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Church of St Illtud

A Grade I Listed Building in Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan

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Latitude: 51.408 / 51°24'28"N

Longitude: -3.4877 / 3°29'15"W

OS Eastings: 296623

OS Northings: 168719

OS Grid: SS966687

Mapcode National: GBR HJ.QFG0

Mapcode Global: VH5HZ.HVKZ

Plus Code: 9C3RCG56+6W

Entry Name: Church of St Illtud

Listing Date: 22 February 1963

Last Amended: 16 December 2004

Grade: I

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 13259

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Location: In the centre of Llantwit Major, west of The Square and well below it.

County: Vale of Glamorgan

Town: Bridgend

Community: Llantwit Major (Llanilltud Fawr)

Community: Llantwit Major

Built-Up Area: Llantwit Major

Traditional County: Glamorgan

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Llantwit Major


Early C12 to C15. Restored several times including in 1888 by G F Lambert of Bridgend, in 1899 (West Church and South Porch by G E Halliday) and 1905 (East Church, Sacristy and Tower by G E Halliday and J W Rodger, and Chancel by A Caroe). Mid to later C20 refurnishings by George Pace.
'The pre-Norman establishment was a 'clas' church, and although it was granted to Tewkesbury Abbey in 1080 and established as a vicarage, its subsequent building history, in which it was provided with two naves, is best understood as an indication that a monastic presence was maintained on the site.' (Glamorgan/Gwent)
Previous to the Norman invasion of South Wales this was the site of the famous monastery founded by St. Illtyd. This had been a major centre for teaching for the Celtic church since its foundation in about 500AD and missions had been sent from here to Brittany, Ireland and Scotland. The Norman Lord of Glamorgan, Robert Fitzhamon, in 1102 gave the church at Llantwit, together with its lands and tithes, to his own foundation of Tewkesbury Abbey. It remained in their ownership until the Reformation when it passed via the Crown to Gloucester Cathedral and this control continued until Disestablishment of the Church in Wales in 1920. It remains the largest and most splendid of the many medieval parish churches in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The replacement of the existing church began immediately after the Norman arrival and it remains uncertain whether any of the pre-Norman church survives in the present structure. Part of the south wall of the west church and the arcades of the east church have been suggested as evidence of this, see below.
The generally accepted explanation for the development of the east church is that the Norman chancel was demolished and the eastern nave built on its foundations in the C12/C13, but the surviving evidence seems to contradict this. The walls which now form the arcades would appear to be too thin and have been twice heightened, leading them to be no longer self-supporting, and the arches of the arcade are far too roughly finished to be the work of any self respecting C13 architect building from new ('the utter rudeness of these portions strangely contrasts with the generally good character of the work.' Archaelogia Cambrensis, 1858). This is surely the first small Norman chancel, or even the pre-Norman church, a very simple building with tiny windows and a plain east end. In the Early English period, in the later C13, this building was heightened, with the walls opened out into the present arcades and was given north and south aisles and a new chancel approached through the arch, which had in itself necessitated the raising of the walls and roof. The stripping of plaster in 1905 showed that the chancel arch was an insertion as it was built against the earlier north wall on one side and an arcade pier on the other, and not bonded with either. This building was changed again when the roof was raised a second time to allow the incorporation of the Rood Loft and the clerestorey windows in the C15.
The trouble with this interpretation is that Halliday must have had some evidence from the stripped plaster in parts and also the archaeology of the foundations; but, nevertheless, his explanation, reused by the church guide and by Newman does not really stand up.
The Raglande Chantry in the Galillee was dissolved in 1545 and appears at some stage to have been converted into a barn, but the known illustrations of the church show this part unroofed and in ruins.
West Church : Partly possibly pre-Norman and Norman walling, especially on the south side, but very largely rebuilt in the C15 when the magnificent roof was added. C13 porch with parvise approached by a staircase of 1992 situated within the church.
East Church : Early C13 tower built originally against Norman nave (south-east quoins of early nave discovered 1905), later repairs including in 1731. Later C13 arcade formed out of earlier walling, see above. C15 chancel arch to C13 chancel, C15 chancel roof. North and south aisles later C13, the south aisle truncated in the C15.
For furnishings see Interior.


'The building is constructed in lias limestone, quoined mainly in the same material, though the tower is quoined in Sutton stone. Sutton stone was also used for the earlier openings, teamed with a limestone of similar appearance but more tractable character, identified by Halliday as Dundry stone: the later medieval openings are in sandstone, and Bath stone was used for the 1899-1905 repairs.' (Glamorgan/Gwent) Welsh slate roofs.
'The church consists of two sections, the eastern church with nave, two aisles, chancel and W tower, and the W parochial nave which has a S porch with parvise, and a large chapel (Galilee), now ruinous, built against the W end, with an upper floor at its W end; there is also a small room, now used as a store, to the N of the chapel, which is believed to have been a sacristry.' (Glamorgan/Gwent)
The entrance is into the West Church which will be first described. The doorway, which is reached through a porch with a recessed chamfered 2-centred arch of C13 type, is a plain round arched Norman one with a Victorian plank door. The parvise above is lit by a single trefoil headed light over the archway, but there are five small square openings (putlog holes) rising diagonally on either side up into the gable. Battered base with corner buttresses, very steeply pitched gable. The right hand buttress is corbelled out to the upper floor, which seems to have been done to accommodate a pre-existing building, since demolished (shown on a plan by Halliday).
The south wall of the nave shows stonework of different characters said by Halliday to be evidence of the incorporation of part of a pre-Norman building, with possibly two rebuildings above. To the left of the porch is a 3-light arched Perpendicular window with cusped lights; to the right is a 3-light square headed Decorated window with cusped and trefoiled heads, and to the right again a 2-light C13 one with equal trefoil headed lights. The north wall has a window similar to this latter one, but a Victorian replacement. The dripcourse on the west side of the tower above the south slope of the West Church roof suggests that the roofline has been lowered, whereas the north pitch appears to be original, but it is difficult to see any difference internally.
Ruined C13 west Galilee building, with its former chapel, later probably a chantry chapel (Sir Hugh Raglande's chantry). This has a C13 window with tracery missing in the west gable which lit the upper chapel and large archways, once windows (see surviving evidence of where the cills were), flanked by buttresses in both north and south walls to the undercroft; two of these medieval buttresses have been ripped off at some period leaving large scars. The evidence suggests that this was converted to a barn at some stage after Dissolution, note the opposed doorways, but it is unknown when it became unroofed. The interior of this section retains, in the upper part of the east wall, a multiple-moulded niche with a dripmould over (a later addition for protection) and, to the right, an ogee headed piscina. west window; two stone staircases at the west end and a further one at the north-east end leading to the stair to the upper floor of the Sacristry entered through a small 2-centred doorway, with a larger 3-centred arch beside it into the west church.
Probably C15 Sacristan's lodging of two storeys against north wall. This has small square headed windows, a steeply pitched roof and a gable chimney.
The tower is over the west end of the east church. Although, internally, the crossing is Transitional and therefore probably of c1200 what can be seen on the outside appears C14 with a probably C16 castellated parapet. Two stages above the roof with a single light with cusped head on the north and south faces, the one on the east face is now internal. Pairs of trefoil lights to belfry; corbel table; castellated parapet with cross-eyelets.
East Church comprises nave, chancel and north and south aisles of later C13, the massive stone arcade piers built on the lines of the walls of the Norman or earlier chancel, but see History. Two-light aisle windows with Geometric tracery, three on either side, the south-west window now a door, buttresses of 1905 between the windows on the south side added to support the flying arches within. Clerestorey windows, partly set into the aisle roofs, two on the north and one on the south, although Lambert found evidence for a second in 1888, 2-light Perpendicular windows, the northern ones seemingly Victorian. Three-light east and west windows to both aisles. Halliday suggests that the Early English east window of the south aisle is the original east window reused when the aisle was shortened.
Chancel with four lancet windows with trefoil heads on north side; restored Perpendicular east window with two large lights, each with two smaller ones within, panelled head and dripmould over. Probably C15 2-light ogee headed windows in blocked arcade arches on south side. Priest's door and attached early C19 railed enclosure below. The north wall with coursed and squared stones is largely part of the restoration, as is the upper part of the east gable with its coping and apex cross.


West Church : Fifteen bay C15 arch-braced collar beam roof with seven principal trusses and eight secondary ones. The principals carry bosses carved with the coats of arms of important local families, including one for the Nicholls added in 1899 by G E Halliday. Other features include some medieval wall paintings. Elaborate iron entrance screen to the eastern church designed by George Pace 1959 but glazed only in 1992. Iron spiral staircase to the parvise chamber, 1992 by Graham Hardy. The buttresses flanking the tower arch were added in the early C18, certainly before 1731 and possibly the same date as the bells i.e. 1722, and thus added to counter the additional stresses on the tower.
There are a number of important monuments displayed in the church which are associated with the Celtic monastic foundation at Llantwit Major. These constitute one of the chief collections of such monuments in the old county area of Glamorganshire, (see RCAHMW). The most important are the Samson Cross, rescued from the churchyard, and the 'Houelt' stone. There are also C16 and later monuments of quality and interest.
East Church : The font stands under the tower. It is a circular C12 bowl font with a bold scale pattern; it was moved to its present site in 1992. The crossing is carried on four clustered piers which were underpinned and rebuilt in 1899 with the consequent loss of some detail. Only one now has a carved capital with trumpet flowers etc., but the other carving was already recorded as lost or damaged in 1858 (Archaeologia Cambrensis).
The particularly remarkable feature in the nave is the evidence for the two-times heightening of the roof to be clearly seen on the east wall of the tower; and the very rough and unfinished nature of the three bay arcades and chancel arch; both are clearly broken through an existing wall, presumably with a much smaller opening before. For a possible explanation of this see History. The flying buttresses were inserted in the south aisle in 1905 to counter the movement of the south arcade since the second heightening in the C15. Late C19 waggon roof done as part of the Lambert restoration. The aisle roofs are also Victorian.
Restored medieval murals of St Christopher on the north side, probably C15; and lozenge patterning behind the Rood over the chancel arch. Painted Royal Arms of 1604 of James I of England. Jesse niche reset into one of the arcade arches. It has been suggested that this might have been the reredos of the Early English church. Remains of piscinas in north and south aisles. Victorian pulpit and lectern. Wall monuments, eg, to Roger Seys, and floor monuments. Rood by Alan Durst, 1959, but still with the medieval painted background.
C15 chancel arch to C13 chancel (see History). Probably C15 close set arch-braced collar beam depressed waggon roof with three members running the full length. Remains of early wallpaintings. The important Raglande reredos is in situ. This is Perpendicular in character and dates from the late C14. Multiple image niches with ogee heads and many pinnacles. The cresting was mostly restored by A Caroe in 1905. Some good monuments and a fragmentary statue of the Virgin and Child. The organ was made for Ham Manor in 1860. The six bells were cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester in 1722 and recast in 1908.
For interior of Galillee see Exterior above.
Interior of the Sacristry not inspected at resurvey (March 2003), it has a fireplace.

Reasons for Listing

Included and highly graded as one of the most important medieval churches in Glamorgan.

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