SS Nicholas and Teilo, Penally, Pembrokeshire (PRN 4235)


Dyfed PRN 4235

 RB No. 3667

 NGR SS 1177 9917

 Listed Building No. 5992

 Grade II* listed (1998)

First Listed in 1970. Last Amended in 1996.

Reasons for Listing: Listed Grade II* as a mediaeval church with vaulted interiors, fine tower and important richly carved crosses.


Medieval church; 80% pre-19th century core fabric.

A multicell church, medium-sized. Consists of a chancel, 2 bays; nave, 3 bays; north transept, 1 bay, with skew-passage; south transept, 1 bay, with skew-passage; south porch; west tower, 3 storeys; medieval. Vestry (north of chancel), 1 bay, 1884. Limestone and ORS rubble construction; remains of 18th – early 19th century external render; internal walls with render/plaster. Slate gable roofs; tower roof not seen. Medieval vaulting throughout, except in the vestry; medieval openings in tower, and medieval doorway, benching, stoup and tomb recess with effigy. Blocked early 17th century windows. Other openings, with yellow oolite dressings, are from 1851, and 1884 in the vestry.

Roofs: medieval vaults, and 1884 roof in vestry. Floors: 1851 and 1884. Finishes: 18th – early 19th century – 20th century.

Condition – good. Tower damp; some dressings weathered; ECM weathering.

Archaeological potential – good-very good. Deep, wide, revetted external drain around 30% of the church; shallow external drain around 70% of church; floor level raised in 10% of church?; suspended floors above  heating ducts in 50% of church; heating chamber beneath 15% of church; external memorials significantly close to 100% of church.

Structural value (pre 19th century) – very good. 80% pre-19th century core fabric; medieval vaulting, openings in tower, doorway, benching, stoup and tomb recess with effigy; blocked early 17th century windows.

Group value – high. Landmark medieval church with tower; large churchyard with good memorials; 2 ECMs (SAM Pe 142); associated late medieval building


Phase 1 – Nave, C13-14?.

Phase 2 – Chancel, transepts and skew-passages, C14.

Phase 3 – West tower lower stages, late C14.

Phase 4 – South porch, C15.

Phase 5 – West tower belfry, mid-late C16.

(Phase 6 – Former vestry, 1825-27.)

Phase 7 – Restored 1850-51, low impact.

Phase 8 – Vestry, 1884.


The present church

SS Nicholas and Teilo, Penally, is a multicelled church, of medium size. It retains approximately 80% pre-19th century core fabric.

The present church consists of a 2-bayed chancel, a 3-bayed nave, single-bayed, asymmetrical north and south transepts with skew-passages, a south porch, a 3-storeyed west tower, and a single-bayed vestry north of the chancel. Construction is in limestone rubble, with some Old Red Sandstone. The church is barrel-vaulted throughout except in the vestry. There are medieval openings in the tower and porch, a medieval doorway, benching, stoup, tomb recess and ?coffin lid, and blocked medieval and 17th century windows; other openings, including the chancel arch, were rebuilt in 1851 (1884 in the vestry), in neo-Gothic style with yellow oolite dressings. There are the remains of 18th – early 19th century render; pointing is mainly from 1851 but the tower was repointed in 1877, and the interior is plastered. Roofs are slated gables; the tower roof was not seen.

The chancel east window is from 1851 and comprises 3 cusped lights with geometric tracery, beneath a 2-centred hoodmould, in yellow oolite (mullions weathered – possibly re-used?). The west half of the south wall has a slight external batter. A blocked window is visible in the exterior of the east bay south wall; It has 2 lights with crude, triangular heads in weathered limestone, probably from the late medieval – early modern period. Immediately to the west is a crude external stepped buttress, probably medieval. Internally, the north wall of the east bay exhibits 2 low, 2-centred, cusped recesses with attached shafts housing brass commandment panels from 1894. The 2-centred chancel arch is in double-chamfered oolite, without imposts or bases, from 1851. The chancel has a plain, medieval, 2-centred barrel-vault without springers. The tiled floor is from 1851.

The nave north wall has a pronounced external basal batter which stops short of the west end – extended west in the later medieval period?; it retains much 18th – early 19th century external render. It is pierced by 2 windows, both cut through the batter. To the east is a 2-light window with a moulded oolite rear-arch, without an outer arch, with cusped, 2-centred surrounds in yellow oolite from 1851, with surrounding infill occupying a possible larger, 2-centred former opening. To the west is a similar, single lancet also from 1851 and between the two is a blocked window with a square surround in chamfered Old Red Sandstone from the early 17th century, blocked before 1851? (see below). The south wall is pierced by a similar 2-light window also from 1851. The south door has a chamfered, 2-centred surround from 1851; to the east, the external wall exhibits a stoup with deep, semicircular limestone bowl in a square recess, probably from the 14th century. The medieval barrel-vault is like that in the chancel. The passages are tiled, from 1851, with suspended board floors probably from 1884 when the underfloor heating ducts were inserted.

The north transept is entered from the nave through a plain, 2-centred medieval arch reflecting the profile of its vault. The transept may originally have been wider, approaching the width of the south transept; west of the junction between the present west wall and the nave north wall is an area of squinching, coped back to the nave wall above transept eaves level and with a small slated area, which may represent the stump of a former transept west wall. The present west wall masonry is unlike that in the east and north walls, which retain much 18th – early 19th century render, and the upper courses have been recently repaired. The transept is lit by an uncusped, graduated triple-lancet window in the north, gable wall, in yellow oolite from 1851. There is a blocked window in the east wall visible externally as a square, weathered, chamfered limestone surround from the early 17th century. The transept is vaulted as the nave and chancel, and floored as the nave. A horizontal score in the internal plaster, a third of the way up the walls, may indicate former seating. The skew-passage is entered through a very depressed, 2-centred arch in the east wall, south of which is a mid-height offset which stops at the nave arch. It has a depressed segmental vault, above which is a slated lean-to roof up to chancel eaves level; it was lit by a blocked window in its external wall which is visible externally as a 2-light opening with square heads in a square, chamfered surround in weathered limestone from the early 17th century. It emerges into the chancel via a wide opening with a depressed segmental head following the line of the vault. The transept is now used as a chapel.

The south transept is similarly entered from the nave through a plain, 2-centred medieval arch reflecting the profile of its vault. It is similar to the north transept but wider, and the external render is lass extensive. It is lit by a window in the south, gable wall like that in the north transept north wall and similarly from 1851. A blocked window in the east wall is also like that in the north transept east wall, and similarly from the early 17th century but with an Old Red Sandstone surround; beneath it is an internal tomb-recess with a plain, semicircular head from the 14th century, containing a limestone slab (coffin lid?) with male and female heads in relief, a much weathered cross and an inscription that apparently reads ‘William de Hanton et Isamay sa femme (gisent) ici. Dieu de leur almes eyt merci. Amen’ and which may commemorate the son of a 14th century seneschal of Pembroke (RCAHM, 1925, 292). The skew-passage arch and offset, the vault, the floor and the horizontal score in the plaster, are like the north transept. The skew-passage is like that of the north transept but there is no evidence of any blocked window. The transept is now used as a chapel.

The south porch butts against the west wall of the south transept; the rubble walls have good medieval quoins. The side walls exhibit internal masonry benching, medieval but with oolite seating from 1851. The main entry has a rounded 2-centred surround in limestone, from the 15th century. The vault is like that in the nave, chancel and transepts.  The quarry-tiled floor is from 1851.

The west tower is not typical of the region being small, narrow and tapered. It has an external basal batter, on a square plinth, but without a string-course, and lacks an external spiral stair turret. The 2 lower stages may be early, with detail similar to later 14th century towers (cf. Loveston Church, Pembs.), but the belfry stage was (re)built in the mid-late 16th century. The ground floor north wall lies under later 20th century external render. The ground floor is entered from the nave through a plain, 2-centred arch from the later 14th century, that respects the profile of the barrel-vault. The west wall is pierced by a doorway with a 2-centred head formed from 2 voussoirs, like that at Loveston Church, Pembs., and from the later 14th century. A 2-light window from 1851 lies above, like those in the nave. The flue from the 1884 heating ducts ascends the interior south-west corner. The 2-centred barrel-vault may have been rebuilt. The suspended board floor is probably from 1884 and may lie above medieval floor level. The second stage is lit by a slit light in the north wall and 2 rectangular lights in the west wall, the lower blocked, all from the later 14th century. The belfry stage is quoined, and is has uncusped, 4-centred, 2-light openings in the north and south faces, with square labels, and similar, single-light openings in the east and west faces, all from the mid-late 16th century. The crenellated parapet lies on an external corbel table and exhibits a continuous string-course at the base of the merlons, which appears to be an original mid-late 16th century feature.

The vestry is in uncoursed Old Red Sandstone rubble from 1884 and was added to the east of the northern skew-passage; there are contemporary external angle-buttresses at the north-east and north-west corners and a low, chamfered offset. The vestry is entered from the chancel through a 2-centred doorway and from the churchyard through a doorway with a Caernarfon-headed surround in the north wall; both are from 1884. It is lit by a simple, single lancet with a chamfered oolite surround in the east, gable wall, also from 1884. Beneath the vestry is a heating chamber entered from the churchyard via a flight of 4 steps down to a brick-lined, square-headed doorway now blocked with concrete. The softwood roof is an east-west gable, also from 1884.

A deep, wide, revetted external drain runs along the nave north wall, the west tower and south porch, and a shallow external drain surrounds the remainder. The tower ground floor may lie above medieval floor level, otherwise there is no evidence for floor-level changes. The nave and transept floors are suspended above heating ducts. There is a heating chamber beneath the vestry. External memorials and burial earthworks lie significantly close to the church.

Structural development

The nave is in limestone and Old Red Sandstone and may be earlier than the chancel and transepts, 13th – early 14th century?. The chancel and transepts are in limestone only and may be part of the trend for transept addition of the 14th century; they have similar vaults, and the externally-battered nave may have received its vault at the same time, and have been extended west without a batter (see above); this possible extension may, however, belong to the later 14th century when the west tower was added, with detail similar to other contemporary examples in the region (cf. Loveston Church, Pembs.). Only the lower two stages belong to this period; the belfry stage was (re)built in the mid-late 16th century with detail typical of the period. The south porch is typical of the 15th century in South Pembrokeshire. There are a number of blocked windows suggesting that a major refenestration occurred during the early 17th century; the chancel south window cannot be closely dated but may belong to the same campaign. The north transept may have been rebuilt as a narrower component during the post-medieval period. The vestry is 19th century.

The church was described in c.1810 as ‘a nave with vaulted roof, separated from the chancel, vaulted also by a skreen (sic) of elegant workmanship. It has a transept: in the south aisle (sic) under a plain canopy is an ancient altar tomb… there were three other arched recesses in the same aisle (and) at the western extremity… (a) little steeple (Fenton, 1903, 243). No doubt by aisle, the description refers to the present south transept; the screen has gone.

Drawings from the early 19th century show a church very similar to the present building. The earliest, dated 1825 (NLW, MS 19125A), shows the tower as at present, including the merlons and coping, but there is a 3-light window in the north transept north wall of early 17th century character; no windows are shown in the nave north wall. By 1827 a vestry had been added (copy of drawing in NMR), on the site of the present vestry but with a transeptal gabled roof; a 2-light window of early 17th century character lay in the south transept south wall, and there was a (neo?)gothic east window. Similar fenestration, and the early vestry, are depicted in a drawing of 1819-39 (Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, 1983/2183), and also a former rood-stair which formed a semicircular ‘turret’, with a slit-light, projecting from the southern half of the nave east wall.

In 1833 the church had been ‘recently repaired and enlarged by the erection of a gallery containing sixty additional sittings’ (Lewis, 1833).

The church was restored in 1850-51 (Anon., n.d.; NMR), to the designs of the architect David Brandon, of Bloomsbury (Cadw, 1996, 1). It was refenestrated, refloored, replastered and probably reseated. The chancel arch was rebuilt. Wall paintings were observed ‘in the church’ during the restoration (NMR), but their location is unknown.

The tower was restored in 1877 (ibid.).

The vestry was added in 1884 with a below-ground heating chamber formerly housing a ‘Grundy’s’ heating apparatus (Pembs. R.)., HPR/45/11). In 1891 the church was the first in Pembrokeshire to receive electric lighting (Cadw, 1996, 1).

The softwood pews are from 1884. A large organ occupies the nave west bay, dated 1892. There is a later 19th century altar table in the north transept. The chancel has a panelled dado in a plain, neo-Classical style, probably from the earlier 20th century. The readers’ desk is probably contemporary. The square softwood pulpit is dated 1929. The plain altar table is later 20th century, as is that in the south transept. The softwood and glass tower screen is dated 1983.

The oolite font has a square, scalloped bowl on a cylindrical stem and a square base, all later 12th century.

There are 5 bells in the tower (Anon., n.d.), restored in 1878 (Pembs. R. O., HPR/45/12) and hung for chiming.

The church was Grade II* listed in 1998.

First Listed in 1970. Last Amended in 1996.

Two ECMs (SAM Pe 142) now lie in the south transept; both originally stood in the churchyard. One is the well-known wheel-cross of 10th – 11th century date (PRN 4230) which formerly stood north-east of the church, the other (PRN 4229) is a contemporary cross-shaft that formerly stood south-west of the church and is now partially deteriorating.


 There good evidence for the pre-conquest religious use of the site:

Mixed dedication; 2 ECMs; pre-conquest documentary reference.

SS Nicholas and Teilo, Penally, was a parish church during the post-conquest period (Rees, 1932), of the medieval Deanery of Pembroke. It was assessed at £16 in 1291 (Green, 1913, 240). The advowson was granted to the prioress and convent of Aconbury, Herefordshire, by John de Barri, Lord of the Manor of Manorbier and Penally, in 1301 (ibid.).

At the dissolution, the advowson fell to the crown, and in 1541 a lease of the rectory was granted to Rice ap Morgan and Richard Merdon of Cranebroke, Kent (ibid.).

In 1833 the living was a discharged vicarage rated in the king’s books at £4 17s 11, endowed with £200 royal bounty and in the patronage of the Bishop of St Davids (Lewis, 1833).

In 1998 SS Nicholas and Teilo, Penally, was a parish church. The living was a vicarage of the Rectorial Benefice of Tenby (Benefice 702) in the Archdeaconry of St Davids, Rural Deanery of Narberth (St Davids, 1997-8).


 Map Evidence

NLW, Parish of Penally, Tithe Map, 1841.

NLW, Vol. 88, PZ8208, Estate Map 82, 1774-5.

Rees, W., 1932, South Wales and the Border in the XIVth century.

 Pictorial sources

 NLW, Drawing Volumes 60, 21, 1865-71 (church from north-west).

NLW, MS 19125A, 1825 (church from north).

Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, 1983/2183, 1819-39 (church from south-east).

Church in Wales Records

Bartosch & Stokes, 1991, Quinquennial Report, Penally.

St Davids, 1997-8, Diocesan Year Book.

Parish Records, Pembrokeshire Record Office, Haverfordwest

HPR/45 – Penally:-

HPR/45/11 – Church restoration accounts, 1884.

HPR/45/12 – Churchwarden’s accounts, 1835-90.

HPR/45/13 – Vestry minutes, 1843-78.

 Unpublished Accounts

Thomas, W. G., 1964, Penally Church (in National Monuments Record, Aberystwyth)

Printed Accounts

Gordon Partnership, 1993, Redundant Religious Buildings in West Wales.

Anon., n.d., Penally Parish Church.

Cadw, 1996, Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (Penally).

Fenton, R., 1903 edn., A Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire.

Green, F., 1913, ‘Pembrokeshire Parsons’, West Wales Historical Records Vol. III.

Lewis, S., 1833, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales.

RCAHM, 1925, Inventory: Pembrokeshire.

Salter, M., 1994, The Old Parish Churches of South West Wales.

SPARC (South Pembrokeshire Partnership for Action with Rural Communities), n.d., Penally leaflet.

Up dated: August 2021 – PKR.

Heneb - The Trust for Welsh Archaeology