The doors at St Teilo’s Church, Llanarth were opened to the community for the first time in several years in early September and the event held in bright sunshine drew enthusiastic support from local people and further afield.

The Cadw open doors event, which allowed visitors to view from the tower, porch and chancel doorways, enabled visitors to see how the building is structurally sound but requires conservation work and upgrading to enable new community uses, promote the area’s heritage and improve wellbeing of local people and visitors to the historic landmark.

As well as seeing the church in its current state, and learning about planned management of the ancient churchyard to promote conservation, visitors were treated to an exhibition of the plans the Village Alive Trust are developing, and tea and homemade cake, at Llanarth Village Hall.

The redundant Grade II* building was closed in 2014 by the Church in Wales after a survey revealed expensive conservation work was needed. When the church was put up for sale, pre-Covid, the Village Alive Trust, a local buildings preservation charity, stepped in to seek ways to save the historic community building.

A viability study, funded by the Trust and the Architectural Heritage Fund, produced a proposal to repair the church and use it for various community uses.

These now include restoring the eight bells which were removed from the tower, and running a bell ringing training centre.

A discreet columbarium with rented niches for loved ones’ cremated ashes is planned at the chancel end.

Other proposals would see a kitchen and WC facility at the tower end, with the nave divided into two floor spaces, to house a café area and a separate flexible space suitable for church festivals, small exhibitions, craft classes and choral concerts. A mezzanine floor at the tower end of the church would enable access to the bell ringing chamber and flexible space for other uses.

An important element of the Trust’s plan is to preserve the beauty of the church, including the view of the lovely stained glass window at the mezzanine level, through a glass screen at the chancel arch, retaining the airy feel of the church’s lofty nave. In keeping with an historic building, these changes would be reversible in the future should its functions change.

Pat Griffiths, Trust chairman, said Trust members and volunteers were busy throughout the Cadw open doors event to talk to the many visitors who turned out to learn about the project, offer suggestions, support and donations. “Lockdowns and Covid restrictions on gatherings have hampered our efforts to reach out to supporters,” said Pat.

“We have been issuing newsletters and flyers to anyone whose details have been added to our database and the local Press have been excellent in using our articles. “We really needed some proper face to face contact which the open day helped to get rolling. We hope we have dispelled the myths that the church is structurally unsound, and demonstrated how the church would greatly enhance facilities in Llanarth,” she said. “We have already had volunteers from the local area contact us with practical support, which is invaluable. We need as much support as possible from now on to formulate successful grant bids to retain and reinvent the church, without destroying its heritage. If we do not want to be the generation that allows this centuries old church to be sold off we must act now, with the support of the Church in Wales.”