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Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene

A Grade II* Listed Building in St. Clears, Carmarthenshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8138 / 51°48'49"N

Longitude: -4.4944 / 4°29'39"W

OS Eastings: 228151

OS Northings: 215739

OS Grid: SN281157

Mapcode National: GBR D6.WXH0

Mapcode Global: VH3LL.1NVX

Entry Name: Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene

Listing Date: 30 November 1966

Last Amended: 11 June 2001

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 9409

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Location: Situated within a cemetery behind the street, reached via a lych-gate opposite the Town Hall.

County: Carmarthenshire

Town: Carmarthen

Community: St. Clears

Locality: St Clears

Traditional County: Carmarthenshire

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St Clears

History

Traditionally founded by one of the Norman St Clare family around 1100, established by mid C12 as a cell of the Cluniac monastery of St. Martin-des-Champs of Paris, with a prior in sole charge. In 1350, a prior and one monk were resident here. Dissolved as a Priory by Henry V in 1414 and granted in 1446 to All Souls College, Oxford, as a parish church. The church is of C12 origin retaining of that date only the chancel arch, the best Norman work in the county, but is otherwise C14 to C15, the tower C15. The roof collapsed in 1681 and the wall was said to be leaning out: the nave walls N and S have been thickened at an uncertain date. Heavily restored in 1853-5 for £538 by R.K. Penson, and again in 1883-4 at the expense of Timothy Powell, Penycoed, for £530, by John Middleton of Cheltenham. Middleton found a 2-light window of 'beautiful design' which he copied in the new chancel windows, and imitated in the 3-light E window, he also opened the square chancel N window, renewed the chancel roof and added the vestry.

Exterior

Anglican parish church. W tower, nave and chancel with attached vestry of 1884. Rubble stone with Bath stone dressings, concrete tiles to nave roof, slates to chancel, Bath stone copings and cross finials.
Tall C15 tower with battered plinth, massive quoins and C19 Bath stone window dressings, corbelled embattled parapet and SE stair tower. Plain rectangular louvred bell-openings, 2-light flat-headed small window with hoodmould on w face, at mid height, above plain cambered headed door with stone voussoirs and double boarded doors. Broad nave has 4 pointed traceried 2-light windows of 1853-5 with hoodmoulds beneath stone voussoirs to N and S. Varied apex designs including quatrefoil and cinquefoil. Evidence of thickening of the N wall, and of blocked window at the third bay. Blocked doorways evident to the S in first and second bays, the latter was original S entrance, blocked 1853, with stone dressings and voussoirs.
Lower, narrower chancel has two 2-light pointed windows of 1883-4 each side with quatrefoil heads and hoodmoulds. On N side, to W of these is late medieval rectangular leaded light with plain stone dressings. To E, 2 broad possibly late medieval low buttresses with heavy plinths and single set off below sill level of large 1883-4 3-light E window with paired quatrefoils to apex.
Small attached 1883 vestry to S of chancel, with tiled roof gabled to S. Square headed windows, 2-light to S, 3-light to E, leaded with coloured glass. Boarded timber W door with large iron hinges and knocker.

Interior

Tower has flagstone floor and high, barrel-vaulted stone ceiling. C15 or earlier stoop to R of paired, panelled timber internal doors, glazed to upper panels.
Nave has 1853-5 roof with arch-braced collar-trusses and diagonally-slatted timber ceiling, rising from corbels. Plastered walls, side windows of 1853-5. Exceptional large C12 chancel arch, depressed arch of 2 thick rounded mouldings separated by 3 steps, outer hoodmould. Two round shafts each side with fine carved capitals, outer ones with cable vertical strips, inner one with corner scrolls and some cable mould. Innermost arch is on wall piers with chamfered angles defined by incised line and scrolls at tops. 1909 timber organ gallery to W, carried on 5 cast iron columns. Gallery front has vertical panels with 3-sided central projection. Massive pipe organ has projecting centre section and turned sides, with tall, vertical arcaded panels above long horizontal panels.
Chancel has 1883-4 barrelled timber ceiling, boarded and ribbed. C19 trefoil headed piscina to SE. 1883-4 windows, E window with segmental-pointed arch and hood. Pointed-headed small arch to 1883 vestry with boarded timber ceiling.
Earlier C19 pitch pine box pews throughout, with vertical slatted rears, lightly decorated terminals and panelled doors. C12 or C13 Norman font, circular on round ringed shaft and square base. 1900 octagonal oak pulpit made by James Griffiths, carpenter, St. Clears, perhaps to designs by the vicar, Rev. F. Owen, with foliate design to upper panels, plain horizontal panels below. Gothic reredos of 1897, unvarnished oak, by Messrs. T. Thomason, Birmingham, with 3 crocketted gabled flanked by crocketted finials, over late C19 timber communion table with traceried panels. 1903 eagle oak lectern by Wippell and Co., Exeter.
Stained glass 1901 E window, Crucifixion, by Mayer & Co of Munich, it cost £140. Several other windows by Charles C. Powell of London, one of 1926, one of 1927, and 3 of 1929.
Memorial plaques: marble cross, chancel NW, to Thomas Westcott (d 1861): inscribed slate, chancel NW, to Chapman family, 1780, by J. Maliphant of Kidwelly; marble plaque, chancel SW to Hugh Leach of Bristol (d 1820); inscribed slate plaque, chancel SW to Rev. Timothy Powell (d 1719); marble memorial with pilasters, figurine and urn, nave S, to Thomas Howell Rees of Llwynpiod (d 1785).

Reasons for Listing

Included at grade II* as a restored medieval church with the best surviving Norman carved work in the county.

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