ST MICHAEL, PEMBROKE, SOUTH PEMBROKESHIRE
Dyfed PRN 3280
RB No. 3017
NGR SM 9883 0138
Listed Building No. 6408
Grade II listed (1998)
Medieval church; 20% pre-19th century core fabric.
A multicell church, large, complex. Consists of chancel east bay; vestry (north of chancel), 1 bay; tower ground floor (south of chancel); medieval. Tower south porch, 18th century. Chancel west bay; nave, 4 bays; tower second stage; south aisle, 5 bays; 1832. Tower belfry; south porches; 1887. Limestone rubble construction, with some slate ashlar; 50% of external walls with render; 90% of internal walls with render/plaster. Slate gable roofs; tower roof not seen. Vestry (formerly chapel) barrel-vaulted. Chancel east window partly medieval; re-used medieval door in nave. Some 18th century openings and a piscina, and blocked 1832 openings. Other openings, including the chancel arch, are in yellow oolite, with polychrome heads, from 1887.
(Good 18th century monuments.)
Roofs: medieval vaulting and 1887 timberwork. Floors: 1832 and 1887. Finishes: 1832-20th century.
Condition – Fair-good. Tower porch very poor; internal plaster poor in areas; some dressings weathered; ivied externally, particularly north and east walls; environs overgrown north of church.
Archaeological potential – Good-very good. No external drain or cutting; below-ground heating chamber beneath 10% of church; floors suspended above heating ducts in 60% of church; no evidence for former floor levels; former components beyond 20% of church; marked burials within 5% of church; no external memorials significantly close to church
Structural value (pre 19th century) – fair. 20% pre-19th century core fabric; medieval vaulting, window and re-used door?; 18th century openings and piscina.
Group value – high. Landmark church with tower, in town centre location; medieval town wall-line forms part of churchyard boundary; focal point of view; adjacent late-medieval buildings.
Phase 1 – Chancel east bay, vestry, tower ground floor, medieval.
Phase 2 – Tower south porch, C18.
Phase 3 – Chancel west bay, nave, south aisle, tower second stage, 1832.
Phase 4 – Restored 1887, high impact; tower belfry and south porches built.
The present church
St Michael, Pembroke, is a multicelled church, of large size. It retains approximately 20% pre-19th century core fabric.
The present church has an unusual plan and a complex developmental history. It consists of a 2-bayed chancel, a 4-bayed nave, a single-bayed vestry north of the chancel east bay, a 3-storeyed tower south of the chancel east bay, a long, 5-bayed south aisle, a south tower porch, and 2 further south porches at either end of the south aisle. An earlier chancel and south transept were formerly present. Construction is mainly in limestone rubble, but the tower belfry stage is in slate ashlar. The vestry is barrel-vaulted. The chancel east window may be fundamentally medieval, and there may be a re-used medieval door surround in the nave fabric. The tower porch has ?18th century openings and there is a blocked 18th century door and piscina in the vestry. Other openings, including the chancel arch, are mainly from 1887 and in yellow oolite, in neo-Gothic style, with polychrome outer arches. The chancel east wall, the north and west walls of the church, the vestry and the tower second stage have external render, probably from the earlier 20th century; the south walls have ribbon-pointing from the later 20th century and the interior is plastered except for the west end. Roofs are slated gables; the tower roof was not seen.
There are good 18th century monuments in the vestry.
The chancel east wall is fundamentally medieval when it formed the east wall of a former north transept (see Structural Development below). It is rendered externally. A stepped buttress at the south end of the wall may be the stump of the medieval chancel north wall; a similar buttress at the north end is from 1832. The 3-light east window has cusped ‘Geometric’ tracery in a 2-centred surround of yellow oolite, possible medieval (Parkinson, 1980) but restored in 1832 and in 1887 when the drip-mould, on stiff-leaf stops, was added. The side walls leans in markedly. The north wall is pierced, in the east bay, by a doorway into the vestry, with a chamfered 2-centred surround and hood-mould like the east window, all from 1887; to the east is a small, square 20th century (internal) aumbry. The west bay features a 2-light window with a polychrome outer arch in squared limestone and oolite, cusped openings with a central quatrefoil, and a drip-mould like the east window, all from 1887. The south wall features a large piscina from 1887, in a 2-centred recess, and a doorway opposite, and similar to, the vestry door, also from 1887. A full-height vertical rebate in the wall marks the site of an earlier chancel arch, from 1832, to the west of which is a full-height, 2-centred arch into the south aisle, double-chamfered, with Acanthus-mouldings at springer level and a hood-mould like the east window. The present chancel arch is similar and also from 1887. The softwood ‘wagon-roof’ ceiling is from 1887 and has transverse frames lying on wall-plates, with pitch-pine matchboarding, from 1887. The sanctuary has a polychrome-tiled floors, while the passage floor is plain-tiled; both floors are from 1887. Suspended board floors, above voids, lie either side.
The nave was an addition of 1832. It is divided from the south aisle by a 4-bay arcade inserted in 1887; the 2-centred arches are double-chamfered, with hood-moulds like the east window, on cylindrical piers with plain abaci and tori. The nave is lit by 4 windows in the north wall like that in the chancel west bay and similarly from 1887. A heating-chamber was inserted beneath the east bay in 1887 and is entered through a doorway, below the easternmost window, with a 2-centred surround which may be re-used medieval work; in the angle with the chancel arch is a flue leading to a square chimney in limestone ashlar, also from 1887. The west wall is cross-buttressed at the north-west corner, with a similar buttress at the junction with the south aisle; the buttresses are from 1887 and simple, unstepped, in squared and coursed limestone rubble with basal offsets in chamfered oolite. The west window has a 2-centred opening partly from 1832 and in brick, rebuilt in 1887 and now with a surround and drip-mould like the north wall windows but with a central hexafoil. Internally, a blocked window, with a semicircular head from 1832, is visible at a higher level; it was blocked in 1887. A similar, contemporary blocked window lies on the junction with the later south aisle arcade by which it is partly obscured; beneath it a blocked doorway is also visible internally, with a wide, segmental-headed opening from 1832, later constricted into a 2-centred arch before being blocked in 1887. A thin fillet of wood runs horizontally across the internal face of the west wall at half-height, associated with the former west gallery?. The softwood nave roof is from 1887 and, externally, is a continuation of the chancel roof; the trusses and common rafters are scissors-braced, each alternate truss being arch-braced from wall-corbels also from 1887, and matchboarded above. The cross-passage is floored with, to the east, large oolite flags and small black ceramic tiles, in poor condition and possibly from 1832, while the central passage is limestone-flagged, from 1887, with gratings to underfloor heating flues and suspended board floors either side.
The vestry is medieval and was, apparently, a former chapel north of the north transept. A 2-centred recess representing the blocked medieval door from the chancel lies east of the present entry (see above). The east, gable wall is buttressed like the chancel east wall, from 1832, and pierced by a window like those in the nave, from 1887; to the south is a blocked doorway with a polychrome head, chamfered surround and drip-mould like the 1887 windows, partly blocked with breeze-blocks and formerly entered from the churchyard up a flight of 7 steps. The north wall features an external buttress from 1832 and a central recess with a segmental head, roll-moulded internally with ovolo-moulded imposts from the 18th century, possibly representing a blocked doorway; above it is offset a very depressed semicircular arch., possibly representing an earlier, medieval door. At the east end of the wall is a piscina with a bracket-mounted, 18th century gadrooned oolite bowl in a 2-centred recess. The west (gable) wall features an external string-course which is carried up as a triangular-headed drip-mould over a probable blocked opening visible externally; internally, the space is occupied by a disused fireplace with a black marble surround, from 1832, rebuilt in 1887. The vestry is barrel-vaulted, with a 2-centred, east-west vault without springers. The limestone-flagged floor is probably from 1832 and laid upon the substrate, but features a number of inhumations.
The 3-storey tower was formerly central but now occupies a position south of the chancel east bay, and was almost entirely rebuilt in 1832 and again in 1887. The ground floor east wall was inserted, as an outside wall, into a former arcade in 1832; it is pierced by a contemporary, single-light window with a 2-centred head and plain, 20th century glazing. The west wall arcade is still open but was rebuilt as a chamfer- and cavetto-moulded arch in 1832, largely in plaster and now in poor condition. The north and south walls both feature blocked, medieval doors; the northern doorway, which is 2-centred, was blocked in 1887, the southern, 4-centred doorway was blocked at a later date. The ground floor has a timber ceiling and is floored as the nave central passage. The second stage was entirely rebuilt in 1832 but is now rendered externally; there is a neo-Tudor, square-headed, 2-light window with a plain, square label in the south face above a circular recess for a former clock-face. A plain string-course, from 1832, divides the second stage from the belfry stage which was again entirely rebuilt in 1887, in slate ashlar. There is a solid, semi-octagonal turret at each corner, and each face is pierced by a 3-light opening, with geometric tracery, in a 2-centred surround of yellow oolite similarly from 1887. The contemporary crenellated parapet lies on a double string-course, the upper of which is offset and extends around the turrets.
Against the south face of the tower ground floor is a porch, in large, roughly squared and coursed limestone rubble, which was added before 1832, probably in the later 18th century being in ‘estate gothic’ style. The east and west (side) walls rise above the south wall as large, square ‘buttresses’, the western containing a spiral stair entered through a doorway with a 4-centred head. The thin, south wall has a basal external offset and a cavetto-moulded string-course towards the wall-top, at which level the side wall buttresses are stepped back. It is pierced by a plain, 4-centred doorway. The lean-to roof was contained within the side wall buttresses but is now represented only by a few very rotten joists.
The south aisle occupies the site of the medieval nave but was entirely rebuilt in 1832 in random limestone rubble. The south wall features a doorway at either end, both from 1887 with 2-centred oolite surrounds and drip-moulds on heraldic stops. It is pierced by 4 windows, the eastern 2 like those in the nave north wall, the western two being similar but single-light, all from 1887; a fifth, triangular light above the eastern doorway is contemporary, with a similar polychrome head, and is cusped as an octofoil. The west, gable wall features a window like that in the nave west wall, and a blocked window from 1832 again like that in the nave west wall. The aisle is roofed and floored as the nave, and the east bay is now a chapel.
The two south porches are both from 1887 and very similar. They are in roughly coursed limestone rubble with external basal offsets in chamfered oolite. The side walls have simple buttresses at their south ends. The entries are like the aisle south doors. The eastern porch features a plain, square stoop in the west wall, while the western porch side walls are pierced by a single-light window from 1887, similar to those in the aisle. The softwood roofs are from 1887 and lack trusses, all common rafters having scissors-braces and ashlar-posts. The floors are polychrome-tiled, laid directly on the substrate, from 1887.
There is neither an external drain nor a cutting. The nave east bay lies over a below-ground heating chamber and floors are suspended above heating ducts. There is no evidence for former floor levels. A chancel was formerly present east of the tower, and a former south transept lay beyond the present south walls. There are marked burials within the vestry. No external memorials lie significantly close to the church.
The church has an unusual plan and a complex developmental history. The medieval church was cruciform about a central tower (Parkinson, 1980), the lowest storey of which survives albeit in an altered form. The nave lay on the site of the present south aisle, and the chancel lay east of the tower, but the only other surviving medieval components are the core of the chancel, which was originally a north transept, and the vestry which, apparently, was originally a chapel at the end of the north transept.
St Michael was described in c.1810 as bearing ‘marks of great antiquity, and is of Norman architecture, cruciform with a stunted tower, the area of which opens by four arches into the nave, the chancel and the transepts, than which nothing can be more simple, having no tendency to ornament of any kind’ (Fenton, 1903, 204). However, it appears that the south transept had gone before 1832 (Parkinson, 1980) and had been replaced by the present tower porch, which appears to be 18th century Gothic in style (similar to much ‘estate’ church work from this period). The vestry/chapel piscina is also 18th century.
The church was almost entirely rebuilt, to the designs of the architect T. Rowlands (ibid.), in 1832 when its arrangements were radically altered; according to Lewis, writing in 1833, the church had been ‘nearly rebuilt from the ground, in the later style of English architecture’ (Lewis, 1833). The north transept became a single-bayed chancel, which communicated with the tower via a doorway that may have been retained. The nave was demolished, a new, wide, 5-bayed nave being constructed on the site of the present nave and south aisle with a low-pitched west gable wall pierced by 3 windows and a central doorway (NLW, Drawing Volumes 40, 39). The nave was entered through a doorway in the south wall of the west bay, with a porch that has now gone (NLW, SD/F/538). The upper stage(s) of the tower was demolished and rebuilt with a crenellated parapet on a corbel-table, single-light belfry openings and crocketed corner pinnacles (NLW, Drawing Volumes 40, 39). The chapel at the end of the north transept was retained and converted into a vestry, with the medieval doorway from the chancel, and the medieval north transept east wall window may have been retained to become the chancel east window (Parkinson, 1980). The church was lit by sash-windows which, with few exceptions, occupied the location of the present windows (ibid; NLW, SD/F/538.). A timber west gallery was present (NLW, SD/F/538).
In 1886-7 the church was restored to the designs of the architect E. H. Lingen Barker (ibid.). The work was of high impact. An arcade was inserted down the centre of the nave to create a south aisle and the low-pitched west was removed and replaced by the present double-gable; the central west wall window, and door, were blocked, while buttresses were added to the wall. The present chancel arch was built one bay west of the 1832 arch, limiting the new nave to 4 bays, and the medieval chancel side doorways were blocked, a new doorway into the vestry being inserted slightly to the west of the old. The two south aisle south porches were added with new doorways into the south aisle. The church was reroofed, refloored, refenestrated and replastered. A heating chamber was inserted beneath the nave east bay. Although not mentioned in the specifications for the work (ibid.), it is apparent that the tower belfry stage was entirely rebuilt in its present form, in slate ashlar, with the present openings.
The tower south door and porch doors were blocked at a later date.
The softwood altar table, the carved reredos and flanking panelled wainscot, the altar rail, the panelled deal stalls and reader’s desks, the wrought-iron, gothic chancel-screen, the cylindrical, moulded pulpit on 4 Purbeck marble shafts and the plain softwood pews are all from 1887. The softwood tower-screen may be contemporary. The large organ in the south aisle east bay is dated 1888, and was restored in 1958. The panelled oak, south aisle altar table is dated 1967 and the altar rail is probably contemporary.
The oolite font has a square, scalloped bowl, a cylindrical stem with cable-moulding, and a square base on a hexagonal plinth, and is probably from 1887.
There is 1 bell in the tower (Bartosch & Stokes, 1995).
The church was Grade II listed in 1998.
There is no evidence for the pre-conquest religious use of the site.
St Michael, Pembroke, was a parish church, of the medieval Deanery of Pembroke, during the post-conquest period (Rees, 1932). It was a possession of the Benedictine Priory of St Nicholas at Monkton, Pembroke, and the advowson was appendant to the Manor of Monkton (Green, 1913, 233). The church was established before the 1260s as the parish church of an originally extra-mural market suburb of the medieval borough of Pembroke (Hindle, 1979, 78; Ludlow, 1991, 28). It was assessed at £10 in 1291 (ibid.). Pembroke St Daniel (PRN 3279) was a chapel-of-ease to St Michael.
At the dissolution, St Michael fell to the crown, and with Pembroke St Mary was purchased by Lettice, Countess of Essex (Green, op. cit., 231). The vicarages of St Michael, St Mary and St Nicholas, Monkton (the former Monkton Priory) were united from 1770 until 1872, when St Michael and Monkton were separated from St Mary by Order of Council (Green, op. cit., 232). In 1833 the consolidated vicarage was rated in the king’s books at £9 (viz., £4 for St Michael and £5 for Monkton, St Mary being discharged) and in the gift of Sir John Owen (Lewis, 1833).
In 1998 St Michael, Pembroke, was a parish church. The living was a vicarage, held with Pembroke St Mary (Benefice 552), in the Archdeaconry of St Davids, Rural Deanery of Castlemartin (St Davids, 1997-8). Pembroke St Daniel is attached to the benefice as a chapel-of-ease to St Michael.
NLW, Ordnance Survey 1:2500, Second Edition, Pembs. Sheet XL.9.
Rees, W., 1932, South Wales and the Border in the XIVth century.
Haverfordwest Library, Prints and Pictures, Pembroke from the north by S & N Buck, 1740 (church from north-west).
NLW, Drawing Volumes 40, 39, 1835 (church from west).
Church in Wales Records
Bartosch & Stokes, 1995, Quinquennial Report, Pembroke St Michael.
St Davids, 1997-8, Diocesan Year Book.
NLW, SD/F/538, Faculty – Restoration of church, 1886.
NLW, SD/F/539, Faculty – Stained glass window, 1919.
Parish Records, Pembrokeshire Record Office, Haverfordwest
HPR/95 – Pembroke St Michael:-
HPR/95/9 – Vestry Minute Book, 1822-1849.
PEM/SE/15/2 – Vestry Minute Book, 1849-1910.
Parkinson, A. J., 1980, St Michael, Pembroke, plan and notes (in National Monuments Record, Aberystwyth)
Thomas, W. G., 1964, St Michael, Pembroke (in National Monuments Record, Aberystwyth)
Gordon Partnership, 1993, Redundant Religious Buildings in West Wales.
Cadw, 1981, Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (Pembroke and Pembroke Dock).
Fenton, R., 1903 edn., A Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire.
Green, F., 1913, ‘Pembrokeshire Parsons’, West Wales Historical Records Vol. III.
Hindle, B. P., 1979, ‘Medieval Pembroke’, The Pembrokeshire Historian No. 6.
Laws, E., 1909, ‘Monkton Priory’, Archaeol. Cambrensis Vol. IX, Sixth Series.
Lewis, S., 1833, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales.
Ludlow, N. D., 1991, ‘Pembroke Castle and Town Walls’, Fortress, Vol. 8.
RCAHM, 1925, Inventory: Pembrokeshire.
Salter, M., 1994, The Old Parish Churches of South West Wales.