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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Peter , Machynlleth

Machynlleth Church is in the Diocese of Bangor, in the community of Machynlleth in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SH7453000948.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16904 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Machynlleth Church, CPAT copyright photo 2415-01.JPG


St Peter's church sited on the north-western fringe of Machynlleth on a spur overlooking the floodplain of the River Dyfi, is a large rectangular building which is the result of a 19thC rebuilding of the body of the church, attached to a tower, much of which is 15thC and 18thC. Apart from three 18thC bells the only fitting of any antiquity is the 15thC font. The church lies within what was originally a circular enclosure.

The base of the tower is generally held to be 15thC with the rest of it from 1745 and battlements that were added in the early 19thC. The nave and chancel were rebuilt in Gothic style in the 19thC.

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


Machynlleth is reputedly the site of an early church established in the 6thC by St Cybi, a native of Cornwall. The location on the edge of the Dovey floodplain and the curvilinearity of the churchyard go some way to reinforcing this belief in an early medieval beginning.

The medieval church is mentioned in the 1254 Norwich Taxation as 'Ecclesia de Machenleyd' at a value of 6s 8d, and at some point in the Middle Ages it seems certain that the original British dedication was dropped in favour of that to St Peter.

The pre-restoration church was cruciform in plan, with north and south aisles and considerable decorated timberwork. The supposedly 15thC tower was largely rebuilt in 1745 when three new bells were installed.

Fenton in 1810 recorded that the chancel was divided from the nave by an ornamental screen, and that the old stalls had misericords. There was also fine carved woodwork over the porch.

The present church is the result of considerable rebuilding and enlargement in 1827 to the design of Edward Haycock of Shrewsbury. A new nave was built on to the existing tower, which itself was heightened with the addition of a crenellated parapet and finials.

Further alterations were initiated in 1864-6 by J.W. Poundley and D. Walker, who were responsible for reorganising the chancel and for the removal of the north and south galleries.

In 1894-5 considerable restoration work was largely funded by the Marchioness of Londonderry of Plas Machynlleth. The alterations included the extension of the chancel into what had been the nave and the construction of arches to the chancel, organ chamber and Lady Chapel; two new windows were inserted in the west wall; older windows were modified by the addition of cusped tracery, both the organ and the choir seating were moved to the east end and new choir stalls and pews were introduced, and there was a new decorated ceiling. The aisles were given marble floors. The lower part of the tower was transformed into a baptistry and the 15thC font placed on a new base. Buttresses were also added to strengthen the walls.

The porch was restored in 1902.

A new flat roof was added to the tower in 1982, and the inside face of the east wall was rebuilt after collapsing.


The church consists of a large aisleless nave, an eastern chancel with a Lady Chapel to the south and an organ chamber to the north, a large south porch and opposite it on the north side of the church a two-storey vestry. The church is aligned north-east to south-west but for the purpose of description 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted.

Fabric: 'A' is of mid to large slabs of laminated grey shale/slate, irregularly coursed. 'B' is of large rectangular blocks and slabs of shale/slate, grey and light brown in colour, and including some particularly long slabs of laminated shale. 'C' is similar to 'B' but lacks the long slabs and includes more blocks.

''B' is of 15thC date but was also used in the 18thC. 'A' and 'C' are 19thC.

Roofs: slates with decorative ceramic ridge tiles. A large cross finial to the chancel, and ornamental pinnacles on both the porch and the vestry opposite.

Drainage: 19thC guttering leads to soakaways. Around the tower a gully has been dug out to a depth of at least 0.4m, and concrete laid in the base. No obvious gullies on the south, east or north.


Tower. General. In 'B', with 'C' for the top courses of masonry above the belfry windows, and 'A' for the battlements. A square, four-stage, western tower, with decorative corner pinnacles and a string course below the battlements. The tower is battered at the base to a height of c.1.8m, topped by flattish slabs. It is composed of large stone with roughly fashioned quoins. The walls then rises uninterruptedly with a slight taper, and the quoins are of dressed yellow-grey sandstone. All the windows are turned in voussoir slabs of local stone. The battered base is viewed as 15thC, the main stages as 18thC and the battlements from 1827.

North wall: a slit window with a foiled, ogee head in worn yellow sandstone lights the ground floor, and is certainly inserted. The round-headed louvred belfry aperture is in keeping with 18thC date. Above this is a small square aperture. A drainage spout projects from just above the string course. The change from 'B' to 'C is marked by a distinctive zone, less than 0.5m high, of small slabs of stone.

East wall: no belfry window.

South wall: at ground floor level is a single rectangular slit window with an ogee head as in the north wall - again this is an insertion. In the second stage is a doorway with a segmental arch, reached by stone steps. Above the doorway level and near the south-east angle of the tower is a small, square aperture lighting the tower stair. A quoin at the south-west angle bearing the date 1745, 0.4m above the top of the battered base, marks the rebuild of much of the tower. The third stage has a louvred window with segmental head, and there is another small rectangular light near the south-east angle at the same level as this window. The fourth stage has the standard round-headed belfry window and above this a similar zone of masonry as the north wall. From this projects a flat slab, perhaps the support for a spout in which case this might mark the original roof level. Above this a zone of 'C' and the battlements in 'A'.

West wall: a rectangular slit window in the first stage with brick infill around it. Then a standard belfry window.

Nave and chancel. General. The wide nave and chancel cannot be differentiated externally and are under a continuous roofline. All in 'A', though heavier pointing on the north side. There is a continuous stone plinth around the church and its buttresses to a maximum height of around 0.5m; and at eaves level is a continuous string course with a concave soffit. Windows of Victorian date are of a consistent appearance, but there has been considerable renewal of dressings in recent years.

North wall: one window to west of the vestry and five to the east of it, in bays defined by four ordinary buttresses and a diagonal buttress at the north-east corner. Restoration-period windows have rectangular frames, three cinquefoiled lights and labels in yellow sandstone which form part of a continuous hoodmould. The second and fourth bays have stone dormers with small blind windows in them, and at the apices are pinnacles, with small blind slits.

East wall: east window of 1866 has five lights with cusped tracery, sub arches, and cinquefoil and multifoil lights above. Over this is a hoodmould with foliate stops. The stone surrounding the window has been tooled down to create a recessed zone around the arch. Finally high in the gable is a circular window with a grille.

South wall: buttresses, windows and dormers as the north side, with five windows to the east of the porch and one to the west.

West wall: cusped two-light restoration windows to the north and south of the tower with two-centred arches, two-centred, cinquefoiled lights, and trefoils and irregular quatrefoils above. Diagonal buttresses at the angles. Battlemented parapet to the gable end.

South Porch. General. Two-stage porch in 'A'.

East and west walls: plain.

South wall: has a high four-centred (Tudor) arch with an imitation timber portcullis, and a label in poor condition. Above this is a blind, square window and a string course, and finally a blind slit in the apex of the gable, similar in design to the dormers of the nave. Diagonal buttresses at the angles.

Northern Vestry. General. Two-storey annex off the north wall. Continuous plinth as around the nave and chancel, and a string course at the eaves.

North wall: square-headed window comparable with those in the nave, and above this is a smaller window of similar design but the lights have four-centred heads. A string course at eaves level and then in the gable a small blind niche with a two-centred head. Diagonal buttresses at the angles.

East and west walls;- plain.


Porch. General. The large open porch has a flag floor, plastered walls and a vaulted ceiling with four plastered panels separated by moulded ribs.

North wall: two-centred arch to the main south doorway of the church, and slightly convex mouldings to the jambs. Above the doorway are three wooden benefaction boards of different dates and lettered by different hands.

East wall: a wooden bench beside the wall.

West wall: a marble tablet on slate commemorates the 1902 restoration of the porch.

Tower. General. Basement accessed from the nave. A circular baptistry was created in the bottom of the tower in 1894 and the external ogee-headed slits must date to this time. A black and white marble floor. The walls of rough shale contain deeply splayed recesses with both outer and inner chamfered arches to the slit windows on the north, west and south sides. A flat plastered ceiling.

Nave. General. Very much the result of 19thC restoration work, when the galleries along the north and south sides were removed creating the present large open nave. Black and white marble floors with flush woodblock floors below the benches. Walls plastered and painted. A boarded, panelled ceiling from 1894 has stencilled Welsh script in Gothic lettering on the coved northern and southern sides. The roof is divided into two large, unequal bays by a tie-beam division just to the east of the south entrance, and the panels are picked out by the highly painted, moulded ribs.

North wall: four restoration windows of which three are stained glass memorial windows to the Londonderry family. Two-centred archway with a hoodmould to the vestry. Above this, at first floor level, is an open arcade of four-centred arches and a wooden balustrade with trefoiled openings. Five 19thC marble memorials, two of the 20thC and one 20thC brass.

East wall: a triple arcade of two-centred arches divides the nave from the chancel, Lady Chapel and organ chamber. The higher chancel arch has a hoodmould, the lower arches to the north and south are recessed. The north side arch has inserted wooden panelling that encloses the organ chamber.

South wall: embrasures to the six restoration windows and the south door. Three 19thC marble memorials, two 19thC brasses, one 20thC brass and one wooden plaque, also of the 20thC.

West wall: four steps lead down through a deep recess to the baptistry (see below), and there is a high two-centred arch, its tympanum panelled and painted. In the western side of the reveal is a doorway with a 'basket' arch giving access to the tower stair. To either side of the entrance to the baptistry are windows from 1894 and there are also one 19thC and two 20thC brasses.

Vestry. General. Located off the north side of the church opposite the main south door. Carpetted floor; plastered and painted walls and a flat ceiling. The first-floor gallery contained the Londonderry family pews until the 1894 restoration and has a blue-painted, vaulted ceiling with red and yellow ribs. It is now used as choir vestry.

Chancel. General. One step up from the nave, one to the sanctuary and one to the altar. The ceiling is more elaborately decorated than that of the nave, but the Welsh script seen in the nave continues into this portion of the church, even across the organ casing.

North wall: a parclose screen divides the organ chamber from the chancel.

East wall: the five-light 1866 restoration window with stained glass by Clayton and Bell above a decorated reredos with Gothic painted panels listing the Ten Commandments to either side of the Lords Prayer and Creed.

South wall: a parclose screen divides the Lady Chapel from the chancel.

Lady Chapel. General. Dedicated to the memory of the Marchioness of Londonderry in 1933. Includes an elaborate marble and stone memorial of 1850.


Originally a sub-circular enclosure, the churchyard has been enlarged on several occasions. Tenements have infringed slightly on the north-western side, and in 1873 the north-eastern corner was extended outwards.

Boundary: a 19thC stone wall remains largely intact on all sides.

Monuments: graves are close set and are generally well kept. There are a large number of chest tombs, generally of slate, some table tombs on slate plinths and some raised on bricks. There is evidence of clearance with stones placed around the south wall. A chest tomb of 1762 was the oldest marked grave seen but one of 1740 has been claimed.

Furniture: none noted.

Earthworks: the churchyard rises high above the surrounding ground on the south-west. On the north and south it is about 0.6m higher than outside, but on the east there is little if any rise. The earlier enclosure boundary on the east and north-east is discernible as a 0.4m scarp and also as the edge of a path.

Ancillary features: a pair of modern iron gates form the entrance at the south-east corner and a broad concrete path leads from this to the south porch. A grass path leads around the church and to a pair of 19thC wrought iron gates, set in stone pillars, in the north-east wall which are no longer used as a main entrance. Matching railings surmount the wall along the roadside.

Vegetation: the oldest yew tree is near the south-east corner of the church; and a pair of yews form an arch near the north-east gates. There are several Irish yews, holly trees and beech trees.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit 2 November 1995 and 22 September 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 204
Davies 1982
Eisel 1986, 188
Faculty 1895 Bangor (NLW)
Faculty 1906 Bangor (NLW)
Haslam 1979, 155
Lunt 1926, 471
NMR Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
Quinquennial Reports 1985, 1990 and 1995

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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 Machynlleth 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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