is to be found in the village of Llaneilian in the north east
of Anglesey, North Wales. And what a church!
is a superb example of a
late medieval parish church having a Norman tower, a 15th century
rood screen, a 17th century altar and 17th century paintings. I must
admit when I first saw the church I didn't know what to think. From the
front you see a large white tower with a pyramid shaped and slated roof.
Almost hidden behind the tower is the main body of the church.
The tower and the church seem out of proportion, they don't match at
all. But this is understandable when you realise that the tower is 12th
Century while the Nave and Chancel are 15th Century.
At least the nave and the chancel are constructed at right angles to
the tower, but the position of the smaller chapel of St Eilian's, at
the rear, can
only be described as squew wiff. The chapel has been joined
on to the chancel by an interesting bit of building work which is to
a large part a slate roof. I don't know whether the roof leaks but the
slate joints have been patched with cement mortar (which seems to be
common practice in the area) and the roof abutment to the stone walls
of the chapel and chancel have been made with benching rather than with
I understand that considerable repairs have been undertaken in recent
years (c.2007) with a grant from Cadw, the Lottery Fund and others.
New lead to roofs, repointing to external walls, window repairs, stonework
repairs, lime plastering and re-rendering the Norman Tower with lime
mortar and limewash. The cost was over £150,000 and to my eyes
it seems they ran out of money half way. The front and side elevation
appear to have
been repointed but the rear walls, chapel and north side do not. In fact
the old place seems to be in a state of disrepair !
But this is
not necessarily a bad thing as there is nothing worse than an ancient
building being renovated too much. Rather like Trigger's sweeping
brush (Trigger of "Only fools and horses" fame) ... "I've
had the same brush for 30 years..... but it has had several new brush
heads and quite a few new handles !"
As long as the roof
doesn't leak and the structure is reasonably sound leave the old buildings
St Eilian came to Anglesey from Rome in the 6th Century. He founded
his "Llan" and built the original cell or church on the present
site close to where he landed at Porth yr Ychen (Porthyrychen). The church
would have been rebuilt several times and the tower is all that now remains
of a 12th Century building. The nave and chancel date to the 15th Century,
and within the church is a beautifully carved 15th Century oak rood
loft . A painted figure of Death as a skeleton on one panel may date
from the 16th century.
The side chapel was built in the 14th Century and
joined to the main church in 1614. It is reputed to mark the site
original church and it contains the base of a very rare 15th century
wooden altar. You may also appreciate the original
mediaeval joinery in the chapel, not a single nail, only wooden pegs.
A short walk along the coast from the nearby Point
Lynas takes you to
the Holy Well of St Eilian. Medieval pilgrims would visit the well and
their donations would add to the wealth of Llaneilian's Church. This
would explain the more "English" style, the more prosperous
looking style, of Llaneilian Church with its crenellations or battlements
which are much more common amongst the English counties and the Welsh
Borders than in Anglesey and North West Wales. The picture below shows
the stream that runs past the well and not the well itself. Yes I walked
past it without realising it was a few yards up the hill!
Unfortunately the church was closed on my visit but if you plan ahead
you may telephone 01407 830349/710356/830754 for a key. Alternatively
plan your visit to arrive during service hours.
There is good disabled access to the Church.
I have recently (September 2009) received an update about the church
from the restoration manager.
St Elian Church is OPEN from 1st May to the 30th September daily
from 10am to 4pm. During other times a list of key holders is exhibited
on the Porch Gate.
The church tower is not whitewashed but is rendered with
an ochre pigment which came from the nearby Parys Mountain (noted for
its copper mines). The church under went a £200,000
restoration carried out in 2002 and the architect, Adam Voelcker recieved
the King of Prussia Gold Medal for the work carried out on the Tower.
The church is one of the most well preserved 12th century churches
on the Isle of Anglesey and noted for its rood screen (dated 1495) bearing
a painting of a skeleton, and wooden carvings, and Cyff Eilian which
has associations with Ffynnon Eilian.