ST ISMAEL, UZMASTON, PEMBROKESHIRE (PRESELI)
Dyfed PRN 3357
RB No. 3043
NGR SM 9691 1439
Not listed (1998)
Medieval church; 30% pre-19th century core fabric.
A multicell church, large. Consists of a chancel, 2 bays; north aisle east bay (former north transept) and skew-passage; medieval. North tower, 2 storeys, c.1600. Nave, 4 bays; 2 north aisle west bays; vestry (south of chancel west bay); south transept; south porch; 1870. Boilerhouse (below-ground; north of north aisle central bay), late 19th century. Timber-framed shed (north of tower), mid 20th century. Limestone rubble construction; internal walls with render/plaster. Slate gable roofs; south transept with slate lean-to roof; tower roof not seen. Tower and ?skew-passage vaulted. Medieval chancel arch and squint, 3 windows (partly re-used and repositioned), blocked doorway and corbels. Tower vaulting and openings from c.1600. Other openings rebuilt in 1870 in neo-Gothic style, with yellow and grey oolite dressings.
Roofs: 1870. Floors: 1991-92. Finishes: 1870-1996.
Condition – good.
Archaeological potential – good. Deep, wide external cutting around 15% of church; medium-depth, external earth-cutting around 10% of church; below-ground boilerhouse against 5% of church; floors formerly suspended in 70% of church; external memorials significantly close to 5% of church.
Structural value (pre 19th century) – good-very good. 30% pre-19th century core fabric; medieval chancel arch and squint, 3 windows, blocked doorway and corbels; tower vaulting and openings from c.1600.
Group value – high. Medieval landmark church with tower, in hilltop location above river; large churchyard.
Phase 1 – Nave, chancel and transepts, originally C14?.
Phase 2 – Tower, c.1600.
Phase 3 – Restored 1870, high impact; chancel, nave and transepts rebuilt, north aisle, vestry and south porch built.
Phase 4 – Boilerhouse, late C19.
Phase 5 – Shed, mid C20.
The present church
St Ismael, Uzmaston, is a multicelled church, of large size. It retains approximately 30% pre-19th century core fabric.
The present church consists of a 2-bayed chancel, a 4-bayed nave, a 3-bayed north aisle absorbing a former north transept with a skew-passage, a 2-storeyed ‘saddleback’ tower north of the north transept, a small, single-bayed, lean-to south transept, a south porch, a transeptal, single-bayed vestry south of the chancel west bay, a below-ground, lean-to boilerhouse north of the north aisle, and a timber-framed lean-to shed north of the tower. Construction is in limestone rubble. The tower, and possibly the skew-passage, are barrel-vaulted. The chancel arch and squint, the skew-passage window, some of the east window dressings?, the re-used and repositioned vestry window, the north aisle eastern stop, a blocked doorway and some internal corbels are medieval, with limestone and yellow oolite dressings. The tower is from c.1600 with contemporary openings, stairway and vault. The remainder of the openings are from 1870, in neo-Gothic style, with yellow and grey oolite dressings. Pointing is mainly good and from 1870, but the tower has poor cement repointing from the earlier 20th century and there is limited repointing from 1996; the interior was replastered in 1991-2. Roofs are slated gables; the south transept has a slated lean-to roof.
The chancel east window is from 1870 but appears to occupy a medieval, 2-centred embrasure, and may re-use some medieval dressings. It has 3 cusped lights with Perpendicular tracery, in a 2-centred surround of chamfered yellow oolite. The east bay side walls were entirely rebuilt in 1870, the joint with the pre-19th century northern skew-passage being visible in the west bay, and the upper section of the east bay south wall was rebuilt/refaced in the 20th century. Internally, this wall exhibits a piscina with a trefoil-headed recess beneath a plain, 2-centred hood-mould on stiff-leaf stops, all from 1870, the circular bowl, which lies on a contemporary Acanthus-moulded corbel, possibly being a re-used domestic mortar with 4 lugs, from c.1600 (RCAHM, 1925, 403). The west bay south wall is open to the vestry (see below) but retains, as does the west bay north wall, a medieval corbel midway up the internal face, possibly associated with a former rood-loft. The chancel arch is markedly off-centre to the north; it has a plain, 2-centred profile and may be 14th century. To the south is a plain, square squint that may be later medieval, replacing a possible southern skew passage (see below). The gable above the chancel arch is pierced by a single lancet in chamfered yellow oolite from 1870. The softwood, ‘wagon-roof’ chancel ceiling is from 1870 with wall-plates on contemporary, cavetto-moulded wall-corbels. The floor is fully carpeted but may be concreted like the nave, from 1991-2.
The nave was entirely rebuilt in 1870. It is lit by 2 windows in the south wall, one in the north wall and one in the west wall. The south and west wall windows have 2 cusped lights with central quatrefoils in 2-centred surrounds of chamfered grey oolite, from 1870; above the west window is a contemporary single lancet like that above the chancel arch, blocked with cement during the 20th century. The north wall window is a contemporary, cusped single lancet with a quatrefoil above. The plain, 2-centred south door is also from 1870 and chamfered, but lacks a surround. The softwood nave roof is from 1870 and features king-post trusses arch-braced from contemporary, double-chamfered wall-corbels, and is matchboarded. The concrete floor is from 1991-2.
The north aisle is from 1870 but the east bay absorbed a former north transept. The aisle communicates with the nave through a 3-bayed arcade of plain, 2-centred arches from 1870, on cylindrical piers with plain bases but with square, Acanthus-moulded capitals; the plain, square easternmost stop is medieval. The lower third of the east, end wall is medieval, retained from the former north transept and featuring the jamb of a blocked ?medieval doorway and what appears to be a 2-centred relieving arch with no visible evidence of any blocking; the upper two-thirds were rebuilt in 1870 with a 2-light window and upper lancet like those in the nave. The north wall is pierced by 2 single lancets like those in the nave north wall, and the west wall features both a 2-light window and an upper lancet like those in the nave west wall, the lancet similarly blocked. The aisle is roofed and floored as the nave. The east bay has chapel fittings introduced in 1952. A 2-centred arch in the east wall of the aisle, rebuilt in 1870, leads into a skew-passage. The outer wall of the passage is entirely pre-19th century and comprises random, medium-sized limestone and shale rubble, pierced by a cusped 2-light window in a 2-centred surround of triple cavetto-moulded limestone from the earlier 16th century. The passage emerges in the chancel as a depressed, ‘segmented’ 2-centred arch with a double-chamfered head rebuilt in 1870. It has a slated lean-to roof to chancel eaves level, and a boarded ceiling above which may be a vault.
The tower occupies an unusual, but by no means unique position north of the former north transept. It is not typical of the region being small, narrow and comprising just 2 storeys, the belfry stage being a ‘saddleback’ gable; there is also no spiral stair, external basal batter or string-course. It may be very late, from c.1600?. The ground floor is entered from the aisle through a segmental arch from c.1600, reflecting the profile of its vault, but given a 2-centred surround in 1870. It is lit by a single square light in the north wall. The segmental barrel-vault is contemporary and pierced by a large, circular bell-raising port. The floor is lower than that in the north aisle and limestone-flagged, possibly pre-1870. The gabled belfry stage is entered through a plain, 2-centred doorway, from c.1600 (now concrete-lined), in the east wall, approached from the churchyard via an external flight of 8 masonry steps that, despite their ‘late’ form and general appearance, are similar in construction to the main body of the tower and may be contemporary. There are openings higher up in the walls; to the east is a simple, square single-light opening, to the north is a simple slit-light, and to the west is a blocked square opening with a squared surround. All openings, and the gables, appear to be contemporary with the main body of the tower.
The south transept was entirely rebuilt in 1870, apparently on the foundations of the earlier transept. It is entered from the nave via a plain, 2-centred arch from 1870, and lit by a contemporary single lancet in the south wall with a grey oolite surround. The lean-to roof is plaster(board)ed internally. Floored as the nave.
The south porch was also rebuilt in 1870, replacing an earlier 19th century porch (see Structural Development below). The entry has a 2-centred head with squared voussoirs and a drip-mould on stiff-leaf stops, while a quatrefoliate light, in yellow oolite, lies in each side wall; all openings are from 1870. The roof collars are concealed beneath matchboarding The quarry-tiled floor is from 1870, laid directly on the substrate.
The vestry was added against the south wall of the chancel west bay in 1870. It is entered through the chancel through an arch similar to that from the skew-passage, entirely rebuilt in 1870 but occupying the site of an earlier arch (see Structural Development below) that possibly led from a former southern skew-passage. It is also entered from the churchyard through a doorway with a Caernarfon-headed surround from 1870. It is lit by a window in the south, end wall which comprises 2 cusped lights in a square surround, with sunk spandrels, of chamfered yellow oolite from the 16th century, re-used and repositioned in 1870. There is a blocked fireplace in the west wall; its chimney has gone. The transeptal, gable roof is from 1870, with collars concealed beneath matchboarding. The concrete floor is from 1991-2.
A below-ground boilerhouse was built in the angle between north aisle and the tower west wall in the later 19th century, post-1870?; it possibly replaced an earlier 19th century component represented by a short length of low, brick wall which runs from east to west immediately to the north. It is entered through a concrete-lintelled doorway in its west, lean-to wall, which is approached from a flight of 7 steps lying in a concrete-revetted, below-ground stairwell along the aisle north wall. The almost flat, lean-to roof lies at ground level, pierced by a 20th century aluminium flue; the earlier flue runs up the interior, west face of the tower.
A timber-framed, corrugated iron lean-to shed was built against the north wall of the tower in the mid 20th century.
A deep, wide external earth-cutting runs around the east and north-east sides of the church, partly primary, re-excavated in 1996 when a concreted drain was laid. A medium-depth, external earth-cutting runs around the north-west side. A below-ground boilerhouse and stairwell lie against the north wall of the north aisle. Floors were formerly suspended in the nave, vestry, north aisle and south transept. External memorials lie significantly close to the south wall of the nave.
The church has been so extensively rebuilt that it is now difficult to assign dates to the surviving earlier fabric. However, the chancel arch may be 14th century, the north transept and skew-passage possibly being contemporary. The small south transept, and a possible former skew-passage (see below) may also be broadly contemporary, the passage being removed in the earlier 16th century and replaced by a squint?. The character of the tower suggests a late date, possibly c.1600. The remainder of the church was largely rebuilt in 1870, but retained 2 windows, and the dressings of a third, of a style no earlier than the early 16th century.
Sir Stephen Glynne visited the church in 1858 (Glynne, 1885, 208-9) when it still retained its plan form of chancel, nave, ‘quasi transepts to north and south of dissimilar form and size’, and tower, a plan shown on the tithe map of 1839 (NLW, Uzmaston, 1839). A ‘modern’ porch had been added, since 1839 (ibid.), and the church was a whole had been ‘badly modernised’ including all the nave windows (Glynne, 1885, 208-9). However, the chancel ‘had curious features’ including a small, Perpendicular east window of 3 lights; the chancel arch was ‘pointed… very rude and plain’. The northern skew passage, described as a ‘shed-like contrivance’, had been blocked at the chancel end where it was represented by a ‘flat, rude’ arch. Glynne thought the south transept to be ‘modern, in all probability’, but there was a similar ‘flat, rude’ arch in the chancel south wall which may have led to a former skew-passage that had been removed during the medieval period; the blocked arch was pierced by a ‘two-light Perpendicular window of trefoiled lights’ while its jamb featured a ‘large, oblong recess’. In the chancel south wall were, in addition, ‘a rude corbel’ and a ‘small square recess’. The north transept was open to the nave, without an arch. The tower, ‘which contains 2 bells, is small, and has a saddleback roof with scarcely any apertures, but a little slit near the gable. It has no buttress, and on the east side are a kind of horse-block steps, on the outside’ (ibid.). The south transept contained a gallery. The present font is described.
The church was restored in 1870 (Pembs. R. O., HPR/72/61) but neither the details, nor the architect responsible, are known. The restoration practically amounted to a rebuild. The chancel east bay side walls, the nave, the south transept and the south porch were demolished and rebuilt, presumably on the earlier foundations. The north aisle was added, absorbing the former north transept, and the vestry was built. The church was entirely reroofed, refloored, replastered and reseated. In 1873, it was proudly announced in the Carmarthen Journal that all that had been retained from the earlier fabric was ‘the tower with flight of external steps; part of the walls of the nave, the squint between tower and chancel, a couple of corbels, three Perpendicular windows and a curious-shaped stoup’ (RCAHM, 1925, 403), the latter now functioning as a piscina.
The boilerhouse may have been added after 1870, replacing an earlier 19th century component (see Description above); the timber-framed shed against the tower is mid 20th century.
‘Serious structural defects’ were noted in 1986 (Pembs. R. O., HDX/1414/12) and in a major renovation during 1991-2 the church was refloored in concrete, replastered, the pews were removed and replaced by chairs, and central heating was installed (Jones, 1995, 1). The exterior was selectively repointed in 1996.
The oak and iron altar rail, the softwood pulpit, and the softwood stalls, now lying in the nave west bay, with fleur-de-lys bench ends, may be from 1870. The softwood altar table in the north aisle is late 19th century, brought from the nearby church at Boulston when it was de-consecrated in 1952 (Pembs. R. O., HPR/72/39). The neo-Perpendicular, panelled oak altar table in the chancel is later 20th century, from 1991-2?
The limestone font has a square, scalloped bowl, a cylindrical stem and a square base, from c.1200.
There are 2 bells in the tower, both pre-Reformation. The earlier, and smaller, ‘Archangel Michael’, has a founder’s mark suggesting that it was cast in the Bristol foundry in c.1350 (Pembs. R. O., HDX/1414/12); the larger, ‘Archangel Gabriel’, may also be from Bristol but was cast later, in c.1410; it has the inscription ‘SANCTA GABRYEL ORA PRO NOBIS’ (Pembs. R. O., HPR/72/73). Both bells are thus earlier than the tower within which they are hung.
The church was Grade A listed in 1998.
There is some evidence for the pre-conquest religious use of the site:-
St Ismael, Uzmaston, was a parish church during the post-conquest period, of the medieval Deanery of Rhos (Rees, 1932). It was granted to Worcester Cathedral by Wizo the Fleming, founder of Wiston Castle, in c.1112 (Murphy, 1997, 73-74). A rival claim was made by Gloucester St Peter and the ensuing dispute was not finally settled, in Worcester’s favour, until 1152 (ibid.). In the meantime, c.1145, the church had been granted, as ‘Ecclesia ville Osmundi’, to the Knights Hospitaller at Slebech (Green, 1914, 228; Rees, 1897, 101, 104). In 1291 the church was assessed at £4, the sum payable being 8s (Green, 1914, 229).
In 1302 the advowson was granted by the Preceptor of Slebech to the Precentor of St Davids Cathedral, confirmed by Bishop David Martin in 1302, and in whose hands it remained (ibid.).
The tithes were leased, in 1554, to William Philipps of Picton Castle, Pembs., for 40 years at the annual rent of £5 6s 8d (Green, 1914, 229-30), the tenant to supply a curate for the church. The lease was renewed in 1565 and remained with the Philippses until 1682 when the tithes were leased for 21 years to George Lucy and then, in 1706, to Richard Sparks, alderman of Haverfordwest (ibid.); when the lease was renewed in 1734, the rent was £15 6s 8d, the curate’s stipend was fixed at £10. The next lessee was responsible for a fine of £20, but in 1781 the Chapter of St Davids decided to drop the fine (ibid.). By 1827 the rent had increased to £120 per annum (ibid.).
In 1833 the living was a perpetual curacy in the patronage of the Precentor and Chapter, endowed with £600 royal bounty and £400 parliamentary grant (Lewis, 1833). 19th century vestry meetings were held in the former chapelry at Cartlett, near Haverfordwest (Pembs. R. O., HPR/72/61).
In 1998 St Ismael, Uzmaston, was a parish church. The living was a vicarage, held with Slebech, Boulston and Newton North (Benefice 572) in the Archdeaconry of St Davids, Rural Deanery of Daugleddau (St Davids, 1997-8).
A 13th century document gives the dedication as St David (Green, 1914, 228), an attribution followed by RCAHM, 1925, 403.
NLW, Ordnance Survey 1:2500, First Edition, Pembs. Sheet XXVII.12.
NLW, Ordnance Survey 1:2500, Second Edition, Pembs. Sheet XXVII.12.
NLW, Parish of Uzmaston, Tithe Map, 1839.
Rees, W., 1932, South Wales and the Border in the XIVth century.
Church in Wales Records
Jones, W., 1995, Quinquennial Report, Uzmaston.
St Davids, 1997-8, Diocesan Year Book.
NLW, SD/F/665, Faculty – Memorial window, 1907.
Parish Records, Pembrokeshire Record Office, Haverfordwest
HPR/72 – Uzmaston:-
HPR/72/11 – Memo re: rebuilding of church wall, 1889.
HPR/72/38 – Vouchers, balance sheets etc., 1860-1955.
HPR/72/39 – Faculties: War memorial plaque, 1951; removal of 3 seats and placing Boulston old altar, 1952.
HPR/72/40 – Correspondence re: stained glass window, 1956.
HPR/72/41 – Estimate for church restoration, 1959.
HPR/72/42 – PCC minutes, 1939-58.
HPR/72/42 – PCC minutes, 1971-73.
HPR/72/51 – File re: church heating, 1952-54.
HPR/72/53 – File re: restoration of organ, 1956.
HPR/72/61 – Vestry minutes, 1851-85.
HPR/72/62 – Vestry minutes, 1971-73.
HPR/72/73 – Copy of church bell inscription, n.d..
HDX/1414/12 – Restoration appeal leaflet, 1986.
Gordon Partnership, 1993, Redundant Religious Buildings in West Wales.
Crossley, F. H., and Ridgway, M. H., 1956, ‘Screens, Lofts and Stalls situated in Wales and Monmouthshire: Part 8’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. CVI.
Fenton, R., 1903 edn., A Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire.
Glynne, S. R., 1885, ‘Notes on the Older Churches in the Four Welsh Dioceses’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol II, Fifth Series.
Green, F., 1914, ‘Pembrokeshire Parsons’, West Wales Historical Records Vol. IV.
Lewis, S., 1833, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales.
Murphy, K., 1997, ‘The Castle and Borough of Wiston, Pembrokeshire’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol CXLIV (1995).
Phillips, J., 1898, ‘Haverfordwest’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. XV, Fifth Series.
RCAHM, 1925, Inventory: Pembrokeshire.
Rees, J. R., 1897, ‘Slebech Commandery and the Knights of St John (Part I)’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. XIV, Fifth Series.
Rees, J. R., 1899, ‘Slebech Commandery and the Knights of St John (Part II)’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. XVI, Fifth Series.
Salter, M., 1994, The Old Parish Churches of South West Wales.