St Mary, Llanfair Orllwyn, Ceredigion (PRN 5281)


Dyfed PRN 5281

 RB No. 3585

 NGR SN 3674 4100

 Listed Building no. 9879

 Grade II listed (1998)

First Listed in 1964. Last amended in 1996.

Reasons for Listing: Listed as an attractive early C19 church with a most unusual C13 font.

Building and churchyard in poor condition. A number of what appear to be scrap cars in churchyard.


19th century church; some pre-19th century core fabric?.

A 3-cell church, small-medium sized. Consists of nave, 3 bays, 1808 or c.1820 but retaining some medieval core fabric?. Chancel, 2 bays, 1808 or c.1820. Vestry (north of chancel), 1887. Construction is in shale rubble throughout. Slate gable roofs; vestry with a slate lean-to roof. All openings, except in the vestry, are from 1808 or c.1820, neo-gothic, but without dressings; vestry openings similar, 1887. Western square, domed bell-turret, on internal buttress, 1808 or c.1820.

Roofs, floors and finishes, 1887.

Condition – fair. Internal plaster damp and cracked in places; some fittings decayed; some external ivy.

Archaeological potential – very good. Deep, wide excavation around 50% of church, corresponding earthwork platform beneath 50% of church, all primary; shallow external concrete drain around 30% of church; suspended floors over underfloor void.

Structural value (pre 19th century) – poor-fair. Some pre-1808 core fabric?.

Group value – medium-high. Early C19 landmark church; hilltop location; large churchyard.


(Phase 1 – Nave, some medieval core fabric?)

Phase 2 – Chancel, rebuilt nave, 1808 or c.1820.

Phase 3 – Restored 1887, medium-high impact; vestry built.


St Mary, Llanfair Orllwyn, is a 2-celled church, of small-medium size. It was rebuilt in either 1808 or c.1820 on the same site, and in the same location as its predecessor, possibly retaining some of the earlier core fabric. A vestry was added in 1887.

The present church consists of a 2-bayed chancel, a 3-bayed nave, and a single-bayed vestry north of the chancel west bay. Construction is in local Ordovician shale rubble (Clive-Powell, 1996, 1), external pointing is from 1887; plastered within. All openings, except in the vestry, are from 1808 or c.1820 and neo-gothic in ‘estate chapel’ style: the windows are single-light openings with ‘Y’-traceried timber frames inserted in 1887. There is no dressed stone. The plain chancel arch is 4-centred. The vestry openings are similar, from 1887. There is an elaborate bell-turret at the west end, supported on a broad internal buttress; it is square, rendered externally, with a ‘Caernarfon’- headed opening in each face and a low plain dome, all 1808 or c.1820. The west door is plain, with a blind external recess above, 1808 or c.1820. The roofs are slated gables; the vestry has a slated lean-to roof. Floors are suspended.

The nave may retain some core fabric from the pre-19th century church, but the church was largely rebuilt, and entirely refaced, in either 1808 or c.1820; it was  ‘not fitted out until 1842 by Rees Davies of Llandysul’ (Cadw, 1996, 33). The church was restored in 1887 (ibid.) when it received the present roofs, floors and window-frames, and the vestry was built. The interior was reseated and replastered. There appears to have been no further major alteration.

The unusual font has a square bowl, chamfered throughout, with moulded bosses and incised decoration on each face; it lies on a cylindrical stem and an octagonal base, all from the 14th century.

The east half of the church lies within a very deep, wide excavation into the hillside, the western half lying in a corresponding earthwork platform which extends beyond the west end as a ‘D’-shape; the features are primary. A very shallow external concrete drain runs along the nave side walls. Floors are suspended over a void in the nave and vestry. No external memorials lie significantly close to the church.

The church was Grade II listed in 1998.

First Listed in 1964. Last amended in 1996.


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

Churchyard formerly circular; pre-conquest Latin dedication.

St Mary, Llanfair Orllwyn, was a parish church during the post-conquest period (Rees, 1932), of the medieval Deanery of Sub-Aeron. It appears to have been a possession of the Bishops of St Davids from an early date.

In 1833 the living was a discharged rectory, in the patronage of the Bishop, rated in the king’s books at £4 13s 4d and endowed with £600 royal bounty  (Lewis, 1833).

In 1998 St Mary, Llanfair Orllwyn, was a parish church. The living was a rectory, held with Bangor Teifi, Henllan and Llangynllo (Benefice 693) in the Archdeaconry of Cardigan, Rural Deanery of Emlyn (St Davids, 1997-8).


 Map Evidence

Blaeu, J., 1648, Map of Cardiganshire.

NLW, Ordnance Survey 1:2500, First Edition, Sheet XlV.4

NLW, Parish of Llanfair Orllwyn, Tithe Map, 1844.

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

 Church in Wales Records

Clive-Powell, R., 1996, Quinquennial Report, Llanfair Orllwyn.

St Davids, 1997-8, Diocesan Year Book.

NLW, SD/F/322, Faculty – Removal of buildings etc., 1890.

Printed Accounts

Anon., 1915, ‘Cardiganshire Fonts’, Transactions of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society Vol. II.

Cadw, 1996, Buildings of Special Architectural Interest (Ceredigion).

Evans, G. E., 1918, ‘Cardiganshire: Its Plate, Records and Registers’, Archaeol. Cambrensis Vol. XVIII, Sixth Series.

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

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

Various, 1994, ‘The Church in Ceredigion in the Early Middle Ages’, in Davies, J. L., and Kirby, D. P. (eds.), Cardiganshire County History Vol. I.

Up dated – September 2021 – PKR

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