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Church of St Dogfan

A Grade II* Listed Building in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, Powys

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.8246 / 52°49'28"N

Longitude: -3.3016 / 3°18'5"W

OS Eastings: 312393

OS Northings: 326025

OS Grid: SJ123260

Mapcode National: GBR 6S.V2HY

Mapcode Global: WH78V.882F

Entry Name: Church of St Dogfan

Listing Date: 4 January 1966

Last Amended: 29 August 2003

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 636

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Location: In the village of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, in a large churchyard now principally entered by a C20 lychgate at north; stone churchyard wall and railings. Gates at west and south.

County: Powys

Community: Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant

Community: Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant

Locality: Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant village

Built-Up Area: Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant

Traditional County: Denbighshire

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Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant

History

St Dogfan's is the parish church of Llanrhaeadr, the mother church of the commote of Mochnant, and is thought to be of monastic (clas) origin. The Celtic dedication and the partially remaining circular form of the churchyard also indicate early date. A Celtic cross now preserved in the south aisle may be of the C9 or C10. St Dogfan's was mentioned in 1254 as 'ecclesia de Llanrhaeadr'. There are also loose fragments of a shrine in the church, perhaps similar to the Romanesque shrine which survived in the nearby church of Pennant Melangell.

C12 origins are indicated by the evidence of 'a plain Norman window' reported by Glynne, 'in the north wall of the eastern division', apparently at the location of the present north entrance. This may have been a window relocated when the church was enlarged in the late mediaeval period.

The Royal Commission confidently dated the strongly battered base of the tower to the late C12, and from this the church appears to have been extended eastwards. It was lengthened in the C15 and developed then or later to a triple nave form. There is a C15 barrel-form celure over the central nave chancel. The north nave, now functioning as an aisle, preserves at least the opening of a late mediaeval east window. The south nave has been subsequently enlarged by one bay to the west.

The tower was mostly rebuilt in the C18. A gallery was built over the west end of the nave in 1753 and a hearse-house to the north of the nave in 1758. The south aisle was used in the C19 as a school. The church was visited by George Borrow in 1854, when he described the interior as gloomy from the heaviness of the architecture.

The church underwent very extensive restoration in the C19, in two campaigns, the second by Spaull in 1879-82 at a cost of £1778. The Norman window refered to by Glynne was lost and the arcade piers were rebuilt. Spaull demolished the hearse house on the north side of the nave and a porch on the south side of the south aisle, built a new porch on the north side, moved the font to the north aisle beside the new entrance, raised the chancel floor level while leaving the north and south aisles at the same floor level as the nave, and generally rebuilt the windows. The west gallery and a dormer window lighting it were removed and the old box pews entirely replaced with open pews.

Notable incumbents include Dr William Morgan (1578-88), later Bishop of Llandaff and of St Asaph, who worked at the time of his incumbency on his translation of the Bible into Welsh, Dr William Worthington (1747-78) the promoter of many local social and economic improvements, and the poet Gwallter Mechain, d.1849.

Exterior

A large church of unusual form, with a squat tower, a long and low nave and chancel, and large side aisles or naves confined to the eastern part of the church, giving a striking triple-gabled east elevation. The church is built in local slatey stone (shale), with door and window dressings, quoins and copings, all from the C19 restoration, in sandstone. Slate roofs with tile ridges. Cross finials to all three gables at east.

The east windows of the chancel and of the south aisle are of four and three lights respectively with restored Perpendicular style tracery within equilateral arches. The east window of the north aisle is lower and is square, in three lights. Its sill has been raised and its tracery restored, probably as a copy of the original. The head of this window is flat and has a rough relieving arch. The side windows of the south aisle are of one or two lights with foiled heads. The nave windows to north and south are of an idiosyncratic C19 Perpendicular type in two lights. There is a single-light traceried west window to the north aisle, and a west door to the south aisle. The porch projects boldly at north and its outer doorway has a simple label mould and a moulded inner order with rounded piers.

The tower is of three storeys, the bottom storey strongly battered. The west doorway and the small trefoil headed lancets are C19. The tower has a sandstone plinth above the batter, sandstone quoins and square or segmental headed belfry lights. Parapet with simple string course at base and C18 obelisk finials.

The lychgate at north is C20, with stone side walls, slate roof with tile ridge and eaves to front and rear, low gates. A circular sundial post in the churchyard has lost its plate.

Interior

The interior effect of St Dogfan's is dominated by its unusual layout and the uniformity of its roof heights, perhaps partly due to the C19 restorations, although already remarked as a 'singular arrangement' by Glynne in 1850. The entrance at the north side by the C19 porch opens into a transverse passage at the foot of the chancel steps, uniting the north and south aisles and the nave. The aisles extend eastwards and only overlap one bay of the nave. The main space available for a congregation, in the north aisle, is oddly at the rear of choirstalls. Borrow in 1854 described the interior as sombre 'from the heaviness of the architecture'.

The nave is paved with red and black quarry tiles; the walls are plain, without monuments, and the ceiling is a plain barrel vault (thought to conceal mediaeval timbering). At west the nave abuts the tower, with a traceried Gothic style screen incorporating double doors with side-lights and a leaded clerestory giving borrowed light to the ringers' floor of the tower. At east the nave has a slight arch (described in the Inventory as 'a plain oak rib') at the line where the aisles commence. C19 open pews of plain design in pine.

In the eastern part of the church the chancel is raised two steps above the nave and aisles floor level, and there is a C19 restored arcade of three arches each side. Plain pine choirstalls, pulpit and prayer desk. Because of the unusual layout the pulpit and prayer desk are to the east of the choirstalls. Patterned floor tiling in quarry tiles with encaustic features. The plain barrel ceiling of the nave continues over the chancel, but the last bay, over the sanctuary, is a late mediaeval barrel shaped celure with carved crowsfoot bosses to the rib intersections and a carved cornice. The sanctuary is one further step up and there is a brass Communion rail and a richer patterned floor with encaustic features. Above and to the sides of the altar are a carved Gothic reredos and side panelling, the reredos incorporating a carving of Leonardo's Last Supper in high relief. The altar table (1794) now stands in front of the altar step, a little forward of the reredos.

The north aisle is of five bays with collar-beam trusses. Black and red quarry tile paving. Plain pews facing south. Octagonal font close to the door, inscribed IA / 1665 / RI / V / HT, recording the initials of the vicar and churchwardens, on an earlier octagonal base.

The south aisle is mainly occupied by the organ. Barrel ceiling; black and red quarry tile paving. Plain pews facing north. Thirteen wall memorials have been collected on the west wall against the vestry. At centre is a large memorial to the Rev. William Roberts of Whittington and Selattyn, slate ground, marble urn above an oval plaque [1784]. Other memorials of the C18 and later, including to Dr William Worthington, vicar [1778]. Brasses of 1740 and 1792. Another C18 stone behind the organ. An early Celtic stone (the Cwgan stone) was recovered from the stonework of the south aisle during the restoration of 1882 and now stands against a pier of the arcade: this is a Celtic cross in shallow relief with contrasting surface patterning each side.

Single light stained glass window at south depicting the Good Shepherd by Curtis, Ward and Hughes, commemorating Canon Jones, vicar, and his daughters [1910]. C20 east window in north aisle depicting St Asaph and St Dogfan.

Reasons for Listing

A large church which notwithstanding extensive C19 restorations retains significant mediaeval fabric, including a fine chancel celure. The church has a striking exterior form resulting from its late mediaeval eastwards development.

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