St David's Church, Llanddew, Breconshire
St David's Church at Llanddew is a large cruciform stone structure with a central tower, lying two kilometres to the north-east of Brecon. It is considered to be a 'clas' foundation, but the earliest parts of the structure date from the 13th century. There have been subsequent rebuildings in the 17th and 19th centuries. The churchyard may originally have been curvilinear but its form has been modified in later centuries. The nave is supposed to be earliest part of church; this could be true for the south wall excepting the window insertions, but the west wall is a complete Victorian rebuild and it is possible that a substantial part of the featureless north wall was treated likewise in the 19th century.
[From the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) website, where the full text is available]
The tower was 'newly erected and made in. . . 1620 '. but the crossing below it may be of 12th century origin like much of the remodelled nave. The font and the lintels lying loose in the south transept are also of that period, when Llanddew was a place of some importance. The two transepts with battered walls, lancets and narrow squints, and the chancel with three lancets in each side wall and three more in the east wall are 13th century. These parts were restored in 1884, the tower was given a pyramidal roof c1780, and the nave was given new windows and roof in 1900.
[From The Old Parish Churches of Mid Wales, by Mike Salter, Folly Publications, Malvern, 2003; ISBN 1-871731-62-3]
A central tower (right) containing two bells hung for swing chiming. The bells were cast by Thomas Stone of Hereford in 1631. These two bells hang in the two smallest pits of a medieval bell frame of four parallel pits, all of which have contained bells at some time. The frame probably dates from the 15th century. In 1717 the churchwardens of 'Llanthew' presented that the 'great Bell' was cracked, while in 1719 they presented 'one of the bells & some of the bell ropes to be out of repair'.
[From The Church Bells of Breconshire, by John C. Eisel, Logaston Press, Almeley, 2002; ISBN 1-873827-23-7]
The south porch (right) houses a number of medieval artefacts including two stoups, a font and two carved lintels, as well as a stone with a ring-cross which may be pre-Conquest (see below). [CPAT website]
The carved stones above and below were described in 'Sculptured Stones at Llanddew Church, Near Brecon', by J. O. Westwood in Archaeologia Cambrensis, May 1885
The rev. J. Lane Davies was good enough to forward to me sketches and rubbings of two carved stones ornamented with lozenge-shaped devices, accompanying, on the larger fragment, the representation of a Maltese-formed cross with dilated ends to the limbs, which at some former period had been used as the top-stones of the quoins carrying the coping of the east gable of the church, and which had plainly been hammer-dressed on three sides. The larger and more perfect of these two fragments measures 30 inches by 14; and the other, which has a portion of the right hand ornament cut away, is 30 inches by 9. The ornament of the two portions is continuous, and incised to the depth of three-quarters of an inch; so that the stone, when unbroken, must have been 5 feet long by probably 18 inches wide; whence it may be conjectured either that it was an upright cross with a long stem, or coffin-lid. As, however, the stones were at least a foot thick, the former suggestion seems the more probable. The ornament is very peculiar, and unlike any discovered in Wales, bearing a slight resemblance, in the numerous lozenges and square spaces into which it is divided, to the Llowes Cross, (Lapid. Wall., Pl. 73.) The form of the cross, in the upper portion of the larger piece, is also very peculiar, the ends of the limbs being marked with triangular incisions which might possibly have been intended rudely to represent the nails with which the Crucified was fixed to the cross. Over the head of the cross a small triangular space occupying the place of the titulos is marked with slender diagonal and straight lines, forming a smaller series of lozenges. Between this and the top of the cross is a space formed by a trough to receive the coping. As the sculpture on the smaller portion is across the natural bedding of the stone, whilst it is on it on the larger piece, it is probable, as suggested to me by Mr. J. R. Cobb (to whom I am indebted for a knowledge of these and numerous other sculptured stones) that the stone was originally sculptured on each side, thus supporting the idea that it was originally an upright pillar or churchyard-cross.[Extracted from the late R. F. Vincent's Llanddew website, where the full text and Rev J. Lane Davies's original rubbings can be seen]
The Rev. J. Lane Davies mentioned in Note 5 was vicar of Llanddewi for 41 years (from 1862 to 1903). He gained fame for his Notes on the Parish and Church of Llanddew, Brecknockshire, which he presented in 1872 to the Cambrian Archaeological Association in Brecon. Rev Lane Davies is buried in the churchyard near the south wall of St David's, but his cruciform tombstone is now lying flat on the ground (above). His 1872 Notes contain the following description of St David's:
The chief object of interest [in the village] is the parish church, which is one of the earliest in the county, and which may perhaps claim a seniority over the parish church of St. John, Brecon. It is a building of the thirteenth century, as will be seen from the accompanying engraving from a drawing by the late Mr. Longueville Jones. Like many other churches it has undergone at different periods a great number of alterations, but with the exception of the nave, which is of late and barbarous work, the original church remains nearly intact as to outline and character. The building is cruciform, with lancet windows, which appear originally to have been surmounted with handsome free-stone mouldings. The intersection of the transepts with the body of the church is surmounted by a clumsy low tower erected in 1623, and probably the successor of one much superior in every way. Of the four bells it once contained there are now only two left, the others having, it appears, been sold and the proceeds appropriated to some of the aforesaid alterations, which so disfigure the ancient pile.Above right is another cruciform memorial around whose base are commemorated five of Rev J. Lane Davies's children (John, age 21; Mary, 14; William, 29; Mary, 22; and Adeline, 17) and his wife Phoebe, 41 (see images below). This base, which presumably once supported his own tombstone, is now topped by a cross that lacks any inscription.
Pen-y-crug (below) topped by the earthworks of an Iron-Age fort.
Note 7. A few yards east of the church are two important medieval relics: the Bishop's Palace and Bishop Gower's Well.
Explore the Bishop's Palace and Bishop Gower's Well.