Llanrhidian Church of St Rhidian and St Illtyd

Has been described as a Questionable Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are major building remains

NameLlanrhidian Church of St Rhidian and St Illtyd
Alternative Names
Historic CountryGlamorgan
Modern AuthoritySwansea
1974 AuthorityWest Glamorgan

A church at Llanrhidian was thought to have been first established by St Rhidian in the 6th century, the church was later dedicated to St Illtyd. The church was granted by William de Turberville in about 1167 to the Knights Hospitallers of St John, by whom the present building was probably begun in the 13th century. In 1400 its chancel was described as ruinous, and the present chancel and the tower were perhaps added in the 14th century. The unusual massiveness of the tower (it includes at its top a base for a beacon fire) suggests construction at a time of serious defensive needs. The chancel has an inclination to the north. Its two south windows have trefoil heads, but the east window has simple Perpendicular tracery. By c1854 the church was in poor condition, and plans were drawn up to rebuild the nave and chancel, the tower alone being considered sound. There were difficulties in affording all that was necessary, and following demolition of the nave the decision was made in 1855 to retain the old chancel. In 1858 the church was re-opened by the Bishop of St Davids. A further restoration was carried out in 1899-1901, concentrating on the chancel. A new oak roof was constructed in the chancel, copying an earlier one; a new chancel floor was laid and a carved altar and other fittings were installed, including carved bosses added to the nave roof. An ancient stone known as the Leper Stone discovered near the tower was brought into the porch in c1865. (Coflein–ref. Cadw listed buildings database.)

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. This church, and a number of others in Gower, were controlled by the Knights Hospitaller, a military monastic order for whom martial symbols of God's dominion would have had particular resonance.

- 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 ReferenceSS496922
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  • Harrison, Peter, 2004, Castles of God (Woodbridge; Boydell Press) p. 81


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