The Church of St. Celynnin dates back to the 12th century and is next to the famous Holy Well of the same name, which is in the corner of the Churchyard. The well is much older, and the water is renowned for its healing powers. Although it is very remote from where the majority of people live today, down in the Conwy Valley, St. Celynnin used to preach here in the 6th century, because there was a community living in the hills then. Traces of that community can still be seen today, such as the standing stones, hut circles, hill forts, hill tracks and a Roman route. The footings of an ancient inn are also visible, just outside the walls!
Llangelynnin Old Church is dedicated to the local Saint Celynnin who lived in the 6th century. It would have been the first religious settlement on the site. At that time, people used to live in the uplands, before the wooded lowlands were cleared for grazing and the villages that you see today. The hill tracks, that still exist, would have been the main arterial routes in Saint Celynnin’s time.
The present Llangelynnin Old Church, which dates from the 12th century, was used for regular worship until 1840. A new Church was then built down in the valley, to make it easier for the people who were now living in the lowlands to worship God.
In 1932 and 1987, major restorations of the Church were carried out. The latter was under the guidance of the late Mr. Gerald Speechley. Today, Services are held during the Summer and on special occasions, such as the Dawn Communion Easter Service.
The porch is a 15th century addition, with an unusual squint window in the East wall. You may notice that the porch roof has been repaired with purlins of yew, which may have grown in the now almost treeless graveyard.
The threshold and hinges of the door are believed to be 14th century, but the door itself is of a later date.
To the right of the door, there is a Holy Water stoup, which was used well into the 19th century. Worshippers would have used the water to cross themselves as they entered the Church.
The octagonal font at the rear of the Church is either 13th or 14th century. Like many in this area, it is a low font, only 27 inches tall. There is another font in the Church, that came from the Victorian Church of Llangelynnin, which closed in the 1980s.
The nave, which is the oldest part of the present Church, dates back to the 12th century. Hanging on the South wall of the nave, there is a bier, that was used to carry the remains of the dead to their final resting place.
The benches in the Church date from the 19th century. One bench is inscribed with the initials R.O.B., for Reverend Owen Bulkeley. He was the former Rector and benefactor of the parish and died in 1737. A terrier of 1742 lists “one church bench which is made use of when women come to church”. No others are mentioned.
The chancel, with the remains of a boarded barrel roof, is probably 14th century.
The East window is an elaborate example of 15th century work. It has a flat lintel, which was a common feature of Churches in this area. It breaks into a 14th century niche, which probably contained an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary or Saint Celynnin. No doubt the earlier window contained only two lights.
The twisted baluster altar rails and the altar reredos screen are of the 17th century.
The remains of the 14th century rood screen, which is in front of the comparatively modern lectern, is an interesting feature. It separated the nave from the chancel and it is made from horizontal boards, containing two small triangular holes, which may have been used to spy on the priest during Lent! The upper part of the screen was likely to have been veiled during the period of Lent.
It is likely that the beam and parapet of the old rood loft were used to form the front of the Western gallery. The beam can be seen to the rear of the Church, but the gallery itself has been demolished. Traces of the rood loft can be seen on the walls. The rood loft supported a crucifix. The box adjoining the remains of the rood screen is thought to be the remains of a pew for the Rector’s family.
The reader’s desk is thought to be Elizabethan, but the door is a later date. At one time, a pulpit stood on the North side of the altar. When it was removed, some inscriptions were exposed on the East wall. Whitewash on the remaining inscriptions was removed to expose the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments, all in Welsh, as well as the elaborate scroll work and inscription “Fear God and honour the King” over the East window. These inscriptions are thought to date from the Restoration. The Lord’s Prayer on the window sill can no longer be seen.
The 15th century Men’s Chapel Capel Meibion forms the North transept, where until the 19th century, the men would sit or stand in it during the Services. The women and children would sit in the main nave. Today, there is no segregation. We all sit together. You will notice that the floor at the rear of the Men’s Chapel is of earth, which would have been strewn with rushes, meadowsweet or some other pleasant smelling leaves. This would have been the case for the floor in the nave, before it was paved. The window at the North end of the Men’s Chapel is post Reformation.
The unusual spellings of Rebeka Joens and Owen Joens are on the memorial next to the altar. The two memorials on the West wall of the Men’s Chapel are also interesting, because they show the Welsh patronymic system of naming. The lower memorial shows the son with the surname Roberts, because his father’s Christian name was Robert and can be seen on the upper memorial.
At one time, Capel Eirianws used to exist South of the altar. It was probably named after Eirianws Farm, which was located along the B5106 road. Eirianws means Plum Orchard in Welsh. According to a terrier of 1742 “Owen Holland of Conwy, Esqre and Humphrey Roberts of Bryn-y-Neuadd Esqre have equal Claim and Title to the sd. chapel and repair the same upon their own proper cost and charges”. During the middle of the 19th century, the Chapel was demolished, but its foundations can still be seen outside. It is believed that the Chapel was built in Elizabethan times by the owner of Eirianws Farm.
The Church bell has the inscription “1822”.
In the South West corner of the Churchyard, there is a well called Ffynnon Celynnin, which is Celynnin’s Well in Welsh. The water is known to have healing powers and was noted for curing sick children. Around the walls of the well, which at one time was roofed, there are stone benches. The well dried up during the drought of 2018!
Outside the Churchyard, near the well, was a circular building, which according to the 1742 terrier, was used as a stable.
There used to be an inn to quench the thirst of weary travellers. It was located in the South East corner, just outside the Churchyard. The inn was demolished at the beginning of the 19th century.
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