(1456) The Parish Church of St. Hywyn

(1456) THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST. HYWYN (Fig. 40, Plates 10, I5, 16, 19) consists of two equal aisles separated by an arcade of five bays; the N. aisle formed the original nave and chancel. It is built of local rubble with gritstone dressings.


It was the principal parish church of Lleyn, and was no doubt
monastic in origin.1Its canons provided the boat in which Gruffydd ap Cynan escaped to Ireland from the Normans ca. 1094,2 and in their church they gave sanctuary to Gruffydd ap Rhys of Deheubarth against Gruffydd ap Cynan and Henry I in III5.3 They are termed secular in an agreement of 1252 with the canons regular of the abbey of Enlli (Bardsey. No. 1518) on sharing income from the neighbouring territory known as the abbacy. 4 Already constituted as a portionary church, it remained so until the Reformation. finally shared between abbey, rector and vicar. 5

The evolution of the structure seems to have been as follows, although the evidence is not conclusive as to details. The earliest part extended almost the full length of the existing N. aisle, and is represented by the lower walling on the W. and N., including- the present W. door and a blocked door on the N., both doorways being typical of the 12th century. There is no clear joint in the N. wall. but a little E. of the blocked doorway there is a change in the masonry accompanying a slight alteration in alignment. The original form of the E. end is unknown, but the comparatively short extension of the oldest portion eastwards is perhaps slightly in favour of an apsidal rather than a square end. In the 14th or 15th century the roof was raised, the bell-cote on the W. gable constructed, and the church lengthened. Later the S. aisle was added and the intervening wall replaced by an arcade; a date early in the 16th century seems probable, assuming that discrepancy in style between the E. and the S. windows can be attributed to different workshops. Repairs were to be made under the will of Ieuan Griffith ap John but were not specified. 6

During the 18th century the S.W. portion was used as a school. and early in the 19th century the building had fallen into such disrepair that in 1841 it was abandoned in favour of the new church (No. 1457). It was restored, however, in 1868.7 The roofs were renewed and re-slated, the windows repaired, and a thick layer of internal plaster was applied.

Architectural Description.-The N. Aisle (68 ft. by 19 ft.), originally the nave and chancel, is structurally undivided apart from two modern steps towards the E. end. 8 The 12th-century W. doorway (Plate 19) is round-headed with jambs and arch of three chamfered orders; the imposts are simply moulded, being slightly hollowed between upper and lower fillets rounded at the edge; the bases are hidden by the modern threshold. The stone is a yellow grit. also used in the quoins and the N. doorway, now blocked. Over the head of the W. door a modern hood-mould. has been inserted, and just above this runs a shallow offset which cannot be coeval with the doorway and may well represent a rebuild after a medieval settlement or collapse (Plate 10). The design of the bell-cote suggests that this rebuild took place in the 14th or 15th century, possibly at the same time as this aisle was lengthened. The bell-cote is a simple massive structure in line with the upper part of the gable; it terminates in a long straight ridge and contains one pointed bell-opening. It resembles that at Caerhun (supra, Vol. I, No. 90).

In the N. wall there is a blocked 12th-century doorway of which little more than the head is now visible externally as earth has accumulated against the base of the wall. It has a semi-circular chamfered arch springing from plain imposts; the rear-arch, also semi-circular, is formed of well-dressed voussoirs like those ofthe W. doorway and of the same yellow gritstone. Its internal threshold is now almost 2 ft. above the floor. The masonry of the N. wall is uneven, but there is a clear change at a level roughly the same as the offset
in the W. gable end. This difference is not clear to E. of the blocked doorway. ,In what seems to be the added work here is a blocked window slit. 9 The N.E. corner contains some quoin stones that are of the same yellow grit as the N. doorway but apparently re-used.

The E. window is of three trefoiled and ogee-headed lights with vertical tracery within a pointed two-centred head. The chamfered jambs are mostly original but the head and the tracery have been restored in later 5th-century style. 10 Above the hood-mould are the remains of a two-centred relieving arch, clearly intended for a narrower window than the present one. There is no evidcnce for dating that early window, but its presence shows that the extension of the church took place before the addition of the S. aisle in the 16th century. Its unusually low position may indicate that the gable has been heightened, but there is no other evidence for this.

The S. Aisle (69 ft. by 19 ft.) is clearly of one build, an addition probably of the early 16th century. The E. window is of five cinquefoiled and ogee-headed lights with vertical tracery within a two-centred head, plain chamfered jambs and a hood-mould. Its pointed arch matches that of the E. window of the older aisle on the N. ; in other respects it could be of the same date as the windows of very different design in the S. wall. Of these the first two windows from the E. are alike (Plate16), each of three uncusped pointed lights within a four-centred head with a deep continuous cavetto,
both internally and externally, under a horizontally stopped hood-mould. Their chamfered mullions have been crudely patched with cement. The third opening, now a window near the W. corner, has been restored upon the original jambs, moulded like those of the two windows to the E. but with extra refinement and only externally; they have been traced 2 ft. below ground without a sill being reached, but deep enough to show that they belonged to a doorway. It may have
served before the arcade was opened between the aisles; like the two windows, however, it seems nearly contemporary with the arcade, probably not older than the beginning of the 16th century. It is shown as a rectangular window in a drawing made before restoration.11 In the W. wall is a blocked window opening, apparently square, which may date from the former school here.

The arcade of five bays (Plate 15), which replaces the S. wall of the original church, has four-centred arches of two moulded orders with a central ogee fillet. The octagonal piers and semi-octagonal responds have plain faces but moulded caps and bases which project boldly and are very well cut. lt is probably of the early 16th century, having been opened at the same time as the S. aisle was added.

The roof of the N. aisle appears to be almost entirely modern,  although it may reproduce the original type of plain archbraced truss. That over the S. aisle, though heavily restored, contains much of the original 16th-century material. It is of six bays with seven trusses, the first and last being set about 3 ft. from the end walls. All the trusses are of single hammerbeam type, their chamfered braces forming a four-centred arch at the soffit; the third from the W. has two window-like openings in the space between brace, principal and bracket, the others a slightly cusped opening; in all trusses the raking struts are cusped to form a quatrefoil between trefoils.

Fittings.-Books: for registers see p. cxxi. Font: a plain octagonal gritstone bowl and pedestal; the base is moulded; 2 ft. 11 ins. high, 2 ft. wide at lip; 15th- or 16th-century.
Plate: V-shaped silver goblet; height 6 ins.; London dateletter 1815; maker’s mark PB/AB in square shield. This presumably replaced the chalice inscribed ‘1574’ mentioned in terriers of 1776 and 1808. Stoup: lying loose, a plain stone bowl, medieval, on modern support.
Miscellaneous: fragment of stone tracery, not from any existing window; 15th-century.
For general accounts see Arch. Camb., 1849, pp. 27-32;
Trans. Caerns. Hist. Soc., XI (1950), pp. 5-35 (W. J. Elliss).

SH 17322637                                     7 VI 59                                                 43 S.E.

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