The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological
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ST MELLON'S CHURCH AT ST MELLONS
Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 01272s Trust : Glamorgan Gwent Community : Old St Mellons Unitary authority : Cardiff NGR : ST2283581404 Site Type (preferred type first) : Medieval Church Status : listed building I
Summary : St Mellon's church first appears in the documentary sources in 1254. It consists of nave, separate chancel with chapel, S tower, short S aisle, S porch, and rood stair. The medieval building history is complex, with most of the surviving detail being Decorated and Perpendicular. Restorations took place in 1859, 1875 and 1910.
Description : St Mellon's church first appears in the documentary sources in 1254 (Brook 1988, 84). The churchyard, which is now of amorphous extent and irregular though partly curvilinear shape, is shown on the tithe map of 1846 as polygonal and covering a larger area (GwRO D 917.9). The socket stone and shaft of the churchyard cross survive, but as the steps do not, it is unlikely to be in its original position. During excavations carried out in advance of development on the parcel of land to the S of the present boundary of the churchyard, a number of burials of disarticulated human bone were discovered. It is likely that these represent reburial of remains found during the course of grave digging.
The church consists of nave, separate chancel, tower in the middle of the S side of the nave, S aisle extending from the tower to part way along the chancel, transeptal chapel to the N of the chancel, S porch immediately W of the tower, and rood stair against the N side of the nave. The interior of the porch was not accessible at the time of the field visit. The church is constructed in a mixture of Old Red Sandstone, fine-grained limestone and small river boulders; much of the sequence appears to be obscured by patching and refacing, but it is possible to distinguish from the masonry technique two phases in the construction of the tower. Most of the dressings are in a pale grey fine-grained limestone, but a grey sandstone is used for the chancel arch and the arch between the nave and the chapel.
The construction history of the building is extremely complex and it is not possible to elucidate it fully from the evidence now available. During repair works in the mid 19th century fragments of a Norman pier were found reused in the base of the font (Freeman 1959, 267), but none of the standing structure can certainly be shown to belong to this period, except possibly the rear arch to the S window in the chancel. The internal batter of the N wall of the nave and the S wall of the S aisle also suggest a relatively early date, though the latter is clearly later than the lower part of the tower. The tower itself appears to have been constructed in two phases, and there is a further complication in that its N wall is of double width (Freeman 1857, 264, 269). In its original form it seems to have been a relatively low tower porch; what its relationship was with the blocked doorway in the S wall of the nave cannot be determined, but it is possible that it may have replaced it. The two tower arches are of later 13th century/early 14th century type, but since one of these opens to the N aisle, it should be secondary. Of similar type is the arch between the chancel and the chapel, and these arches are broadly contemporary with the 14th century windows in the W wall of the nave, the E walls of the chancel and S aisle, and the S wall of the chancel. The chancel arch and the flanking arch leading from the nave to the chapel are of unusual form, and are also dated by Newman (1995, 577) to the Decorated period, as is the niche in the E wall of the aisle. These arches make use of a grey sandstone not used elsewhere in the church (unless in the belfry, but this was not possible to ascertain), and is therefore unlikely to have been contemporary with the construction of the arch between the chancel and aisle which, although with similar mouldings, is constructed from limestone. It did however involve some modification to the arch to the chapel on the N side of the chancel, which was carefully reworked to fit on the capital of the new pier. On the S side, the chancel arch abuts the pier at the E end of the nave/aisle arcade. The capital of this pier, although very similar to that of the chancel arch (pace Freeman 1857, 268; he was probably mislead by the presence of a thick coat of limewash), has some differences in its profile and is also made of limestone. This capital, which does not have a match in the other respond of this arcade and abuts the capital of the chancel arch, may have been added when the arch between the chancel and aisle was put in, suggesting a possible sequence for the work.
The next group of group of alterations are all Perpendicular. These consist of the refenestration of the nave N and S walls, S aisle S wall and chapel N wall; the heightening of the tower; the replacement of the chancel arch and replacement or construction of arch between the nave and the chapel; the insertion of an arch between the chancel and the aisle. Whilst some of these may have taken place at the same time, some clearly did not; the porch must postdate the refenestration, since its W wall abuts the jamb of the SE window of the nave.
Very little work can definitely be attributed to after the Reformation, the main exception being the chapel where the E window has a sunk chamfer, dateable from about 1590 to the middle of the 17th century, and the N wall was largely reconstructed at some time in the 19th century with a new door and considerable renewal to the windows. The roofs were also renewed, though it is not known whether the early porch roof noted by Freeman (1857, 272) still survives. Restorations have been very sympathetic, starting with the work sponsored by Freeman in 1859; the chancel was restored in 1875 and the tower in 1910 (Bielski 1985, 15-6).
A summary of development up to the 19th century may be suggested as follows: 1. Nave with N and S doors, and chancel 2. Addition of tower 3. (Not all necessarily at the same time.) Addition of S aisle with arcade and E window (possibly an extension of an earlier transept), also renewal of arch between nave and tower and addition of a new arch between tower and aisle; addition of chapel 4. Insertion of new windows in chancel and W wall of nave 5. Insertion of arch between chancel and aisle 6. Insertion of new chancel arch and arch from nave to chapel 7. Insertion of new windows in nave, aisle and chapel 8. Addition of upper part of tower 9. Possible modifications to E pier of nave arcade 10. Construction of porch 11. Replacement of rood stair doors 12. Insertion of E window of chapel. Phases 7-11 did not necessarily take place in the suggested order.
There are a number of wall tablets from the end of the 18th century onwards, but the only monument recorded by Bradney was not apparent. The font is medieval, and some of the pre-Victorian seating in the form of settles with simplified poppy-head ends; Crossley and Ridgway (1959, 66) were not certain that these were medieval. Only some of these seats are early, the remainder being Victorian copies, presumably put in when the box pews noted by Glynne (1902, 110) were taken out. The other internal fittings are Victorian or later. Wright (1940b, 234) records six bells of 1913, four being facsimile recasts of bells of 1713.
Published and printed
Anon, 1869, Untitled account of field trip to St Mellons Church, Trans Cardiff Nats 2, 64 Anon, 1912, Report of 66th annual meeting at Cardiff, Archaeol Cambrensis 6 ser 13, 65-148 (84-5) Bielski, A, 1985, The story of St Mellons. Port Talbot Bradney, J A, 1993, A history of Monmouthshire. Vol V, The Hundred of Newport (ed M Grey), 91-2 Brook, D, 1988, The early Christian church in Gwent, Monmouthshire Antiq 5, 67-84 Coxe, W, 1801, An historical tour in Monmouthshire, 61 Crossley, F H, and Ridgway, M H, 1959, Screens, lofts and stalls situated in Wales and Monmouthshire. Part ten, Section XIII: Monmouthshire Archaeol Cambrensis 108, 14-71 (66) Evans, J D, 1988, The churchyard yews of Gwent, 162 Freeman, E A, 1850b, Architectural antiquities in Monmouthshire, Archaeol Cambrensis 3 ser 3, 265-74 Glynne, S R, 1902, Notes on the older churches in the four Welsh dioceses: Diocese of Llandaff. Monmouthshire Archaeol Cambrensis 6 ser 2, 81-114 (109-10) Green, C A H, 1906-7, Notes on churches in the diocese of Llandaff, 86-7 Newman, J, 1995, The buildings of Wales: Glamorgan, 567-8 Wright, A, 1940b, The church bells of Monmouthshire vi, Archaeol Cambrensis, 95, 229-42 (234)
Documentary and manuscript
GwRO D 917.9 1846 Tithe map D/Pa 138.40 1841-1956 ChurchwardensĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ accounts D/Pa 138.41 1948-1955 ChurchwardensĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ accounts D/Pa 138.43 1907 Citatory decree for new organ D/Pa 138.44 1907-26 Faculties for: new organ (1907); chancel screen (1917);stained glass window (1917); oak screen (1918); stained glass window (1919); doors, draught screen and book stand (1926) D/Pa 138.45 1951-64 Correspondence re building work and electrical fittings D/Pa 138.48 1953-58 Faculties etc, including archdeaconĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s certificate for electric lighting and heating, font cover, platform and stairs for lectern, organ, notice board, processional cross D/Pa 138.50 1982 Terrier and inventory D/Pa 138.51 1986 Report on fabric D/Pa 138.52 1920-54 PCC minutes D/Pa 138.55 1912 Plan of church tower re proposed restoration D/Pa 138.80 1867-76 Vestry minutes D/Pa 138.112 1920 Notes re history etc of church D/Pa 138.116 nd Leaflet on history and architecture of church