Llanfair ar y Bryn – St Mary’s Church


   The church was erected in the first half of the 12th century on the site of a former Roman fort from which some materials for construction were taken. At the end of the thirteenth century, the building was extended to the east, enlarged by the southern chapel, and then in the fourteenth century by the porch and at the end of the fifteenth century, by the western tower. In 1790 the chapel was in ruin and probably soon it was pulled down. In the mid-nineteenth century, the sacristy was erected and the windows were rebuilt. Their next modernization took place in 1880, and then the porch was transformed. Fortunately, at the beginning of the 20th century, the church was professionally renovated, which, among other things, restored late medieval windows.


   The church originally consisted of a short, aisleless nave, extended eastwards in the 13th century, while maintaining the same width. From then on, it consisted of an eight-bay, rectangular nave and a chancel, which was not separated externally from the body of the church. Inside, in the Middle Ages, both parts were separated by a rood screen.
   In the fifteenth century, on the west side of the church, a four-story, four-sided tower was built, massive as for a rural building. It was founded on a battered plinth, topped with a battlement and received a communication turret in the south-eastern corner, protruding with a shallow projection to the south. The church originally also had a northern transept and a chapel from the end of the 13th century on the southern side. The northern transept was probably removed in the 13th century to make room for a niche to house a tombstone. Also in the 13th century, the floor of the chancel was raised and leveled with the floor of the nave.
   The oldest entrance to the church probably led from the south. After the tower was built, a vaulted porch was placed in its ground floor, opened by the arcade to the nave and accessible by the portal from the west. The oldest windows were narrow openings splayed to the interior. In the Gothic period, slightly larger windows were pierced, topped with trefoils, sometimes placed in groups of two or three, as in the eastern wall of the chancel.

Current state

   The present church in Llanfair is the result of numerous transformations already carried out in the Middle Ages and continued into the early modern era, especially during the nineteenth-century renovations. Until today, the southern chapel has not survived, after which the bricked-up arcade is visible and the northern transept, while the sacristy and southern porch are an early modern buildings. In the southern wall of the nave, a single, small window from the 12th or 13th century and a similar one on the north side are preserved. A few of 15th-century openings have also survived, including in the eastern wall.

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Salter M., Abbeys, priories and cathedrals od Wales, Malvern 2012.
Salter M., The old parish churches of South-West Wales, Malvern 2003.
The Royal Commission on The Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions in Wales and Monmouthshire. An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire, V County of Carmarthen, London 1917.

Website britishlistedbuildings.co.uk, Church of St Mary. A Grade I Listed Building in Llandovery, Carmarthenshire.
Website coflein.gov.uk, St Mary’s church, Llanfair ar y Bryn.