St Michael’s, Bryngwyn


St Michael’s is said to be third highest in elevation in Wales, and due to its prominent position has excellent views of Clyro Hill and the Black Mountains and over the Begwyns to the Brecon Beacons. It is built in a circular churchyard. ‘Michael’ means ‘who is like God’ in Hebrew and in British mediaeval art is shown holding scales in which the souls of the departed are weighed.

In 1818 Jonathan Williams wrote in his ‘History of Radnorshire’: “Bryngwyn church consists of a nave, chancel, a low tower containing two small bells, and a porch. The east window consists of three lights, divided by stone mullions supporting trefoil arches. The space above, under the pointed arch of the window, is filled up in the same manner. In the southeast angle of the exterior wall of the chancel (the corner of the church nearest the gate, on the path side) is fixed a long stone, on the east side of which is sculpted a female figure and on the south side a male, without any inscription.”

The church is built on a 13th century foundation. The ‘double lancet’ on the south side of the chancel may be part of the original work. The window on the north side of the chancel is a 14th century work of unusual character, maybe the work of a local mason.

The upright stone in the chancel, moved from the churchyard south of the chancel in 1958, is said to be an Ogham stone – an ancient Christianised pagan stone with Ogham script.   It is ascribed to the 7th– 9th centuries.

The five windows of the nave are late 17th century, or later. Tradition preserves the memory of a narrower chancel arch than the present one (19th century), probably late Norman. There is an old piscine in the south wall of the chancel. The chancel roof, a fine arched-brace with two tiers of wind braces arranged as quatre-foils and a half row above & nave-tie roof beam, is of about the 1500s.

The large porch, characteristic of Border work, is old and retains the original oak roof.

The incised stone set upright in the porch is that of a priest. The Cross has Ogee terminals and a chalice, and a missal or book of the gospels is shown on either side of the shaft. It was taken from the sanctuary at the restoration; it once formed part of the Sedilia, probably the tombstone of a mediaeval priest.

A closed western turret contains two bells hung for ringing in a late mediaeval frame of the braced-centre-post type, and fitted with oak headstocks, drive-in type gudgeons, stirrup-topped clappers, nailed ironwork, and 16th century half-wheels. The smaller bell bears no inscription, but on the evidence of shape is one of the oldest existing in Wales, early 13th century. It has a round shoulder, a long straight waist, and a flat lip 2” thick. The strike note is approximately A-flat, diameter 19.75”, height from lip to crown 20.5”, canons 5.5”high and argent about 7” high. The larger bell is 24” in diameter, and is unfortunately cracked in the crown. It was cast by a founder whose initials were WG and dates from the middle of the 16th century.

The church was well restored in 1874/7. When it was being restored a Burgundian coin of 1384/1404 was found under the floor, probably dropped by one of the Earl of Warwick’s soldiers of Painscastle.

Parish records go back to 1615 AD, while the Church Plate is all dated 1876. There are three 17th century gravestones, extremely rare in Radnorshire, 1662 (in latin), 1685 and 1690.

The icon of St. Michael was given in memory of Malcom Jones, born on Michaelmas Day in 1949, who collapsed and died near Bryngwyn Church at the age of 33 while on holiday in Rhosgoch. The Altar is dated 1899, in memory of John Hughes Rector 1871-1899 & Marianne Elizabeth his wife; it was given by their children. Flower stands are in memory of Owen Merrick Lloyd the Harbour, and vases in memory of Stephen Joyce the Grug. The pedestal reading stand came from Clyro Court school, 1947-72.

(With Thanks to Adrian Chambers)

Who is St Michael?