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Latitude: 51.6327 / 51°37'57"N
Longitude: -3.828 / 3°49'40"W
OS Eastings: 273578
OS Northings: 194240
OS Grid: SS735942
Mapcode National: GBR H1.8CV3
Mapcode Global: VH4KC.L7M5
Entry Name: Church of St Mary
Listing Date: 19 May 2000
Last Amended: 19 May 2000
Source ID: 23301
Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary
Location: Set back on the N side of Church Street and immediately N of the elevated A48.
County: Neath Port Talbot
Community: Briton Ferry (Llansawel)
Community: Briton Ferry
Built-Up Area: Neath
Traditional County: Glamorgan
Built 1891-2 by H. Francis Clarke of Briton Ferry under the supervision of J.P. Seddon, at a cost of £1800. The present church replaced an earlier church, of which the tower was retained. Several C19 views of the old church show it to have been in a Gothic survival style of the C17 or early C18. The church is probably an earlier foundation, however, and is possibly first mentioned in 1254. The font and the base of a churchyard cross are the only surviving features that can belong to such an early date.
A simple Gothic style church with the nave and chancel under a single roof, N and S aisles under outshut roofs, and S porch and S tower. The W end of the nave and N aisle, beyond the tower, is a separate church hall. The 3-stage tower is the earliest part, its dateable features belonging probably to the C17. It is of rubble stone construction battered at the base. In the W wall is a segmental-headed doorway inserted or renewed in 1891 and with a replaced door. Above is a single narrow slit and a small square-headed belfry window with a moulded surround and hood. The other faces have similar belfry windows and narrow slits below. On the E side the shadow of the roof of the earlier church is visible. The projecting battlements have embrasures with saddleback copings on which flat slabs are laid. The merlons rise in 2 stages, the upper stage battered externally, and have projecting flat slab copings.
The main body of the church is of snecked, rock-faced stone with brick dressings to pointed windows and doorways, and a concrete pantile roof replacing the original slate. To the R of the tower is a porch with a canopy carried on wooden brackets, to the R of which the S aisle has a single and then 2 groups of triple windows, with a vestry doorway at the R end. The angle has a foundation tablet bearing the date of the building. The chancel has a pair of windows in the S wall and 3 stepped lights making up the E window. The N aisle has 5 groups of triple windows with a pair of windows at the E end. The 3 stepped lights in the W wall light the hall. On the S side, to the L of the tower, is a doorway with a moulded triangular stone head and jambs, re-used from the earlier church. Further L is a pair of windows.
The porch has steps leading up to double half-lit doors with Gothic tracery. Inside, the nave arcades are of timber, of 4 bays on the S side and 7 bays on the N side where it is continuous with the hall at the W end. The piers have tall bases, diagonal struts and carry a long paired spine beams. The roof has collar beams with raking struts above and further raking struts below carried on the piers. The nave has a plaster ceiling. The chancel, which extends into the easternmost bay of the nave arcade, has a trefoil-section boarded ceiling. In the E wall of the tower is a plain round-headed doorway with plastered arch, above which is a deeply splayed window.
The font is probably C13. It has a round bowl with roll mouldings around the rim and base, and stands on a concave pedestal. The chancel has a plain panelled reredos, with a central Gothic panels in high relief, and was added c1929. A plain altar rail has a simple arcade of 6x2-centred arches, and was added in 1934. The choir stalls with Gothic panelling to the ends and front were added c1909. The polygonal pulpit was added c1905. In the S aisle is an alabaster tablet to Lewis Thomas (d.1817) and his wife Elizabeth (d. 1826) reclaimed from the earlier church. A plain boarded screen separates the nave from the church hall.
Several windows have stained glass. In the E window is an Ascension, unsigned but c1922 and German in style. In the S aisle is a group of 3 windows showing crucifixion, Mary and John, by S. Belham & Co of London to the design of J.P. Seddon in the style of William Morris. Another group of 3 windows in the S aisle has glass depicting the Virgin Mary in memory of the Reverend Walters (d. 1948) by Celtic Studios. In the N aisle is a single undated window by Celtic Studios showing an Adoration scene.
Listed as a late C19 church of architectural interest principally for its wooden arcaded interior (similar to Prichard's St Clement's church of 1864-6) and retaining good stained glass. Significant earlier origins in the form of its tower.
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