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Church of St Michael

A Grade II* Listed Building in Llanfihangel Aberbythych, Carmarthenshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8581 / 51°51'29"N

Longitude: -4.0493 / 4°2'57"W

OS Eastings: 258971

OS Northings: 219712

OS Grid: SN589197

Mapcode National: GBR DT.T08C

Mapcode Global: VH4J2.RKNF

Entry Name: Church of St Michael

Listing Date: 27 August 1999

Last Amended: 27 August 1999

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 22179

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Location: In the village of Golden Grove to the west of the street, nearly opposite to Golden Grove park entrance. Stone-walled churchyard with stile; lychgate separately listed.

County: Carmarthenshire

Town: Carmarthen

Community: Llanfihangel Aberbythych

Locality: Golden Grove Village

Traditional County: Carmarthenshire

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History

Built in 1846-8 by (Sir) George Gilbert Scott as an estate church for John Frederick Campbell, first Earl Cawdor (1790-1860). Scott was engaged at the same period in other work for Lord Cawdor, namely the restoration of Stackpole Elidor in Pembrokeshire. This was early in his long career as one of the foremost C19 church architects.
Scott's church replaces one of 1617 in the same location. It is said that the timber belfry is copied from that of the earlier church. There was evidently a church before that and there is thought to have been a still earlier church on a site nearer to the river; the circular shape of the enclosure suggests the present churchyard was established in pre-mediaeval times.

Exterior

A small church built in the Decorated style. Nave with a small belfry and spire near the west end, a slightly lower chancel, and a porch, transept and vestry on the north side. All apart from the porch is in axe-dressed informally coursed sandstone, with window jambs in sandstone ashlar; the other window or door dressings - arches, tracery, mullions and sills - in local grey limestone. Angled buttresses at east end, crossed buttresses at the west end.
Slate roof with slight sprocketting at eaves; tile ridges. Exposed rafter ends at eaves. Thin bargeboards at verges on projecting purlins and wallplates. Small iron finial cross at the east end. The only coped gable is that of the north transept, running up to a tall diagonal chimney. The porch is timber-framed on a low sandstone plinth; its roof is more generously sprocketted and the slates are of a larger size. The vestry, in the angle of the chancel and transept, is roofed in a continuation of the pitch of the sprocketted eaves of the chancel roof; the vestry eaves also sprocketted.
The windows are very varied, nearly all individually designed. The east window is traceried in three main trefoil-headed lights, with two quatrefoils and a trefoil above. Thin label mould beneath a relieving arch. The west window is also of three main lights, with trefoil heads within narrow pointed cusped heads; similar label mould. Small trefoil above in gable apex. The north and south windows to the chancel are single trefoil-headed lights, each with label and relieving arch. The nave north window and one to the south of the nave are two trefoil-headed main lights with a quatrefoil above; similar label and relieving arch. The south window to the nave nearer to the chancel consists of three trefoil-headed pointed lights in plate tracery, without label. The north transept window is similar but with a label. The vestry window is similar but of two lights and without label. Equilateral pointed main doorway arch, Caernarfon arch to the vestry doorway.
The belfry beneath the spire is of timber, with triple louvred openings on each face. Short spire above, with decorative slate courses and iron finial.

Interior

The interior has pavings and joinery of high class but is also notable for the lack of choirstalls or an identifiable Cawdor family pew.
Nave with two ranges of plain pews; oak timber said to be from the estate. The walls are rendered except for window and door dressings. Roof on arch-braced common-trusses with high collars. At left is a transept which may enclose the funerary vault of an unknown family (perhaps predating the present building). This vault was permanently closed when the present organ was installed in the transept in c1950. At the west end of the nave are two queen-post trusses with arch bracing, supporting the belfry and spire.
One step up to the chancel and two to the sanctuary. The chancel is fully open to the nave with no arch, but emphasised by its narrower width and lower roof. Fine Minton encaustic tile pavement laid in a diagonal pattern with Cawdor arms (Cawdor impaling Thynne) at intersections; richly patterned diagonal tiling also on the steps and the lower part of the chancel. Similar pavements are found in Lord Cawdor's Pembrokeshire church restorations. The chancel roof is a pointed barrel vault in panels; moulded ribs with carved bosses at intersections.
Fine carved altar in gothic style with three panels at front displaying shields on which there are emblems of the Passion: the seamless garment, a ladder with spear and hyssop plant, and three nails with a girdle. Frieze above with vine trail. Above that a cove with four-leaf flowers at intervals; this is a motif of the Decorated Style repeated throughout the chancel joinery and on the pulpit and font. Rear altar shelf with raised centre and IHS in circle, all richly carved. Panelled reredos carved with blind tracery and openwork cornice. Wall panelling on east wall each side of altar and on north and south sides of sanctuary in similar detailing to the reredos, with enriched cornice. This joinery might be of slightly later date than that of the rest of the chancel. One wall panel each side of the altar is inscribed as a war memorial. Communion rail with carved diaper bracing. Single prayer desk at left, double (more ornately carved) at right. Pulpit at right on a limestone base: trefoil-headed panels between posts decorated with four-leaf flowers at corners and in cove of toprail.
Good carved inscripton on stone at right of the east window, removed from the former church: a memorial to Anne (the supposed Duchess of Bolton), daughter of John Watkins, d1705. At right of chancel is a wall monument also removed from the former church, to Richard and Susannah Vaughan, 1811, by J Bacon jnr., sculptor, London: mourner kneeling beside a draped urn against a figured marble pointed panel; inscription beneath on a large tablet with brackets. The east window is a memorial to the third Earl Cawdor and his wife, 1928.
Octagonal font near the north door with carvings in circles on faces; bottom moulding enriched with four-leafed flowers; octagonal shaft, square base.

Reasons for Listing

An early work of George Gilbert Scott and a good Gothic Revival church, with clear articulation of the separate elements, sophisticated and disciplined; in the interior the enrichment is effectively confined to the chancel.

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