St Florentius, St Florence, Pembrokeshire (PRN 3539)


Dyfed PRN 3539

 RB No. 2428

 NGR SN 0823 0115

 Listed Building No. 6008

 Grade II* listed (1998)

First Listed in 1970. Last amended in 1996.

Reasons for Listing: Listed Grade II* as a church unusually well integrated into its village setting and with a fine landmark tower, good vaulted interior incorporating original features and some curiously primitive detailing.


Medieval church; 100% medieval core fabric.

A multicell church, large, cruciform. Consists of a chancel, 2 bays, with choir-recess/organ chamber; nave, 5 bays; vestry (north chapel), 1 bay; south chapel, 2 bays; north transept, 1 bay; south transept, 2 bays with 4 storeyed tower; south porch; medieval. Limestone rubble construction; internal walls with render/plaster. Slate gable roofs; vestry, choir-recess/organ chamber and south chapel with slate lean-to roofs; tower roof not seen. Medieval vaulting in chancel and choir-recess/organ chamber, vestry, south transept, and porch; medieval tower openings and arch, chancel arch, rood-loft corbelling, many internal openings and arcades, south door, porch door, window opening and some dressings, former skew-passage, ?piscina recess and stoup; early 17th century blocked window. Other openings mainly rebuilt 1870, in neo-Gothic style, with limestone dressings; some as copies of originals.

(External medieval tomb-recess; internal Elizabethan monument.)

Roofs: medieval vaulting and timberwork from 1870. Floors: 1870 and 1997.  Finishes: 1870 – 1997.

Condition – good. Renovated 1995-7.

Archaeological potential – very good-excellent. Shallow external drain around 100% of church; medium-depth cutting around 50% of church exposes footings; below-ground heating chamber beneath 10% of church; external stairwell beneath footings of 5% of church; floors raised in 60% of church; below-floor heating ducts 80% of church; few external memorials significantly close to 25% of church.

Structural value (pre 19th century) – very good. 100% pre-19th century core fabric; medieval vaulting, tower openings and arch, chancel arch, rood-loft corbelling, internal openings and arcades, doorways, window opening and some dressings, former skew-passage, ?piscina recess and stoup; early 17th century blocked window.

Group value – high. Landmark medieval church with tower in central planned village location; large churchyard with good memorials, medieval churchyard ?cross-shaft and sundial stem from 1841 pulpit.


Phase 1 – Nave west bays, C12.

Phase 2 – Chancel and nave east bays, C13.

Phase 3 – South transept, mid C14.

Phase 4 – North chapel, choir-recess/organ chamber and south porch, earlier C15.

Phase 5 – South chapel, c.1500.

Phase 6 – Tower (over south transept), earlier C16.

Phase 7 – North transept, early C17.

Phase 8 – Restored 1870, low impact.


The present church

St Florentius, St Florence, is a multicelled church, of large size. It retains approximately 100% pre-19th century core fabric.

The present church is cruciform and consists of a 2-bayed chancel with a choir-recess/organ chamber, a 3-bayed nave, a single-bayed vestry (formerly a north chapel), a 2-bayed south chapel, a single-bayed north transept, a 2-bayed south transept with a 4-storeyed tower over the southern bay, and a south porch. There is a below-ground heating chamber beneath the vestry. Construction is in limestone rubble, with good medieval quoins. The chancel and choir-recess/organ chamber, the vestry, the south transept and the south porch are barrel-vaulted. The transept/tower openings and arch, the chancel arch and rood-loft corbelling,  the vestry and choir-recess/organ chamber internal openings, the south chapel arcade, the south door and porch door, a nave window opening and some window dressings, a former skew-passage, a ?piscina recess and stoup are medieval; there is an early 17th century blocked window in the north transept. Other openings were rebuilt in 1840, 1843 and 1870, in neo-Gothic style, with limestone dressings; some of the windows, at least, may be faithful copies of the originals. Pointing is from 1870 with some earlier 20th century repointing of the west wall and extensive repointing, particularly of the tower, from 1996-7. The interior is plastered except the voussoirs, replastered in 1997. Roofs are slated gables, reslated in 1995; the vestry, choir-recess/organ chamber and south chapel have slated lean-to roofs and the tower roof was not seen.

External medieval tomb-recess; internal Elizabethan monument.

The footings of the chancel east wall are visible and follow the original ground line which crests in the centre of the wall. The east window has a triangular rear-arch which may be medieval (13th century); the present graduated, uncusped triple-lancet window with chamfered limestone surrounds is from 1843 but may be a faithful copy of a 13th century original. To the west, the lower half of the north wall is chamfered back from the nave (see below); this has been interrupted by a projecting, lean-to roofed recess that was added to the north wall, between the contemporary north chapel (now the vestry) and the nave east wall, in the earlier 15th century. It has a north-south, depressed 2-centred barrel-vault which opens to the chancel as a segmental-headed arch with irregular stops, communicates with the vestry through a contemporary 2-centred doorway, without a surround, and is lit by a single uncusped lancet in its north wall, with a cavetto-moulded, limestone surround, rebuilt in 1870 but retaining some 15th century dressings. The recess may be a ‘choir-recess’ or an organ chamber (see Structural Development below); a below-ground stairwell to the heating chamber beneath the vestry, from 1870, runs along the north wall, exposing its footings which are supported on an inserted prop wall. The plain, rounded 2-centred chancel arch is rather crude and from the 13th century; it springs from the chancel side walls, without stops, where the lower halves of the latter have deep chamfers opening towards the nave. The southern chamfer exhibits a vertical line of 3 corbels associated with the former rood-screen and loft; there are 2 similar corbels on the south wall of the nave east bay and one on the north wall. The chancel has a 2-centred barrel-vault which may be secondary. In 1996 it had a Minton-tiled floor from 1870, with underfloor heating ducts, which appears to have respected the medieval level; the sanctuary flooring incorporated 4 memorial slabs from the 18th and 19th centuries, not in situ.

The east half of the nave north wall was refaced in 1870 in squared and coursed limestone rubble, with contemporary corbelling at eaves level and a north door that was rebuilt with a 2-centred chamfered sandstone surround. The opposite, south door has a 2-centred, chamfered sandstone surround, probably rebuilt in the 15th century with a head that was replaced in 1870. The nave is lit by 3 wide single uncusped lancet windows in the north wall, from 1870, with cavetto-moulded limestone surrounds that may imitate earlier openings. The 2 south wall windows are similar but the western has a tall, semicircular embrasure from the 12th century. The west wall has a slight external basal batter and is pierced by an uncusped triple-lancet window in chamfered limestone, in a square limestone surround with a simple label, from 1840. Against the original external facework of the nave west bay is a low, wide coped projection which houses a wide, shallow, 2-centred recess; The recess was opened in 1835 when it was apparently found to contain a medieval stone coffin which was subsequently removed (RCAHM, 1925, 370)., The nave has a softwood ‘wagon-roof’ ceiling from 1870. and has king-post trusses, arch-braced from contemporary wall corbels. The passages are quarry-tiled from 1870, on a floor level raised by c.1m in 1835, with suspended board floors.

The vestry occupies what was a north chapel added against the chancel, as a lean-to, during the earlier 15th century and separated from it by a slightly offset vertical joint. It originally communicated with the chancel via a 2-bayed arcade of segmental arches, now blocked, the outer order of which, supported on a central corbel, is visible in the vestry south wall. The western arch, at least, was blocked at an early date but featuring a doorway, itself now blocked, with a crude, 2-centred head and plain imposts, from the later 15th century?. The vestry is also entered from the churchyard via a simple, 2-centred doorway, from 1870, in the west, lean-to wall. It is lit by an uncusped 2-light window in the east wall, with a square surround with sunk spandrels, in chamfered limestone from 1870; this wall terminates at the north end as a plain, original buttress. A heating chamber was inserted beneath the vestry in 1870, entered via a below-ground doorway, with brick jambs and a concrete lintel, beneath the west wall doorway. The heating chamber flue ascends the north wall terminating as a plain, square shouldered stack with a plain string-course, from 1870. The chapel has a depressed, segmental barrel-vault with a cut-out in the centre of the northern limb – to a former component?. The tiled floor is from 1870 and laid on concrete.

The south chapel was also added against the chancel as a lean-to, and is separated from it by a vertical joint. It replaced an earlier skew-passage from the northern bay of the south transept, the end of which survives as a low, crude, semicircular arch in the west wall. The chapel communicates with the chancel via a 2-bayed arcade of 4-centred, chamfered arches, with chamfered stops featuring plain imposts and a central, cylindrical pier including a chamfered, ‘cushion’ capital, with 4 device mouldings, and a similar base; the eastern stop features a square-headed niche that may have been a piscina but which now contains a loose, Acanthus moulding. The arcade is in limestone ashlar and can be dated to c.1500. The chapel is lit by an uncusped single lancet, with a chamfered limestone surround from 1870, in the east wall. The south wall is blind and features a secondary repair in regular limestone blocks, and an external recess is stepped back in the upper half of the west end to allow light into the adjacent, earlier south transept window (see below). Internally, a large Elizabethan floor-mounted monument lies against the east wall; it has a Classical surround with a broken pediment, is dated 1601 and is in fair condition but weathered. The softwood, simple lean-to roof is from 1870 and braced by a soulace to a contemporary corbel on the north wall; there are some implications that the chapel may originally have been gabled (Cadw, 1996, 1). In 1996 it had a suspended board floor above heating ducts, over material imported in 1835 when the level was raised by c.1m, which was partly removed in 1997 (Trethowan, 1997). The chapel is traditionally known as ‘Brinning’s Aisle’  and may have been, originally, a mortuary chapel (Cadw, 1996, 1).

The north transept is entered from the nave through a plain 2-centred arch, with chamfered stops, from the early 17th century.  It has noticeably thin walls and is lit by a cusped 2-light window in the north, gable wall, with plate tracery featuring a quatrefoil and a 2-centred surround and drip-mould, in limestone from 1870; the gable itself was rebuilt in 1870. There is a blocked window in the east wall, visible externally as a square surround, from the early 17th century, in weathered sandstone. The stairwell to the heating chamber beneath the vestry begins against this wall, exposing its footings which are supported on a prop wall. Roofed as the nave. In 1996 the passage was tiled with a suspended board floor above heating ducts, over material imported in 1870, when the level was raised by c.1m, which was partly removed in 1997 (Trethowan, 1997). The transept is traditionally known as ‘Tonk’s Chapel’ (Cadw, 1996, 1).

The southern bay of the south transept now forms the ground floor of the tower but, from the first, appears to have been intended as a chapel. The tower was added in the earlier 16th century, in coursed and squared limestone rubble unlike the random facework of the transept itself. It appears that, in order to receive the tower, the south, east and west walls of both transept bays were thickened internally, the west wall as a blind arcade in the form of 2 full-height, 2-centred arches on a central plain, square pilaster. The tower is tapered and fairly typical of the area but comprises 4 stages in all and lacks a basal batter and string-course. A spiral stair turret projects slightly from the eastern half of the south wall; it is entered from the ground floor, over the south-east corner of which it is squinched, through a doorway with a plain lintel from the earlier 16th century, and is lit by simple slit lights. The transept is entered from the nave through a 2-centred arch, possibly rebuilt in the earlier 16th century, reflecting the profile of its vault. It is lit by windows in all 3 external walls. In the centre of the east wall is a large, 2-centred embrasure from the mid 14th century which descends to floor level and may have originally represented an altar; it houses an uncusped single lancet in weathered, chamfered limestone also from the mid 14th century, while to the south lies second, similar recess with an asymmetrical head that may represent a second altar. The south wall is pierced by an uncusped single lancet with a surround like that in the east wall but partly replaced in 1870. The west wall window lies in the northern internal arch and is a single lancet, from the mid 14th century, without a surround. Both east and west walls feature square, through-sockets of unknown function. The 2-centred barrel vault is from the earlier 16th century and is pierced for bellropes; the northern bay carries a slated gable roof. Floored as the nave.

The second stage of the tower is lit by simple square openings in the east and north walls; the third stage has a smaller square opening in the north wall. The belfry stage has 2-light openings in each face, with chamfered limestone surrounds from the earlier 16th century; those in the east, west and south walls have 2-centred heads, while those in the north wall have square heads. The crenellated parapet lies on an external offset and string-course and appears to have been entirely rebuilt, probably in c.1890, replacing an original corbel table (see Structural Development below).

The south porch doorway has a 2-centred, chamfered arch, with an inner roll-moulding, from the earlier 15th century but the head was restored, in sandstone, in 1870. Internally the side walls exhibit crude masonry benching from the earlier 15th century. In the internal angle between the east wall and the nave is a secondary, crudely cut recess with a worn limestone stoup bowl, medieval, date?, re-used?. The 2-centred barrel-vault is also 16th century. The flagged floor is weathered and may predate the 1870 restoration; it is laid directly upon the substrate.

The church is surrounded by a shallow, concreted external drain; this lies within a medium-depth secondary cutting around the eastern half of the church, including the transepts, which exposes their footings. There is a below-ground heating chamber beneath the vestry, with an external stairwell along the north transept east wall and the choir-recess/organ chamber north wall, both walls being supported on secondary prop walls. The floors in the nave, transepts and south chapel were raised by approx. 1m in 1835, on material possibly derived from drain excavation; the surfaces were superficially re-excavated in 1997. The chancel floor level is unchanged. There are below-floor heating ducts in the chancel, nave, transepts and south chapel, partly extended in 1997. There may be many burials beneath the south chapel. Few external memorials lie significantly close to the north walls, and the south chapel and south transept.

Structural development

The western 3 bays of the nave can be dated by a surviving window to the 12th century; the 12th century church apparently terminated as an apsidal chancel on the site of the 2 present nave east bays (Burn and Thomas, n.d.). The nave was extended when the present chancel was constructed in the 13th century (ibid.), and the present uncusped triple-lancet east window may replicate the original window. The south transept, formerly with a skew-passage, was added in the mid 14th century during the widespread trend for transept construction. The vestry was added in the earlier 15th century (but nb. post-medieval according to Cadw, 1996, 1), alongside a projection from the chancel which may represent a ‘choir-recess’ more often seen in central Pembrokeshire, eg. at Loveston, Herbrandston and Johnston churches, but also occurring nearby at Jeffreyston and at Pendine, Carms.; its form is unusual, connecting as it does with the north chapel, and it may alternatively represent an organ chamber. The south porch is contemporary (ibid.). The south chapel can be dated on stylistic grounds to c.1500. The tower was constructed over the south transept in the earlier 16th century. The thin-walled north transept is probably early 17th century (ibid.).

A drawing of 1835 (Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, 1983/1450), taken from the west, shows the church much as today but with a casement west window and a corbelled parapet on the tower.

The church was reseated in 1835, when the nave, transept and south chapel floors were raised by approximately 1m (Cadw, 1996, 1). The casement west window was replaced with the present 3-light window in 1840, and the present east window was inserted, replacing a square window, in 1843 (ibid.). An undated drawing of the interior, from around the middle of the 19th century (Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, 1983/1747), shows similar arrangements to present church but a doorway with a moulded, 2-centred surround is clearly shown in the south wall of the south chapel; there is now no evidence for an opening in this location. Also shown are box-pews and a triple-decker pulpit, from 1835  (Cadw, 1996, 1), while a west gallery was present (Burn and Thomas, n.d.).

The church was restored in 1870 (ibid.) but neither the details, nor the architect responsible, are known. The remainder of the present fenestration was inserted and the church was reroofed, refloored, replastered and reseated, the west gallery and box pews being removed. The nave north wall was refaced. Part of a ‘foliated double light’ window was apparently recovered from the church and built into the vicarage stable (RCAHM, 1925, 370).

The tower parapet may have been rebuilt when the belfry was restored c.1890 (Cadw, 1996, 1).

The concrete drainage channel around the exterior of the church is dated 1937. The interior of the tower was renovated in 1963 (Cadw, 1996, 1).

The roofs were reslated in 1995 and the church was extensively repointed, particularly the tower, in 1996-7. The south chapel and transepts were refloored in 1997 when a new heating system was installed largely in the pre-existing ducting (Trethowan, 1997, 2); the church was replastered at the same time, when areas of the existing plaster were removed, but no features of archaeological interest were revealed by the latter works (ibid.).

The oak altar table and rail are 19th century. The arcaded oolite reredos, with a pediment, the octagonal oolite pulpit on Purbeck marble shafts, the free-standing, oak stall benches and the plain, softwood pews are probably all from 1870. The large organ in the south chapel is from c.1890 (Cadw, 1996, 1) and was restored in 1966.

The limestone font has a square, scalloped bowl, a cylindrical stem and a square base, from the later 12th century. A loose, square bowl in the porch, on a conical stem, may not belong to the church; it is damaged.

There are 6 bells in the tower; the earliest is dated 1639, and 2 were added in 1963 when the bells were restored (Burn and Thomas, n.d.).

The church was Grade II* listed in 1998. 

First Listed in 1970. Last amended in 1996.

There is a medieval ?cross-shaft in the churchyard.

 Fenton, writing c.1810, described the vicarage as having ‘a detached building near it, now used as a stable, with an arched (ie. vaulted) roof… and might have been the portion of some monastic edifice’ (Fenton, 1903, 242). The function of this building is unknown.


 There is no firm evidence for the pre-conquest religious use of the site.

St Florentius, St Florence, was a parish church during the post-conquest period (Rees, 1932), of the medieval Deanery of Pembroke, associated with an important planned and planted settlement of the 12th century (Kissock, 1993, 7-8). The living was a rectory and a vicarage, both in the hands of the Earls of Pembroke by the 14th century at least. The church was first mentioned in 1248 (Cadw, 1996, 1) and was assessed at £13 6s 8d in 1291, the sum payable being £1 6s 8d (Green, 1913, 290).

By the 16th century the patronage had been acquired by the crown (ibid.) and in 1594 George Owen of Henllys described the rectory as ‘a free church without cure of souls’ (ibid.). By 1810 the living, as a rectorial sinecure, had been appropriated to St John’s College, Cambridge, the rector being the patron of the vicarage (Fenton, 1903, 241). In 1833 the sinecure rectory was rated in the king’s books at £16 12s 1d and in the patronage of the Master and Fellows of St John’s College, while the vicarage, which was discharged, was rated at £4 18s 4d and endowed with £400 royal bounty and in the patronage of the Rector (Lewis, 1833); the Bishop of St Davids had formerly collated to the vicarage.

In 1998 St Florentius, St Florence, was a parish church. The living was a rectory, held with Manorbier and Redberth (Benefice 810) in the Archdeaconry of St Davids, Rural Deanery of Castlemartin (St Davids, 1997-8).


 Map Evidence

NLW, Ordnance Survey 1:2500, First Edition, Pembs. Sheet XLI.9.

NLW, Ordnance Survey 1:2500, Second Edition, Pembs. Sheet XLI.9.

NLW, Parish of St Florence, Tithe Map, 1840.

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

Pictorial sources

 National Monuments Record, Aberystwyth, drawing of font, 1818.

Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, 1983/1450, 1835 (church from west).

Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, 1983/1747, n.d. (church interior, mid C19).

 Church in Wales Records

Bartosch & Stokes, 1995, Quinquennial Report, St Florence.

St Davids, 1997-8, Diocesan Year Book.

NLW, SD/F/600, Faculty – Memorial tablet, 1920.

NLW, SD/F/601, Faculty – Churchyard monument, 1922.

Parish Records, Pembrokeshire Record Office, Haverfordwest

(HPR/19 – St Florence)

 Unpublished Accounts

Kissock, J., 1993, Historic Settlements Project – South Pembrokeshire (Unpublished client report; copy held with Dyfed SMR).

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

Trethowan, M., 1997, St Florence Church, Pembrokeshire: Archaeological Watching Brief, July 1997 (unpublished client report; copy held with Dyfed SMR).

Printed Accounts

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

Burn, C. J., and Thomas, W. G., n.d., St Florence Church.

Cadw, 1996, Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (St Mary out Liberty, East Williamston and St Florence).

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

Glynne, S. R., 1886, ‘Notes on the Older Churches in the Four Welsh Dioceses’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol III, Fifth Series.

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), 1995, St Florence leaflet.

Up dated: February 2022 – PKR

Heneb - The Trust for Welsh Archaeology