The church in Llawhaden was founded in the 12th century on the place of a much older temple. It was consecrated to Saint Aidan, an Irish 6th-century monk who was a disciple of Saint David. At the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the church was heavily rebuilt under the patronage of the bishops of St Davids. In the nineteenth century it underwent two major renovations: in 1834 and 1862. The roofs were replaced, the structures were reinforced, new stained glass windows were installed, a western porch was erected and a chapel of the Roch family was built on the site of the old chancel, which was later turned into a sacristy.
The church from the 12/14th century consisted of a highly elongated and at the same time relatively narrow nave on a rectangular plan, adjacent to the even narrower chancel located from the east, also built on a rectangular plan. The nave was also adjacent to a slender four-sided tower attached to the southern wall. The whole building was situated in a valley, on the west bank of the Cleddau Ddu River, on the eastern side of the hill on which the bishop’s castle was erected.
In the fourteenth century, the church acquired a very unusual layout, resulting from the earlier multi-stage expansion. To the older building, consisting of a nave, chancel and tower, at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, a second tower was added, situated on the site of the old nave, and a new, larger nave was built on the north side. Next to the former chancel, a Gothic chancel was built, while the old one was transformed into a chapel, opened to the interior with two arcades. In this unusual way, the old and the new tower were joined together with walls, and some of the older rooms gained new functions.
Ultimately, as a result of the Gothic reconstruction, the church consisted of a rectangular, strongly elongated nave measuring 17.8 x 7.3 meters, a narrower and shorter, rectangular chancel on the eastern side of dimensions of 10.2 x 5.6 meters, a complex of two connected towers on the southern side: the older southern tower from the 13th century and the newer tower adjacent to its northern wall from the 14th century. Both towers were crowned with parapet typical of Wales on corbels protruding from the façades and a battlement. The larger tower received a stone vault in the ground floor room, while the floors in the smaller tower have not survived. The original entrance to the nave was on the south side. Most of the windows were two-lights with trefoils and a smaller quatrefoils at the top.
The church in Llawhaden is today one of the most original sacral buildings in Wales due to an unusual rebuilding. The western porch and the sacristy on the south-eastern side are early modern additions, although the sacristy was erected on the site of the original chancel from the 13th century. The windows of the church were renovated in the nineteenth century, then a new entrance from the west was pierced and the southern entrance was bricked up.
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, VII County of Pembroke, London 1925.
Website britishlistedbuildings.co.uk, Church of St. Aidan A Grade II Listed Building in Llawhaden, Pembrokeshire.
Website coflein.gov.uk, St Aidan’s church, Llawhaden.