam is exposed on the west wall, where the earlier gallery was sited, and a small rectangular window looks in from the tower.

North Transept. General. To north of both nave and chancel. Square room used as a vestry/meetings room. Carpet over (?)original stone-flagged floor, whitewashed walls, battered on the east and west, and a modern ceiling inserted below what is said to be a roof of queen-post construction with massive tie beams.

North wall: contains one Perpendicular window embrasure, slightly splayed, supposedly reset in 1688 when the north transept is said to have been rebuilt.

East wall: one deeply-splayed window aperture and a splayed square-headed doorway embrasure, about 1m above floor level and accessed by wooden steps.

West wall: deeply splayed window with a sill bearing the inscription, now whitewashed, 'Ecclesiam de Brynmair Tribvto Parochiali Collatitii Sqve Pecvniis Reparandam Cvravit IG Kirkham AM Rector. AD MDCCCLX. T Jones, H Hughes S.C.'.

Chancel. General. Two steps up from nave, one to the sanctuary and two more to the altar. Throughout a woodblock floor renewed to the original plan in 1993.

North wall: two 20thC marble memorials and a niche with a triangular head, presumably an aumbry, and probably of modern origin. In the 19thC it was termed a piscina, one of two in the chancel.

East wall: deeply splayed two-centred embrasure for the window. Just below springer level the wall is inset by perhaps 0.2m, in line with the tie beams and presumably reflecting the position of a former beam. However, to the north of the window this ledge is interrupted by stonework that rises to form a small, solid, two-centred arch. One 20thC slate memorial.

South wall: slight changes in the thickness of the wall above and to the west of the window imply some degree of rebuilding and in fact this continues above the nave windows as well. A niche for a piscina with a rather crude four-centred head; there is a crude drain hole which is probably no longer functional and stone voussoirs forming an arch. Both this and the aumbry in the north wall are set very low down, indicating the degree to which the chancel floor was raised in the 19thC. Two 19thC marble memorials, and a 20thC brass plaque within the window embrasure.


The church is sited on a slight knoll and the ground slopes away on all sides. The churchyard is sub-circular occupying a central position in the old village of Llan (formerly Llanbrynmair). There is a modern extension to the churchyard on the west side.

Boundary: a stone revetment wall forms the boundary, up to 2m high, on the roadside to the east. Iron railings around the western extension.

Monuments: an even distribution of graves on all sides. Most of the graves are 18th and 19thC, many inscribed in Welsh. The earliest graves noted was of 1766 on the south-east side of church, but beside the entrance path is a broken slab of 1676, and another of late 17thC date lies against the north wall of the church.

Furniture: sundial with a worn, octagonal sandstone pillar on an asymmetric base; the brass plate is inscribed 'Samuel Roberts, Llanvair, 1754'.

Earthworks: the original boundary of the church on the south side is visible inside the present wall. This is up to 3.5m above the present road level. On the west a relict revetted wall survives to a height of nearly 1.5m. On the south-west there is a drop of several metres to the properties edging the churchyard.

Ancillary features: lychgate constructed in stone with semi-circular arches; a datestone of 1847 may signify the restoration of the gate. Approached by thirteen steps, and on the south side of the lychgate, is a run of ten steps leading to a gap in the wall. The lychgate timbers were recently damaged by fire on the church side. A gravel path from the main road leads up to the south porch and around to the transept door, and there is another path leading westwards to the churchyard extension. In the west side is a modern wooden gate.

Vegetation: two ancient yews trees to the south of the church with late 18th to mid-19thC graves and broken slabs beneath them. A mature yew to the west.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 22 November 1995 and 18 September 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 189
Faculty 1901: Bangor Records (NLW)
Haslam 1979, 119
Lunt 1926, 471
NMR Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
Quinquennial Reports 1985 and 1991
Williams 1886
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 Llan Church may also be found on the Bangor Diocese website.

The CPAT Montgomeryshire 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 ( 22:02:05 ).
Further information about this and other churches surveyed is available from the Regional Historic Environment Record, Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, Curatorial Section, 41 Broad Street, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7RR tel - (01938) 553670, fax - (01938) 552179, email -, website -

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