St Aidan, Llawhaden, Pembrokeshire (PRN 3582)


Dyfed PRN 3582

 RB No. 3404

 NGR SN 0752 1746

 Listed Building No. 6062

 Grade II* listed (1998)

First Listed in 1971. Last Amended in 1997.

Reason for Listing: Listed grade II* as a church of mediaeval date with an unusual double-towered form, retaining significant early fabric including good interior details.


Medieval church; 80% medieval core fabric.

A multicell church, medium sized. Consists of a chancel, 3 bays; nave, 3 bays; south chapel (now vestry), 2 bays; south transeptal tower, 3 storeys, absorbing earlier south tower, 2 storeys; west porch; medieval. Former north transept? And south porch?. Limestone rubble construction, with remains of 18th – early 19th century external render; internal walls with render/plaster. Slate gable roofs; tower roofs not seen. Medieval vaulting in towers and west porch; medieval tower openings, blocked door and blocked window; early 17th century arcade and tomb recess. Earlier tower formerly with ‘saddleback’ roof?. Remainder of windows, chancel arch and doors from 1861-2, neo-gothic.

(ECM, medieval effigy and 17th century memorial.)

Roofs: medieval vaults and 1861-2 timberwork. Floors: 1861 – 20th century. Finishes: late 18th century – 1930.

Condition – good. Nave west wall damp; vestry/south chapel roof poor.

Archaeological potential – very good. Shallow, earth-cut drain around 80% of church; river adjacent to 10% of church; former components beyond 20% of church?; floor raised in 15% of church; suspended floors above heating flues in 75% of church; no external memorials significantly close to church.

Structural value (pre 19th century) – very good. 80% pre-19th century core fabric; unusual 2-phase (double) tower, the earlier formerly with ‘saddleback’ roof?, with medieval vaults and openings, medieval blocked door and blocked window; early 17th century arcade and tomb recess..

Group value – high. Medieval landmark church with unusual 2-phase (double) tower, in riverside location; on edge of historic settlement; early site with ECM.


Phase 1 – Nave, C12.

Phase 2 – Chancel west bay, C13?.

Phase 3 – South transept (and skew-passage), ?chancel east bays (and former north transept?), C14.

Phase 4 – South tower (i), c.1400?.

Phase 5 – South tower (ii), west porch?, c.1500.

Phase 6 – South chapel (later vestry), early C17.

Phase 7 – Restored 1861-2, low-medium impact; west porch partly rebuilt.


The present church

St Aidan, Llawhaden, is a multicelled church, of medium size. It retains approximately 80% pre-19th century core fabric.

The present church consists of a 3-bayed chancel, a 3-bayed nave, a 2-bayed vestry (formerly a south chapel), a south transept with a skew-passage and later 2-storeyed tower added over, absorbing part of an earlier 3-storeyed tower south of the transept, formerly with a ‘saddleback’ roof?, and a west porch. There may have been a former north transept and south porch. Construction is in limestone rubble. There are the remains of 18th-early 19th century external render in the chancel and nave; pointing is mainly from 1861-2, and from 1930 in the tower; the interior is plastered. The towers, and the west porch, are barrel-vaulted. The tower openings are medieval, there is a medieval window and a door, both blocked, and an early 17th century arcade; the remainder of the windows and doors, and the chancel arch, are from 1862 and neo-gothic, with yellow oolite dressings. Roofs are slated gables; the tower roofs were not seen.

Medieval effigy and 17th century memorial.

The chancel east wall facework is in roughly squared and coursed limestone rubble and may have been largely rebuilt, or at least refaced, in 1861-2; the side walls are in smaller, random rubble. The gable is very tall, rebuilt 1861-2. The 3-light east window has Geometric tracery in a 2-centred surround with a drip-mould on human mask stops, all in chamfered yellow oolite from 1861-2. The north wall is pierced by a single cusped lancet in the east bay, in chamfered yellow oolite from 1861-2 but occupying, with infill, a larger, earlier (medieval?) opening with a segmental head; east of the window is an uneven vertical joint. There is a blocked window in the south wall of the east bay, of 2 cusped, segmental-headed lights, with sunk spandrels in a square surround and label, all in yellow oolite from the 16th century; the window was blocked after 1740 and lies beneath the 18th – early 19th century external render. The 2-centred chancel arch has a double roll-moulding and a hood-mould on angel-moulded stops, in yellow oolite from 1861-2. The softwood roof is from 1861-2 and has queen-post trusses arch-braced from contemporary wall-corbels. The sanctuary and passage are quarry-tiled, also from 1861-2, with suspended board floors.

The nave also has a very tall gable. It is lit by a 3 windows in the north wall, and 2 in the south wall, each of 2 cusped lights with quatrefoliated spandrels, in chamfered yellow oolite surrounds inserted, with infill, in 1861-2. At the west end of the east bay north wall is a vertical joint, with a possible shale springer, possibly representing the arch into a former north transept which had gone by the early 19th century (see below). A blocked south door lies between the 2 southern windows, and has a semicircular head with a weathered plain limestone surround (formerly chamfered?) of convincingly 12th century form; it was blocked in 1861-2. The west ends of both side walls each feature a low, crude plain buttress, overlying the 18th – early 19th century external render and possibly from the 20th century. The west, gable wall is pierced by a doorway with a 2-centred surround in roll-moulded yellow oolite and a hood-mould on human mask stops, from 1861-2 and contemporary with the triangular window above which has 3 trifoliated circular lights, a similar drip-mould and a basal fillet with foliated stops, all in yellow oolite. The nave is roofed like the chancel, similarly from 1861-2. The passages are fully carpeted but may be flagged, from 1861-2 or earlier?, above inserted heating ducts, with suspended board floors.

The vestry was formerly a south chapel and communicates with the chancel through an arcade of 2 lowish, 4-centred, double-chamfered arches, the eastern stop has a plain impost below which is a small, square recess, the western arch springs from the west wall, while both arches share a cylindrical pier with a plain abacus and cable-moulding (no base is evident). The arcade was described by Fenton, c.1811, as ‘very singular’ (Fenton, 1903 edn., 174) and indeed it is unusual, probably late in a ‘debased’ gothic style suggestive of the early 17th century; the outer arch chamfers meet over the pier as an oolite, animal head corbel which may either be contemporary or re-used. The east wall gable is from 1861-2, as is the present 2-light window in the same wall which is like those in the nave but with a 2-centred drip-mould; the low, 2-centred rear arch may be earlier (also early 17th century?) but any window here had been blocked before 1740 (NLW, Topographical Prints, Pemb. PD 7045, Top. B12/4, B75). In the south wall is a tomb recess with a plain, very depressed 2-centred head from the early 17th century. It contains the weathered, Nolton stone effigy of an ecclesiastic which may be somewhat earlier and which was relocated when the chapel was built in the early 17th century; according to Fenton (Fenton, op. cit., 174), the effigy was traditionally said to be that of the founder (St Hugo – see Site History below). The softwood roof is from 1861-2 and lacks trusses, the common rafters being scissors-braced. The floor is fully carpeted but may be tiled; it was raised in 1861-2.

The south transept/tower ground floor was entered from the nave through a plain, 2-centred arch; it was subsequently blocked, possibly before 1662, the date of a memorial tablet fixed against the blocking, and has inserted breeze-blockwork in the northern jamb, from the late 20th century. The transept was rebuilt when the tower was built over it in c.1500 (see Structural Development below), retaining the skew passage that now leads into the vestry/south chapel, but which formerly led into the chancel and is probably 14th century in its original form. It opens into both the transept and the chapel through a depressed 2-centred arch reflecting the profile of its vault through the thickness of the former’s east wall, but at the transept end was given a 2-centred surround in 1861-2.

The earlier tower lies at the south end of the south transept and contained 2 storeys. It may be relatively early, from c.1400?; it is not typical of the region and lacks the external string-course and basal batter typical of the region, being instead tapered throughout. A square spiral stair turret, lit by simple loops, projects from the north end of the west wall, but it is now entered from the later tower. The construction of the latter included the removal of the earlier tower north wall and its replacement with a thin dividing wall, through which the ground floor of the earlier tower is entered via a plain, lowish 2-centred arch, from c.1500; it is also entered from the churchyard through a 20th century doorway, at the south end of the east wall, with a concrete lintel. There is a low, segmental-headed recess in the west wall, medieval, function?, over which the internal wall face is projected. The ground floor is now open to the second stage, but the offset that supported a former timber floor can be seen on the internal faces of the original walls. The concrete floor is 20th century. The second stage is lit by a simple square light in the east and west walls, from c.1400, and by a plain lancet in the side wall below which is a corbel is the form of a gargoyle, both also from c.1400 and providing the only firm dating evidence. Below the lancet and corbel, the south wall interior exhibits an area of blocking which appears to represent a former doorway with a segmental head and a sill at second stage floor level, function?. There is a second, open doorway in the west wall, leading onto the spiral stair. The second stage is vaulted, with a low, 2-centred, east-west barrel vault, from c.1400. The crenellated parapet lies on an external corbel table, all (re)built in 1861-2; the tower may formerly have been a gabled ‘saddleback’ (see Structural Development below).

The later, larger tower was added over the south transept, which was rebuilt, in c.1500, and partly absorbed the earlier tower which now forms a ‘turret’ projecting from the lower two thirds of its south wall. The tower comprises 3 storeys and is typical of the region, having an external string-course and very broad basal batter, and being tapered throughout. Facework is in very large limestone rubble, roughly squared and coursed. The spiral stair turret from the earlier tower was re-used, and occupies a shallow cut-out in the south-west corner, over which it is jettied in the belfry stage; the turret projects into the south-west corner but has been roughly stepped back higher up, to occupy a squinch at the top of the ground floor level; the stair is entered through a doorway with a segmental-headed, chamfered surround from c.1500. The ground floor is unlit and now only entered from the vestry/south chapel via the skew-passage, and from the earlier tower. However, the north wall exhibits, above the level of the blocked arch into the nave, a blocked doorway with a sill level that corresponds to that of a line of internal sockets; the latter may have carried the floor of an (inserted) timber gallery, reached via the blocked door – date?. There are sockets (putlog holes?) in the external batter. The ground floor is vaulted; the barrel-vault has a rounded 2-centred profile with pronounced spring-lines, and is from c.1500. The concrete floor is 20th century. The second stage is blind. The belfry stage has a plain, 2-light opening in each face, the openings having segmental heads and plain surrounds in limestone, from c.1500. The crenellated parapet lies on an external corbel table, also from c.1500 but much restored in both 1861-2 and 1930.

The west porch was largely rebuilt, or at least rebuilt, in 1861-2 but retains an earlier vault, probably from the later medieval period. The facework is in coursed and squared limestone rubble from 1861-2, and the side walls have internal masonry benching with contemporary limestone flag seating. The main doorway was rebuilt at the same time, with a 2-centred surround in double-cavetto moulded oolite with ogee-moulded imposts, and a drip-mould on human mask stops. The barrel vault has a 2-centred profile. The limestone-flagged floor is from the late 19th – early 20th century and laid directly on the substrate.

A shallow, earth-cut drain surrounds the church except the east end, which lies very close to the west bank of the Eastern Cleddau river. There is structural evidence for a former north transept and a south porch may also have been present. The vestry/south chapel floor was raised in 1861-2. Floors are suspended above heating flues. No external memorials lie significantly close to the church.

 Structural development

The style of the blocked south door surround dates the nave to the 12th century; it may have also previously featured Romanesque windows (see below). There is a joint between the nave and the chancel, which is secondary, but its north wall exhibits a further vertical joint towards its west end which may be derived from the later extension of a shorter chancel, from the 13th century?. In its extended form the chancel may be 14th century; it cannot be closely dated but is pierced by a 16th century window. The south transept and skew-passage (and the possible former north transept) are also probably 14th century. The earlier south tower is probably from c.1400, superseded by the tower over the south transept c.1500. The vestry/south chapel can be assigned, by its arcade, a possible early 17th century date (see above) and a possible Laudian context; it certainly post-dates the second tower whose batter forms its west wall. The west porch has been heavily restored, but appears to be medieval in origin (see below). The arch from the nave into the south transept/tower was blocked at an unknown date, but possibly before 1662 (see above).

A map of 1815 (NLW, ‘Maps of the Lands of the Lord Bishop of St Davids’, 14229/6) depicts the church plan as today but, curiously, the vestry/south chapel is not shown. The west porch is shown, as it is on the tithe map of 1839 (NLW, Llawhaden, 1839). A building adjoining the west end of the nave south wall is also shown on the 1815 map, but is not depicted in any of the other sources – function?. Any former north transept had already gone.

18th-early 19th century drawings, taken mainly from the south-east, show the chancel, nave, vestry/south chapel, the tower(s) and the west porch. In one, from 1740 (NLW, Topographical Prints, Pemb. PD 7045, Top. B12/4, B75), the open south door is shown, and a triple lancet east window; the nave south windows are shown as small, semicircular-headed (Romanesque?) single lights and the chancel south window was still open. In the other drawings (NLW, Original Drawings, Pemb. PD 9343; NLW, Topographical Prints, Pemb. PD 7351, Top. B12/4, B77) the side windows are square and a large (single-light?) west window is shown. The gables were as tall as at present, but the vestry/south chapel had a lean-to roof. The later tower is shown with a crenellated parapet as today, but the earlier tower summit is ruined, and possibly gabled, ie. formerly saddlebacked. A mid-19th century painting by Arthur Fripp shows gable roofs over both towers (Anon., 1995, 5), but there is no further pictorial, or structural, evidence for this.

The church was ‘restored’ in 1834 (Cadw, 1997, 16) when the walls were repaired, the church was reroofed and a gallery was installed. The workmanship was apparently of inferior quality (ibid.).

The church was again restored in 1861-2 (RCAHM, 1925, 142) when the vestry/south chapel was given a gable roof and the south door was blocked along with most of the windows. The west porch and west door were largely (re)built. The chancel arch was rebuilt and the church was refenestrated, reroofed, refloored and reseated. The earlier tower parapet was (re)built with the corbel table. The gallery was removed. The restoration is recorded on a plaque in the south chapel but the architect responsible is unknown. The underfloor heating, supplied from a plant in the tower, may be somewhat later; the buttresses added at the west end of the nave side walls may be later still.

The tower was renovated in 1930, to the specifications of the architect W. D. Caröe (NLW, SD/F/462). Further renovation occurred in 1993 when the vestry and chancel were partly reslated (Anon., n.d., 6), and in 1995 when the present east window glazing, originally from the 19th century church at Slebech, was inserted (ibid.).

The free-standing softwood stalls, the similar pews and possibly the pulpit are from 1861-2. The neo-Gothic softwood screen between the vestry/south chapel and the tower is probably from c.1900. The sanctuary fittings, and the softwood vestry/south chapel screen, are all 20th century.

The limestone font has a square scalloped bowl, a cylindrical, cable-moulded stem and a square base, all ?12th century but retooled.

There are 3 bells in the tower, 2 cast in 1634 by Purdue of Bristol, mounted on a headstock dated 1773  (Anon., 1995, 3). The third bell was recast in 1872 by Warner of London (ibid.).

An ECM (Dyfed PRN 3583) is built into the east wall, with an incised Latin cross. It may have been a coffin lid from the 10th – 11th century (Anon., 1995, 5).

The church was Grade II* listed in 1998.

First Listed in 1971. Last Amended in 1997.


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

Celtic dedication; ECM; long tradition.

St Aidan, Llawhaden, was a parish church during the post-conquest period (Rees, 1932), of the medieval Deanery of Rhos. It appears to have been a possession of the Bishops of St Davids, lying within the administrative centre of the episcopal Manor of Llawhaden, since the pre-conquest period when Llawhaden was one of the 7 ‘Bishop Houses’ of Dyfed. In 1287 the rectorial tithes of the parish were granted as a prebend to the Chancellor of St Davids, by Bishop Anthony Bek (Green, 1912, 270). The prebend was assessed at £17 6s 8d in 1291 (Green, op. cit., 271). Bletherston Church appears to have been annexed to Llawhaden vicarage from an early date (ibid.); a free chapel dedicated to St Mary, and a chapel of St Cadoc also lay within the parish.

In 1833 the living was a discharged vicarage, with the perpetual curacy of Bletherston annexed, rated in the king’s books at £8 16s 6½d and in the patronage of the Bishop (Lewis, 1833); the parish remained a prebend of the Cathedral.

In 1998 St Aidan, Llawhaden, was a parish church. The living was a vicarage, held with Bletherston and Llanycefn (Benefice 671) in the Archdeaconry of St Davids, Rural Deanery of Daugleddau (St Davids, 1997-8).

Fenton, in c.1811, stated that the dedication was to St Hugo (Fenton, 1903 edn., 174), but this may represent an anglicisation of St Aidan’s name (Green, 1912, 271).


 Map Evidence

NLW, ‘Maps of the Lands of the Lord Bishop of St Davids’, 14229/6, 1815.

NLW, Parish of Llawhaden, Tithe Map, 1839.

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

 Pictorial sources

 NLW, Original Drawings, Pemb. PD 9343, n.d. (church from south-west, early 19th century).

NLW, Topographical Prints, Pemb. PD 7045, Top. B12/4, B75, 1740 (church from south-east by S & N Buck).

NLW, Topographical Prints, Pemb. PD 7351, Top. B12/4, B77, n.d (church from south-east, late 18th century).

 Church in Wales Records

Jones, Andrews & Associates, 1991, Quinquennial Report, Llawhaden.

St Davids, 1997-8, Diocesan Year Book.

NLW, SD/F/461, Faculty – Removal of body, 1873.

NLW, SD/F/462, Faculty – Repairing tower, 1930.

Parish Records, Pembrokeshire Record Office, Haverfordwest

(HPR/106 – Llawhaden)

Printed Accounts

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

Anon., 1995, St Aidan’s Church, Llawhaden.

Cadw, 1997, Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (Llawhaden).

Green, F., 1912, ‘Pembrokeshire Parsons’, West Wales Historical Records Vol. II.

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., Llawhaden leaflet.

Updated: August 2021 – PKR.

Heneb - The Trust for Welsh Archaeology