Save St Philip's
Visitors enter at their own risk
Taped to the south door, this notice welcomes people to St Philip's, Caerdeon in Gwynedd.
Visitors have good reason to be cautious. Chunks of plaster are dropping from the ceiling; the ancient electrics are dangerous.
South elevation © Crown Copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales © Hawlfraint y Goron: Comisiwn Brenhinol Henebion Cymru
The church was built on a natural promontory with the land falling away, quite dramatically, to the north, south, and west. It’s likely that the site was infilled to create a level base for building. As a result, the church is moving – and cracking.
The complicated drainage system only exacerbates this. The movement and cracking have allowed water to soak into the building. This in turn is causing the decay and localised collapse of the lath and plaster ceiling. This is occurring not only in the nave and sanctuary, but in the loggia too.
Because of the clogged and collapsing drains the walls are crumbling at low level. The roofs, unmaintained for many years, are thick with vegetation… including some well-established trees. Recent works have revealed a hive of more than 30,000 bees in the roof void!
Yet St Philip’s is a Grade I listed building. That means it is of exceptional importance. Just 1.6% of all listed buildings in Wales are Grade I.
St Philip's is an eccentric 19th-century church by the Rev’d John Louis Petit. Petit, one of the leading architectural writers of his age, was one of the few who resisted the ‘copy Gothic’ that was so fashionable in the Victorian era. In addition to architecture, Petit was an accomplished topographical watercolourist.
The rusty, rubble-slate construction includes a loggia with stone benches and pairs of round-headed, Romanesque windows and a unique bellcote-cum-chimney, which holds three bells that are rung by large wheel found in a shelter on the north side of the church. The church is the only building designed by Petit which survives.
Petit designed the church for his brother-in-law, Rev’d W. E. Jelf, Censor of Christ College, Oxford. It was to be Jelf’s private chapel adjacent to his North Walian home, Plas Caerdeon. As a direct result of St Philip’s church and Jelf’s desire to have services in English, the English Services in Wales Act of 1863 was passed.
Northeast elevation © Crown Copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales © Hawlfraint y Goron: Comisiwn Brenhinol Henebion Cymru
For a building of such architectural and historical importance, you might wonder how it slipped into such decline?
The church was closed for worship in 2014. It is soon to be vested in our care. We don’t believe it should sit out another winter in such poor condition, so we are taking action now to make it watertight.
Over £130,000 is needed to strip and re-roof the entire building, overhaul the drainage system and renew the rainwater goods.
We need to raise £50,000.
All donations will go directly towards to the repair of St Philip’s.
We hope you can help us save this truly unique church.
Donations can be made by cheque (payable to The Friends of Friendless Churches) or through the ‘Donate’ button on our website.