History of St Mary’s Llanfairpwll

Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll – St Mary/Santes Fair

The church stands at the end of a narrow land about 0.2 mil (0.3 km) south of the main S5 road on the east side of the village of Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll.  Grid Reference SH 537 713.

The earliest religious cell on this site probably dates from the 7th century.  It is interesting to note that the island church of St Tysilio (in Menai Bridge) was once a chapel of ease belonging to St Mary’s church, Llanfair Pwyllgwyngyll.  A medieval church stood on this magnificent site on the shore of the Menai Straits before the present church was built; it was demolished in 1852.  It was unusual amongst Anglesey churches in that the east wall of the chancel has an apse.

A completely new church, designed by Henry Kennedy, was completed in 1853 at a cost of £950.  The catalyst for the building of the new church was the then Rector, the Reverend Thomas Jones Williams M.A. (whose grave can be seen in the churchyard below the east window of the chancel).  Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll had grown in importance as a result of Telford’s A5 road, the coming of the railway and the construction of the Britannia Bridge and the Reverend Williams believed the parish deserved a better and larger church.  The new church was consecrated by the Bishop of Bangor on 7th September 1853.

Entrance to the churchyard is through an impressive lychgate which bears the Greek letters alpha and omega.  At the south-west end of the church is a tower (incorporating a belfry) on which stands an impressive slender spire.  At the four corners of the base of the spire are carved stone animals.  The church door is incorporated into the tower.  The walls of the church and the tower are strengthened by impressive buttresses.  The slate roof is very steeply pitched.  A small vestry with its own doorway at the east end of the church was added in the 1880s.

The stained glass window in the east wall depicts various Biblical scenes and is dedicated to the memory of the first Marquess of Anglesey and is dated 1876.  High in the west wall is a stained glass window dedicated to Sir Robert Waller Otway; it was installed in 1876.  The stained glass window in the south wall of the nave and the brass lectern are dedicated to the memory of Harry Clegg of nearby Plas Llanfair.  The reredos and the pulpit are of granite and both date from 1901.  They commemorate members of the Morgan family of nearby Plas Coed Mor as does one of the stained glass windows in the north wall of the nave.  A more modern stained glass window in the north wall of the nave commemorates the work of the Indefatigable Nautical Training School which was located nearby from 1864 until its closure in 1995.  A tablet on the north wall of the nave is in memory of those who died in the First World War; the simple wooden altar rail is dedicated to those who died in the Second World War.

The church contains some artefacts from Uganda; this is because it has formed an association with a Ugandan parish.

The roof timbers of the chancel are hidden by unusual wood panelling.  The octagonal font is the same age as the church and it must be presumed, therefore, that the font from the old church was destroyed or lost at the time of its demolition.  The wooden conical shaped font cover dates from 1955.

Around the church is an uneven churchyard with a few yew trees and a tiny stream flows through it.  The churchyard contains a memorial to those who lost their lives in the construction of the Britannia Bridge in the 19th century and its subsequent reconstruction in the 1970s.  A total of twenty names are inscribed on this memorial.  In the churchyard can be seen the grave of Sir John Morris Jones (1864 – 1929), the distinguished Welsh academic who was Professor of Welsh at the University of Wales, Bangor from 1895.  The grave is marked by an impressive Celtic cross near the highest part of the churchyard.  In the south side of the churchyard on the path leading down to the Straits stands an intricately carved Celtic cross surrounded by four small yew trees.  This commemorates members of the Clegg family of Plas Llanfair.  Looking towards the Menai Straits from the churchyard it is possible to see a statue of Horatio Nelson, erected in 1873.

[Reproduced, by permission from: Anglesey Churches  ISBN: 1-84527-089-4

© Text: Geraint I. L. Jones © Gwasg Carreg Gwalch 2006 www.carreg-gwalch.co.uk