Saturday, 25 June 2016

St Stephen Old Radnor



Now I have visited this church before many years ago but as I am writhing this blog I thought it was worthy of a revisit. On my first visit I thought the church old but missed the significance of it all on my second visit my eyes were opened to the to it all and I was bowled over by what I missed the first time. So some history on the church, for a change I could find nothing in Wikipedia but had to turn to Britan Express for a great bit of research which I have used here.

St Stephen's is a 15th century Perpendicular Gothic church; the only church in Wales dedicated to this saint. Inside is a treasure trove of history, with the oldest organ in Britain, a superb 15th century screen, and a font dating to perhaps the 8th century.
History
There was certainly a church here before the Normans came, dedicated to Ystyffan, a 6th century member of the royal family of Powys. When the Normans conquered this part of Wales they mistakenly assumed that Ystyffan referred to Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr and a popular Norman dedication.
Control of Old Radnor passed from the princes of Powys to the Mortimer family of Herefordshire. One reminder of the Mortimer connection s a stone slab decorated with a floriated cross, set into the nave floor. This is thought to mark the grave of Hugh Mortimer, rector from 1257-1290.
A scalloped capital in the chancel arch suggests that there was a 12th century church here, but the present church is largely a product of the late 15th and early 16th century, with a pair of aisles flanking a nave, a chancel, west tower, and porch.
The church was burned during Owain Glyndwr's rebellion in 1401, and this destruction was probably the impetus for the rebuilding which gave us the current building. One curiosity is that there are several aumbries and piscinas throughout the church, suggesting that there may have been as many as 5 altars. That would mean that St Stephen's was much more than just a simple parish church, but had a very high status.
The most impressive interior feature is a 15th century carved screen separating the chancel and chapels from the aisle and nave. In the chancel stands the organ, with its beautifully crafted 16th century case, thought to be the oldest in Britain. No one knows exactly when it was made, but it is not stretching imagination too much to think that it was made before the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It is interesting to note that one of the great early organists, John Bull, was born in Old Radnor in 1563, and must have practised, or been taught to play on this very organ.
Also worthy of note is the huge font, which is definitely pre-Norman, and perhaps as early as the 8th century. There is 15th century stained glass depicting St Catherine, along with symbols associated with Edward IV; the black bull and white rose en soleil.
The nave roof is 16th century, with decorative bosses in the style of Tudor roses. Even earlier is the timber roof of the north aisle. Set into the aisle floor are 128 medieval glazed tiles, and there are more medieval tiles in the south aisle.
There are 16th century benches in the choir, and grave slabs dating from the 17th century are set into the chancel floor. In the south chapel is a marble 18th century monument to Lewis of Harpton. 


Before I start I will say this blog is a long one so cake & coffee are in order


Drive along the A44 towards Kington and before you come to Walton you will see St Stephen on the hillside.




The church tower can be seen for miles around











The main entrance is through this superb Lychgate






When you get in the churchyard you can see how high the belltower is















and even when walking round the North Side you get a good view of the church







The East end with a couple of headstones and on the right a view of the South side of St Stephen














Above the porch entrance you can see small alcoves with saints in them











The porch with it's door closed off





Looking back down to the Lychgate from the porch













and across the churchyard with the Radnor countryside in the distance














Above a yew tree frames the churchyard while on the left you look along the north side












I like this old pillared tomb which has ivy creeping on it













view across the south side of the churchyard













This was unusual for a vault with the small fence and headstone on the end












Going down the side of the hill brings its own problems as the footing is not that secure with humps and dips












This huge piece of rock is  a headstone wit inscription carved in the front













Above a few of the bluebells that were growing and on the left an another unusual tomb
















View up form the bottom of the churchyard











Climbing back you you see a few crosses














The a final look down














I have moved across the road next to the churchyard extension for Old Radnor which from the looks is getting full as well











This is were all the modern burials go  now

















There are a couple of war graves here One on the left is Private J Davies and the right David John Ellway of the South Wales
Borderers





Reverend Geoffrey Arthur Dymoke Armistead still watches over his flock because his headstone faces them all as though they were all still in his congregation

Colonel Nigel Bromage OBE

I thought the entrance in the porch looked very welcoming then realised it was for a wedding


The nave with lots of wedding decoration around and the perfume form the flowers was amazing



Here we look at the rood screen which I might add is 15th century and still looking stunning












I did try to stich the tree photos here together but it was not that good so I'm showing all three I took. See the guy over to the right he is restoring the rood screen using Beeswax







The South side












Here we go into the chancel , the lamp on the right is providing extra light for the two restorers working here

How about that for a chancel window then, all that intricate stained glass





Below is the altar













which as you can see has flowers either side










 





Looking back the other way towards the rood screen









and another looking back along the nave


So this is the organ which I might add is the oldest one in the UK still working dating back to 1540  and that was when Henry VIII was on the throne 

 Quite something to look at when you consider it's nearly 480 years old and looking as good as ever




On the left is the certificate saying it is the oldest organ and on the right a flower bedecked pulpit












and a quick view of the nave from the pulpit for you as well

A you expect from a church this age there are many memorials around










some of them are more detailed than others











The plaque here is dated 1675 though I cannot see it being that old looking at the engraving on it







The chancel walls is where a lot of the old memorials are though some are hard to read like the one on the right











Spotted this near the altar rails which looks like part of a tombstone












There is one over by the wall dated 1641, maybe I should have removed the chair ad desk out of the way go see more












At the back are these three memorials to the Lewis Family











above them are a couple of  Funerary Hatchments which are fading a bit with age but no dount connected to the Lewis Family








There is also another in the North Aisle


This is one of the memorials which I had to take at this angle to miss one of the light hanging down
is to Sir Thomas Frankland Lewis






The other two are quite impressive one is  to
Sir George Cornewall Lewis
 and the other to members of the same family












This memorial is faded with age and has staining on it from the iron pins in the pack holding it on the wall





Memorial to Cosmos Lewis Duff Gordon on the left and the right is Lady Maria Theresa Lewis who died at Oxford in 1863 and was married to Sir George Cornewall Lewis





This revivalist memorial is one which is in the chancel and I thought was superb




Memorial to Douglas Fredrick Duff Gordon









One thing I always try & find is the Roll of Honour and is done of a Oak Plaque


Reading down it you see the First & Second World Wars and then at the end one to Staff Sergeant PP Currass who unfortunately died in a helicopter crash in the Falklands and is buried there 


Underneath are four more names and I can only assume are from what is happening in the Middle East at the moment


 At the end of the South Aisle is a chapel behind the rood screen in memory of Lewis of Harpton.






He must have been very influential to have a window removed so his memorial could go in














On the base you can see the inscriptions















Above the figure of a woman holding a urn











which has some verse written around it











and at the top I can only think this large cameo is of the man himself


 I think this was the only other stained glass widow in the church and one witch looks very revivalist





Go though the curtains at the end of the North Aisle behind the altar you can see this recessed tomb




On top of which is this Easter Sepulchre
It is worth going in to look at the Stained glass widow which is Tudor and I think rather beautiful



Couple more interesting bit's. The two pictures on the left and the will on the right. A who was there asked if I knew any thing about the paintings thinking I was a bit of an expert. Admittedly I had seen it last time but no. She said they thought it came from another church that was demolished. The paintings need restoring and going in a museum really



One of the nice features in the church is this font, it's huge and dates from around the 8th century and has a bit of a local legend to it as well









I think it is one of the better ones I've seen





The rood scree in the South Aisle chapel after it was restored, looks great don't you think














Looking the other way from the chapel and the step below where you can see some original Tudor Tiles before the Victorian ones














The Tudor Organ with one of the oil lamps in the foreground and a view along the North Aisle













How many of you look up well in the case of this church you need to as some of the carvings up in the ceiling are superb











We are talking Tudor carvings here
















I glace up trying not to use flash and just turned it on to show the detail













The supports on the ends of the roof joists are carved as well




just a shame the detail did not come out as well but then I should have had a longer zoom than I had









This one is poking out it's tongue





The church was full of flowers for the wedding that had been held here so I will leave you with those












Looking down the aisle









 


Could not have put it better

Have a wonderful weekend





7 comments:

  1. i really enjoy the 1st shot, coming up the road, nice view. wonder what those purple blue flowers in the grave area are? i enjoy the decoration of flowers above the door. nice post. Happy Weekend! ( O : =

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  2. Bill, your churches keep on getting better and better! This one is special.

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  3. Great bell tower. Similar to mine today.

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  4. Bill, you always are showing some real gems.
    But it's beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Beautiful church. I like the buildings from this stone.
    Its architecture impresses.
    Greetings from Poland.
    Have a nice Sunday:)
    Lucja

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  5. Absolutely stunning! The architecture is impressive.
    Greetings from Ireland!

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  6. I, too, could spend a lot of time there. The details in the church are amazing, although the carving with tongue sticking out seems a bit less than 'holy'!! I love that the Reverend's grave faces the others.

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