Description: Church of St Tewdric
Date Listed: 19 August 1955
Cadw Building ID: 2040
OS Grid Coordinates: 352313, 190881
Latitude/Longitude: 51.6143, -2.6888
In the centre of Mathern village.
The history of this building is extremely complex. The site and dedication are Celtic, but nothing pre-Norman is now visible and the present church seems to begin in the Early English period of the C13. The different alignment of the nave and chancel may suggest that the church began as a single cell building in the position of the chancel. This could have been the Celtic church which might then have had a Norman nave added to it in the C12, and then had the older church demolished and replaced by an Early English chancel in the C13. The nave was then largely rebuilt in the late medieval period, probably by John Marshall (Bishop of Landaff 1478-96), and part of the church sympathetically restored by John Prichard in 1882, contractor William White of Abergavenny, at a cost of £2,500. Chancel restored separately, probably by Ewan Christian, architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The most obvious result of this work is the rebuilding of part of the wall of the south aisle, while the church was also re-roofed and re-furnished.
The earliest surviving features are the arcades of the nave, the chancel arch, the triple lancet at the east end and the lancet window in the north wall of the chancel, all these seem to be of Early English form. Most of the rest of the work is of a Perpendicular character.
The church interior is plastered and painted. The nave arcades are Early English with four colonnettes about a central shaft carrying pointed chamfered arches. Each arcade is four bays but the western bay of the north arcade has a very different form and a plain square pier; this may suggest a rebuilding after the previous tower was removed in 1483. The chancel arch is Early English and has the same profile as the nave arcades, the tower arch is of 1483. The rere-arches of all the windows can be seen to be medieval except for the three eastern ones of the south aisle which show the Victorian rebuilding noticed outside, although they do appear to re-use some of the stonework. There is a squint and a door to the rood stair at the east end of the south aisle. The roof of the nave has close-set arch braced collar beam trusses which appear to be C15, the ceiling was removed in 1882 and the boarding is Victorian. The aisle roofs are Victorian ribbed waggon vaults in the Perpendicular manner. The chancel roof is Victorian with close coupled rafters. The pulpit and most of the furnishings are Victorian, the organ is of 1883. The medieval font was found under the floor of the porch in 1943 and reinstated, it had been buried in 1882. It has an octagonal bowl as does the larger and more eleborately Perpendicular Victorian one. The west window of the south aisle has fragments of medieval glass. There are six bells, all dated 1765, these were restored in 1970. The elaborate towered reredos, the east window glass and probably the choir stalls date from 1914. These were the gift of the Rev Watkin Davies (Vicar 1879-1923) who appears as donor in the east window. The south aisle reredos is a WW1 memorial of 1921 designed by W D Caroe.
The church is built mainly in a combination of local hard fine-grained limestone and coarse sandstone of the Tintern group, these are not always easily distinguishable from the coarse sandy limestones used for the architectural details. The church consists of nave, without clerestory, offline chancel, north and south aisles, west tower, south porch and an organ chamber added to the south side of the chancel.
The nave, without clerestory, has coped gables, plain where it butts against the tower and with an apex cross at the east end. The south aisle and porch were built together, as the base plinth shows, with the wave mould going round both. The upper part of the aisle wall was rebuilt in 1882 as the different character of the stonework shows, and the windows date from then, but the sympathetic nature of the restoration suggests that the windows are reproductions of the existing ones. The aisle has four bays with diagonal corner buttresses. There is a tall 3-light Perpendicular window in the west gable and another in the east gable. The south wall has three lower 3-light windows, again with the same tracery. The porch is in the second bay from the left and has diagonal corner buttresses and a pointed archway, the mouldings of which are reproduced on the inner doorway; the door is a Victorian double plank one with good ironwork. The porch has a coped gable with apex cross. The chancel is medieval, but has had a lot of Victorian refacing done sympathetically, the organ chamber is wholly of 1882; this projects in front of the east gable window of the south aisle. The organ chamber has a coped gable and a lancet window with dripmould. The chancel has a plinth and stringcourse, but the organ chamber does not. The south wall has another 3-light Perpendicular window as before, and an Early English lancet which was reopened in 1882, and a 2-light Perpendicular one. The north aisle is wholly Perpendicular in character, although the windows can be seen to have been inserted into the existing walling. Plinth with wave moulded string, stepped buttresses, paired between the bays, diagonal at the corners. Continuous dripmould which is covered by the buttresses. Three bays, all five windows (1 + 3 + 1) are 3-light ones as on the south aisle. Coped gables with apex crosses.
The tall west tower is in ashlar and has three stages, with an octagonal stair turret on the north east corner. The moulded plinth is continuous from both aisles and round the tower. Diagonal corner buttresses stepped all the way up the tower; they cover the first string course, but go under the other two. Pointed arch west door similar to the south porch; 3-light Perpendicular window above, this has a similar character to the aisle ones, but it was inserted in an enlarged opening before 1909. The second stage has a single light opening to the ringing chamber on three sides. These have moulded architraves and pierced stone windows. The bell stage has a 2-light recessed opening on each face, also with pierced stone windows. Battlemented parapet with buttresses carried up into small finials.
The churchyard contains a number of C18 and C19 memorials of which the most notable is the railed enclosure on the north side of the chancel. There is also the fragment of what may have been the medieval priest's house about 50m north of the chancel.
Reason for Listing
Included and highly graded as a very fine medieval church with interesting Victorian alterations, and for its historic connection with the Bishops of Llandaff and their nearby Mathern Palace.
Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust, Welsh Historic Churches Project.
Sir Joseph Bradney, A History of Monmouthshire, Vol IV, The Hundred of Caldicot, Merton Priory Press, 1994 (reprint of original 1933 edition), pps 110-124.
E T Davies, A History of the Parish of Mathern, Mathern PCC, 1990, (first published 1950).
Information in the church and from the Churchwarden.
Information from the Buildings of Wales research project.
In the centre of Mathern village.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.