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St Asaph Cathedral

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Map ReferenceSJ07SW
Grid ReferenceSJ0390074310
Unitary (Local) AuthorityDenbighshire
Old CountyFlintshire
CommunitySt Asaph
PeriodPost Medieval

St Asaph Cathedral is the smallest cathedral in England and Wales. A Norman cathedral built in 1143; the Early English style choir was probably constructed ca. 1239. Attacks by royal troops in 1245 and 1282 resulted in a rebuilding programme thought to have begun in 1284 by Bishop Anian and to have continued until 1381. The irregular changes in the masonry, especially to the transepts, seem to result from retention of considerable amounts of original fabric. The major part of this work has been dated ca. 1310-20. The central tower was added 1391/2. The cathedral was burnt ten years later by Owain Glyndwr; restoration was completed under Bishop Redman in 1482. Periodic improvements were made over the following centuries after damage done by the Civil War and the top of the tower being blown down on 2nd February, 1714.

1778/9 saw the demolition of the Chapter House and the choir was remodelled probably by Joseph Turner. The full restoration of 1867-75 by Sir George Gilbert Scott, assisted by H J Fairclough, removed many of the 18th and early 19th century alterations, particularly to the choir. Futher restoration by C M Oldrid Scott, mainly to the tower, was carried out in 1929-32. The vestry wing was added during the 1956-70 restoration. The cathedral is a cruciform church consisting of a nave and aisles of five bays, transepts, choir and a central tower. The nave has a timber ceiling, heavily ribbed to suggest a lierne vault - a fine example of early 14th century work. A course of stones laid on end at about impost level could suggest the original height of the Norman building. The chancel retains exceptionally fine late 15th century stalls, the only surviving canopied examples in Wales, possibly by William Frankelin. There are tall, vaulted and crocketed canopies with pinnacles and carved foliage, elbow knobs and misericords; colonettes to the front were inserted in 1906. G G Scott lined the choir with mainly red and beige ashlar and inserted panelled wagon ceiling with rose bosses.

The nave retains a large number of interesting monuments including a Gothic alabaster First World War Memorial by Powell; a free-standing monument to Dean Shipley by John Termouth, 1829; a broken pedimented monument to Sir John Hay Williams signed in Greek by L Droses of Athens, 1873 and a marble monument to Sir John Williams (d 1830) and wife Margaret (d 1875) by Sir Richard Westmacott depicting full height paired angels.

CADW listed buildings database.
Richard Suggett, Painted Temples: Wallpaintings and Rood-screens in Welsh Churches, 1200–1800, (RCAHMW 2021), pp. 258.