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Identified by The National Library of Wales as an 'Important part of Wales' documentary heritage' Kenfig - The Complete History (e-Resource) - A Welsh Documentary Heritage Website
Identified by The National Library of Wales as an 'Important part of Wales' documentary heritage'
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St James' Church, Pyle - Parish of Pyle & Kenfig

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Kenfig History

St James' Church, Pyle c.1907
St James' Church, Pyle c.1907

Kenfig History & Community / Religion / Churches / St James' Church, Pyle

St James' Church, Pyle (Parish of Pyle & Kenfig)

The benefice of Pyle and Kenfig is a single parish benefice in the deanery of Margam - it is also known as Cynffig.

St James' Church, Pyle (Built c.1471)

Known locally as 'The Upside-down Church' as it is reputed that when the sands threatened to engulf Kenfig, the old church of St James' in the town was dismantled stone by stone and re-built in 'reverse' at it's present location. An observation of the structure shows in some places small stones low down on the building supporting much larger stones above. A blocked-up priest's door on the south side of the chancel is one such element of this but another legacy of this transfer is best seen outside of the south wall of the nave. A carving on a small wooden shield on the north roof timber base indicates 1471 as the date for its rebuilding.
St James' Church, Pyle is a Grade 1 listed building.

History of the Church

St. James' Church Pyle
St. James' Church Pyle
St James' Church, Pyle
St James' Church serves the Parish of Pyle & Kenfig; a church of the same name once served the medieval borough of Kenfig that was established by the Normans during the 12th century. The Kenfig burgesses built Maudlam Church c.1255 as a chapel of ease to the first St James' with this church dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. The present day St James' church was built on land called 'Grammus Hill' formally held by a Norman family called Grammus.
St James' Church, Pyle was built c.1471; this year is carved on a small wooden shield inside the church on the northern wall plate - architecural features of the church also appear consistant with this date. However, the south nave wall appears to show evidence of a change of build between narrow-coursed stone around 5 feet above ground-level and good squared ashlar in upper courses. There also appears differing stonework in the chancel that may suggest different building campaigns.

The Building

Interior of St James Church c.1950
Interior of St James Church c.1950
St James' Church, Pyle
St James Church, Pyle
St James' church is a Grade 1 listed building. It is perpendicular two-cell church of nave & chancel with a small south porch and a western tower. An organ loft under a gabled roof adjoins the north side of the chancel which retains much of its early fabric. Stylistically the church appears to be largely of late 14th century although there appears evidence in the fabric of earlier construction in the lower parts of the south wall of the nave which is built in rubble-stone in contrast to the ashlar stone above it and in the chancel arch which maybe of early 14th or 13th century.
The tower is of 3 storeys, square with crenellated pararpets and a pitched slate roof. Parapet gutters in the tower are made & weathered with stone tabling. The original 15th century roof structure survives in the tower. Apart from the 2 square head two-light windows in the south wall of the nave (1 each at the south east & south west corners of the nave) all the remaining windows & the priest's door in the south wall of the chancel appear to be medieval.
The chancel windows have slightly unusual square shouldered label stops. The nave retains its medieval wagon roof dated 1471 which has moulded principal braces & collar purlin and carved escutcheons on the wall plates.
The church is built entirely of local Bridgend calcareous sandstone and Sutton stone largely in ashlar although the lower courses of the south wall of the nave (below waist level) together with the north wall of the nave are built in coursed rubble stone. In 1993 the roofs were covered with natural slate which have now been replaced with modern artificial slate. The churchyard cross on four steps was restored in 1925. The graveyard contains several listed chest tombs which are regarded as significant examples of mid 19th century monuments.

Source: Bridgend County Borough Council Library & Information Services / Parish of Pyle & Kenfig

The Church Hall

Located on Pyle Road (A48) next to the Vicarage.

The Church Hall, Pyle c.1900
The Church Hall, Pyle c.1900
Pyle Children's Concert c.1925 (Revd. D.G.Arthur Vicar in centre of group)
Pyle Children's Concert c.1925 (Revd. D.G.Arthur Vicar in centre of group)
Historical details to follow...

Consistory Court Case - 1485

The surviving Kenfig burgesses bitterly opposed the construction of the new church at Pyle, claiming that the one at Maudlam was older, stood within the enlarged boundary of the Borough and should therefore be accorded the status of being the parish church.

This dispute reached a climax in 1485 when the people of Pyle actually took the Burgesses to court and obtained an order forcing them to acknowledge the status of the new church. The dispute rumbled on for centuries and in 1810 a Vicar of the parish who just happened to be a burgess and who several times held the office of Portreeve, claimed that Maudlam was his parish church and Pyle merely its chapel of ease.

Local Treasures

St James' Church, Pyle houses some important artefacts

  • The East window displays perpendicular tracery - it's stained glass being installed as a memorial to parishioners who fell in the 1914-1918 War.
  • Memorial plaques of the 17th century can be seen in the chancel.

Incumbents - Pyle & Kenfig Parish (1154 AD to Present)


Name / Details

Henry Thusard - founder of the Church of Kenfig
Daniel & Richard, Priests of Kenfig
John, Priest of Kenfig
Stephen, Clerk of Kenfig
Thomas, Chaplain of Kenfig
Robert & John, Priests of Kenfig
Hugo, Vicar of Kenfig
Richard, Clerk of Kenfig
Gilbert of Sully, Vicar of Kenfig died
Walter Alured presented by the Abbot of Tewkesbury - succeeded above Gilbert
William, Clerk of Kenfig
John Bareth, Clerk of Kenfig
Philip, Clerk of Kenfig
Hugh, Vicar of Kenfig, Robert Presbyter
Robert of St Fagan's, Vicar
Nicholas de Sherlake, Vicar
John Tudor, Vicar
Sir John Stradling, Vicar
Griffith ap Lefen, Vicar
Robert Thomas
Philip Grant
Richard Rees
William Lloyd M.A.
John Howard (or Hayward)
John Butler
William Jones
William Lewis
John Thomas (Described as Curate of Pyle & Newton Nottage)
John Williams
John Walters, Lexicographer
John Williams (died 1794)
John Hunt LI.D.
John Morgan
Richard Williams
William Williams
John Banks Price
Walter Evans
Daniel Evans
John N Evans
Watkin Davies
W Pascal Davies
John Tyssul Evans
Thomas Melville Jones
John Bangor Davies
David John Arthur
D Godfrey Samuel
David Davies
J Chalk
P G White
Erle Hastey
Ian Rees
Dr Duncan Walker
Source: The Parish of Pyle & Kenfig


History of Kenfig & surrounding areas - Prehistory to the Present Day


  • Bronze / Iron Ages & Roman Era
  • The Monastic Era (1147-1536)
  • The Mansel Era (1536-1750)
  • Talbot Era (1750-1941)
  • War Years / Sir David Evans-Bevan
  • The County Council Years


    Online Resources

    Further Info



    • Bridgend County Borough Council Library & Information Services
    • The Story of Kenfig Book - A. Leslie Evans
    • The Parish of Pyle & Kenfig
    • Rob Bowen, Local Community Group

    Webpage Author

    • Rob Bowen, Local Community Group, 2011

    St James' Church, Pyle (Built c.1471)

    St James' Church, Pyle

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