December 2019

Church House by Isabel Stewart The quiet little village of Derwen has a grade I mediæval church and an even older grade II* preaching cross. Together, this is more than most villages have… but there’s even more. There’s also a small two-storey grade II stone house, currently Church House, built into the churchyard boundary wall, thought to have been constructed in the 1600s. This is an exceptionally unusual yet characterful property. Although there are no actual datable features, its listing suggests it was built at a time when the churchyard ground level was about three feet lower than at present. It’s built of local axe-dressed uncoursed stone. These days, the access to the house is through the churchyard. Looking at the building from the road, you can see a large arch (now filled in), which would have led into the ground floor and was most likely a hearse house. This may therefore have been a place from which a funeral may have proceeded directly to the church. The ground floor is now a semi- basement. The upper floor of the house is reached by external stone steps and it has a small fireplace. A slate roof, water supply, kitchen area and electricity are all modern features, some of which perhaps dates from a 1905 restoration, as shown on Church House’s north face. This room may have been used for a vestry, for parish meetings and at one time even as a village school. Altogether, it’s a lovely small building with secrets from time gone by. Its reason for being listed is are because it is a well-preserved church house and for group value with St Mary’s church and cross. It’s owned by the Representative Body of the Church in Wales but just sold at auction for a reported £28,000 to a local. The vendor specifies that the building shall not be used for the manufacture, distribution or sale of alcohol; for religious use; for immoral, sacrilegious, offensive or noisy purposes; as a night club; or use associated with the occult. Leaving aside these stipulations, Church House may nevertheless soon once again come to life, perhaps as a studio flat or as a rather unique and exceptional holiday or Airbnb let.
Archive from 2013 Historic Interest