Close Window Defining Issues (Vulnerability)

Structure of the former church

Masonry: The building is robustly built of local granite and brick construction but being solid masonry close to the sea in an area of high rainfall, it suffers from dampness (penetrating water within the spire and upper tower) and will continue to do so. The only way to prevent this would be to over-clad the walls, tower and spire with a cladding to break the wind pressure and shed the water. This would plainly be unacceptable in that the historic character and interest of the building would no longer be visible. The proposals therefore provide thermal lining inside the building, with ventilation between the insulation and the external wall. This will ensure the internal fabric remains dry and will reduce energy use in heating the building, while ventilating any penetrating dampness to the outside. In the upper tower, treated timber floors inserted only in the 1970s have completely rotted due to the quantities of water coming into the spire. The free water will be collected within the upper tower and drained to the outside.

The sandstone windows surrounds inserted within the original openings present an insuperable problem as the wall insulation cannot be carried across the face of the stonework internally. They are likely to suffer from condensation in cold damp weather. The services specification will include heat-reclaim extract ventilation to try to remove excess moisture vapour from the air before it condenses on the sandstone. Frequent cleaning costs of the internal face of the sandstone must be expected.

The present slating is in fair condition. There is some evidence of past water penetration at the north transept valleys. Short-life repairs were made in 2000, prior to the trust taking on the lease of the building. With the requirement to install wet services into the building to enable its use, it is essential that both insulation and water vapour ventilation be introduced into the roof. Since there will also be the need for soil vent and passive ventilation terminals to penetrate the roof (via grills in the slate plane), the decision has been taken to strip and reslate the whole roof. This will permit the incorporation of thermal insulation, a vapour-permeable membrane and new lead work at valleys, abutments and around ventilation openings.

There is evidence of water penetration at the abutments of the vestry with the south chancel and south transept, and at the main nave roof with the tower. Reference has been found to heat treatment of the masonry in the vestry in the 1950s to eradicate Dry Rot. Dry Rot has recently occurred again in this area and the trust is currently arranging emergency works to reduce humidity and increase ventilation.

Windows and doors

The present windows were vandalised before the trust took over, and following further attacks, the trust had all the doors and windows boarded up. A grill protects the east window. Tremadog is a low-risk area however, and once the building is in use it is not expected that vandalism will be a major problem. (The gardens may present a temptation).

The new windows to be inserted will be double glazed, thermally broken steel windows with opening lights at each floor level.  It is not possible to double glaze the trefoil, quatrefoil and cinquefoil lights in the top of the sandstone inserts and these will be repaired or re-glazed with single glazing. Some condensation on these windows is expected.

The East window will be protected internally by a toughened glass secondary glazing and the external grill replaced as the present grill is corroded.
The existing west door is vertical boarding, stained, (c. 1980) and out of character with the building. It is likely that the building originally had an open porch, with the present inner doors being the original entrance. The modern outer door is to be removed.
The external door to the vestry is a mid-20th century door, vandalised. Simple painted timber doors will be installed here, in the existing external door to the tower room and the new escape door to be inserted at low level in the north transept.
Further consideration is to be given to the current proposal of reinstating open porches at both the vestry and the main entrance. Gates may be needed for security or outer doors for thermal reasons.  

Coadestone Gateway

This is extremely vulnerable in its present condition. Water penetration occurs through the roof, where assorted pieces of slate are only partially effective in shedding rain, and through the large cracks in the structure. This is causing embedded iron detected in the structure to expand, causing further cracking. Roots may also be causing movement. A large crack in the curving boundary wall on the south of the pavement apron to the gateway is ascribed to tree roots, though an archive photograph reveals that there was a tree within this pavement area, and the crack in the wall appeared in that photograph as at present.
The hard cement mortar used to repair the Coadestone gateway in the 1960s is likely to be adding to the deterioration seen on some faces of the Coade, which are spalling. It is proposed to replace this cement mortar with lime mortar, through which trapped moisture may evaporate more easily.

In its present dilapidated state the gateway is vulnerable to casual petty vandalism.

Cast Iron Gate

This is now stored, broken, with one part missing, within the church. It is not known if it was broken by children, or if thieves were attempting to remove the gate, but its weight evidently surprised them.

Examination reveals that it has been repaired previously. It may be impossible to repair it to a standard that will permit safe use if in regular use. It is desirable that the Coadestone gateway should remain the main pedestrian entry, though when the new vehicle access is made, this will give an alternative point of access.

Either this gate will be repaired, or used a mould to cast a replica.


The grounds are kept mown by volunteers. This is a great labour and difficult to keep up in the long term.
There is a deep ditch just outside the eastern and southern boundaries that returns within the boundary on the west before crossing under Church Street. This could be a hazard to small children or the unwary, but no known incident has occurred throughout the history of the site.

The community has expressed a wish to be able to use the grounds for quiet sitting, and the proposed use by the prospective tenant as gardens admirably fulfils this wish. The tenant will use the grounds for training and work opportunities for its clients, so maintaining the grounds in orderly and productive use. They welcome interaction between their clients and the wider community, so that access is ensured. 

Vehicle Access

There are tracks each side of site. The one to the south is in Council ownership and used as access only to two dwellings, and a Public Footpath. It is separated from the site by a deep drainage ditch so vehicle access to the site would require a bridge. Parking would then be on the south side of the former church building, using the best garden land and very prominent in views from the street. For these reasons this alternative has not been pursued.

A busy garden centre that also manufactures garden structures owns the track on the north side of the site. It also forms the rear access to five dwellings. As such the track is already under pressure and the owner, though supportive of the trust’s proposals, could not allow a side access to the church site from this track.

(See “Trunk Road safety” under “Conflicts” below for discussion of proposals)

Use - Present

Disused for worship. St John the Evangelist in Porthmadog is only one mile away and the congregation is struggling with the maintenance and adaptation for disabled users of that large building.

Possible uses of former Saint Mary’s Church

Amongst the conditions of the lease is the prohibition of uses that will cause nuisance to adjacent properties, which are mostly residential; and the production or sale of alcohol. 

New installations

The need to insert a floor within the former church arises from a combination of the small existing floor area and the extremely low level of economic activity in the region. If the building is to earn its keep, it has to be enabled to generate an income corresponding to an almost doubled floor area.

The Coadestone gateway is incapable of earning any income, nor is it easy to demonstrate the number of visitors to it, as it is located adjacent to the highway.
The trust intends producing a booklet for sale about the Coadestone gateway but this could not pay for its repair or maintenance.

Advantages of proposed use

a) Ownership by a trust means that the owner is eligible for significant funding in a way that a private owner would not be. The buildings are of a construction requiring regular maintenance, which the Tremadoc Estate as owner up to 1951 did not latterly carry out, and which the community could not afford. As a result, their condition has deteriorated. Public and charitable sector funding would enable full repair and re-instatement, and the conversion will enable the building to be self-sufficient, ensuring its future maintenance

b) Ownership by a trust also means that personal circumstances (unemployment, retirement, death) will not put the property at risk. The trust recognises that, while it has a duty to use its financial resources wisely, the historic character of the buildings and their context are resources to be nurtured.

c) Commercial use by an advice/training body will ensure that the building remains accessible to the community as well as to the staff and clients of the user group. The primary reason for their interest is not the historic building, so its use may engage a new audience for historic structures.

Disadvantages of proposed use

a) Extent of alteration required to achieve viable floor areas and to fulfil Building Regulations requirements, especially with respect to thermal insulation, fire control and disabled access.

b) Need for major capital grant

c) Organ needs a new home 


The trust has only a short lease on the building.

External factors

Ty Newydd is in Gwynedd, a rural county with a very low population density. Gwynedd is a European Objective 1 area, that is, the average household income is 70% or less than the European average. No major employers, the public sector is by far the largest employer in the region. As such, it is particularly difficult to raise match funding locally. The disadvantages of periphery and low population levels are unlikely to reduce significantly despite the European grant regime.


The trust receives no core funding, nor does it have any reserves of capital assets. Its only resources are the booklets it sells.
The trustees’ personal skills are as historians, active citizens and volunteers in many local community activities.
To avoid any possible perception of a clash of interest between the trust’s voluntary secretary (an architect) acting for the trust as an architect, the trustees decided to select and appoint another architect with historic building expertise.


Three of the trustees have been in post since the establishment of the trust in 1991, as has the secretary, and the former church is the second building at risk on which they have worked. They have established a record for determination and tenacity.


The trust does not have the means to carry any debt so the major capital input needed for the repairs must be fully funded if the project is proceed and to succeed. 

A considerable amount of time was invested in preparing applications to Europe • Objective 1 funding and to the Local Regeneration Fund of the National Assembly for Wales. These applications have now been abandoned as
a) The National Assembly was unable to confirm for several months if, when or how much money would be available to the LRF. (It has recently been confirmed that this fund is already exhausted).
b) When the European application was in final draft, it was confirmed that the only pot of money for which this project would have been eligible was over subscribed. There was already considerable difficulty in reconciling its eligibility criteria with those of the Heritage Lottery Fund.


It would be exciting if the provenance of the Coadestone gateway could be established.
Research is still needed on the connection between C R Ashbee and the Casson family.
Authorship of the east window would be pleasing.

Previous alterations

Previous alterations are a reflection of the fact that this was a working church, so changes in liturgical practice led to re-ordering.
The use of Portland cement renders was advised in the 1950s and 1960s. This may have hastened the deterioration in some locations, though the original Roman Cement and the Coadestone are both hard and impervious, and the deterioration is rather the result of the forms of construction and the climate.

New works need to be designed and specified with the new, different requirements in mind. Differentiation between original and later installations is desirable in some locations, particularly where the installation by its nature may require regular if infrequent replacement, for example, service installations


The Trust has been working on this project for a number of years with increasing support locally and within the wider historic buildings community.

In the county, the record on conservation and re-use of historic buildings is very poor except within the Snowdonia National Park where conservation is a core duty and receives significant funding.

Success in this project would demonstrate the potential of Buildings Preservation Trusts and other community bodies to rescue important historic buildings. In turn this might persuade the County to use its powers to assist transfer of ownership, to give help in kind or even to provide funding.

Access - General

The Trust proposes holding regular, publicised open days each year to permit the general public to visit the buildings and gardens. This will be a requirement of the tenancy. It is likely that the prospective tenant organisation will welcome this opportunity to draw in the wider community.
The Trust already holds such open days, giving conducted tours of the village, drawing on voluntary support.

Access /disability

Lifts, WCs, stairs for ambulant disabled, ramped access from the on-site parking; the specification of signs, handles, colour scheme will all be designed to aid maximum access by all. Among the tenant’s client group are some multiply disabled people so the client’s fit out and equipment will be designed accordingly.

Statutory requirements

Full Planning permission and Listed Building Consent were obtained in 2002
Bldg Regs submitted in 2003, Approval following submission of further detail granted April 2004

Cadw has confirmed in-principle offers of grant, after consultation with Nick Davies regarding the former church; and following receipt of advice from Hirst Conservation, with Douglas Hogg regarding the Coade gateway.


The investment of Madocks and his successors in the region permitted the development of the slate industry and associated shipbuilding, bringing an economic boom between roughly 1830 and 1910. Since the First World War, the area had been in decline. The natural carrying capacity of the area and the remoteness from all centres of population and economic activity, conflict with the costs of maintaining historic structures created during the brief period of economic boom.

Low economic levels locally give rise to the need to insert a floor into the building.

The fall in church membership and attendance means that a new use has to be found for the building if it is to survive. The new use may be seen as in conflict with the previous use; or it may be seen as the next change in a series of changes that has enabled the building to fulfil the need of the time.

The organ was paid for by public subscription, and originally installed in the gallery. The cost of repairs will exceed the amount for which it could be sold unrepaired. It would be unused and vulnerable in the converted building. Its sale to a college or chapel would ensure its repair and use but it would be removed from its original home in the church.

Energy use
The imperative to reduce carbon emissions and so to increase insulation in historic buildings might best be achieved by over-cladding the building. This could also reduce greatly all the problems of water penetration. But it would conflict fundamentally with the aesthetic and material interest of the building.

Internal insulation is not a cause for conflict as so little historic fabric remains inside. Internal insulation does impose various technical problems, such as the need to ventilate the cavity created, and the loss in room area. The internal insulation around the main stair has to be reduced in thickness to achieve the required dimensions for the ambulant disabled stair. It cannot be carried onto the face of the window reveals, so these will inevitably suffer from some condensation.

Trunk road safety
If the building were granted a change in use from the present “Public Assembly” category into which churches fall, and the new use were one considered to engender traffic, the trunk road authority would require significant on-site parking. This conflicts with protecting the character of the setting. The consent obtained by the trust is for hybrid offices/large meeting rooming which counts as “public assembly”. As such a smaller number of of-site parking places has been approved. This will enable limited staff parking but more importantly, the safe movement of people with disabilities away from the trunk road. The creation of a new access at the front of the site and a gravelled drive within the site to reach the parking at the rear is unfortunately necessitated because the existing private track adjacent to the new access is already fully used.
Sale of Coade gateway
It has been suggested that the Coadestone gateway should be sold to the highest bidder to assist with financing the repair of the church. This has been examined but rejected for four reasons:

1) In attempting to move the Coadestone gateway, much original fabric would break and be lost. (It is for this reason that in-situ repair rather than dismantling and workshop repair is proposed)

2) Loss to Tremadog of this essential component of the Georgian Planned Town

3) In its new location, the gateway would have lost its context

4) Many local people know and love this gateway and visit it from time to time.


It has been suggested that the project could be phased to reduce the capital outlay and the amount of match-funding at one time.

This would be possible. The repair and conversion of the former church would have to form the first phase, to avoid the trust having to use the only Break Clause in the lease.
The repair of the Coadestone gateway would therefore have to form the second phase.

The overall costs of postponing repair of the Coadestone Gateway to a later date would be increased, due to

The trust would much rather both contracts ran concurrently as this would keep overall costs to the minimum, and see the wonderful Coadestone gateway repaired before any more of it is lost. The extended duration of the project if phased would also be burdensome to the trust. Nevertheless, if phasing were the only way of receiving funding at all, then phased funding would be gratefully received. It is hoped that a phased award could be made to this application and that a completely new application for the Coadestone gateway would not be required. 

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