St Martin, Merthyr, Carmarthenshire (PRN 17356)


Dyfed PRN 17356

 RB No. 3568

 NGR SN 3522 2082

 Not listed (1998). Not Listed 2021.


19th century church; 0% medieval core fabric. On site of, and in same location as, medieval church (PRN 2252).

A 2-cell church, small. Consists of chancel/nave, 3 bays; north transept, 1 bay; north porch; boilerhouse/coalhouse, east of transept; all 1872-3. Construction is in snecked rubble. Neo-gothic. Slate gable roofs. All openings from 1872-3; western single bellcote, 1872-3.

Roofs and floors, 1872-3. Finishes, 1872-3.

Condition – good.

Archaeological potential – very good-excellent. Earthwork platform, primary?,  beneath 100% of church; no external drain or cutting around church; suspended floors above heating ducts in 60% of church; below-ground boilerhouse/coalhouse floor; external memorials significantly close to 10% of church.

Structural value (pre 19th century) – poor. 0% pre-1872 core fabric.

Group value – medium-high. C19 church; subcircular churchyard; ECM; associated C19 masonry school buildings.


All 1872-3.


St Martin, Merthyr, is a multicelled church, of small size. It was (re)built in 1872-3 (Carms. R. O., CPR/14/14) to the designs of the architect R. K. Penson (Yates, 1974, 67), on the same site, and in the same location as its predecessor (PRN 2252), retaining nothing from the earlier fabric.

The present church consists of a 3-bayed chancel/nave without structural division, a single-bayed north transept (vestry?), a north porch, and a boilerhouse/coalhouse east of the north transept. Construction is in local snecked rubble; the interior is plastered. All dressings are in yellow oolite and from 1872-3. The openings are neo-gothic comprising simple single or double lancets. The exterior features some buttressing.. A simple gabled single bellcote is corbelled out from the west end, from 1872-3. The roofs are slated gables. The floors are suspended except in the chancel and porch.

The form of the earlier church is not known. It was considerably smaller than the present building, seating only 70 persons (Carms. R. O., CPR/14/14) but apparently featured a south chapel, the ‘Derllys Chapel’ (RCAHM, 1917, 215). The tithe map of 1840 appears to show a cruciform building but may not be accurate (NLW, Merthyr, 1840). The church had no tower or steeple (Evans, 1923, 6) but one bell was present in the 16th century (Walcott, 1871, ii). In 1710 the chancel windows wanted mending and the (paved?) floor was uneven (Evans, 1912, 35). It was seated by 1720 (Evans, 1921, 15). There were minor repairs in 1758 (Carms. R. O., CPR/14/16), and in 1797 the ‘window on the north side of the church’ was repaired and the exterior was whitewashed (ibid.). A plan of the church was made in 1828, and its key survives (Carms. R. O., CPR/14/17) but the plan itself has been lost.

The church was rebuilt in 1872-3 by R. K. Penson (Yates, 1974, 67), on the site of the old one which had been demolished (Carms. R. O., CPR/14/14).

The font bowl has survived from the earlier church and is perhaps pre-Reformation (RCAHM, 1917, 215); it lies in the porch.

Also in the porch is an ECM (PRN 2262), an inscribed stone with a Latin inscription (Rhys, 1875, 359-60) which was revealed during the excavation of foundations for the 1872-3 church (RCAHM, 1917, 215)..

There is a large, regular earthwork platform beneath the church, with a 2m high downhill scarp slope along the south side, which may be primary; it is cut by early 19th century burials. There is no external drain or cutting around the church. Floors are suspended above heating ducts. The boilerhouse/coalhouse floor is below-ground, with external steps down. Some external memorials lie significantly close to the east end.

The church was not listed in 1998. Not Listed 2021.


 There is some evidence for the pre-conquest religious use of the site –

Subcircular churchyard; ECM; ‘martyr’ associations.

St Martin, Merthyr, was not a parish church during the medieval period (Rees, 1932), but a chapelry of the medieval Deanery of Carmarthen. In 1313 it was alienated to the Augustinian priory of St John at Carmarthen by Walter de Walter de Pederton (Anon., 1933, 55).

At the dissolution, the advowson fell to the crown with whom it remained in 1833 when, as a discharged rectory, the living was rated in the king’s books at £4 17s 1d (Lewis, 1833). Merthyr had become a parish by 1684 (Anon., 1933, 55).

In 1998 St Martin, Merthyr, was a parish church. The living was a rectory, held with Meidrim and Llanboidy (Benefice no. 691) in the Archdeaconry of Carmarthen, Rural Deanery of St Clears (St Davids, 1997-8).

The martyr commemorated in the place-name is said to be St Enfael, of whom nothing else is known (Anon., 1933, 55).


 Map Evidence

NLW, Parish of Merthyr, Tithe Map, 1840.

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

Church in Wales Records

Lewis, W., & Lewis, P., 1996, Quinquennial Report, Merthyr.

St Davids, 1997-8, Diocesan Year Book.

Parish Records, Carmarthenshire Record Office, Carmarthen

CPR/14 – Merthyr:-

CPR/14/14 – Church Funds Account Book, 1934-35.

CPR/14/16 – Vestry Minute Book, 1756-1801.

CPR/14/17 – Vestry Minute Book, 1802-1842.

Printed Accounts

Anon., 1933, ‘The Living of Merthyr’, Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 24.

Evans, G. E., 1912, ‘Merthyr, near Carmarthen, AD1710’, Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 7.

Evans, G. E., 1917, ‘Carmarthenshire Presentments’, Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 11.

Evans, G. E., 1919, ‘Miscellanea’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. XIX, Sixth Series.

Evans, G. E., 1921, ‘Carmarthenshire Presentments’, Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 14.

Evans, G. E., 1923, ‘Carmarthenshire Presentments’, Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 16.

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

RCAHM, 1917, Inventory: Carmarthenshire.

Rhys, J., 1875, ‘Some of our Inscribed Stones’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. VI, Fourth Series.

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

Walcott, M. E. C., 1871, ‘Original Documents’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. II, Fourth Series.

Yates, W. N., 1974, ‘Carmarthenshire Churches’, The Carmarthenshire Antiquary Vol. X.

Updated: April 2022 – PKR

Heneb - The Trust for Welsh Archaeology