St Mary, Burton, Pembrokeshire (PRN 3203)


Dyfed PRN 3203

 RB No. 3378

 NGR SM 9854 0564

 Listed Building No. 14533

 Grade B listed (1998)

Now Listed Grade II*

First listed in 1963. Last amended in 2004.

Reasons for listing: Listed at Grade II* as a medieval church with unusual lancets to SE chapel, outstanding C16 chancel tomb chest and some good Victorian features, notably the E window by Hardman and the organ-loft of c. 1900.


Medieval church; 90% pre-19th century core fabric.

An 8-cell church, large. Consists of chancel, 3 bays; nave, 3 bays; south chapel, 3 bays; organ chamber (north of chancel), 1 bay; south transept, 1 bay; south porch; west tower, 3 storeys; all medieval. North aisle (incorporates former north transept), 3 bays, 1865-7; Former boilerhouse, 1907.

Construction is in limestone rubble. 100% of internal walls are rendered/plastered. Slated gable roofs, slated lean-to roofs in organ chamber, north aisle west bays and south transept. Chancel arch, with rood-loft corbels; south chapel arcade, lancets, buttresses and piscina; organ chamber vault; transept arches; sanctus bellcote; stoup in nave; south porch door and stoup; west tower including vault, crenellated parapet and openings; some rebuilt windows; blocked west door; all medieval. All other openings are from 1865-7.

(Tomb chest in chancel, 16th-17th century. Large organ and loft in nave, later 19th century.)

Roofs and floors: 1865-7. Finishes: 1865-7, and 1937.

Condition – good. Some external dressings weathered.

Archaeological potential – good. Earthwork platform around 30% of church, primary?; medium-deep cutting, primary, around 50% of church; shallow primary cutting beyond 5% of church; floor raised in 10% of church; suspended floors with underfloor void in 75% of church; burials beneath 20% of church; below-ground boilerhouse against 5% of church. There is no evidence for former components beyond the present church walls. Memorials lie significantly close to 10% of church.

Structural value (pre 19th century) – very good. 90% medieval core fabric; medieval arcade, arches, windows and doors; medieval sanctus bellcote; medieval vaults in tower and organ chamber; medieval stoup, buttresses and corbels; blocked doors and altered windows.

Group value – high. Medieval landmark church with tower; large churchyard; baptistery pool.

Phase 1 – Chancel (and nave?), early 13th century.

Phase 2 – South chapel, mid-13th century.

Phase 3 – North and south transepts, 14th century.

Phase 4 – West tower lower storeys, later 14th century?

Phase 5 – Organ chamber, 14th-15th century.

Phase 6 – West tower belfry, earlier 16th century.

Phase 7 – South porch, mid 16th century.

Phase 8 – Restored 1865-7, medium-high impact; north aisle west bays built.

(Phase 9 – Former boilerhouse, 1907.)


The present church

St Mary, Burton, is a 8-celled church, of large size. It retains approximately 90% pre-19th century core fabric.

The present church consists of a 3-bayed chancel, a wider 3-bayed nave, a single bayed organ chamber north of the chancel west bay, a 3-bayed south chapel of the same dimensions as the chancel, a narrow 3-bayed north aisle incorporating a former north transept, a short, single bayed south transept, a south porch and a 3-storey west tower. Construction is in medium-sized limestone rubble, unsquared and uncoursed with large medieval quoining in areas; poor 1937 ribbon pointing; the interior is rendered/plastered, from 1865-7, and 1937. Roofs are mainly slated gables, the nave probably always roofed at a higher level; the organ chamber, south transept and north aisle have slated lean-to roofs, and the tower roof was not seen.

A pronounced earthwork platform lies along the south side of the church, with a straight, shallow scarp slope between the south chapel and the south porch, turning through a right-angle to run up to the west tower south-west corner. A medium-deep revetted external cutting, primary, with a secondary concrete-lined drain, runs along the east and north walls, and around the north-west corner; a wide, shallow primary ?cutting, running north-south, lies just west of the west tower. The tower floor has been raised. The floors are suspended with an underfloor void and heating ducts. There are known burials beneath the chancel. A below-ground boilerhouse lay against the chancel north wall. There is no evidence for former components beyond the present church walls. Memorials lie significantly close to the south chapel south wall.

The chancel

The chancel walls are medieval and have an external basal batter. The east window opening may be medieval but the 2-centred surround, with a drip-mould and 2 cusped lights with pierced spandrels, in oolite, is from 1865-7. The east bay north wall has a single square-headed light of 1865-7 which may similarly occupy a medieval opening; the square piscina recess is from 1865-7. An internal corbel at half-height may have supported the medieval roof, while a slight offset high in the west bay north wall may be associated with a former rood-loft. The south wall is a 3-bay arcade of tall, plain 2-centred arches inserted in the mid-13th century; on the south face a reversed offset lies above the arcade (wall originally parapetted?). In the arcade east bay, an ‘acanthus’-moulded oolite corbel of medieval date has been reset in one of the stops. The chancel arch is a plain, 2-centred arch similar to the south wall arches and possibly also (re)built in the mid-13th century; to the north is an offset and recess on the east face, and corbelling on the west face, while to the south is a blocked door with a low, 2-centred head, all associated with the former rood-loft. Above the arch, the external east face is coped for the medieval, higher chancel roof, and has a plain sanctus bellcote with a rounded gable and a 2-centred opening, all an 1865-7 oolite ashlar rebuild of a medieval original.

The chancel roof is in softwood, of common rafters with collars, from 1865-7. The tiled floor is also from 1865-7; in the centre of the floor is a tomb chest, of one of the Wogans of Boulston, of ‘mixed character and questionable date’ (Llandaff, 1898, 236), but the slab, with a cross raguly and 2 shields, may be 16th century on a chest of 16th-17th century date (Anon., 1898, 183).

The nave

The nave is similar in construction to the chancel, and is probably of similar date; it may have been added when the chancel arch was inserted in the mid-13th century, but lacks the austere Early English openings seen in the mid-13th century south chapel. The arcaded north wall, moreover, rises above the north aisle roof as an overhanging string-course like that in the chancel south wall – medieval? formerly parapetted?. The east bay side walls display rood-loft corbels. The south (external) wall is battered. It is pierced by 2 windows, that to the east possibly retaining medieval jambs in its 2-centred outer arch, but otherwise from 1865-7 with 2 lights in a 2-centred limestone surround. The western window is similar but single light and all from 1865-7. Between the 2 windows is the south door, always the main entrance but the rebuilt in 1865-7 with a 2-centred head. A plain square stoup recess lies in the external face, east of the door.

The nave roof is softwood, comprising scissors-braced trusses arch-braced from a wall-plate, from 1865-7. The passages are tiled, with heating ducts below, and with the suspended board floors are also from 1865-7 (later in the west bay, see below).

The south chapel

The south chapel is fenestrated in a style unique in the region, with tall lancet windows of similar Early English style to the arcade into the chancel; they are simple and without surrounds, but the heads have been rebuilt in concrete in the 20th century. There are 3 lancets in the east wall, and two groups of 3 in the south wall separated by a contemporary buttress, also rare within the region, with a string course and hipped coping. The east and west corners exhibit similar buttresses. There is a contemporary, 2-centred piscina recess in the south wall. Lying centrally in the west wall is the blocked chapel west door, also contemporary, its 2-centred head interrupted by the inserted arch from the later south transept. Higher up is a single lancet of later date, 14th century?, but again with a concreted surround. The north wall is corbelled above the arcade, for the medieval roof?. The chapel is now roofed in softwood, with arch-braced ‘hammer-beam’ trusses from 1865-7. Floored as the nave but the suspended floors have been removed and infilled with concrete.

The transepts

The north aisle east bay is an 1867 conversion from a former transept of probable 14th century date, which has retained its gable but is now open to the aisle. It communicates with the nave through a plain, 2-centred arch and there is a plain segmental-headed squint in the east wall, coeval with the transept fabric. The north wall window has a 2-centred outer arch of possible medieval date with an inserted window of 2 cusped lights, with a central quatrefoil, in a 2-centred oolite surround and drip-mould, 1865-7. The roof is of collared common rafters from 1865-7; floored as the nave.

The south transept is possibly coeval with the north transept and similarly from the 14th century, although the arch into the nave east bay is segmental; it is plain, with a deeply-chamfered western stop. The transept butts against the northern half of the south chapel west wall and opens to the chapel through a similar arch. The south wall window was inserted in 1865-7 and is like the north transept window, a corbelled oolite bracket on the external face, also from 1865-7, may have been associated with the drainage of the valley between the transept and chapel roofs. The roof, always a lean-to?, has a segmental barrel-vault. Floored as the nave.

A transeptal, lean-to chamber lies north of the chancel west bay, communicating with the chancel through a plain 2-centred arch, and with a crude barrel-vault. It may have been added in the 14th-15th century when such chambers were frequent additions to Pembrokeshire churches. Often there are two, flanking the chancel west bay, and have been termed ‘choir recesses’, but singly may often have functioned as organ chambers. It post-dates the north aisle former transept, lying against its east wall and obstructing the view from the squint, but the impression of a blocked 2-centred arch in its west wall suggests that it was converted from a skew passage contemporary with the transept. The cusped, 2-light window in the north wall, with a square oolite surround, is from 1865-7, with infill. It is floored as the chancel.

The west tower

The west tower is of 3 storeys (RCAHM, 1925, 34). The lower 2 storeys are unquoined, are not tapered and lack the spiral stair, basal batter and string course characteristic of the late medieval towers of the district; they may be early, possibly 14th century, the more ‘typical’ belfry stage having been added in the earlier 16th century. The ground floor is entered from the nave through a plain, full-centred semicircular arch reflects the profile of the ground floor barrel-vault, contemporary with the core fabric. The site of the former west door is visible as external blocking; its opening was re-used in 1865-7 for a double lancet window (like those in the north aisle – see below). The side wall slit lights have deep splays and sills that plunge both towards and away from the interior; similar slit lights can be seen in the lower stage of Wiston Church, Pembs, which may also be 14th century. The woodblock floor is from c.1966 (see below). The second stage is entered from a door high in the nave west wall, since rebuilt, and is lit by 2 slit lights in the north, south and west walls. The belfry has a basal external corbel table on the east wall, above which the walls are quoined where heightened in the earlier 16th century. There are contemporary semicircular-headed openings in all 4 walls, 2-light to the north. The crenellated parapet on a plain corbel table is also 16th century, but the merlons was recoped in 1937. The tower is in good condition.

The south porch

The south porch side walls have internal oolite benching with a medieval moulded stoup bowl reset on an attached shaft in the east wall, and there is a plain square recess in the west wall. The south wall has a slight external batter and the door is a full-centred semicircular arch, of probable 16th century date. There is a plain slit-light above. The softwood roof is of arch-braced common-rafters, from 1865-7; floored as the nave.

Structural development

The present church is medieval and its plan, and much of the detail, has survived more-or-less unchanged. The chancel is primary (as may also be the nave, having characteristics in common, see below), but original detail has been lost; however the arcade into the south chapel, with its tall 2-centred arches, is similar to the tall lancets in the south wall which are of convincingly Early English character (and unique in the region), demonstrating that the chapel was added to an existing chancel in the mid-13th century. The chapel was formerly also entered from the exterior through its west wall. The main door was probably always in the nave south wall, but the west tower also formerly featured a ‘processional’ entry, now blocked. The north transept is probably 14th century, probably with a former skew passage converted into an organ chamber (choir recess?); it was absorbed into the 1865-7 north aisle. The south transept may be contemporary and blocks the south chapel west door; it now has a lean-to roof, original?. The west tower lower storeys are simple and probably early, possibly even 14th century (cf. Wiston Church, Pembs.); the belfry is more typical of the region and is early 16th century. The south porch also appears stylistically to be (later) 16th century.

Richard Fenton, writing in c.1811, described the church as containing ‘nothing worthy of remark’ (Fenton, 1903, 152), testimony to the degree of blocking of medieval openings that had taken place in the intervening centuries. The church was described at length in 1864, on the eve of its main restoration (Anon., 1864, 34-8). All present core components of the church were noted, and all arcades and arches were open. However, all medieval windows are said to have been blocked and ‘the worst and meanest kind of wooden sashes’ had been inserted; there were some stone windows open, date?. The tower west door had already been blocked, and also the nave north door (lost when the north aisle was built). The tower bells and roof had gone, but the sanctus bellcote had survived, with its bell. The porch stoup was noted, and the plunging tower slit-lights. The church was seated with box-pews, but ‘a few of the original seats (remain), ornamented with the fleur-de-lys and linen pattern’. The floor was flagged (Anon., 1865, 220). The present oak reredos may be 18th century.

The south chapel is traditionally known as St Andrew’s Chapel, and the south transept as the Scourfield or Williamston Chapel.

The church was restored in 1865-7 to the specifications of the architect Thomas Talbot Bury, of London (Anon., 1865, 220), who went on to restore Jeffreyston Church, S. Pembs. The restoration was of medium-high impact, but revealed more than it destroyed. The internal plaster was entirely stripped, revealing the medieval lights, in particular the south chapel lancets, which were unblocked. The later windows were taken out, and the church was refenestrated. The roofs were stripped, and new roofs were built throughout including in the tower, with tabling. The flag floors were removed and new floors established throughout, the chancel tiles by Minton; underfloor heating ducts were installed beneath the nave passages. The nave and chapel were seated in softwood, with ‘neo-Perpendicular-carved bench ends copying originals (see above). The present pulpit may have been installed, and the altar rail. A vestry was established in the tower ground floor with a matchboarded ceiling and tiled floor.

The western 2 bays of the north aisle were an entirely new construction. They open to the nave as a 2-bayed arcade of 2-centred arches lying on an oolite cylindrical pier with a plain capital and base, and exhibit a moulded corbel representing an ecclesiastic. The north transept west wall was removed and is open to the aisle. The north wall has 2 windows each of 2 lancets without surrounds, unlike the reminder of the 1865-7 work; the west wall has a similar window. The lean-to roof is softwood, of common rafters. Floored as the nave.

The entire nave west bay is occupied in its upper level by an organ loft, all from the later 19th century?. The softwood deck is semicircular in plan and has wrought iron rails; it is supported on 3 cast iron piers. The whole is of good quality. The ?contemporary organ is by Nicholson & Co., Worcester. The west tower doorway from the nave was rebuilt, and a flight of 10 steps were inserted into body of nave, leading up to both the door and organ loft; they were rebuilt in concrete in the 20th century.

The boilerhouse was built against the chancel north wall in c.1907 (Pembs. R. O., HPR/104/8), its floor originally lying 2m beneath the interior surfaces. It was entered from the west, the roof was probably a lean-to and the interior was rendered. A ‘No.2’ hot-water heating apparatus, by John King Ltd of Liverpool, was installed. It is now disused and the boilerhouse truncated, but its square, shouldered ashlar chimney stack, with circular smoke-vents, survives in the angle between the chancel and the organ chamber west wall.

Further renovations were undertaken in 1937, to specifications by Mercer & Vaughan, Architects, of Swansea (Pembs. R. O., HPR/104/3). Plaster was stripped from the vestry (tower ground floor), the nave west wall, the aisle walls and the chancel walls. The vestry matchboarding was removed, and it was re-ceiled with new joists and boarding; the tile floor was stripped and raised with concrete, and retiled. The north walls and the tower were generally repointed and the parapet recoped.

The woodblock floor in the nave west bay and the vestry was laid in c.1966, when the vestry ceiling was removed and the softwood and glass vestry screen in the west tower arcade was (re)built (Rev. J. Hale, Burton, pers. comm.).

The seating and suspended floor in the south chapel were taken up in 1971, and concreted over, new oak benches being installed (Rev. J. Hale, Burton, pers. comm.).

The oolite font has a square scalloped bowl, a cylindrical stem and square base, all of the 12th-early 13th century.

The church was Grade B listed in 1998.

Now Listed Grade II*

First listed in 1963. Last amended in 2004.

Reasons for listing: Listed at Grade II* as a medieval church with unusual lancets to SE chapel, outstanding C16 chancel tomb chest and some good Victorian features, notably the E window by Hardman and the organ-loft of c. 1900.


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

St Mary, Burton, was a parish church during the post-conquest period, of the medieval Deanery of Rhos (Rees, 1932). The benefice was a rectory that appears to have been appendent to the Manor of Burton, of the Lordship of Pembroke (Green, 1911, 254). There appears to have been no valuation in the ‘Taxatio’ of 1291, but in 1536 the church was assessed at £15 12s 11d (ibid.).

In 1786 the rectory was in the alternate patronage of the Earl of Cawdor and Sir William Owen of Orielton, rated in the king’s books at £15 12s 11d (ibid.). The situation was unchanged in 1833 (Lewis, 1833).

In 1998 St Mary, Burton, was a parish church. The living was a rectory, held with Rosemarket (Benefice 666) in the Archdeaconry of St Davids, Rural Deanery of Roose (St Davids, 1997-8).


 Map Evidence

NLW, Parish of Burton, Tithe Map, 1838.

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

Church in Wales Records

St Davids, 1997-8, Diocesan Year Book.

NLW, SD/F/67, Faculty – Memorial tablet, 1922.

NLW, SD/F/68, Faculty – Stained glass window, 1922.

NLW, SD/F/69, Faculty – Memorial tablet, 1930.

Parish Records, Pembrokeshire Record Office, Haverfordwest

HPR/104 – Burton:-

HPR/104/2, Builder’s estimates, 1932.

HPR/104/3, Specification of works, 1937.

HPR/104/7, Correspondence re: heating of church, 1907-8.

HPR/104/8, Plan of church showing heating, n.d., c.1907.

HPR/104/10, Further correspondence re: heating of church, 1907.

HPR/104/17, Correspondence re: church organ repairs, 1938.

HDX/1066/1, Transcript of memorial inscriptions, n.d., c.1990.

Printed Accounts

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

Anon., 1864, ‘Haverfordwest Meeting’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. X, Third Series.

Anon., 1865, ‘Miscellanea’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. XI, Third Series.

Anon., 1898, ‘Haverfordwest Meeting’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. XV, Fifth Series.

Crossley, F. H., and Ridgway, M. H., 1957, ‘Screens, Lofts and Stalls situated in Wales and Monmouthshire: Part 8’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. CVI.

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

Freeman, E. A., 1851, ‘Architectural Antiquities of Wales and Monmouthshire: Part II’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. II, Second Series.

Freeman, E. A., 1852, ‘Architectural Antiquities of South Pembrokeshire’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. III, Second Series.

Green, F., 1911, ‘Pembrokeshire Parsons’, West Wales Historical Records Vol. I.

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

Llandaff, V. Rev. Dean, 1898, ‘St Davids Cathedral’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. XV, Fifth Series.

RCAHM, 1925, Inventory: Pembrokeshire.

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

Updated – February 2022 – PKR

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