Celebrating the Completion of Important Heritage Project at St Michael’s Medieval Church, Ceredigion
In May 2019 the Royal Commission wrote a letter of support for the Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn Church and Community Group in their application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a grant towards repairs and improvements to the Church of St Michael, Ceredigion. Fast forward 4 years and we were delighted to attend the celebratory event to mark the completion of work and thank the organisations which provided funding and support for the project.
With a grant of £187,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, together with additional funding from the National Churches Trust, Ceredigion County Council, the Wolfson Foundation, the Headley Trust, the Church in Wales and the local community, repairs to the church have addressed serious problems of damp by stopping water leaking through the tower into the church and by replacing the existing heating system. Access has also been improved by installing stairs to provide safe public access in the form of ‘Tower Tours’ up the medieval tower to the belfry. A new history area has also been created in the south transept where interpretation and exhibits are on display.
Extensive repairs to the tower floors were needed to ensure they were able to take the weight of the new stair. The ends of some of the 500-year-old floor beams had started to rot where embedded in the walls of the tower. These sections were cut out and replaced with new oak sections before new oak floorboards were laid (Credit: Louise Barker).
The Royal Commission has worked closely with the community group during the project. We undertook a laser scan survey of the church tower prior to work commencing which helped inform the design of the new tower stairs. Working with the Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory we also undertook tree-ring dating of the church roof, tower floors and bell-frame. We now know that one of the first sustained refurbishment projects was undertaken in the early decades of the AD 1500s when the church roof was upgraded and the tower refitted. Using oaks felled between 1502 and 1538, fashionable and expensive wagon roofs were installed by craftsmen in the nave and transepts, and three new floors were fitted in the church tower. At the top of the tower, a bell-frame to hold three bells was installed in 1537-8. Such an ambitious programme of work illustrates the prosperity of Llanfihangel parish, despite the period of instability leading up to the Reformation.
Speaking at the event and also unveiling a commemoratative plaque was Elin Jones, the Assembly Member for Ceredigion and Presiding Officer at the Welsh Senedd, who said:
“It is wonderful to see the work that has been done at this church and the way that the community have, with the support of organisations and skilled craftsmen, restored the church as a place of worship and centre piece of the community’s cultural heritage, at the same time as promoting it as a heritage visitor attraction. The sensitive revitalisation of ancient buildings is a valuable part of sustainable development and a sign of a vibrant community – in touch with and proud of its heritage, but looking forwards with an enterprising spirit.”
The church is now open to visitors. Services are held regularly, and it is open every weekend throughout the year and on weekdays between Easter and the end of October. Tower Tours will be available later this summer. For more information, please visit https://eglwysllanfihangel.church/
Louise Barker, Senior Investigator (Archaeology)