Gwynedd Archaeological Trust
Regional Historic Environment Record

Llandanwg Parish Church, Llanfair

Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 6949
Trust : Gwynedd
Community : Llanfair
Unitary authority : Gwynedd
NGR : SH5687028240
Site Type (preferred type first) : Modern CHURCH
Status : Listed Building I

Summary :
Llandanwg parish church is dedicated to St. Tanwg and is located in the diocese of Bangor. A church, possibly of early foundation, of continuous chancel and nave with a rood screen and a small west bell-cote. Derelict for much of the C19th following the building of a new church in Harlech in 1841, it was restored and re-roofed in 1884 by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings. Much of the site is buried beneath sand dunes.

Originally curvilinear, the present form of the churchyard cannot be determined as it is covered by sand. Only a small rectangular area around the church is kept free of sand. The churchyard is no longer used for burial, but has many C17th and C18th graves exposed in the sand dunes around the church. The churchyard is entered through a lych gate of 1955 on the east side.

The western part of the church could be as early as the C13th, with the chancel added in the early C15th. An oak rood screen was also installed sometime during the C15th, of which only the top beam now remains. The west doorway and the windows in the north and south walls were inserted in the C17th. The initials and date REP 1685 cut into the west gable probably records these alterations.

In 1884 the nave was re-roofed, and the church was restored and re-floored. The present west door dates from this restoration. The bell-cote was rebuilt, the church re-pointed and the floor re-paved sometime after 1884.

Two C6th inscribed stones are in the church. There is also a C7th to C9th cross-inscribed stone re-set in the outside west gable. The seating is C19th in date. The former octagonal font, of early C15th date, is now in the church at Harlech.

Description :
A simple church of continuous chancel and nave much threatened by sand inundation. The present remains may be of 13th century origins, with an eastern extension of the 15th century. It was derelict for much of the 19th century following the building of a new church in Harlech in 1841. In 1884 it was restored and re-roofed by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings. The presence of two 6th century inscribed stones and a cross-incised stone imply early activity at this site, as does the dedication to St. Tanwg, traditionally a Breton saint who accompanied Cadfan to Bardsey. Although there are no individual features of great merit, the church and site are of interest because of the early foundation and the potential for demonstrating the development of a medieval church with its subsequent decline. Principal references are RCAHMW (1921, 60-61) and Richards and Lloyd (1935, 70-86). Access could not be gained to the interior of this church.

The form of the churchyard cannot be determined as much of the site lies buried beneath sand dunes. The present churchyard is rectilinear and stone walled. There is a curvilinear ditch, centred on the church, outside the present east wall of the churchyard. Although this is presently used as a drainage ditch, it is probable that this is the original boundary of a curvilinear churchyard, the remainder of which has been lost beneath the sand dunes. The churchyard is no longer used for burial but has many 17th and 18th century graves at different levels exposed in the sand dunes around the church. The sand dunes were cleared around the church, between 1884-1992, to a depth of 2-3m, to provide access to the west door and to alleviate pressure on the walls of the church. The area of clearance is 1.35m from the south and north walls and much wider at the east and west sides. The churchyard is entered through a lych gate of 1955 on the east side. The dimensions of the churchyard were given as 142 foot in length and 96 feet in width in a terrier of 1906 (NLW B/TI/2). The churchwardens accounts in the vestry minute book contains many references to the repair of the churchyard wall between 1777-1894 (GAS Z/PE/8/3). In these minutes the repair of a porch, with a new road to it, was mentioned in 1790 and 1809 (GAS Z/PE/8/3). There is no evidence for a porch attached to the church and it is probable that this refers to an earlier lych gate.

A building of continuous nave and chancel with a rood screen, and a small west bell-cote.

Dating is difficult because of the lack of architectural features. However, there is a straight joint visible in the south wall just east of the centre. The blocked south doorway with its simple pointed arch of stone voussoirs could be 13th century in date. The chancel is probably early 15th century from the date of the east window and roof trusses. We are therefore looking at a possible 13th century church of undivided nave and chancel, with an extension to the east added in the early 15th century. There is a plinth at the bottom of the north and west walls. However, the termination of this plinth does not correspond with the straight joint in the south wall. It is possible that this has been removed by the re-building of a 4m stretch of walling consisting of large boulders, observed at this point. The stone work of the lower courses above the plinth is of flat shale slabs.

In the late 14th or early 15th century the chancel was extended. The new east window was unusually tall, of two-centred pointed head, with external jambs of two hollow chamfered orders with a pointed hood moulding terminating in two stone heads. The east window was blocked and the sill raised in the 17th century when a new window was inserted into the opening. At the east end of the north wall of the chancel is a window of two lights with ogee arches and trefoiled cusping to the lights, within a square label which is of 15th century date; the lights have been reduced in height by raising the sill. At the east end of the south wall of the chancel is a much rebuilt square headed window with similar jambs to that in the north wall. The head of the window has been severely eroded on the west side but it would appear to have been of a similar date to that in the north wall. There is a square label above this window with a carved head label stop on the west side.

The three eastern arched-braced collar beam roof trusses are of 15th century date. These were ceiled, possibly in the 16th century, with wood boards on which original paintings were still visible in 1935 (Richards and Lloyd 1935, 77). An oak rood screen was also installed, probably in the 15th century, of which only the top beam now remains with some projections on the underside which suggest the usual central doorway flanked by three compartments (Crossley and Ridgeway 1945, 160-63).

In the 17th century the west doorway and the windows in the centre of the south and north walls were inserted. It is probable that a 4m stretch of the centre of the north wall was re-built when the north window was added to the church to light the rood screen. The date of these alterations is probably recorded by the initials and date REP 1685 cut into the cross incised stone on the west gable.

There was formerly a gallery across the west end of the nave of uncertain date, of which only the supporting beams remain (Richards and Lloyd 1935, 77).

In 1884 the nave was re-roofed, and the church restored and re-floored. The north window and the south door may have been blocked at this time. The present west door dates from this restoration.

Sometime after 1884 the bell-cote was rebuilt, the church re-pointed, and the floor re-paved.

There were traces of paint on the north wall near the screen and lettering on the south wall in 1935 (Richards and Lloyd 1935, 77-8). There are two 6th century inscribed stones, one re-set in the north window of the nave, the other in the east window. There is a 7th to 9th century cross-inscribed stone re-set in the outside west gable. The seating is 19th century in date. The octagonal font of the 15th century has been moved to the church in Harlech.

The walls are of uncoursed local rubble, with longer stone quoins. Gritstone dressings. Modern slate roof. The interior elevations are plastered. The external elevations have been pointed with good stone definition on all elevations allowing fabric changes or features to be observed. The church is floored with stone slabs. The sand dunes around the church were dug out to form deep trenches around the church between 1884-1992. <8>

A small bell about 14inch in diameter, hung in a west bell-cote. It has no inscription band and was probably cast in the late C19th. <6>

A 13th century church with additions of c. 1400, set in a churchyard that was formerly circular and which contains two 6th century inscribed stones. (Davidson, Gwyn & Roberts, 2007)

Sources :
Davidson, A., Gwyn, D. & Roberts, J. , 2007 , Ports and Harbours of Gwynedd: Pensarn ( © GAT)
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales , 1921 , An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire VI: County of Merioneth
Glynne, S. R. , 1901 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <1>
Crossley, F. H. & Ridgway, M. H. , 1945 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <3>
Richards, R. & Lloyd, R. G. , 1935 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <4>
Nash Williams, V. E. , 1950 , The Early Christian Monuments of Wales , <5>
Eisel, J. C. , 2005 , Journal of the Merionethshire Historical and Record Society , <6>
Palmer, T. , 2007 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <7>
Davidson, A. & Ward, M. , 1998 , The Historic Churches Project , <8>
Petts, D. , 2009 , The Early Medieval Church in Wales , <9>
Davidson, A. , 2008 , Archaeology in Wales , <10>
Naylor, D. J. , 2010 , Journal of the Merionethshire Historical and Record Society , <11>

Events :
43449 : GAT Historic Churches Project (year : 1998)
40653 : Ports and Harbours of Gwynedd: Pensarn (year : 2007)

Related PRNs :

Compiled date :


The above data are supplied by GAT in partnership with its Local Authorities (Anglesey, Conwy and Gwynedd County Councils, and Snowdonia National Park Authority), © GAT 2018 (and in part © Crown, 2018 - as indicated)
This information is supplied for the purposes of personal interest only and may not be used as part of a commercial project.

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