Full Report for Listed Buildings

Summary Description of a Listed Buildings

Reference Number
Building Number
Date of Designation
Date of Amendment
Name of Property
Parish Church of St Derfel  


Unitary Authority
Street Side
Located within its own walled churchyard at the SW edge of the village, with commanding views down the Dee valley.  


Broad Class
Religious, Ritual and Funerary  

A Celtic Llan site, founded in the early C6 by St Derfel, 'Derfel Gadarn' (Derfel the Mighty), whose father, Howel, is said to have been one of King Arthur's knights. The church is first recorded in the Taxatio of 1291 as the 'Eccl'ia de Landervael'. The present church is an early Tudor rebuilding, probably of the early C16 and takes the form of a single-chamber parish church. N and S porches are early additions (both probably only a generation or two later); the S porch was converted to a vestry in the C19. The church was restored in 1870 by S Pountney Smith of Shrewsbury at a cost of £1,200. During the restoration the loft of the Perpendicular Rood Screen was partly rearranged and some elements were incorporated into a new panelled retable. At the same time the chancel roof was restored, the original, panelled and canted roof having been lost in the C18. The church of St Derfel was a popular pilgrim site before the Reformation and St Derfel was particularly venerated as a special patron of the animals of the pasture and the chase. Two medieval wooden sculptures associated with his cult are recorded, of which one, a carved red stag known as the 'Horse of St Derfel', has survived; it is kept in the porch together with its turned staff to which, following an annual procession, it was tethered in a field adjacent to the church. Its head was partly removed upon the orders of the Rural Dean in 1730; traces of polychromy and gilding are evident, particularly on the staff. The other effigy was of Derfel himself. This was sent down to London in 1538 on the orders of Dr Ellis Price (known as the Red Doctor), Cromwell's 'Commisserie General' for North Wales during the Reformation. As a superstitious relic it was publicly burned at Smithfield in May of that year, along with Friar Forest of Greenwich; Bishop Latimer preached a sermon to mark the occasion.  

Medium-sized parish church in the Perpendicular Gothic style; of single-chamber type, with porch and vestry additions forming an overall cruciform plan. The church is of stone construction on a chamfered plinth and is faced with coursed, dressed blocks of slatestone. Steeply-pitched slate roof with simple Victorian ridge decoration and coped gable parapets with gablets above kneelers. That to the E has a Celtic gable cross. That to the W is surmounted by a C19 2-stage gabled Gothic bellcote; of yellow sandstone with pointed and chamfered bell arch and surmounting gable cross. Single-storey gabled N porch, near-contemporary with the main church. This has coved stone eaves and a C19 slated roof with plain bargeboards. The gable is timber-framed between stout stone flanking walls. It has a chamfered arched-braced collar truss to the apex with brattished tie-beam below; early C20 boarded doors with flanking ogee leaded lights and 6 similar lights between tie-beam and collar. The L (E) side wall has an original slit light; chamfered plinth to both sides. The N wall of the church has 3 original 3-light sandstone tracery windows with Tudor-arched heads and double hollow-chamfered jambs; moulded labels with primitive zoomorphic and head carvings to the stops. The central light of each window is slightly taller than those flanking and is surmounted by 2 squat, cusped lights; original ferementa. The S side has 3 similar windows, 2 to the E (R) and one to the W (L) of a gabled vestry projection. This originated as a later C16 or C17 S porch and was partly rebuilt in the late C19 when it was converted into a vestry. Slated roof as before with large 2-light leaded window to the S gable with sandstone jambs and plain mullion; blocked window openings to both sides. Above the vestry, flush with the main church wall, is a lateral stone stack with stopped-chamfered sides and moulded base and capping. The E gable has a double hollow-chamfered plinth moulding. Large Victorian sandstone E window in Perpendicular style; of 4-lights with Tudor-arch and ogee, cusped heads, with 12 tracery lights to the apex.  

Spacious single-chamber interior with plastered walls and simple red/black quarry-tiled pavement; simple mid-Victorian pine pews flanking a central aisle. Eight-bay original roof, with 6-bay nave section and 2-bay chancel section. Of arch-braced collar truss type, with delicate, moulded trusses, modest, cusped windbraces and cusped quatrefoil and trefoil decoration above the collars. These additionally have foliated bosses to the centres. The chancel roof is canted and panelled with moulded members having foliated bosses at their junction. Crenellated brattishing to the moulded wall plate. C19 octagonal font with blind, cusped octofoils, on an octagonal base; of Cefn sandstone, a gift of the architect of the 1870 restoration. Similar pulpit with cusped and arched lights to each face, recessed in pairs, and with moulded top having foliated boss decoration; chamfered plinth and 3 steps up from the R. The chancel is separated from the nave by a fine, original rood screen. This is of oak and has a central opening with 4-bay flanking sections, each having lights with highly-cusped heads above 5-bay arched dado sections with complex blind tracery; moulded posts and finely-carved vinescroll Rood Beam with crenellated brattishing. Surmounting this is the (rearranged) Rood Loft, with 24 niches having pierced tracery lights; brattished top surmounted by a C19 moulded beam. The chancel and sanctuary are stepped up and have simple encaustic tiled pavements by Maw and Co. Plain pine altar rails on four Gothic iron supports. Behind the altar is a panelled oak reredos with two tiers of 8 panels each. The upper ones incorporate Perpendicular crocketed canopy finials, clearly recycled from the Rood Screen canopy; crenellated brattishing to surmounting beam. On the N side of the chancel is a plain Gothic-style panelled organ; by Liddiart and Sons of Gloucestershire, early C20. Simple Victorian painted choirstalls and reading desk. The N porch has a C16 2-bay arched-braced collar truss roof with simple chamfered detail. The N entrance is Perpendicular and has a Tudor arch with moulded and hollow-chamfered jambs with moulded label returns with carved head stops. There is evidence for extensive knife and/or sword sharpening to both jambs; C19 sunk-panel pine doors. The Vestry (former S porch) has a primary Tudor-arched N entrance with chamfered, cyclopean slatestone lintel. Glass and Monuments: plain leaded glazing to the E and W windows, with simply-decorative glass to the nave. The S wall easternmost (nave) window has stained glass of 1889 to the Sheriff family; Adoration of the Magi. The nave N wall has 2 wall monuments to the Williams family of Bodweni, both of white and grey figured marble. That to the L was erected c1820 and has dates from 1782 to 1913; moulded top with Gothic brattishing and polychromed arms. That to the R is to Robert Williams, Esq., d.1823; segmental pediment with Adamesque decoration. The chancel E wall has a white marble classical wall monument to the Rev. Samuel Stodard, d.1788; draped urn finial with surmounting crest. On the chancel N wall is a small black and white marble tablet to the Rev. Thomas Davies, d.1825; this is signed by E J Physick of London. In the E window splay of the N chancel window is an inset slatestone benefactor's tablet; recording the gifts of John Williams of Nantffrayer, probably mid C18. Within the vestry is a wooden framed and painted funerary tablet to John Lloyd of Pale, gent., d 1742, together with a small wooden tablet to Ann Pryse, d.1781. Within the porch is the Ceffyl Derfel (St. Derfel's Horse), a late medieval carved wooden stag, with associated turned staff or post; both have chain attachments and evidence of primary gilding and polychromy. Half of an oak panelled early C18 churchwardens' bench stands against the E wall.  

Reason for designation
Listed Grade I as a well-preserved late medieval parish church retaining good original external character and fine original interior detail.  

Cadw : Full Report for Listed Buildings [ Records 1 of 1 ]