ST DAVID'S CATHEDRAL; ST DAVIDS CATHEDRAL
Map Reference SM72NE
Grid Reference SM7515625430
Unitary (Local) Authority Pembrokeshire
Old County Pembrokeshire
Community St Davids and the Cathedral Close
Type of Site CATHEDRAL
Broad Class Religious, Ritual and Funerary
Period Post Medieval
Site Description The present St David's Cathedral building mostly dates from 1180 to 1220, although alterations and additions were made between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries. The west front is a nineteenth century restoration intended to recreate the original Norman front following an unsympathetic rebuilding by Nash. There is a fine early sixteenth century roof to the nave. The cathedral is one of the earliest British examples of a combined triforium and clerestory. It is the most important medieval ecclesiastical building in Wales. The Cathedral stands at the centre of a complex of medieval and later structures and buildings, enclosed by the precinct wall (NPRN 402321), these, with the associated borough without, comprising the medieval and later city (NPRN 268104).
Additional: Tree-ring dating commissioned by RCAHMW and reported in Vernacular Architecture, vol. 39 (2008), pp. 142-3:
St David's Cathedral (SM 7515 2543)
(a) Tower Felling date ranges: 1248-1278; 1273-1303; 1286-1316; 1287-1317; 1303-1333
(b) Bellframe Felling date: Spring 1386
(c) Nave roof ceiling boards Felling date ranges: 1434-1474; 1445-1475
(d) Nave roof-trusses Felling date ranges: 1501-1531 to 1544-1574
St David’s is a complex multi-period cathedral best appreciated through the detailed account by Roger Worseley in The Buildings of Wales: Pembrokeshire (2004 ) and the lavishly illustrated St Davids Cathedral 1181-1981 (1981) by Wyn Evans & Roger Worsley. Three major elements were sampled; elements not sampled included the screens and stalls, the timber vault at the tower crossing, and a currently inaccessible fragment of early roof (ex inf. Jerry Sampson). The dating was commissioned by RCAHMW as a centenary project with the support of the Dean, the Very Rev. J. Wyn Evans.
(a) The three-stage tower is of several builds. The original tower partly collapsed in 1220 (?) and was rebuilt in at least two phases, the second stage with ballflower ornament is 14th Century and the upper stage with belfry, parapet and pinnacles dates from circa 1500. The ceiling bracing of the clock chamber below the belfry was sampled. Jowled posts rising from corbels with large curved timber braces support the main beams of the bell-chamber floor; the joists pass over the beams. The braces are apparently in situ (though many of the joists are reused) and date from between 1300-1325. This presumably dates the initial reconstruction of the tower.
(b) The bellframe in the chamber above was adjusted and expanded in the 19th Century (painted date of 1852) but incorporates much material from an earlier bellframe constructed from timber felled shortly after 1385. The bellframe is earlier than the bellfry in its present form and must have been reframed more than once, as redundant mortices confirm. The bellframe, which requires further study, is the earliest known in Wales and one of the earliest identified in Britain.
(c) The nave roof is an important 'pendant ceiling', the object of much admiration since the later 16th century. It is secular in type (appropriate for a great hall) with a strongly marked Renaissance character, especially in the detailing of the pendants and in the innovative structural form of the trusses. The ceiling of twelve bays, each with ten boarded panels, is suspended from the tie-beams of low-pitched king-post trusses numbered I-IIX on the ridge-beam. The king-posts are 'joggled' to receive the principal rafters but are not braced. These may be the earliest king-post trusses of Italian type surviving in Britain. It has been suggested that the roof is of Flemish workmanship, made from Irish oak; however, cross-matching showed that the roof was made from Welsh rather than Irish oak, although the roof certainly has a Continental (Renaissance) character.. A more detailed account of this roof is in preparation.
Sampling gave an unexpectedly complex series of dates ranging from the mid-15th Century to the mid-16th Century. The timbers had been defrassed (probably in the 19th Century) and felling dates were estimated from the heartwood-sapwood boundary. The felling-date ranges indicate three phases: (1) a stockpiling phase in the first quarter of 16th Century; (2) a construction phase in the second quarter of the 16th Century; (3) a phase of repair and consolidation in the mid-16th Century. This complex sequence is consistent with the documentary sources; these indicate that the roof was commissioned before 1509, was partly constructed by the 1530s, but that work stopped between 1536 and 1548.
(d) Unexpectedly, tree-ring dating shows that the ceiling boards (feather-and v-edged, and numbered) are earlier than the ceiling beams, and had been reused from an earlier ceiling or timber-vaulted roof of circa 1450, possibly the predecessor nave roof.
RCAHMW, February 2011