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Description: Penallt Old Church (St Mary's)
Date Listed: 19 November 1953
Cadw Building ID: 2104
OS Grid Coordinates: 352198, 210732
Latitude/Longitude: 51.7927, -2.6932
There is also a scheduled monument, Penallt Churchyard Cross, at the same location as this building or very close to it. This may be related in some way or possibly a different name for the same structure.
In the very northernmost corner of Trellech Community only about 1000m south of Monmouth in a position high above the bend of the Wye, approached from the Monmouth Road (B4239) at the junction by High Glanau.
There are indications, for instance the first mention of the church in 1254 and an internal batter to the north wall of the nave, that suggest that the present church is a rebuilding of an earlier structure. But most of what survives today is of the late C15 or early C16, with the lower half of the tower probably early C14 and then heightened in the mid C17, probably to accommodate the bells, the earliest of which is dated 1662. There are several apparently C17 windows which may have been put in at the same time. There was a careful restoration in 1885-7, possibly by J P Seddon the Diocesan architect, when the church was repaired and refurnished, and another in 1951. The church was a chapel-of-ease to St Nicholas, Trellech, until 1887 when Penallt became a separate parish. The new St Mary's Church had already been built in Pentwyn in 1869 with a resident curate, and this was much closer to the centre of the local population; St Mary's, Penallt then became known as the Old Church.
The steeply sloping ground that the church is built on is reflected in the interior, where the chancel floor is well below the nave, although without steps, the 1887 restoration made the whole a continuous slope. The church is plastered and whitewashed throughout, excepting only the chancel ceiling. Four bay Perpendicular arcade with clustered columns between the nave and the south aisle. Pointed chamfered arches to the chancel and tower. Fine C16 waggon roofs with moulded ribs and carved bosses to both nave and aisle, the nave one is said to have been restored to some degree in 1951. The chancel roof is boarded, and although of a similar type is probably Victorian in part. The south side of this is carried on a remarkable bressumer/wallplate which carries the roof over the squint passage between the chancel and the south aisle. The upper part of the rood-stair remains. The pews and the alterations to the chancel ceiling presumably go with the restoration of 1885-7. The altar rail, which has turned balusters, is dated 1745, the panelling on the east wall and the holy table date from 1916 and are said to have been carved by a Belgian refugee from Malines. There is a large dug-out chest in the chancel which is probably medieval. The pulpit is Jacobean, reset with a Victorian base. The font may be partly old. The south aisle altar was retrieved from the ground outside the porch in 1965, it may be the medieval chancel altar, buried in 1887. There are said to be four bells dated 1662, 1700, 1751 and 1751. The only coloured glass in the west window of the tower, of Ss James and Christopher, dates from 1969.
The church is constructed mainly in squared blocks of red/grey local sandstone, grading into conglomerate, with ashlar quoins, concrete tile roofs. Local stone of sandstone grade was selected for the dressings ot the openings and carved detail. The church consists of nave, separate chancel, south aisle, west tower, south porch, and with a rood-stair against the north west corner of the chancel.
The tower is the oldest visible part of the church. It is a square 3-stage tower, but with no obvious division between the stages. The slightly different stonework above the cill level of the second stage may suggest the line of the C17 heightening of the C14 tower. The lower half of the tower is built of unevenly sized blocks of stone in rough courses and with ashlar quoins; while the upper part is of more neatly cut blocks, but more randomly coursed. The bottom stage is without door and has only a west window with Decorated, possibly early C14 tracery. There is a large Victorian buttress at the north west corner where it abuts the nave. The second stage has three ogee headed trefoiled openings with louvres, these are probably reset C14 ones if the tower was rebuilt at this level. There is one on each of the north, south and west faces. The bell-stage above has a 2-light flat topped louvred opening with stone mullion on the north and south faces and a single pointed arch opening on the east and west faces. Saddle-back roof with coped gables and apex blocks.
The south side of the church shows only the south aisle which projects well forward from the in-line nave and chancel. The west gable wall of the aisle is blind. The south wall has three bays, the first being covered by the south porch. This is probably early C16 and projects well forward with blind side walls. The entrance has a recessed pointed arch with a gable cross. The porch has an arch-braced collar truss roof with longitudinal ribs. The inner door is in a 4-centred arch and both it and the door are C16, the door being dated 1532 on the inside face. To the right the aisle has two 3-light Perpendicular windows of early C16 date. These have cusped ogee heads and dripmoulds. The east gable is blind, but the base of the wall is partly covered by a lean-to extension. Both the gables are coped and have blocks for apex crosses. The chancel has a 3-light Perpendicular window with cusped ogee heads; this is probably C16 and the east window is another similar. The cill of the east window was dropped in the late C19 restoration when the east gable wall of the chancel appears to have been rebuilt, at least in part. The north wall of the chancel has a 2-light window with dripmould which is probably C17. Coped gable with apex cross. The east gable wall of the nave has a small rectangular window on either side of the chancel ridge, these light the rood-loft, but the present windows appear C17; coped gable above with block for cross at the apex. The rood-loft stair abuts the gable wall on the north side. The north wall of the nave has three large added buttresses and two 3-light Perpendicular windows, as those on the south side of the church, the eastern of these is almost entirely renewed.
The churchyard is a good one with a separately listed lychgate and preaching cross and a good variety of C18 and C19 memorials of which one is noted separately.
Reason for Listing
Included in grade I as an exceptionally fine and unspoiled medieval church which had a sensitive Victorian restoration in 1887 and which is in a very beautiful setting.
Glamorgan/Gwent Archaeological Trust : Monmouthshire Churches Project.
Pre-Restoration photographs in the church.
Church guide book.
John Newman, Gwent, Buildings of Wales series 2000, pp 461-2.
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.Notes:
In the very northernmost corner of Trellech Community only about 1000m south of Monmouth in a position high above the bend of the Wye, approached from the Monmouth Road (B4239) at the junction by High
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.