One of Pembrokeshire’s most beautiful medieval churches has been granted salvation thanks to a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Built in the 15th century, St Lawrence’s Church in Gumfreston was declared redundant in 2021 and the following year was designated as being ‘at risk’.

Engulfed in ivy, the church has suffered from long-term substantial water ingress which has seriously damaged the roof, walls and floors and this poses a serious threat to its vulnerable medieval walls. As a result, this beautiful part of Pembrokeshire’s landscape was in danger of falling into ruin.

Now, after being taken into the care of the independent charity Friends of Friendless Churches, the church has been given a reprieve following a £769,309 grant by the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The money will be shared between St Lawrence and St James Church in Llangua, Monmouthshire.

This means that extensive work can now get underway to rescue and repair St Lawrence. This will include re-roofing the entire building, lay new drainage and rainwater goods, stabilise the fragile wall paintings and undertake masonry repairs throughout.

It is understood that the church was built next to three holy wells, which would have drawn people to their healing waters for centuries. Each well was purported to contain different water and offer different cures — spring water for legs, chalybeate-rich water for hands and arms, and sulphurous water for eyes.

The present building was constructed in the 12th-14th centuries, with its large Pembrokeshire-style multi-storied tower added in the 15th century however its belfry houses the pre-Reformation bell, cast in about 1350, which is possibly the oldest in the county.

In the 1980s, a rare 15th-century wall painting was discovered in the nave. This fragile survivor depicts either St Lawrence or Christ of the Trades, both rare images in medieval Welsh wall painting. Excitingly, more paintings have recently emerged from beneath water-damaged paint.

“This grant is a real life-line for the church”, commented a spokesperson for Friends of Friendless Churches in a recent report.

“This fascinating church, which needs extensive and expensive repairs after years of substantial water ingress, has so much more to reveal And without intervention, the church was declining rapidly. We'e delighted to be able to pull it back from the brink.”

The grant will provide 74 per cent of the total amount needed to restore both churches. As a result, Friends of Friendless Churches are appealing for donations to hep them fund the remainder.

Further information on how you can help can be found on the Friends of Friendless Churches website.