Close Window Assessment of Significance/Historic Merit

Siting and setting

The church was an essential element of the town as originally planned. Madocks selected its location on the outcrop of rock to give the little church a greater presence than it would have had located on the plain. He may also have been conscious of the greater weight of a tower and spire and their need for rock rather than reclaimed marsh as footings. It is possible however that the location caused him some problem when combined with his initial town plan.

It was reported in the North Wales Gazette of 1808, and corroborated in part in Loudon’s Model Plan of 1809, that there was to be a street crossing London Street (now Church street) south of the Market Square. The south-facing houses were to have had a giant order blind arcade on the street front, to complement the open arcade on the ground floor of the Town Hall on the far side of Market Square. This street was started, and the blind arcade may be seen on the side of Ty Pab (4 Church Street) and within and to the rear of the houses opposite)

Illustration 19 Beazley plan,

Illustration 20 modern plan,

Illustration 21, Ty Pab,

Illustration 22 arch in garden,

Illustration 23 Moses Griffiths’ watercolour

However, this layout was altered early on and terraced houses were built fronting London Street. Undoubtedly, the arcaded houses would have looked very handsome viewed across a square. But the square on the east side would have been large, had it included the church yard, and the extra cost of forming roadway built up on only one side, and of surrounding it with the more expensive arcaded construction, may be why Madocks abandoned it. If he had squeezed in a two-sided street then the church plot would have been reduced in size from that which we see today and hemmed in with the backs of the surrounding houses. And the narrowness of a street built up on both sides would have prevented full appreciation of the expensive arcades.

To the south of the church grounds is a drive, with stone gateposts at the highway. This must have been intended to be a carriageway to villas for gentlemen, a Model Farm or some other impressive development. It now leads only to a couple of modest modern houses, and to footpaths around Madocks’ Nursery, the plantation he established to the south of the town on the low ground and on the flanks of Craig Madog. In 1838 and 1842, the area of the churchyard was recorded as 1 acre.1.1. It is now a little over 2/3 acre.  The church is closer to the present northern boundary of the plot than the south. The distance from the centre of the Coadestone Gate to the stone gateposts is 55 metres. 55 metres to the north brings us to the aborted cross-street, tending to support the possibility that the original plan was that the church would sit within a large square.

To the north and east of the church site beyond drainage ditches were the church meadows, originally given by Madocks as endowment to the church, with a value of £30 per year free of tithes. A house has been built fairly discreetly in recent years just east of the churchyard. 

The church retains its original character as perched upon the rock, surrounded by open land. It is important to maintain this character for both its townscape and wider landscape contribution.

The Coadestone gateway has a more intimate character and its value is best appreciated when viewed from close to, in the street itself.

The remaining beeches and large established sycamores on site also make an important contribution, but the size and spread of the beech adjacent to the Coade gateway is a cause of concern. An Arboriculturalist inspected the trees prior to the trust taking on the lease in 2000, and some felling and lopping took place. CCT is about to commission a re-inspection.

The design of the church was originally far less dour than we see today. Although built of large blocks of roughly dressed granite from Moel y Gest, it had large windows with delicate tracery, and doors with decorative glazed openings in them within an open porch. Inside, with these large windows that included coloured glass, the painted ceiling, gallery, box pews, paintings at each side of the altar and the little piping barrelled organ, it must have been a light and entertaining place. Other than the John Williams’ family memorial, and the Bates organ of 1857, there is little of interest left internally.

We see now only an impoverished 1950s version of the late Victorian re-ordering. For the Victorians inserted run-of-the-mill sandstone surrounds within the granite openings and raised the cills, thereby reducing the glazed area considerably. They glazed the new windows with plain diamond leaded lights with a greenish tinge. The Bates organ survived the re-ordering, moved from the gallery to the north transept. From 1899 we have the memorial window at the east end, the mosaic chancel steps, the pulpit and from 1917, the finely carved altar and reredos. Each of these is either by a known artist or designer, or a good example of its type. See Illustration 24, Appeal of 1895


The materials used in the construction of the church are of great interest.
Madocks’ resources locally were the intransigent granite for walling, and slate for roofing and flooring, all coming from Moel y Gest, according to Robert Isaac Jones. (His correspondence with John Williams shows that thatch was used on the humbler dwellings during the early period). Rushes, timber fences of various sorts and earth were used for embankments. Madocks saw the need for construction timber, and planted considerable numbers of oak, larch, Scotch fir (and Spanish chestnut). The reported use of sapwood oak in the rafters of the roof of the church may indicate inexperience, sharp practice or insufficiency of supply.

Sands were available locally, but lime had to be imported.  (There were kilns located at Tremadog and at Ynys Calch about half a mile away on the seaward side).

Clay is also available locally. In the early 1800s there was no brick making in the area, so Madocks brought men from Lincolnshire to instruct the Welshmen in the technique. To this day one of the fields between Tremadog and Porthmadog is known as Cae Frics while the pond at Farmyard, the farm Madocks set up on the reclaimed marsh below his house, is almost certainly the result of excavating clay. Robert Isaac Jones reported in Gestiana that this pond grew spontaneously in 1812 when the Cob was cut, and filled only from rainwater, though it remains filled. It would seem likely that the pit was dug for bricks between 1808 and 1811, and filled during the great flood of 1812 when the Cob was breached. Madocks needed bricks for his church, built between 1808 and 1811, for the upper tower and spire are built of brick, rendered in Parkers Roman Cement.

Bricks appear locally at about this period at Plas Bryncir Home Farm built by the engineer Huddart, invited to North Wales by Madocks to survey for his proposed Packet Port for Ireland. Also, in the agricultural buildings at Gwynfryn, which belonged to David Ellis-Nanney, one of Madocks’ supporters. But the fledgling brick industry did not develop, perhaps due to the distance from urban markets when compared to other brickfields.

The use of Roman Cement was novel in the area. The material was patented only in 1796, and although it came quickly into use, it was sufficiently unfamiliar with that experienced observer, Fenton, for him to be taken in. He believed the spire to be “yellow freestone, nicely wrought”. However, its use as a weather-shield on a tall structure so close to the sea has always given problems. (See the architect’s report for further discussion of materials in the spire, and the inherent maintenance problems, Appendix 1 of Conservation Plan). Several good-quality photographs taken before 1895 and some poor ones from 1970s show that the Roman Cement decorative finials survived until the 1970s.

The most interesting and novel material used was the Coadestone. Madocks used this both to decorate the Town Hall, and for the extraordinary gateway to the church grounds. (See Appendix 2 of Conservation plan, Hirst report)

Coade or Coadestone is a patented ceramic composite made by combining pre-fired ceramic material ground down to a fine “grog” combined with unfired clay. This mixture can be moulded and carved very precisely to resemble sculpted stone. It is then fired again to give it good durability. The inclusion of pre-fired material reduces the shrinkage in the second firing, so that the size of the finished product could be predicted and the component parts of large assemblies could be made with accuracy. During the period 1771 to 1843 Coadestone was made at Eleanor Coade’s factory in Lambeth by her and her successors. It was extremely fashionable for garden statuary, memorial pieces, ornamental plaques, medallions and even for columns and window tracery.

The gothic-fantasy style, the quality of workmanship, the possible connection of the gateway with the designers of the Carlton House Conservatory, and its survival in this location all combine to make this an exceptional artefact worthy of a higher listing grade.

Group value

The church in its grounds is an intrinsic part of the original Planned Town. While of interest itself, its interest is enhanced by the group value when considered with the largely intact Planned Town.

The Gateway is of such quality that it would be remarkable in any context or in isolation, but it has even greater significance in its proper setting

Following the completion of the harbour for Tremadog at Porthmadog, Madocks’ focus of attention moved. He was completing a house overlooking the harbour when he died in 1828. Subsequently, Porthmadog developed in a haphazard way, with little in the way of Town Planning.

Happily for posterity, the original development at Tremadog thus remained largely unaltered. Terraced houses were built along the west side of London Street (now Church Street) and on the south of Dublin Street in the 19th century, and individual villas and bungalows began to appear. There seem to have been few losses of Madocks original buildings until the 20th century. Then, the tannery (originally the loomhall) owner’s house at Gwynys was demolished and rebuilt, and some of the workmen’s Barracks behind it were demolished, presumably to re-use the stone. The original woollen mill was demolished between 1951 when it was listed and the mid 1960s when Elisabeth Beazley did her research. Elsewhere, the changes have been loss of detail through neglect or ill-advised improvements. The trunk road passes through the village, and the weight, size and number of heavy vehicles is a cause of increasing concern.

The overall group value of the village remains high however and the losses are not so great that a targeted programme of assisted repairs could not recoup much of the loss.

People involved

William Alexander Madocks, 1773 - 1828 MP for the open borough of Boston in Lincolnshire 1802 - 1812. Part of the group pressing for parliamentary reform, along with Sir Francis Burdett and his neighbour in North Wales, Colonel Wardle.
Madocks was the youngest son of John Madocks, a Denbighshire landowner and successful London barrister. Madocks thus grew up in London and Kent but with frequent visits to family and friends in North Wales. He and his family were keen amateur actors and singers, taking part in theatricals at Wynnstay. Madocks’ childhood home in Kent had a small theatre and Madocks built theatres at both Dolmelynllyn near Dolgellau, his first home in Wales, and in Tremadog itself.
Madocks died in Paris in 1828 en route home from Italy, and was buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery.
John Williams, Madocks’ Agent, 1778 - 1850
Son of a farmer, William Williams of Ty’n Llan, Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog, Anglesey. He
trained as a gardener at Plas Newydd, Anglesey. He organised all Madocks’ building works over many years.
William Huddert, engineer died 1816, built Plas Bryncir and Bryncir Tower in Cwm Pennant. Brought by Madocks to the district to survey for the Irish Packet Port Madocks proposed at Perth Dinllaen, but recommended the Holyhead alternative.

David Ellis- Nanney 1759- 1819

David Ellis, Attorney-General North Wales. In 1812 the name “Nanney” was added on his uncle’s death in order to inherit Meirionydd estates. Owned land in Clynnog, Llanystumdwy and at Cefn Ddeudwr, Ganllwyd.
David Ellis-Nanney built, or completed, one of the “gentlemen’s villas” planned by Madocks, Ty Nanney. This was an investment, later lived in by Gill Steadman (whose daughter Ellen was later to marry John Whitehead Greaves, who was commemorated in the 1899 memorial window in the church). David Ellis supported Madocks throughout his struggles following the breaching of the Cob in 1812.

Cicely Williams-Ellis: sister in law of Clough Williams-Ellis, Ty Nanney in Tremadog was her home during the 1950s and 1960s. She was a prime mover in the establishment of the CPRW and of the National Parks; and in instigating the first repair to the Coadestone gateway.

Percy Bysshe-Shelley, Tenant in Madocks’ house Tanyrallt 1812, fled thence (without paying rent) after suffering armed attack. Promised funds towards repairing the breached Cob, not in the event paid.

J C Loudon “Ideal plan of part of the Tre Madoc Estate, Caernarvonshire, 1811”

Richard Fenton “Tours in Wales 1804 - 1813” Illustrated by Moses Griffith

Thomas Love Peacock was a visitor to Madocks’ home Tan yr Allt. The character of the squire in Peacock’s “Headlong Hall” is thought to be based on Madocks.

Edmund Hyde Hall “Description of Carnarvonshire 1805-11”

Eliza Anne nee Hughes, widow of Roderick Gwynne who became Madocks’ wife in 1818. She inherited Tregunter, near Brecon, from her great uncle Thomas Harris. He was father in law of the actress “Perdita” Robinson who was later befriended by Sheridan and granted an annuity by the Prince of Wales. Thomas was older brother of Hywel Harris of Trefecca, which Madocks will thus have known from at least 1817.

James Spooner, 1789 - 1856 Engineer, designed the Ffestiniog Railway for Madocks. Lived in Plas Tan yr Allt from 1818 (Madocks first house in Tremadog) and then in 1829 after Madocks’ death he moved to Morfa Lodge, Madocks’ house in Porthmadog.

Evidence of Change

Physical changes externally to former church building

Stonework: Raised cills, partially blocked doorway, straight joints at vestry
Photos of earlier cast iron windows, decorated spire, projecting eaves to transept roofs, clock with three faces, 

Social History

The church records are very incomplete and disorganised. None are recorded as having been deposited with the Diocesan office in Bangor, the archives at Bangor University or the county archives in Caernarfon. Some were recovered by the present vicar from an outside WC at the Porthmadog vicarage.  Amongst the recovered documents is a terrier listing the records and it is evident that some early material is missing. The recovered material has recently been passed to the county archives.
The book containing the Parish Accounts and Vestry Meetings from 1835 -1864 survives. There is little record of works to the fabric of the church, but there is much social history for the records are largely concerned with such matters as the assessment of tithes, awards to paupers, the care of lunatics and the appointment of constables. Amongst events of interest, there was resistance to the compulsion from London to establish and pay for a Board of Health, as so much of the parish was rural and drainage was necessary and feasible only in Porthmadog and Tremadog. The doctor’s charge for “putting cowpox on the paupers” was contested. 

Evidence of changing liturgical practice

Purchase of large organ to replace original organ
Removal of gallery and introduction of choir pews
Removal of box pews and replacement with open benches
Introduction of raised chancel with mosaic floor and rail
Reduction in window size and light admittance of glazing

Evidence of changing distribution/allocation of wealth

After Madocks’ death, his estate was held in trust for his daughter. When she came of age in 1843, it was contested in Chancery for some time. Nevertheless there is some evidence that his daughter and her son supported the church with the costs of repairs and re-ordering. After the death of Madocks’ grandson, the Tremadog estate was inherited by outsiders who seemed to take little interest though this may reflect reducing incomes from agricultural land. (See illustration 25, Madocks descendants).
The construction of Porthmadog’s church St John the Evangelist in 1874/75 was supported by the Percival and Greaves families, both with wealth derived from quarry ownership. The Greaves family was also the main benefactor of Tremadog church in the 1895-99 re-ordering.

Linguistic patterns

Robert Isaac Jones relates (in “Gestiana” 1892) that the Reverend John Jones MA, Rector of Ynyscynhaiarn (the Parish church at that time) held services in English without payment for over 33 years until 1856, when the Reverend David W Thomas was appointed curate.

Edward Davies relates (in “Hanes Porthmadog” 1913), that services were held in Welsh in Tremadog by the Reverend David W Thomas, with English there only on a Sunday afternoon. Prior to 1859 services in Porthmadog were only in English, but from that date services were held in Welsh.  

Community accessibility

Formerly limited by custom to congregation
Very low now with building closed and boarded up.
Community ownership will allow a wide range of people with business with Cartrefi Cymru to enter the building during the working day. Cartrefi Cymru provide support to people with learning difficulties living in the community.
Regular, publicised open days will allow anyone to visit the building. 
The grounds will be used by Cartrefi Cymru as gardens for training and work opportunities for its clientele, open to the community, with one section as a quiet area away from the trunk road.

Assessment of historic merit of former CHURCH 

Item As Existing Effects of proposals
1811 walls, tower, spire roof structure Largely intact. Upper tower and spire in poor conditions. Archive material to inform re-instatement Beneficial: Full & accurate repairs possible, includes introducing means of collecting rainwater penetrating into spire & draining to outside
1811 cast iron windows Removed 1895-9 Several photographs of south side Neutral: New replacement windows will form a third variation of the sequence of glazing in this building.
1811 fixtures & fittings None survive, no visual records N/A
1840s bell & clock Originals survive, known provenance. Both were in working order in 2000, loved local “voice” Beneficial: Overhaul and provide new safe access for maintenance
1850 Williams family memorial Fine memorial in fair condition. Local hero Neutral: Conserve. Needs remounting due to requirement to insulate walls internally. Relocate above present location, in large room.
1857 organ Known maker Electrified in 1950s, iIl-advised repair in c. 1990. Requires full overhaul £10,000- £18,000 Loss locally of historic item but ensures its survival elsewhere: Not needed and would be vulnerable in proposed use; trust to sell to college or chapel in present condition as part of matchfunding (est. £10,000)
1895-9 East window Fine memorial window to important local family, authorship not yet established Neutral: Conserve. Proposals designed to retain full view of window in large room. This complicates floor structure
1895-9 Chancel mosaic & rail Known maker. Good condition Neutral: Conserve, retained unaltered. Imposed unusual office layout
1895-9 Pulpit Known local maker. Good condition Neutral: Retained, relocated as “oriel” on stair well. Imaginative new use for redundant item.
1895-9 Sandstone window surrounds Run of the mill. In good/fair condition Neutral: Retained. Alterations to that in south transept to lower cill for additional light to deepest part of GF plan. Present insuperable insulation/cold-bridging problem, so will require frequent maintenance.
1895-9 Green quarrysingle glazing, small hopper openings Run of the mill. Badly damaged prior to boarding up. Neutral: To be replaced by thermally broken double-glazed steel windows with opening lights at each floor.
1917 Altar & reredos Important designer, known maker and subject. Good condition Neutral: Proposals designed to permit retention in situ. Imposes structural difficulties in combination with retained east window above.
1950s Roof repairs All earlier detail lost when walls rendered with cement:sand. No archive material found. Condition: fair Beneficial: Proposals include complete reslating to permit insulation with breather membrane. Existing original trusses retained, visible in big room.
1950s Internal replastering All earlier detail lost when walls rendered with cement:sand. No archive material found. Condition: fair Neutral: To be used as base for fixing insulation and plasterboard lining.
1970s Spire repairs Earlier detail lost. In poor repair, render cracked with some parts loose/falling Beneficial: To be re-rendered in hydraulic lime:sand render, detail to be reinstated using archive photographs
2005 Insertion of floor, stairs, services N/A Compromise for safety. Limited on-site parking for disabled users sited at rear north of site to retain viewed of church perched on rock in open site when from street
2005 Landscaping Present rough-mown, part fallen boundary walls, no vehicle access Compromise for safety. Limited on-site parking for disabled users sited at rear north of site to retain viewed of church perched on rock in open site when from street

Assessment of historic merit of COADESTONE GATEWAY

Item As Existing Effects of proposals
1811 Gateway Extremely important artefact in poor and deteriorating condition Beneficial: Conserve, reinstate main lines & repetitive detail where originals survive to copy. Improve “rain hat”, remove hard cement and repoint with sacrificial lime mortar.
1811 Cast iron gate Handsome large gates, Broken. Part missing Beneficial: Repair or reproduce gates.
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