A history of Saint Tudclud’s Church, Penmachno

St Tudclud was a sixth century Saint, one of the five sons of Seithennyr Said
who, with his brother Gwyddno Garanhir, ruled the Ancient Kingdom of Gwynedd,
under Maelgwn Gwynedd.

Seithennyr was responsible for opening and closing the
sluice-gates on Cardigan Bay, but alas, in his cups one night he forgot so that
the “Hundred” of Cantrer Gwaeld (now Cardigan Bay) was flooded – The Bells of
Aberdovey (hence the song), gave warning too late. Seithennyr’s sons, Ludno
(Llandudno) Deneid (Pwllheli) Gwynhoed (Llangwnadl) Merin (Bodfarin) – both
parishes next to Aberdaron in the Llyn Peninsula, and our own Tudclud, were so
shocked at their father’s misdemeanour, that they all took to the Clas or
Monastic Establishment of Bangor Monaehrum (Bangor 0n Dee).

They emerged from
their training there, each to the parish bearing his name and either founded
Christian Communities or revived the existing ones. Each Ancient Establishment
in Wales has it’s “Holy Well” – ours in Penmachno is in the cellar of the old
Post Office.

The Revivalist Saint knew that the British people were prone to
worshipping water deities. The Welsh for Sunday is Sul. Sul or Sulis in its
Latin form (the Romans called the City of Bath Aqua Sulis), was such a “Water
god”. It was by the local well that they found there people. They christened the
un-baptised in the well, and usually erected a small altar over the well with a
wattle and daub shelter above, this was the original Welsh “Betws”,
Betws-y-Coed – The Shrine in the Wood. “Betws Gwerfyl Goch – The Shrine of
“Virgil the Redhead” etc. In most instances where the local well was readily
available – it has unfortunately degenerated into a “Wishing Well.”

The
present church built in 1859 is the third we know of and when this was built, a
previous church of about 1600-20 was taken down. That church was on the site of the present chancel. There were also ruined walls of a 12th century
church. This building was at the eastern end of the churchyard. The stones from
both these earlier churches were used to line the present one. “The Penmachno
Stones” (originating from the first Roman camp in Penmachno) were found in the
walls of the 12th Century church. The existing Font is a 12th Century one from
the first known church. Both these earlier churches were according to the
prevailing practice whitewashed inside and outside. This whitewash was produced
by slaking quicklime, tallow being added while the slacking lime was still
hot.

In 1713 a fire took toll of the “Middle Church”. The parson at the time
was holding a school in the church. The earthen floor was covered with rushes.
There is a record of a man being paid 3d for cutting rushes at Tyddyn Du (top
end of Glascwm Valley) 2 miles away and carrying them down to the church to put
on the floor. It was common practice to light a fire – and presumably the fire
was not properly extinguished. All the old registers were lost – including
presumably the record of the Baptism of Bishop Morgan. The Chalice and Paten
were lost, but a very fine “Queen Anne” Chalice and Paten were provided by
Roderick Lloyed of Haodwyryd to replace them in 1713.
In addition to the
Bishop William Morgan (1553 – 1604) translator of the Bible into Welsh in 1588,
the Parish also provided another Bishop in the person of Bishop Humphrey Lloyd,
of Bangor in the 1700’s. He was brought up at “Dylasau” a farm in the Edda
district between Penmachno and Yspyty Ifan. “Dalasau” is a corruption of Ty
Lasar – Lazar House. This was an offshoot of the Hospice at Ysbytfy
Ifan.

Bishop William Morgan 1553 – 1604 was born at Ty Mawr Wybrnant within
the Ecclesiastical Boundary of Penmachno – by civil boundary standards in the
Parish of Dolwyddelan. He is said to have been taught his Latin, Greek and
Hebrew by a dispossessed Monk (presumably from Maenan Abbey, outside Llanrwst).
This dispossessed Monk was probably Dom Robert ap Griffith who according to
diocesan records, was appointed Rector of Penmachno in 1551. It is noteworthy
that although at the founding of Westminster School some 40 years earlier no
one could be found in London to teach Greek in the new school and a person from
the Continent had to be imported for that purpose, here in the back woods 40
years on, was a person who was competent to teach Greek and Hebrew as well as
Latin, and that very thoroughly, the proof being the Latin of Morgan’s
presentation to Queen Elizabeth I, a composition of which Cicero himself would
have been proud.

W.R.Jones