Penrice Church of St Andrew

Has been described as a Questionable Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are major building remains

NamePenrice Church of St Andrew
Alternative Names
Historic CountryGlamorgan
Modern AuthoritySwansea
1974 AuthorityWest Glamorgan

Medieval & later parish church, first mentioned 1230: cruciform in plan, comprising nave, chancel & W tower, with S porch & N trancept; the round-headed, presumably Norman, chancel arch is treated with stucco in a 17th C. style, in keeping with alterations to the chancel. (Coflein–ref. Glynne)

The church was donated by one of the Penrice family to the Knights Hospitallers' Commandery at Slebech in the late C12. It was later appropriated to the Hospital of St David at Swansea, the endowments of which were confiscated and re-granted under Edward VI. The simple Norman chancel arch indicates a date of the early C12 for the nave and chancel. Massive oak timbers of an early Gothic doorway, perhaps C13, survive and are in use as the frame of the south door of the nave, built into a later archway. To the original nave and chancel were added a west tower, a north transept and a south porch, giving the church the semblance of a cruciform plan. The transept and the porch are probably contemporary. The porch, which is unusually large, is entered by a depressed Gothic outer arch featuring a boldly cut Early English moulding, probably C13. Large plain buttresses were added later to the south wall of the porch. The north transept appears to have had a crypt, and probably contained a private chapel of the Penrice and Mansel families. A mark in the chancel-arch wall above the pulpit outlines a former access opening to the rood. In 1836 Glynne noted a low side window in the chancel, and blocked arched masonry at the south side is perhaps a vestige of this. In the C17 the porch is thought to have been used as a school. The arches from the nave to the transept and porch appear to have been enlarged since 1850, when they were described by Freeman as 'very low'. Other C19 restorations include the rebuilding of the chancel and the insertion of the north transept window. The church was described in 1886 as 'newly rebuilt'

The church was thoroughly restored in 1893-4 at the expense of Miss Emily Talbot of Penrice Castle. A gallery was removed, the roof renewed, four large windows inserted in the nave (similar to one which had been inserted in Oxwich church in 1891), a new door inserted in the nave south doorway, and the interior refloored and re-pewed. The nave was divided by a step and a low wall to create a choir in front of the chancel arch. The restoration was directed by F W Waller, Gloucester Dioscesan architect. The font is mediaeval; it was recovered from the churchyard, repaired and placed in position in the 1920s.

A large church by Gower standards, with a west tower, nave and chancel plus a north transept and a south porch. The tower, the nave and the north wall of the chancel are in axe-dressed local grey limestone; the other walls of the chancel are rebuilt in a red sandstone brought to courses, including two buttresses on the east. The transept and porch are in random limestone rubble, except for the two large south buttresses which are coursed. Slate roofs throughout with tile ridges; coped gables throughout except for the nave above the chancel. Eaves overhang mostly without gutters; corbels to south side of chancel. Disused C19 vestry chimney at the junction of the north transept. Considerable traces of old render remain on the south side of the nave and on the porch. On the exterior of the north transept the arch of a lost east window is to be seen, plus three low arches; these perhaps indicate the former use of the transept as a chapel with a burial vault beneath. The tower is of four storeys, marked only by the slit lights in the north and south faces. Slight batter at foot. A change of masonry probably indicates a rebuild of the top third of the tower. It's parapet projects on all sides on a corbel table; the crenellations are restored. The east window is of two lights in sandstone, with a cinquefoil roundel above, label mould and small floral stops. It is contemporary with the surrounding wall, as it has a relieving arch in the same masonry. The two south windows of the chancel are similarly detailed but lack a relieving arch; to left a trefoil headed lancet and to right a pair of lancets. The transept north window is of two lights in similar stone, with scalloped Y tracery and a label without stops. The nave has four large square-headed windows in oolitic limestone in the side walls, one at each corner: each is of two lights, with foiled heads and label moulds with humourous life-sized heads as stops. The east walls of the transept and porch were awkwardly cut back to admit two of these windows, and one label stop was omitted for want of space. The porch south door has a low Gothic arch struck from centres below the springing line; corner mouldings with deep cuts each side and a keel at the corner. The roll each side stands on a small circular base. (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. 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 ReferenceSS493879
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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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. 507-8
  • Orrin, G., 1979, The Gower Churches (Rural Deanery Of West Gower) p. 69-72


  • Harrison, Peter, 1995, 'The tower churches of Gower' Gower Vol. 46 p. 15-23 online copy
  • Glynne, 1897, 'Notes on the older churches in the four Welsh Dioceses (continued)' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 52 p. 301-2 online copy