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History and architecture of Welsh churches celebrated in new book

This week sees the publication of a colourful overview of medieval Welsh churches. A Church Near You in Wales. Written and illustrated by Denis Dunstone, it includes a guide to the regional differences of building styles within Wales, information about historical and geographical context and watercolour illustrations of the exterior of the churches.

The volume includes a foreword by Bishop Rowan Williams (former Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of Wales), who describes A Church Near You in Wales as a “treasury of both image and information about the oldest Welsh Churches” and a “lucid guide to the regional varieties of building styles within Wales and how they developed across the centuries”.

The earliest evidence of Christian practice in Wales is in the fifth century. Usually, these early churches were in more remote areas, such as in the hills or on a cliff top. This was partly as it was safer and partly for privacy – in modern times they are still often spots which invite contemplation.

Denis Dunstone said:

“Smaller Welsh churches were normally dedicated to a local saintly person. These small churches are often secluded and have become part of the countryside. They have a special atmosphere. More than in England, in Wales the location is part of the church.”

Denis Dunstone’s project of illustrating medieval churches started in 2020, during the Covid pandemic. This led to the publication of a booklet of 50 churches local to him, which grew into A Church Near You, focusing on churches in England. Inspired, he then set about illustrating medieval churches in Wales.

There are just under one thousand churches in Wales judged to be of medieval origin. Many of these are now closed or derelict, and most having been altered with time.

“The Friends of Friendless Churches and the National Churches Trust have been a godsend. Both of these organisations work tirelessly to keep churches and their history alive,” said Denis Dunstone.

The hope of the author is that by sharing information with the public, more people will become engaged with the maintenance and protection of these buildings, so that they are saved for the future.


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