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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Erfyl , Llanerfyl

Llanerfyl Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Llanerfyl in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ0340809774.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16409 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanerfyl Church, CPAT copyright photo 2401-16.JPG


St Erfyl's church, about 12 miles to the west of Welshpool, is a typically small village church with a nave, chancel and western bellcote, all built in 1870, though without doubt it is an early medieval foundation. Externally it has little remarkable, but inside there is an early medieval inscribed stone, formerly in the churchyard, a late medieval roof, a wooden shrine and a reliquary both from the 15thC, a medieval font and wooden panels dating to 1727 from the old gallery front. The church is set within a sub-oval enclosure, now enlarged, and this contains ancient yews.

The church was completely rebuilt in 1870.

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


The early church, dedicated to St Erfyl, a daughter of St Padarn, was reputedly built in the late 6th or early 7thC. Certainly its curvilinear churchyard and riverside location support an early medieval attribution.

Llanerfyl was recorded as 'Capella de Llanuruyl' in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 and in Pope Nicholas' taxation of 1291 with a value of 4 11s 8d.

The roodloft was taken down in 1675, but the 'door' in the screen was left in place. Some of the wood was used to make seats.

Glynne, in 1850, noted the nave and 'undistinguished' chancel, a wooden belfry at the west end and a south porch. There were Perpendicular windows and one square-headed example appeared to be original. There was a dormer window on the south side, perhaps of the 17thC. He described the shrine in the following terms: 'At the east end of the church, near the south angle, [was] a rather elegant double niche of Third Pointed character. Each arch [was] cinquefoiled, and the whole surmounted by an embattled cornice with small pinnacles. The niche [was] very long. The central piece [was] detached'. The churchyard had a fine yew. Thomas at a slightly later date noted the west gallery and the plaster ceiling which hid the medieval roof. A sketch of the old church was reproduced in Edwards 1883.

The old church was taken down in February 1870 and the present structure built by September of the same year to the design of Edward Haycock of Shrewsbury at a cost of 1600. The arch-braced roof timbers of the earlier church were cleaned and replaced. The medieval shrine formerly in the east wall of the old church was built into a recess in the new vestry and was cut down to fit it. It has since been removed and stands in the sanctuary together with the reliquary.


The church consists of a nave and slightly narrower chancel, a vestry on the north side of the chancel and a south porch; a bellcote rises from the west gable of the nave. The church is orientated north-east/south-west, but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here for the purposes of description.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of small to medium blocks of fine-grained greyish sandstone, regularly shaped and quarry-cut; randomly coursed. Red sandstone dressings to the doors, windows and buttresses.

Roofs: slates with black ceramic, ribbed, ridge tiles; cross finials over the nave, chancel, vestry and porch.

Drainage: 19thC cast-iron downspouts and decorated cisterns on the south wall and renewed guttering and downspouts on the north side lead to soakaways. A gravel band along the south, east and perhaps the north side may disguise a drainage trench.

Note: in view of the fact that this is a wholly 19thC structure, only an outline description is provided here.


Nave. General. Fenestration set flush with walls. Stepped buttresses with red sandstone dressings.

North wall: four windows without window frames, and two buttresses. The windows from west to east have two, three, one and two two-centred lights, with cinquefoil tracery. The lights generally round-headed but the single light has a triangular head. However, exceptionally the most easterly window has a square head, with trefoiled, two-centred lights, the top of the window including the tracery in grey sandstone. A corrugated tin lean-to boiler house against the nave wall, and adjacent to the vestry.

South wall: also four windows, one to the west of the porch. Two are two-light with cinquefoil tracery, and the inner two have three cinquefoiled lights with a short central light and a quatrefoil above. Two buttresses, one at the east end of the nave.

West wall: the central bellcote is supported on a broad buttress protruding 0.5m from the wall. It has a basal plinth at 0.4m, with a moulded sandstone string course terminating in foliate stops and running across the buttress and parts of the wall at a height of c.3.5m. Above this in the buttress is a narrow lancet, and above this the buttress is stepped in twice.

The bellcote has a string course just above the apex of the nave roof. The apertures on the east and west for the single bell have two-centred arches with cinquefoil tracery, continuous hoodmoulds, and small quatrefoils in rounded apertures above. The gabled top is surmounted by a cross finial.

Chancel. General. A lower and narrower roof line than the nave.

North wall: a single window, the light with a trefoiled, three-centred arch. A buttress at the north-east corner.

East wall: the two-centred east window has three lights, the central one trefoiled, the two flanking ones with elongated cinquefoiled heads and small tracery lights above. There is a continuous string course just below sill level and another over the window which then dog-legs across the east wall face to the corners. At the corners are clasping buttresses but those on the east face are short, rising only as high as the first string course. A red sandstone datestone set in the wall below the window has lost virtually all its inscription.

South wall: one two-light window and a single light to the sanctuary. The pair of lights have cinquefoil tracery in triangular-headed arches and a quatrefoil above, set in a two-centred arch with a hoodmould. The sanctuary window has a two-centred arch and elongated cusped tracery. Between the two is a short buttress, and a moulded string course with a vine leaf stop at its west end runs under the sill of the paired lights, around the buttress and above the single light window. At the south-east corner is part of the clasping buttress referred to above.

North Vestry. General. Entrance in north wall with an angular arch and there is a two-light window in the east wall, the lights with trefoiled heads.

South Porch. General. Open porch. Basal plinth at c.0.4m. Two-centred entrance arch with moulded jambs and hoodmould with vine leaf stops in the south wall. Three small blind quatrefoils in red sandstone in the gable. In the east and west walls are two square apertures containing quatrefoil lights.


Porch. General. Tiled floor. Benches on stone plinths set into the east and west walls, the alcoves carried up to shouldered, flat-topped heads, and holding the small quatrefoil lights (see above). Ceiling plastered above exposed rafters and collar trusses.

North wall: a two-centred arch to the church, with deeply hollowed chamfers terminating in pyramid stops; all in 19thC red sandstone.

East wall: an Incorporated Society for Building and Churches plaque of 1869.

Navel. General. Tiled floor with raised plank flooring under the benches and also under the organ. Walls plastered and painted; splayed window apertures, the dressings painted over in pink. Roof of five arch-braced collar trusses with cusped, raking struts, springing from wall plates, and creating five and a half bays; two tiers of cusped windbraces. The easternmost bay on its south side has been panelled over the organ. A late medieval roof repaired and re-inserted in the 19thC.

North wall: two 20thC memorials, one of slate, the other marble.

East wall: a two-centred chancel arch, painted in pink; of two orders, the inner emerging from the wall face, the outer with stopped chamfers.

West wall: A single lancet window with a deep splay, and a bell rope in front of it. Below the window is an early medieval memorial stone fixed to the wall.

Chancel. General. Two steps up from the nave to the chancel, two to the sanctuary and one to the altar. Floor as nave, though encaustic tiles in the sanctuary. Walls as nave although the credence shelf remains one of the few items unpainted; reredos with tiles by Maw; stained glass in all the windows. Roof of 16 slim arch braces springing from plain wall plates.

North wall: has a credence east of the vestry door, the latter beneath a trefoil-headed arch with a stone tympanum. The painted panels of 1727 from the former gallery front are hung on the wall immediately below the wall plate.

East wall: window has a hoodmould with head stops; tiled reredos beneath. To either side of the altar are the medieval reliquary and shrine (see below).

South wall: window deepened to form a sedile. Also a decorated pew panel against the wall and a 20thC brass plaque referring to the dedication of the stained glass windows.

Vestry. General. 19thC tiled floor, plastered and painted walls; plastered ceiling above sloping, exposed rafters. A blocked fireplace in the south-west angle.


The original churchyard is sub-oval in shape but it was extended eastwards in the 1930s. It is set on the edge of the scarp above the valley of the Banwy. It is reasonably well maintained on the south side but overgrown and hummocky on the north side.

Boundary: a stone revetment wall on all sides but the east, between about 1m and 2m high. The 1930s extension is edged with fir trees.

Monuments: mainly 19thC and 20thC slate slabs closely packed on all sides; many inscriptions in Welsh; few 18thC memorials. The earliest slab seen was from 1780, to the south-east of the chancel. Two small sandstone slabs with cusped heads lean against a sandstone slab on the north side of the church, and are inscribed 'S.M' and 'P.M' - they may be early grave markers. The early medieval inscribed stone was originally set under the large south yew and a stone marks the location. Scattered modern burials in the eastern extension.

Furniture: a sundial with a square plate and gnomon set on a tall slim octagonal plinth. It carries the inscriptions '1847, L Richards, Rector', and 'L Richards Donor 1848'. South-west of the church.

Earthworks: a line of yew trees above a scarp on the east side of the churchyard delineates the original enclosure. The churchyard is raised, about 0.5m on south-east through to 2m on the west and north.

Ancillary features: the main entrance on the south-west is through a lychgate, with an open timber frame on low stone walls; the roof of decorated arch-braced trusses and bargeboards. The inscription on the front reads 'T.V.S. T.LL. C.W. A.D. 1843'. There is a stepped entrance and a pair of wrought iron gates. Tarmac path leads up to south porch, and a second path leads to a single gate in the south-east wall, giving access to the former vicarage.

Vegetation: several very old yews. The oldest yew is located near the south porch has split into four trunks and its branches have curled and spread out widely. A low stone revetment wall encircles the yew; a stone pillar supports its western trunk and a wooden prop supports the east side. Further old yews on the south side near the single gate, and others on the east side.

Well: St Erfyl's well was located about 400m to the north-west of the church; the well was arched and water flowed through a spout.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings 1996
CPAT Field Visit: 28 February 1996 and 20 July 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 191
Edwards 1883
Eisel 1986, 182
Faculty St. Asaph (NLW)
Glynne 1885, 41
Haslam 1979, 127
Knight, J: pers. comm.
NMR Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
Ridgway 1997, 134
Thomas 1908, 469
Thomas 1918
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 Llanerfyl Church may also be found on the St Asaph 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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