St Mary, Cilgwyn, Pembrokeshire (PRN 7731)


 Dyfed PRN 7731

 RB No. 2968

 NGR SN 0771 3597

 Not listed (1998)(2022)

Now a well established private residence.


Medieval church?; unknown % of pre-19th century core fabric (Dyfed PRN for post-medieval rebuild; no PRN for medieval core/documentary evidence).

A 2-cell church, small. Consists of chancel/nave, 4 bays, medieval. South porch, 1883. Construction is in mixed rubble. Internal walls rendered/plastered. Slated gable roofs. No chancel arch. All openings 1883; include windows and door. Buttresses, ?post-1888.

Roofs and floors: 1833. Finishes: 1883.

Condition – fair. Weathered; pointing poor; ivied.

Archaeological potential – very good. External cutting around 50% of church, primary?; no evidence for floor level changes; suspended floors and underfloor void; no crypt/vault evident; no evidence for former components beyond church; memorials significantly close to 10% of church.

Structural value (pre 19th century) – poor. Largely rebuilt, unknown % of medieval core fabric; no pre-19th century openings or detail.

Group value – low-medium. 19th century church in medieval churchyard.


Phase 1 – Chancel/nave, medieval.

(Phase 2 – Restored/rebuilt 1786?)

Phase 3 – Restored 1883, high impact; south porch built.


St Mary, Cilgwyn, is a 2-celled church (properly a chapel), of small size. It retains an unknown percentage of pre-19th century core fabric.

The present chapel consists of a 4-bayed chancel/nave, without structural division, and a south porch. There is no chancel arch. Construction is in mixed rubble, unsquared and uncoursed. The external pointing is poor-fair, largely from 1883. All internal walls are rendered/plastered. Slated gable roofs in both components.

The chapel retains medieval core fabric but has been much rebuilt, to the extent that the RCAHM assigned the chapel an 18th century date (a quoin stone in the porch bears the date 1786), and termed the 1883 restoration a rebuild (RCAHM, 1925, 265). Nonetheless, the basic plan of a single celled chancel/nave appears to reflect the medieval arrangement. All openings were (re)built in 1883, and are neo-gothic; the south porch was built new in 1883. There is no bellcote.

The east window is of 3 lights with simple tracery, in a 2-centred surround, from 1883. The side walls have single lancets with oolite surrounds, 3 in the north wall and 2 in the south, and there are 2 lancets in the west wall; all are from 1883. The south door lies in the west bay and has a similar, 2-centred surround, also from 1883. The end walls have simple, raking buttresses, possibly added after 1883. The softwood collar-rafter roof is from 1883, and is arch-braced, with a matchboarded ceiling in the east bay. The floor passages are tiled, with suspended board flooring; with the softwood seating, altar rail and pulpit they are from 1883. The porch has low rubble walls with a half timbered superstructure, in oak, while the gabled roof is softwood – the common rafters all with collars – and the floor is tiled directly on the substrate; all from 1883.

A deep external cutting runs around the eastern half of the chapel where it is built into the hillside, and which may be a primary feature; no corresponding platform lies beneath the western half of the chapel. There is no evidence for internal floor level changes. There is an underfloor void beneath the suspended floors, but no vault or crypt is evident. Some memorials are significantly close to the west end of the chapel.

The pre-1883 chapel was described by Richard Fenton in c.1811 (Fenton, 1903, 310-11) as ‘a very ancient structure…which has all the appearance of having undergone a thorough revolution (in the 12th century)’. The Faculty submission for the 1883 restoration includes a plan of the chapel, and some idea of its nature can be gained from the specifications (NLW, SD/F/117); whether, however, the chapel in 1883 was Fenton’s ‘ancient structure’, or whether the 1786 stone marks a restoration or a rebuild, is not clear. The chapel was single-celled as today, but entered through a north door in the centre of the north wall. There were timber-framed single-light windows in all four walls but only one in each of the side walls; all existing openings were used, but enlarged, in 1883. The end walls exhibited weather tabling and there was a bellcote on the western gable. The floor was flagged. Seating was in open benches, and the pulpit was of standard 19th century form suggesting at least  some earlier 19th century renovation. The font was in its present position.

The 1883 restoration was undertaken to the plans of E. H. Lingen Barker, at an estimated cost of £480 (ibid.). It was high impact. The chapel was reroofed, refloored, refenestrated and reseated. The north door was blocked and the bellcote removed. The chapel was replastered, all the old plaster apparently being removed. A timber bell-turret with a slated spire was planned, but apparently never built.

The font has a square bowl ‘which may be ancient’ (RCAHM, 1925, 265).

The chapel was not listed in 1998. Nor in 2022.

Listed as a well-detailed Victorian restoration of a medieval church retaining significant early elements.


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

St Mary, Cilgwyn, was not a parish church during the post-conquest period, but a chapelry of Nevern parish in the medieval Deanery of Cemais (Rees, 1932), the vicarage of which, until 1377, had been in the hands of the Lords of Cemaes (Green, 1913, 217). In 1377 Nevern was granted, along with its appurtenances, to the chantry of St Mary at St Davids Cathedral (ibid.).

There were 8 pilgrimage chapels in Nevern parish according to a 16th century list by George Owen, of which ‘Capel Kilgwin’ is the only survivor (ibid.). From at least 1291, and until the later 20th century, it had been annexed to the vicarage of Nevern – the entry in the ‘Taxatio’ valued ‘Navarn cum Capella’ at £16 for tenths to the king (ibid).

At the dissolution Nevern vicarage fell to the crown, and remained in royal patronage (ibid.). In 1786 the discharged living of ‘Kilywynne alias Culgwyn (St Mary)’, was listed as a chapel to Nevern, with no valuation; the situation was unchanged in 1913 (ibid). Later in the 20th century the vicarage of Cilgwyn was annexed to Newport, but geographically the chapel remained in Nevern parish (Lewis, 1972, 105).

In 1998 St Mary, Cilgwyn, was a chapelry of Nevern parish. The living was a vicarage, held with Newport, Dinas and Llanllawer (Benefice 813) in the Archdeaconry of Cardigan, Rural Deanery of Cemais and Sub-Aeron (St Davids, 1997-8).


 Map Evidence

NLW, Parish of Nevern, Tithe Map, 1840.

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

Church in Wales Records

Bartosch & Stokes, 1994, Quinquennial Report, Cilgwyn.

St Davids, 1997-8, Diocesan Year Book.

NLW, SD/F/117 – Faculty, restoration of church, 1883.

Parish Records, Pembrokeshire Record Office, Haverfordwest

(HPR/150 – Cilgwyn)

Printed Accounts

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

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

Green, F., 1913, ‘Pembrokeshire Parsons’, West Wales Historical Records Vol. III.

Lewis, E. T., 1972, North of the Hills.

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

RCAHM, 1925, Inventory: Pembrokeshire.

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

Updated – March 2022 – PKR.

Heneb - The Trust for Welsh Archaeology