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St Mary's Church

A Grade I Listed Building in Derwen, Denbighshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.0457 / 53°2'44"N

Longitude: -3.3882 / 3°23'17"W

OS Eastings: 307031

OS Northings: 350728

OS Grid: SJ070507

Mapcode National: GBR 6N.D5FZ

Mapcode Global: WH77M.XPQY

Entry Name: St Mary's Church

Listing Date: 19 July 1966

Last Amended: 30 October 2000

Grade: I

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 725

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Location: At the centre of the village of Derwen.

County: Denbighshire

Town: Corwen

Community: Derwen

Traditional County: Denbighshire

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History

The round shape of Derwen churchyard suggests the church site is of early origin. The building perhaps originates in the C13: there is reference to the 'ecclesia de Dernmey' in 1254, and a north doorway (described by Glynne in 1849 but no longer extant) was probably of C13 date. The north-east window of the chancel is a small featureless two-light window, also possibly early. The east window of the church, the fine rood screen and the fine roof, as well as the very fine sculptured churchyard cross, are all features indicating a period of much enhanced patronage shortly before the Reformation.

The rood screen is outstanding for the retention of its loft, which in post-Reformation times is said to have been used as a pew or singing gallery. It was specified as early as 1914 by the Royal Commission as 'a monument especially worthy of preservation'.

Later features are the west bellcote, said to carry the date 1688, perhaps copying an earlier bellcote, and the south porch, undateable but containing a water stoup. The date 1762 is roughly caved twice on the inside of the south door. Until the C19 restoration of the building there was a west gallery.

Derwen was modestly restored by Kennedy in 1857, at a cost of about £750 to which the ICBS contributed £90. In this restoration it was said that the stairs to the rood loft were removed to the present position in a north annexe, but the facts are obscure; Kennedy probably changed an exterior access (there is a blocked east-facing doorway) to an access direct from the nave. The annexe, resembling a short transept, is in a poor stonework and is likely to be older. In Kennedy's restoration the nave was paved in stone and the chancel and sanctuary in wood blocks, but those of the sanctuary were replaced by encaustic tiles in 1907.

Exterior

The nave and chancel are without any external distinction. There is a west bellcote, a south porch, a short north transept serving as a stairs annexe but incorporating the chimney of the C19 heating apparatus, and a massive rude buttress at the west. The stonework is generally a local gritstone, with larger blocks at the foot of the walls, there being also a slight batter at low level to the east, north and south. The west buttress has several offsets. Stonework higher in the walls, probably from the C19 restoration, is more regularly coursed. The buttresses are of the C19 but on earlier foundations. The porch is an addition in slatey shale stonework not bonded to the nave, and is badly settled.

The roof is of slate with a tile ridge and has coped gables to east, west and north and stone crosses as finials to the east and north. The bellcote has two apertures with flattened trefoiled heads and carries a small metal weathervane.

The special exterior feature is a good Perpendicular east window of five wide lights, its transom a little above the springing line of the arch. It has two tracery sub-arches. Grotesque faces, probably from an earlier church, are used as label terminal heads. The chancel north-east window is small and of two lights, and the south-east window is of three lights with a simple tracery of intersecting arches. The other windows are C19. The south doorway has a narrow pointed arch with a single chamfer, and the door has with hinges with fleur de lys terminations. There is a stoup at the right.

Interior

The church is entered at the south door, which is of oak, boarded and counterboarded, with clenched nails all over.

The broad, aisleless interior has a single roof to both nave and chancel. It is substantially C15 or early C16, of eight bays, of the common local form with high arch-braced collar beams and a quatrefoil and two trefoils above the collar. There are two purlins each side with cusped braces and there are ashlars to all the common rafters. The nave floor is stone flagged. One step up at the screen leads to the wood-blocked chancel and another step at the altar rails leads to the sanctuary paved in encaustic tiles.

The gem of the interior is the exceptionally complete rood screen and loft. They are in a late-Gothic style of woodcarving with Perpendicular features. The loft projects more than a metre on both east and west sides; it is floored with planks and retains the socket centrally on the west side in which the rood itself formerly stood. The loft soffit is panelled in two rows of eight panels each side, with four-leaved flowers as bosses on the rib intersections. The screen itself has five open compartments to left and right with a central opening treated as two compartments with only a short pendant central post. Below the mid-rail are pierced panels, not aligning with the panels above. The whole is treated to a fine decorative scheme: on the chancel side, there is a moulded top rail, ovolo loft gallery standards with miniature tracery panels in the heads, and a heavily moulded bottom rail with a full width vine trail. Above the bottom rail is a cresting consisting of crossletted crosses in front of the standards. On the nave side the design is similar with simplification. There is no cresting and, instead of a vine, what appears to be a briar trail with wild roses. The mid-rail is decorated with spaced four-leaved flowers and the lowest panels are variously carved in tracery designs.

The C19 features include the pine altar rails with arched supports and no gate, plain pine choirstalls and similar pews. To the left of the nave is a large octagonal pulpit carved in Gothic style. The altar is in oak, carved in Gothic style with a central IHS. The octagonal font stands at the west of the nave, and there is a small dug-out parish chest.

The south window of the chancel shows the Nativity, the Resurrection and the Ascension with small figures, and was made by James Powell & Sons to the design of H E Wooldridge, and given by R Wynne of Bachymbyd and Meyarth in memory of his parents in 1869. The adjacent sanctuary window was given by the Rev. R J Roberts in 1860.

Behind the pulpit is a memorial with broken pediment and a hatchment above on a cartouche, to Elizabeth Price [1755]. Other wall monuments in the chancel range from the mid-C18 to the C20.

Reasons for Listing

Listed at Grade I as a church possessing an exceptionally complete rood screen and loft and otherwise retaining much of its mediaeval character.

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