Oystermouth Church of All Saints

Has been described as a Possible Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are major building remains

NameOystermouth Church of All Saints
Alternative Names
Historic CountryGlamorgan
Modern AuthoritySwansea
1974 AuthorityWest Glamorgan

Oystermouth church is first mentioned in a documentary reference in 1141 when Maurice de Londres received the income of the church. The church was restored in the Victorian period. It occupies a quadrangular churchyard terraced out from the hillside overlooking the sea about 0.5m from Oystermouth Castle. (Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust HER)

The church is first mentioned in 1141 and was probably built on the site of a Roman villa. The church was sketched by P J de Loutherbourg in 1800 and consisted of nave, chancel, W tower and a porch attached to it. According to Stephen Glynne, who visited in 1836, the windows were mostly Perpendicular. The nave had an E gallery from 1820 and a W gallery from 1835. Later in the C19 a N aisle and a new N porch were added, and in 1873 an organ chamber and vestry were added to the aisle by R K Penson. During this period the chancel arch was also altered. In 1915 the N aisle was demolished and a new church was erected by L W Barnard, architect of Cheltenham, in which the medieval nave is now the S aisle while the chancel became a new Lady Chapel.

The church is composed of an 'old church' on the S side, consisting of a W tower with a C19 porch on its N side, and a nave and a lower chancel that are now the S aisle and Lady Chapel. On the N side is the 'new church' of 1915, comprising nave and chancel under a single roof, a shallow N aisle and a low projection against the E end. The old church is of rubble stone with a renewed slate roof behind C19 coped gables. The Lady Chapel has 3 stepped lancets of the C13 but re-set in the C19. In the S wall is a C19 2-light window to the R under shouldered lintel and relieving arch. A doorway with 2-centred head and ribbed C19 door is L of centre, and at the L end is a lancet. The short E return wall of the S aisle has a single lancet. The S wall of the S aisle has windows of various dates. To the L of centre is a blocked medieval doorway under a 2-centred arch

To its L are two C19 2-light windows with geometrical tracery (one with a trefoil the other a quatrefoil in the head). To the R of the doorway is a late C13 or C14 cusped lancet, then a square-headed C16 window of 3 cusped lights with hood mould and label stops, and further R a C19 Perpendicular 3-light window with hood mould and foliage stops. The 2-stage tower is unbuttressed and has a shallow projecting turret offset to the R in the S wall and breaking through a string course between the stages. The S wall has stair lights in the turret, a clock below the parapet, a narrow window above the string course in the ringing chamber and a narrow belfry window with louvres. The W wall has a similar belfry window. The W window is 3 cusped lights under a square head, while the W door has a 2-centred head and C19 boarded door with strap hinges. An impost band continues around the S face. The N wall has a narrow opening above the porch and 2 simple belfry windows flanking a round black clock face above an engraved tablet commemorating the gift of the clock by Francis Tippins in 1875. The porch abuts the N side of the tower and has a 3-light W window with cusped heads, to the R of which is a projecting 2-stage turret, of which the upper stage turns polygonal under a pyramidal roof of stone slabs. The turret has a narrow doorway in the W wall, similar to the tower W doorway, and a small window above under a shouldered lintel. In the N wall is a lancet. The N wall of the porch has a doorway under a lancet arch and a hood mould with large head stops. Double doors have scrolled strap hinges. The 'new church' is in Perpendicular style, of snecked, rock-faced stone with lighter Bath stone dressings, and a slate roof behind coped gables. The nave and chancel have eaves cornices incorporating 4-leaf flowers interspersed with grotesque heads. Three clerestorey windows each have 4 cusped lights. The E end has a parapet to the gable with a big 9-light window. Below it is a projecting vestry, its roof hidden behind a plain parapet. It has 3 mullioned windows in the E wall, a similar window and arched doorway with ribbed door in the S wall. The vestry also projects on the N side of the chancel, where there is a similar doorway with ribbed door, but flanked by 1-light windows all under a single hood mould. On the N side are stone steps to a crypt below the N transept. The N and S walls of the chancel both have shallow set-back corbelled shafts and a single 3-light transomed window. The transept has a 3-light N window above a 3-light square-headed crypt window, both with hood moulds. The embattled N aisle has oversized gargoyles. At the L end is a 2-centred moulded doorway with ribbed door and hood mould, flanked by cusped lancets. Further R are two 4-light windows. The W wall of the nave has a set-back N buttress with gablet. Above the apex of the W window is an attached shaft standing on a corbel, as if intended to be carried up as a pinnacle but cut off by the moulded coping of the parapet. The W window is 5 stepped lancets, and L of the porch is a square-headed 3-light window with hood mould. The aisle has a 2-light geometrical W window. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Towered church suggested as defensive by Harrison. Part of a group of Gower churches that Harrison suggests where fortified against the welsh but what protection such churches had was likely to be against pirate raids and it is arguable if such protection can be considered as 'defensive' or 'fortification'. It should also be noted it was standard for all churches to use martial symbols like battlements to represent God's dominion on earth and that church towers are structure which have to hold heavy, moving and vibrating bells and which need to be strongly built for this reason, particularly in places, like much of Wales, where mortar is of poor quality.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic Wales CADW listed database record number
The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSS616880
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  • Harrison, Peter, 2004, Castles of God (Woodbridge; Boydell Press) p. 82
  • Newman, J., 1995, Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan (Yale University Press) p. 483-4


  • Harrison, Peter, 1995, 'The tower churches of Gower' Gower Vol. 46 p. 15-23 online copy