St Michael, Cosheston, Pembrokeshire (PRN 3520)


Dyfed PRN 3520

 RB No. 3071

 NGR SN 0007 0366

 Listed Building No. 5955

 Grade II listed (1998)

First listed in 1970. Last amended in 1996.

Reasons for listing: Listed for the special interest of its medieval origins from which the church derives its form, including an unusual tower. Its C19 interior is richly and consistently detailed.


Medieval church; 60% pre 19th century core fabric.

A multicell church, medium-large sized. Consists of a chancel, 4 bays; nave, 4 bays; north aisle, 3 bays; south transept, 1 bay; south porch; west tower, 2 storeys including the nave west bay; medieval. Vestry (north of chancel), 3 bays, 1885. Boilerhouse (east of vestry), c.1900. Limestone rubble construction; some remains of 18th – early 19th century external render; internal walls with render/plaster. Slate gable roofs; vestry and boilerhouse with slate lean-to roofs; tower roof not seen. Medieval vaulting in tower/nave west bay; medieval tower openings, ?sedilia, tomb recess and blocked doors including skew passage; blocked 17th – 18th century window. All internal arcades and chancel arch, and most other openings from 1885, neo-gothic, with grey oolite dressings.

Roofs, floors and finishes: mainly 1885 (some earlier external render).

Condition – good.

Archaeological potential – good. Deep, wide revetted cutting around 30% of church; internal levels lowered in 100% of church; below-ground floor in 5% of church?; suspended floors above heating flues in 70% of church; below-ground heating chamber in 5% of church; known burials beneath 15% of church; well beneath 5% of church?; external memorials lie significantly close to 40% of church.

Structural value (pre 19th century) – good – very good. 60% pre-19th century core fabric; medieval tower openings and vault, ?sedilia, tomb recess and blocked doors including skew passage; blocked 17th – 18th century window.

Group value – high. Landmark medieval church on hillside, within planned and planted medieval settlement; churchyard with good memorials; earthworks (of former, larger churchyard?) in neighbouring field.


Phase 1 – Nave, C13?.

Phase 2 – Chancel west bays, south transept, south porch (and former north transept?), C14.

Phase 3 – West tower, north aisle, early C16.

Phase 4 – Restored earlier C19, high impact; chancel rebuilt and extended, vestry built.

Phase 5 – Restored 1885, high impact; new vestry built.

Phase 6 – Boilerhouse, c.1900.


The present church

St Michael, Cosheston, is a multicelled church, of medium-large size. It retains approximately 60% pre-19th century core fabric.

The present church consists of a long, 4-bayed chancel, a 4-bayed nave, a 3-bayed north aisle, a single-bayed south transept (with a former skew passage), a 2-storeyed west tower over the nave west bay, a 3-bayed vestry north of the chancel west bays, and a boilerhouse east of the vestry. Construction is in limestone rubble. There are the remains of 18th – early 19th century render on the transept south wall; pointing is mainly from 1885, with some 20th century repointing, and the interior is plastered. The nave west bay (beneath the tower) is barrel-vaulted. The tower openings are medieval; there is a medieval ?sedilia in the nave, the remains of a tomb recess, a blocked door, skew passage and blocked 17th – 18th century window. Other openings, including the chancel arch and internal arcades, are mainly from 1885, neo-gothic, with grey oolite dressings. Roofs are slated gables; the vestry and boilerhouse have slated lean-to roofs while the tower roof was not seen.

The cusped triple lancet chancel east window is from 1885 but may occupy an earlier opening; it has an elaborate internal surround with Purbeck marble shafts. The east bay is also lit by an uncusped single lancet in each side wall, also 1885, and there are 2 similar double lancets in the south wall the western of which occupies an earlier opening retaining part of its brick surround from the early 19th century. The moulded, 2-centred chancel arch is from 1885. The softwood ‘wagon-roof’ ceiling is from 1885 and features carved bosses at the frame intersections. The passage is tiled, with suspended board floors, from 1885.

The nave north and west walls have a pronounced, sloping basal batter, medieval. There is a double lancet window in the south wall of the west bay, in a 2-centred surround, all from 1885 but occupying an earlier embrasure. The south door has a 2-centred surround with a hoodmould from 1885, possibly in a medieval opening; internally, to the east is a double recess with 2 plain 2-centred arches supported on a central corbel, all 13th century?, which appears to represent a sedilia but may be the well-head of a medieval baptistery (RCAHM, 1925, 83). The west wall was probably rebuilt when the tower was added in the early 16th century, and its north end continues as a flying buttress incorporating steps, from 1885. The softwood nave roof is from 1885, with trifoliate collar-rafter trusses arch-braced from wall-corbels, matchboarded above. The passages are concreted above heating flues, with suspended board floors, from 1885, and there is a contemporary underground chamber for a ‘Porritt’s’ stove.

The north aisle communicates with the nave east bay via an arcade of 3 moulded, 2-centred arches on cylindrical shafts with circular, moulded capitals and bases, from 1885. The aisle is lit by 2 windows in the north wall, like the nave south wall window but 2-light, from 1885 but occupying earlier embrasures. Between the two is a blocked, square-headed window from the 17th – 18th centuries, blocked before 1885 (NLW, SD/F/130), and high in the east wall is a blocked, triangular opening with a brick head, early 19th century. The softwood roof is like that in the nave, 1885. Floored as the nave.

The south transept is entered through a 2-centred arch rebuilt like the aisle arcade in 1885. The north end of the east wall features the partially blocked, segmental-headed entry into a former skew-passage, blocked before 1885 (ibid.). It is lit by a triple lancet window like in the chancel and also from 1885, but in an earlier embrasure which itself interrupts a segmental-headed tomb recess below. The west wall is very irregular and features at least one blocked opening, a doorway to a former south porch parvis?. The softwood roof is from 1885 and lacks trusses, being matchboarded above the common rafters. Floored as the nave. The transept contains many memorials and is known as the ‘Paskeston Chapel’.

The south porch is medieval, and may formerly have featured a first floor parvis (see above); the east wall, which features a medieval plain, square stoup recess, is very irregular. The 2-centred doorway, with a dripmould and infill, is from 1885. The porch is roofed as the transept, from 1885, and has a concrete floor.

The west tower comprises just 2 storeys, the lower of which is represented by a recess in the nave west bay with a 2-centred vault and a surround rebuilt in 1885 like the aisle arcade; the recess is lit by a triple lancet window beneath a hoodmould, all from 1885. The second stage is corbelled out from the west wall and entered through a square-headed doorway above the northern nave gable, reached by the external star described above. It has a 2-light, semicircular-headed opening in the east wall, 2-centred single-light openings in the south and west walls, and a segmental single light in the west wall, all from the early 16th century but partly rebuilt, along with the crenellated parapet and external corbel table. The tower is similar to that at Minwear, S. Pembs..

The vestry was added in 1885. It communicates with the 3 chancel west bays via an arcade of 3 hoodmoulded arches, otherwise like the north aisle arcade and also from 1885; it is also entered from the north aisle through a moulded, triangular headed doorway in the west wall, and entered from the churchyard through a doorway in the north wall with a Caernarfon surround, both from 1885. There is a 3-light window in the north wall which is otherwise as the chancel windows, 1885. A blocked fireplace, from 1885, lies in the east wall; the chimney has gone. The softwood lean-to roof is from 1885 and matchboarded above the rafters. Probably floored as the chancel, but concealed beneath linoleum.

The lean-to boilerhouse was built against the vestry east wall between 1885 and 1907. It is entered from the churchyard, through a plain 2-centred doorway in its north wall, and lit by a single lancet in the east wall. The lean-to roof runs up to the vestry; the floor may be below ground level.

A deep, wide revetted cutting runs around the north and west walls, and the south porch west wall; there is no further external drainage. All internal levels were lowered in 1885. The boilerhouse floor may be below ground level. Floors are suspended above heating flues, and there is a below-ground heating chamber in the nave. There are many known burials beneath the south transept. There may be a well beneath the nave south wall. Many external memorials lie significantly close to the south walls.

Structural development

The nave may be 13th century, and may incorporate the contemporary chancel if the recess in the nave south wall is a sedilia. The chancel west bays, and the south transept with its former skew passage, and south porch (with its possible former parvis) may be 14th century, but the chancel has been much rebuilt; a corresponding north transept and skew passage may have been present (hinted at in RCAHM, 1925, 83). The west tower is from the early 16th century and formerly possessed a contemporary octagonal spire; the north aisle has similar fabric and may be contemporary; it features a blocked 17th – 18th century window.

The weathervane on the former spire was dated 1781, which may refer to a restoration. The chancel was rebuilt, with some brick openings, after 1830, and extended eastwards; in a drawing of 1830 it is noticeably short (NLW, Original Drawings, Pemb. A, PB5121). The removal of the northern skew passage and its replacement with a small vestry may be contemporary. Further work appears to have been undertaken, for in 1842 Lewis described the church as a ‘neat modern structure, in the early style of English architecture’ (Cadw, 1996, 1).

The rebuilt church was depicted in 1885 much as today (NLW, SD/F/130), but without the present vestry and boilerhouse. The north aisle lacked an arcade being separated from the nave by a solid wall with a wide break at either end.  Most present windows occupy earlier embrasures, but only one window was present in the chancel side walls, at the west end of the south wall; the windows are depicted as 2-light, neo-gothic windows with simple cusped tracery by Freeman, 1852, 171. The then vestry was entered from the aisle through a doorway to the south of the present vestry door.

The church was restored in 1885 (NLW, SD/F/130), to the designs of the architect Stephen Williams of Rhayader. The work was high impact. The vestry was added, the aisle arcade was rebuilt and all openings rebuilt or refenestrated. New windows were inserted in the chancel and a new doorway inserted between the north aisle and the new vestry. The upper courses of all walls were rebuilt and the church was reroofed, refloored, replastered and reseated..

The boilerhouse was added between 1885 and 1907 (shown on the Ordnance Survey second edition). The west tower spire was removed in the mid 20th century.

The softwood stalls, pews, pulpit and vestry screens are from 1885 and the oolite and Purbeck marble reredos is probably contemporary, as is the tiled dado in the nave west bay recess. The organ in the vestry is dated 1886. The oak rood-beam and transept screen are from 1926 (Pembs. R. O., HPR/14/15). The panelled dado in the chancel is dated 1945.

The oolite font is 19th – 20th century.

The church was Grade II listed in 1998.

First listed in 1970. Last amended in 1996.

Reasons for listing: Listed for the special interest of its medieval origins from which the church derives its form, including an unusual tower. Its C19 interior is richly and consistently detailed.

In the field adjoining the south side of the churchyard is a system of earthwork banks, which may partly be derived from an earlier, larger churchyard boundary (D. Benson, Archaeoleg Cambria Archaeology, pers. comm.).


 There no some equivocal evidence for the pre-conquest religious use of the site:-

Possible pre-conquest Latin dedication?; earthwork evidence of former, larger churchyard?.

St Michael, Cosheston, was a parish church during the post-conquest period (Rees, 1932), of the medieval Deanery of Pembroke. It appears to have always been in the patronage of the Lords of the Manor of Cosheston. In 1291, it was assessed at £14 13s 4d. (Green, 1911, 283).

The patronage had passed to the Owen family of Orielton by 1594 (ibid.), where it remained until the 19th century. In 1833 the living, a discharged rectory, was rated in the king’s books at £11 12s 11d and in the patronage of the Sir John Owen, Bart. (Lewis, 1833).

In 1998 St Michael, Cosheston, was a parish church. The living was a rectory, held with Nash and Upton (Benefice 583) in the Archdeaconry of St Davids, Rural Deanery of Castlemartin (St Davids, 1997-8).


 Map Evidence

NLW, Ordnance Survey 1:2500, First Edition, Pembs. Sheet XL.2.

NLW, Ordnance Survey 1:2500, Second Edition, Pembs. Sheet XL.2.

NLW, Parish of Cosheston, Tithe Map, 1840.

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

Pictorial sources

 NLW, Original Drawings, Pemb. A, PB5121, c.1830 (church from south-east).

Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, 1983/1746, n.d. (church from west, mid C19).

 Church in Wales Records

Bartosch & Stokes, 1991, Quinquennial Report, Cosheston.

St Davids, 1997-8, Diocesan Year Book.

NLW, SD/F/130, Faculty – Restoration of church, 1885.

Parish Records, Pembrokeshire Record Office, Haverfordwest

HPR/14 – Cosheston:-

HPR/14/15 – Vestry Minute Book, 1843-1972.

Unpublished Accounts

Thomas, W. G., 1964, Cosheston Church (in National Monuments Record, Aberystwyth)

Printed Accounts

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

Cadw, 1996, Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (Cosheston).

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

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

Glynne, S.R, 1886, ‘Notes on the Older Churches in the Four Welsh Dioceses’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol III, Fifth Series.

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

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

RCAHM, 1925, Inventory: Pembrokeshire.

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

Updated – February 2022 – PKR

Heneb - The Trust for Welsh Archaeology