Building » Rhayader – St Francis of Assisi

Rhayader – St Francis of Assisi

Dark Lane, Rhayader, LD6 5DA

A small and plain Franciscan church of 1956, whose chief feature is the boldly-coloured dalle de verre Buckfast Abbey glass in many of the windows. The church occupies a large and attractive site, and makes a modest contribution to the Rhayader Conservation Area.

In 1951 the Franciscans established themselves at Llanidloes and two years later were invited to take care of Rhayader. The Catholic population of both of these small mid-Wales towns was small and neither had a church of its own; in Llanidloes, Mass was said in the front room of a private house and in Rhayader in the magistrates court, a hotel and finally in a Nissen hut, which preceded the present building on the same site. Fr Kenneth Gillespie secured the building of a new church in Rhayader in 1957 and in Llanidloes (qv) in 1959. The architect for Rhayader (and probably Llanidloes too) was Philip Beard ARIBA of Wakefield; both churches are notable for dalle de verre glass by Dom Charles Norris’s studio at Buckfast Abbey, Devon.The church was opened by Bishop Petit of Menevia on 12 May 1957.

In 1987 (after Fr Gillespie’s death in 1986) the parish was divided and Llanidloes went to the newly-formed Diocese of Wrexham.


The church is not orientated; the liturgical east end is towards the west. All directions in this description are liturgical. The church is a modern functional structure of no particular style but with a pitched overall roof. The external walls are partly roughcast and partly of pink brick. The roof is covered in concrete tiles. The building is rectangular on plan, with small flanking sacristies at the east. The west end has a brick centre with two three-light timber windows under flat soldier arches, surmounted by a raised cross in the brickwork. The brickwork centre is flanked by roughcast. The shallow southwest porch is of brick and has a round-arched doorway. The south side wall is of roughcast and has two three-light timber windows with straight brick heads. At the east end of the wall is a slightly projecting sacristy which is faced with brick.

The interior is a single undivided space with a carpeted floor, plain plaster walls and a curving overall boarded ceiling. At the east end the space is stepped inwards to form a short sanctuary with a round window in the east end wall. The furniture and fittings are all modern and simple, with chairs instead of benches. All six lights of the windows in the west end wall, the central lights of the two windows on each side wall and the roundel in the sanctuary have boldly-coloured slab-in resin glass by Dom Charles Norris and Dom Bede Forder of Buckfast Abbey, Devon (whose glass also features at Llanidloes). One of the windows commemorates Catherine Dockery, whose legacy to the Franciscans provided the funds for building the church.

Heritage Details

Architect: Philip Beard

Original Date: 1957

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed