Full Report for Listed Buildings
Summary Description of a Listed Buildings
Date of Designation
Date of Amendment
Name of Property
St James' Church
200 M SW of Manorbier village, on a hill opposite to the Castle.
Religious, Ritual and Funerary
The Church of St James at Manorbier dates from the C12. Giraldus Cambrensis, of the
de Barri family of Manorbier Castle, recounts how he took refuge there in 1153. The earliest surviving part of the building is the nave, of about this period. The Church had an early connection with the Benedictines of Monkton, and a Prior of Monkton, Master Richard, was its first recorded Rector (1251). The original building was greatly enlarged during the next hundred years with a rebuilt chancel and transepts and a new tower, aisles and porch. The N aisle is almost equal in height and width to the nave and is virtually a second nave. The N aisle may have functioned as the Parish Church while the main nave and the chancel were still in exclusive conventual use. Mediaeval ceiling paintings survive in the porch.
In 1301 Sir John de Barri granted the church to Monkton Priory. However, as an alien house, Monkton lost the advowson and the Rectorial land and tithes during the Hundred Years War. With the Dissolution the whole church became the Parish Church in Manorbier. It is not clear at what date the N wall of the nave was pierced to form an arcade of low arches similar to, but not aligned with, those formed in the S wall when the S aisle was added.
The Rood figures were removed in 1707 and replaced by the Royal Arms of King William, painted on boards. These are now repositioned on the N wall, to which they were moved during the major restoration by Frederick Wehnert in 1865-8. (An artist’s impression of the interior before restoration is shown in the N aisle W window. It shows the Rood Loft surmounted by the Royal Arms). In the restoration the Rood Loft was also moved to the N aisle and a large chancel arch formed in place of the low, narrow Norman one. Perpendicular tracery was removed from the E window in favour of the trefoil-headed lancets more in keeping with Victorian preference. The church interior was replastered throughout, though some arises are now oddly selected for re-exposure. The vaults in the tower were pierced in 1920 for the re-installation of a bell.
An irregular grouping dominated by the 2 masses of the tower and the N aisle linked by the stepping-down projection of the N transept and the chapel. Generally local limestone rubble masonry with some local sandstone, as in the tower. Slate roofs with gable parapets. Finial crosses. Bellcote at the E end of the N aisle.
Slender tower of local type, with 4 storeys and crenellated parapet on corbels, but without the usual stairs turret. Three large belfry lights with stone louvres to N (towards village), single lights to the E and W and none towards the S. Lancet at ground storey facing N. Blocked W door of nave with equilateral arch formed to 2 large curved stones. Blocked door of N aisle also an equilateral arch but formed of voussoirs. The very low height of these archways shows the outside ground level has risen considerably (1-2 m).
Nave approximately 12.5 m by 5.5 m wide with a high pointed vault. Although pointed its Norman character is indicated by a surviving high-level round-headed window in the S side, partly blocked by an arch of the subsequently formed S arcade. The original chancel arch was low and narrow and the present arch, though larger, imitates the squat, low-springing form of the nave arcades. Above it, seen from the nave, are several Rood-Loft corbels and a high level ladder hook.
Chancel 5.5 m by 5 m, built c.1250 on older foundations. Its axis is markedly inclined to the right relative to the nave (compare Castlemartin Church). A C14 de Barri effigy repositioned on the N side. Door to adjacent vestry. Arch to tower. A blocked Priest’s door in the S wall. C19 sedilia. E window of 3 lancets.
The N and S transepts added c.1250. The S Transept now contains the organ. The N transept has a high level window in the gable, now converted to 2 lights. The Tower was added in the angel between the N transept and the chancel. It is small in area, 4.6 m square internally, and may not originally have been intended to be so high. Its entrance is by a loft-level doorway in the N transept.
The N aisle is 18.5 m by 4.5 m. The external doorway in the N wall is blocked. A door seen internally in the N wall leads to stairs in the wall thickness leading to the resited Rood-Loft and indirectly to the tower. A carved label mould terminal of this doorway is of a style dated to the C13. There are traces of red and blue paint on the Rood-Loft timbers.
The chantry chapel, which is an extension of the N transept, originally housed the de Barri effigy which is taken to be John de Barri, d.1324. This chapel is unusually roofed with vaulting on close set thick transverse ribs. In 1960 this part was formed into a Memorial Chapel with a new timber screen.
S aisle 16 m by 2 m, also vaulted but beneath a lean-to roof. A wide squint between the S transept and the nave enables the altar to be seen from the S entrance door. Water-stoup recess beside porch door. Porch at S with a high vault, with surviving mediaeval paintings in floral patterns within panels.
The church has 2 fonts, one small and octagonal, on a modern base. The other a font of Norman type, presently in use. This has been re-tooled overall in modern times. At rear of nave are 2 blocks of pews probably predating the re-pewing of c.1865. In the N aisle is a Celtic-cross war memorial.
Reason for designation
Listed Grade I as one of the most interesting mediaeval churches in SW Wales retaining a valuable series of stone vaults and furnishings.
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