A Brief History of the Church of St. Elli
The church is dedicated to Sant Elli / St Elli. There has been Christian worship on this site for the past 1,500 years. The Church is prominently situated in the heart of the town centre in the conservation area, opposite the Grade I listed Llanelly House.
The Church has an historic medieval tower which dates to the 13th Century. The height of the tower is over sixty feet, and its walls are four feet thick. The origins of the tower could relate to a defensive use on this ancient religious site. The tower has been adapted over the years to become a bell tower and contains a full octave of eight bells. Archaeologists believe the remains of an early medieval church lie beneath the floor of the Norman tower and around its foundations. Following research undertaken at nearby Llanelly House it is also believed that an early monastic settlement could have been established on the site of the Church.
Due to issues with the structure of the original building, the main body of the Church (its Nave, Chancel, Transepts, Vestry and Sanctuary) had to be rebuilt. The last service in the old church was held on the evening of Tuesday 23rd May 1905. Work began the following day. The church re-opened on Tuesday 8th January 1907 after nineteen months of work. The rebuilding project was called the Restoration. It was designed by notable Welsh architect Colonel Edwin Bruce-Vaughan of Cardiff. The restoration was a great success with no expense spared.
The Church was granted Grade II * listed status by Cadw in 1964. The church contains important monuments, some dating to the 17th Century which were reinstalled in the restored church. The restoration also reinstated original features such as the main southern doorway and the Sanctus Bell Tower. It is one of only a few churches in the UK with two towers. Cadw describe the church as being of “exceptional interest”. As a result of its high listed status it is part of a small group of very important buildings within Wales. No major alterations have taken place at the Church in the last 100 years.
The church also contains two exceptional and rare stained glass windows from designs by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and manufactured by the famous William Morris & Co in 1911. The company’s other commissions include windows at St James’s Palace and the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). The stained glass windows at the Parish Church have been described by Cadw as “outstanding”.
The Lych Gate was constructed in 1911 to commemorate the rebuilding of the Church. It has been granted Grade Two listed status by Cadw, who describe the Lych Gate as a “Very ornate example of an Arts and Crafts inspired Gothic woodwork”.
Lych Gate (also shown in the background is the medieval west tower with its Georgian steps and doorway)
The original purpose of the Lych Gate was to allow the bearers an area to rest, before carrying the coffin into the church for the funeral service. The Priest would also meet the bearers at the Lych Gate, to conduct the first part of the service.
The Church provides an important link to the early history of Llanelli. You are very welcome to visit our church to appreciate its heritage and beauty as part of the weekly services.
Local school children visiting the Church