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Montgomeryshire Churches Survey

Church of St Mary , Trelystan

Trelystan Church is in the Diocese of Hereford, in the community of Forden in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ2636003950.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16965 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Trelystan Church, CPAT copyright photo 442-00.JPG


St Mary's church, in an isolated location on the south end of Long Mountain about 3 miles to the south-east of Welshpool, is a single-chambered building and the only early, completely timber-built church in Wales. The recorded history of the church goes back to the early 11thC, but the first use of the site is thought to be even earlier. The original 15thC timber frame survives, although repaired and now encased in 19thC brick and timber, and it retains its 15thC arch-braced roof. Its rectilinear churchyard may have had a curvilinear predecessor.

Church is encased in 19thC heavy timber studded framing with brickwork now painted white, giving a black and white appearance. The frame stands on a stone plinth and the 19thC windows and door are all of timber, but the structure of the original church reportedly remains intact.

Much of the interior is also a result of the 1856 restoration.

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


The recorded history of the site goes back to Edelstan the Renowned who died in 1010 and was buried in 'Chappel Trest Elestan'. In Domesday Book it appears as 'Ulestanesmunde' in the Hundred of 'Witenrau'. The name underwent many changes but was eventually mapped as Treleston in 1577.

It has been suggested, though on what authority is unclear, that the church was acquired by the Cistercian monastery of Strata Marcella in the 13thC. That the adjoining land known as Monks Field was acquired in 1229 seems not to be in doubt. It is assumed that an early wattle and daub structure was replaced by a timber-frame building in the 15thC.

From medieval times it fell within the Diocese of Hereford, and functioned as a chapelry of Worthen in Shropshire. However, in 1873 it was separated from Woorthen by which time the new parish of Leighton had also been carved from it.

The pre-restoration church of the early 19thC (dedicated to St Mary) appears to have been completely plastered internally and probably limewashed. The east end of the outer wall was of post-and-panel construction with boarding set between the studs and rails. The west end had close studded, timber framing with wattle and daub infill. The west end of the south side was underbuilt in rubble masonry before 1856. At that date there was considerable restoration and some rebuilding. The original timber frame was encased in heavy timber-studded framing with brick infilling. Some of the old timber was re-used including that now visible in the vestry and the porch, both of which were built in 1856. The overall cost was 390.

Further repairs were undertaken in 1906.


The church consists of a single chamber, the nave and chancel in one, with a timber bell-turret rising above the nave at the west end. There is also a south-west porch and a north-east vestry. It is aligned north-east to south-west, but for the purposes of description 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Roof: slates with black ceramic ridge tiles. A skylight is located in the north side of the roof above the position of the pulpit. The porch has a wooden fleur-de-lys finial.

The square wooden bell turret has a slatted lower stage and a second stage consisting of two square-headed louvred apertures in each face. There is a pyramidal slate roof surmounted by a wrought iron weathervane.

Drainage: modern plastic guttering and downspouts leading to soakaways. No obvious drainage trench.


Nave and chancel. General. Continuous nave and chancel, undifferentiated externally. The frame stands on a low, chamfered sandstone plinth of 19thC date which is packed with shale and red brick on the north side, particularly below the vestry. 19thC windows are set in wooden tracery, and all have diamond leaded lights unless stated. Each bay consists of two tiers of timber framing, the panels filled with brick and whitewashed over.

North wall: seven bays to the west of the vestry, one to the east; for the nave there are three pairs of lights - each with a light set to either side of an oak stud; the lights are trefoil-headed and set under a shouldered arch, with stopped-chamfers to the jambs. A single light of similar form lights the sanctuary to the east of the vestry.

East wall: Five bays at the base. A three-light window of 1856 set in a two-centred wooden frame with smaller lights above. Three horizontal bars are spaced over the main lights, and the window is now covered in protective plastic sheeting. A small trefoil light in a triangular frame is set high up in the gable.

South wall: two bays to the west of the porch include one standard window and six bays to the east include three of similar form.

West wall: five bays at the base, the brickwork visible beneath the whitewash. A central square-headed window with three lights; and above this a small trefoil light as in the east wall, though this lit the former gallery. Bench mark inscribed on a brick, two courses up.

Vestry. General. 1856 addition at east end of the north wall.

Porch. General. 1856 addition at the west end of the south wall. Timber frame is mounted on two tiers of sandstone at the gable end. Side walls have cross apertures formed by spacing of the bricks. Entrance on the south side has an arch-braced tie-beam lintel, and above this is a large trefoil formed by cusping on the tie beam and principals.


Porch. General. Open porch has red and black tiled floor edged with brick at thee entrance. The east and west sides have roughly made benches, and there is an 1856 restoration plate on the south wall beside the doorway. Planked ceiling above exposed rafters and a ridge purlin.

East wall: wood panelling with two small square lights. A brass war memorial.

South wall: the door to the nave is set in a square-headed wooden recess with a two-centred archway within it. A painted wooden text is set over the doorway.

West wall: as the east wall.

Nave. General. Stone flagged floor with raised benches on wooden planking; the timber walls are panelled, using former box pews as a dado on the north and south walls, and the pews and the panelling are topped by moulded cornices. The roof is of 15thC construction, although repaired; four bays are formed by chamfered, arched-braced collar trusses with pyramid stops, resting on pseudo-hammerbeams, in fact tie-beams that have been cut down and the edges chamfered. Alternating with the principal trusses are more simple arch-braced collars. Iron tie rods have replaced the tie-beams. Exposed rafters and purlins, with two tiers of trefoiled windbraces. The truss at the west end defines the position of the former gallery, which was originally reached by a ladder stair set in the north-west corner. Four modern chamfered uprights support what is now the bell turret. Behind these the ceiling slopes downwards broken only by the window aperture above. The front of the bell turret, formerly the gallery, has close-set studs, plastered between, with a large thick beam for the top rail.

North wall: of the three windows, the central one has re-used carved panels showing wheat stems and trailing vine leaves surrounding it. There is a 20thC brass memorial plaque under the easternmost window. The panelling to the east of this window becomes irregular, and a slight change in its alignment suggests changes in the wall behind it.

East wall: the nave is separated from the chancel by the pulpit and a screen fragment (see below) on top of the front of a bench. The principal truss also shows minor differences with a less substantial tie-beam.

South wall: three standard window embrasures. Towards the east end some of the panelling has slipped, revealing plaster behind. Further west another wooden plaque (compare over the entrance in the porch) in the form of a cross with inscription, is set above the font. The most westerly window is partly under the bell turret.

West wall: panelling only, part from the window.

Chancel. General. Chancel floor is the same level as the nave and the stone flagging includes ten memorial slabs from 1691 to 1776. The altar is raised and enclosed by rails with turned balusters and a moulded handrail. Panelling as the nave, as is the roof.

North wall: a simple rectangular doorway to the vestry.

East wall: a wooden reredos with carved decoration and an inscription along the top. Decalogue boards in metal (zinc?) on wood to either side of the altar. A modern statuette of the virgin beneath the more northerly one.

South wall: one window and a slate memorial of 1850.

Vestry. General. One step up from the chancel. A red and black tiled floor. There is wood panelling on the north wall with three small square windows, and on the east wall cupboards constructed from old box pews. The south wall displays the original timber wall of the church (the only place where it is visible) with both horizontal and vertical timbers. The roof has rafters and a ridge purlin with plaster between.


The churchyard is a small almost rectangular enclosure which looks to have been extended to the north-east and perhaps to the south-west. Reached by a track across fields.

Boundary: fences on the north and east, hedges to the south and west.

Monuments: the older monuments are all sandstone, with modern marble slabs nearer the perimeter. A number have fallen, are broken or are cracked. Two railed graves near the west wall of the church, one containing two chests - to Thomas Pugh of Leighton (d.1834) and his wife Anne (d.1840), both in a poor state of repair. Some late 18thC slabs close to the south porch but otherwise mainly early 19thC graves onwards. The earliest gravestone noted was of 1759.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: the original churchyard boundary is defined by a low circular bank c.1m high at the most, within the present churchyard on the north-west and north-east sides; a faintly curved stretch of the present south-eastern boundary may also incorporate its line, and there are traces, too, to the west of the church, and on the south where the hedge is set on a low rise with a drop of c.0.3m+ into the field beyond. The church itself seems to sit on a very slight mound.

Ancillary features: a pair of double gates inserted into the modern fence near the west corner, disused wrought iron gates in the south-western hedge line and a single gate in the south-east corner. Also a wooden church room and outside toilet facilities in the west corner. Various grass paths around the church.

Vegetation: six yews of considerable age encircle the west side of the church; the largest being by the south porch. Two yews located along with a holly tree near the south-east gate and a third yew felled.

Sources consulted

Archaeology in Wales 1986, 56
Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings 1998
CPAT Field Visit 19 March1996 and 18 February 1998
Crossley and Ridgway 1947, 221
Eisel 1986, 194
Haslam 1979, 204
Hereford Parish Documents
Mulroy n.d.
NMR, Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
Williams 1990, 60
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 Trelystan Church may also be found on the Hereford 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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