ST THOMAS, HAVERFORDWEST, PEMBROKESHIRE (PRESELI)
Dyfed PRN 3327
RB No. 3265
NGR SM 9537 1539
Listed Building No. 12038
Grade B listed (1998)
Medieval church; 20% pre-19th century core fabric.
A 5-cell church, medium-large sized. Consists of west tower, 3 storeys, medieval. Chancel, 2 bays; nave, 7 bays (formerly 5 bays), earlier 19th century?; North porch, 1853-4. North aisle, 5 bays; vestry (north of chancel), 1 bay; 1880-81. External heating chamber, early 20th century?. Former west porch, earlier 19th century?. Construction is of limestone rubble. Internal walls rendered/plastered. Slated gable roofs; north aisle roof is a slated lean-to with gablets; west tower roof not seen. Medieval tower with medieval arch, vault, spiral stair turret, incised rood-stone and rebuilt door; medieval crenellations and corbel table; all tower openings medieval, rebuilt to a greater or lesser degree. Tower buttresses, later 17th century?. All other openings and detail, 1853-4, or 1880-81, and include the chancel arch (1880-1), the north aisle arcade and vestry arches (1880-81), windows and doors.
(Recess in nave south wall, 1853-4, contains 14th century memorial, not in situ).
Roofs and floors: 1853-1881. Finishes: 1853-1881.
Condition – good.
Archaeological potential – very good. External platform beneath ?50% of church. External cutting around 40% of church, primary; no evidence for floor level changes; suspended floors and underfloor void; external heating chamber beyond 15% of church; no internal crypt/vault evident; good evidence for former component beyond 5% of church; memorials significantly close to 80% of church.
Structural value (pre 19th century) – fair. Largely rebuilt in 19th century, 20% pre-19th century core fabric; medieval tower with vault, arch, and stair turret, openings, parapet and rood-stone; memorial slab, not in situ.
Group value – high. Landmark church with medieval tower; hilltop location, within medieval borough; urban amenity value.
(Phase 1 – Nave and chancel?, medieval.)
Phase 2 – West tower, c.1500.
(Phase 3 – Rebuilt/restored 1683?; tower buttresses built?)
Phase 4 – Chancel and nave (and former west porch?), early 19th century?
Phase 5 – Restored 1853-4, high impact; north porch and vestry built.
Phase 6 – North aisle, vestry/organ chamber, 1880-81.
The present church
St Thomas, Haverfordwest, is a 5-celled church, of medium-large size. It retains approximately 20% pre-19th century core fabric, largely confined to the west tower.
The present church consists of a 2-bayed chancel, a wider, long 7-bayed nave, a transeptal vestry/organ chamber north of the chancel west bay, a 5-bayed north aisle, a 3-storey west tower, and a north porch. There also is a below ground heating chamber north of the chancel west bay. The church is remarkable for its length.
Construction is in medium-sized limestone rubble, unsquared and uncoursed; good mortar pointing, 1853-4, and 1880-81; rendered/plastered within. Roofs are mainly slated gables, the nave always roofed at a higher level; the north aisle roof in a lean-to with 3 transeptal gablets. The west tower roof was not seen.
The chancel east window is of 3-lights, neo-gothic and traceried, in a 2-centred oolite surround, inserted 1853-4. There is a similar 2-light window in the east bay north and south wall which were probably inserted with entirely new openings. There 2-centred oolite arch in the west bay north wall, leading into the vestry/organ chamber, rebuilt from an earlier arch in 1880-81; in the opposite (south) wall is a doorway with a 2-centred surround, inserted in 1853-4. The 2-centred, moulded oolite chancel arch was inserted in place of an earlier arch in 1880-81. The softwood roof is from 1853-4; the tile floor was relaid in 1880-81 retaining the stalls from the earlier restoration.
The long nave was of 5 bays until 1880-81, when the insertion of the north wall arcade, of five 2-centred arches on cylindrical oolite piers, altered the spatial division to 7 bays. The thicker south wall in the eastern 2 bays may be a medieval survival; however, there is no real evidence for this, and it is more likely that the wall was constructed with the present apsidal recess in 1853-4, in order to accommodate the 14th century monumental slab that had apparently been found under the pavement floor in the east end of the church (RCAHM, 1925, 113). The window east of the recess is like the chancel east window; three more in the south wall, and one in the north wall are like the chancel side wall windows and all were inserted in 1853-4. There may always have been an entry in the nave north wall, but the present doorway with its 2-centred surround is from 1853-4. The softwood roof and wall corbels are from 1853-4, rebuilt in 1880-1 above the north wall arcade. The softwood seating, suspended floor and tiled passages are all 1880-81.
The north porch was new built in 1853-4. It has low, side wall buttresses, a single light in each side wall and a moulded 2-centred door surround. The softwood roof and tiled floor are contemporary.
The present transeptal vestry/organ chamber was enlarged from a smaller vestry in 1880-81; its 2 light, traceried north wall window in a 2-centred surround is from 1880-81, but replicating the style of the 1853-4 windows. The softwood gable roof, suspended board floor, the fireplace with a plain oolite chimney at the north-east corner, and the coped north wall corner buttresses, are all contemporary. the screen into the chancel is from 1880-81.
The vestry/organ chamber opens via a 2-centred oolite arch into the north aisle, with a louvered partition, added to the church in 1880-81 between the existing north porch and the vestry. Two of its 5 bays are gablets in an otherwise lean-to roof, with 3-light traceried windows also replicating the style of the 1853-4 windows. The aisle was roofed and floored, similarly following the earlier pattern.
The 3-storeyed west tower is from c.1500. It is not typical of the region, being, in the words of Freeman, ‘a cross between a Pembrokeshire steeple (sic) and one of ordinary Perpendicular character’ (Freeman, 1852, 171). It has good ashlar quoins, and is tapered throughout but lacks the basal batter and string-course typical of the towers of c.1500 in the region. The spiral stair turret projecting from the north-east corner is polygonal and finished with a coped vault at parapet level; it retains some of its slit-lights unaltered, with their unusual, internally trefoiled heads. There is an external string course at the junction of the ground and second storeys, and shallow, gableted angle buttresses on the west wall of the ground floor; the latter have traditionally been thought to be original features but their ashlar construction, and stylistic aspects, suggest a later date – 17th century? (see below). The ground floor is vaulted with a 2-centred barrel-vault of c.1500 and is floored as the nave (see below). It is entered from the nave through a full-width plain 2-centred arch, c.1500, and from the exterior through a 2-centred west door rebuilt, with an oolite surround, in 1853-4; the 2-light window above is an 1853-4 rebuild of an original Perpendicular window (Freeman, 1852, 171). The remainder of the openings are similarly rebuilds of originals from c.1500, and include single cusped lights in the second stage, and large, 2-light louvered openings into the belfry, with quatrefoil pierced spandrels; their oolite surrounds are, in the main, original (Freeman, 1852, 171). The west wall of the second storey features an external, incised oolite rood-stone with a weathered crucifix and 2 figures (Mary and Martha?), also c.1500. The crenellated parapet lies on a corbel table more typical of the region.
An earthwork platform lies beneath the church, evident particularly to the east and south; primary?. A shallow-medium depth earth-cut cutting runs alone the west wall, and most of the north and south walls; predominantly primary, ie. cut through yard build-up, it contains no drain. There is no evidence for floor level changes. Suspended floors are present, with an underfloor void. There is an external below-ground heating chamber north of the chancel; no internal crypt/vault is evident. There is good evidence for a former component beyond the present church (west porch). Many memorials lie significantly close to the church, particularly to the north and east.
Little can be reconstructed of the pre-19th century church. The tower was constructed c.1500, and includes a west door; the church may always also have featured a north door as at present. The chancel and nave appear to have been largely (re)built during the post-medieval period, but one source maintains that the chancel has ‘old masonry’ (Salter, 1984, 55). Chancel and nave may be the product of successive rebuilds, but physically they appear homogeneous and may, in their present form, belong to the earlier 19th century, and probably much rebuilt in the restoration of 1853-4; Samuel Lewis, writing in 1833, mentions the medieval origins of the church, but of the main body of the building states that ‘nothing in its style of architecture corroborates that testimony’ (Lewis, 1833). The north aisle, north porch and vestry/organ chamber are all later 19th century.
In 1683 £10 was bequeathed to the church in the will of the then patron, Sir Herbert Perrott (Barnwell, 1866, 510), ‘towards the further rebuilding of the parish church…that will truely goe on certainly with the same’ (he also requested that a pew be built near the pulpit for his heirs). The implication is that some degree of rebuilding had previously been undertaken, and that it might have been extensive considering the (then) considerable sum bequeathed; the rebuild may provide a context for the west tower angle buttresses. According to Archdeacon Yardley of Cardigan, writing in 1739, ‘No Ancient Grave Stones in the Church…dedicated to St Ths. a Becket & has a high Tower with 2 bells in it & a Body and Nave’ (Anon., 1900, 69).
The tithe map of 1839 (NLW, Haverfordwest St Thomas, 1839) shows just the chancel, nave and west tower, and a west porch appears to be shown against the tower (see below). The church was described at some length in 1847 (Glynne, 1885, 209-10), as ‘an uninteresting church, much modernised’. The description is confined mainly to the west tower, described as ‘the only portion that retains its original character’, but it seems that the chancel and nave were as in the present church. Their windows were all ‘modern’ (sashes?), and they had coved ceilings. The chancel arch was a plain 2-centred arch that may or may not have been medieval; it has been rebuilt. The altar rails enclosed the entire chancel, the pulpit was central and the font was ‘modern’ and also central. The west porch apparently shown on the tithe map was still present, and the west door had a depressed 2-centred arch; it has since been rebuilt. The window above the west door was ‘mutilated.
The church was restored in 1853-4 (Anon. 1856, 282). The restoration was medium-high impact, much of the walling possibly having been rebuilt or at least refaced. The plan accompanying the Faculty submission for the 1880 enlargement (NLW, SD/F/193) depicts the church after the 1853-4 restoration. The chancel and nave had been refenestrated with their present 2-light, neo-gothic windows; the nave was divided into 5 bays, with 3 windows in the north wall one of which survives west of the porch. The west porch had gone. Instead the present north porch had been added, and a small vestry north of the chancel west bay; a doorway had been inserted in the opposite, south wall. The church was presumably re-roofed, with the present softwood roofs on wall-corbels, and tabling. It was also refloored, largely with the present tile, and suspended floors, but the chancel black-&-white floor tiling mentioned in the Faculty may already have been present; the chancel was later refloored. Replastering was also presumably undertaken. The chancel fittings had been altered to reflect the arrangements now present, as had the nave seating and pulpit.
The church was enlarged in 1880, when the north aisle was added and the present vestry/organ chamber built (NLW, SD/F/193). The specifications were drawn up by E. H. Lingen Barker, and the work cost £580. It was proposed that the north side of the churchyard where the yard build-up is deep, and an area immediately south of the church, were to be levelled preparatory to the work, but this was not done. The bulk of the nave north wall, and the vestry, were demolished. The chancel arch was rebuilt into its present form. The church was presumably again replastered. The chancel was refloored with the present tile floor, but without altering the stalls, the font was moved to its present position, and the pulpit was lowered; all other internal arrangements were unchanged.
There has been some further work. A large heating chamber lies externally, between the chancel east bay north wall and the vestry east wall. It is entirely below ground, with a flat roof at yard surface level, and reached by an external flight of steps. The flue from heating apparatus was presumably ducted into the vestry chimney. The chamber was probably added at the beginning of the 20th century.
The font is 19th century (pre-1847, see above)
The monumental slab in the nave south wall recess is of 14th century date (Anon., 1856, 282; RCAHM, 1925, 113). It bears a floriated cross, and a possible head in relief; the inscription reads ‘+ : RICARD : LE PAVMER : GIT : ICI : DEV : DE SAALME ET MERCI : +’. It displays signs of ‘interference’ (ibid.).
The church was Grade B listed in 1998.
There no evidence for any pre-conquest religious use of the site.
St Thomas, Haverfordwest, was a parish church in the post-conquest period (Rees, 1932), of the medieval Deanery of Rhos. It was probably the last of the three Haverfordwest churches to be established, lying outside and to the south of the (?)defended area and serving an apparent extra-mural suburb (Soulsby, 1983, 140-41).
However, the church may pre-date the suburb, having been granted to Haverfordwest Priory, by Robert FitzRichard (FitzTancard) of Haverfordwest (Green, 1912, 196), in around 1200. It was not subject to a separate valuation in the ‘Taxatio’ of 1291, but in 1536 it was assessed, along with Haroldston St Issells, at £11 (ibid.).
At the dissolution, Haverfordwest Priory and its appurtenances fell to the king, including the patronage of Haverfordwest St Thomas. However, in c.1553 the parsonages of Haverfordwest St Thomas and Haroldston St Issells were in the hands of one Thomas Jones (Barnwell, 1865, 121); the link with Haroldston St Issells has continued into the 1990s.
The benefice, with ‘certain tenements’ was made a rectory presentation by a royal grant of 1640 (Green, 1912, 196), the church to be taxed at £5 yearly value and the presentation to be in the personal donation of the king. However, the advowson appears, at some period, to have been purchased by the Perrotts of Haroldston, and in 1683 £10 was bequeathed to the church in the will of the then patron, Sir Herbert Perrott towards its rebuilding (Barnwell, 1866, 510).
By 1786, as a discharged rectory of the Archdeaconry of St Davids, it was again in royal patronage and with an annual value of £50 (ibid.), a situation unchanged in 1833 (Lewis, 1833).
In 1998 St Thomas, Haverfordwest, was a parish church. The living was a rectory held with Haverfordwest St Mary and Haroldston St Issells (Benefice 648) in the Archdeaconry of St Davids, Rural Deanery of Roose (St Davids, 1997-8).
The Thomas in the dedication is traditionally equated with St Thomas á Becket.
NLW, Ordnance Survey 1:2500, Second Edition, Sheet XXVII.8, 1907.
NLW, Parish of Haverfordwest St Thomas, Tithe Map, 1839.
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/192 – Faculty, not rebuilding cottages, 1875.
NLW, SD/F/193 – Faculty, altering and enlarging church, 1880.
NLW, SD/F/194 – Faculty, installing electric light, 1930.
Parish Records, Pembrokeshire Record Office, Haverfordwest
HPR/83 – Haverfordwest St Thomas:-
HPR/83/25 – Churchwardens’ Accounts, 1916-47.
HPR/83/26 – Vestry Minute Book, 1864-1945.
Gordon Partnership, 1993, Redundant Religious Buildings in West Wales.
Anon., 1856, ‘Miscellanea’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. VII, Second Series.
Anon., 1864, ‘Haverfordwest Meeting’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. X, Third Series.
Anon., 1898, ‘Haverfordwest Meeting’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. XV, Fifth Series.
Anon., 1900, ‘Notes & Queries’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. XVII, Fifth Series.
Barnwell, E. L., 1866, ‘Notes on the History of the Perrott Family: Part II’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. XII, Third 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 edn., A Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire.
Freeman, E. A., 1852, ‘Architectural Antiquities of South Pembrokeshire’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. III, Second Series.
Glynne, S. R., 1885, ‘Notes on the Older Churches in the Four Welsh Dioceses’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. II, Fifth Series.
Green, F., 1912, ‘Pembrokeshire Parsons’, West Wales Historical Records Vol. II.
Phillips, J., 1898, ‘Haverfordwest’, Archaeol. Cambrensis, Vol. XV, Fifth Series.
Lewis, S., 1833, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales.
RCAHM, 1925, Inventory: Pembrokeshire.
Salter, M., 1994, The Old Parish Churches of South West Wales.
Soulsby, I., 1983, The Towns of Medieval Wales.
Welsh Office, 1974, Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (Haverfordwest).