St. Silin’s Church, Llansilin, Powys, Wales

Latitude 52.84539777805583
Longitude -3.175102472305298
City Llansilin
County Powys
Country Wales



History of St. Silin Church, Llansilin, Montgomeryshire

By Arthur Baker, Esq., R.C.A., F.R.I.B.A.

Among the missionaries who came over with Cadvan from Armorica into Wales, in the sixth century, was Silin, who, after spending some time at the College at Bardsey, made a missionary tour in Cardiganshire, founding the churches of Eglwys Sulien and Capel St Silin in Llanfihangel Ystrad; and in this district, in addition to this church, the church at Wrexham, afterwards rededicated to St. Giles, and the Capel St. Silin under Wrexham.

For the fabric of his church we look in vain, for it has long since disappeared, and the British cross has been destroyed: but the memory of the founder is still preserved in the Well in a field on the west side of the road. I had the good fortune to be in the company of the Rev. Elias Owen when he discovered the Well, which is under a tree at the upper end of a field on the Tynllan Farm. From the Well is a watercourse leading down to an oblong tank.

Of the period of the existence of St. Silin s Church, or the changes in the fabric, which took place during the following six hundred years, we have no record but the pillars at the east and west ends of the nave arcade tell us that, while Valle Crucis Abbey was in course of erection, the church was being rebuilt, for the carving on the capitals is precisely similar to that of the capitals at Valle Crucis Abbey and this coincidence is very natural, as Einion Efell, lord of Cynllaeth (living at Llwyn y Maen), the ancestor of the families living at Lloran Ucha, Lloran Issa, Bodlith, and Moelwrch, etc., was first cousin to Prince Madoc, who founded Valle Crucis Abbey in 1199. But these capitals are not the only evidence of the work of this period, the small lancet-window in the south wall of the chancel being of the same date, and also the small fragment of stone, which may have belonged either to a door or to the east window.

The plan of the church at this period is a subject of interesting conjecture but I cannot speak positively about it, except that the present south aisle was the original nave and chancel, and that there was an arcade on the north, opening into an aisle but the size of the aisle or the arcade is uncertain. It was entirely altered at a subsequent date, probably late in the fifteenth or early in the sixteenth century, the old pillars and capitals (to which I have already referred) being used up. As three of these pillars are of the later date, the original early arcade was probably small, and did not run the whole length of the church.

There are two straight, vertical joints at the west end of the south wall, which suggests an arcade on that aide of the church.

But let us pass from these conjectures to imagine the beauty of the church in the thirteenth century, which was the heyday of Gothic architecture, when the aristocratic, powerful, and wealthy descendants of Prince Bleddyn ap Cynfyn spent their money freely in the adornment of their church as well as the rebuilding of their own houses.

Although there is nothing remaining in the church to mark this century, it is worthy of note that there lived at Moelfre a David Sant, who, from this title, may possibly have been a benefactor to the church or parish.

Early in the thirteenth century the church was probably collegiate, as in the foundation-charter of St. John's Hospital in Oswestry there is a grant by Bishop Reyner (1210-1215) of an annual grant of thirty shillings upon the clergy of Llansilin. The church was afterwards appropriated by Bishop Anian to the cathedral Chapter but the deed being destroyed in the wars, the appropriation was confirmed by Bishop Llewelyn ap Ynyr on April 13th, 1296.

In 1291 the parish was in the Deanery of Cynllaeth, and the value was, "Rectoria, £15; dec, £1 10s.; porcio Llewelyn, £1:6:8; non dec. Vicaria, £4; non dec."

Of the fourteenth century I have nothing to say until we come to its eventful close, when Owen Glyndowr, lord of Glyndwrda, was in rebellion against the English King, and had his chief fort and residence at Sycharth in this parish, and, doubtless, worshipped in this church.

These must have been busy and stirring times when the great artificial mound (this mound is of Saxon type), with its moat and glacis, was in making, and the fishponds, with their bottoms of clay laid in the bog, were being formed, and the water brought from the hills to fill the ponds and the moat and the circular fort, formed of massive timber (of which one has lately been dug out of the moat), was being reared. But this splendid specimen of construction and engineering skill was to be but short-lived, for in 1402, while Owen Glendowr was away fighting in Glamorganshire, Sycharth was attacked by the English, under Prince Henry, and destroyed.

I expect the church and the houses in the neighbourhood also suffered, and probably the parish did not recover for many years, for it is not until the middle of the fifteenth century that we have any record or evidence of further building operations, when Ieuan Bach, of Henblas, began the great window in the chancel, which was finished by his widow, Gwenhwyfar, daughter of Ieuan Vychan of Moelwrch, who was celebrated for his wealth and hospitality, and whose son Howel (we are told in a poem by his chief bard, Guto y Glyn) rebuilt Moelwrch.

Ieuan Bach and his wife Gwenhwyfar, in putting in the new east window, and filling it with painted glass, with the date and name of the donor inscribed upon it, were following a prevalent fashion of the day, for there are few old churches which have not evidences of east windows dating from 1430-80.

The example set by their generous gift was speedily followed, for we have evidence of reseating in a fragment of a seat-end found in the course of the present restoration, as well as part of the richly carved beam and other parts of the roodleft.

The roofs, so characteristic of the Tudor period, with the magnificent panelled ceilings (which formerly existed in both the north and south chancels), were evidently erected in the sixteenth century. Only two of the purlins remain in the north aisle but in the south aisle the panelled ceiling was found almost complete when the plaster-ceiling was removed.

The next fact of which we have a record is of a suit in the High Commission Court, about 1534, between the sons of Llewelyn ap Ieuan Vychan of Moelwrch as to the succession the one claiming by the new law of primogeniture, passed in the twenty-sixth year of Henry VIII, and the other by the ancient law of gavelkind. The award was "that Morris, the elder, should have a seat in Our Lady Chancel and the younger one, Thomas (ancestor of the house of Cefn of Braich), to have a seat in St. Silin Chancel."

At this time the image of St. Silin was standing in the chancel, opposite the pew of Thomas but it was not long to remain there, for the principles of the Reformation were soon to take root in the Principality; and as I learn from Archdeacon Thomas' History of the Diocese of St, Asaph, the venerated William Salisbury began to work in the new cause, and published "in 1546 the first book ever printed in the Welsh language". This book contained the alphabet, calendar, Creed, Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments, and other matter and this was followed, in 1551, by his translation of the Epistles and Gospels for the year.

During the reign of Queen Mary he was obliged to hide away for seven years at Caedu, a small farmhouse in the parish of Llansannan, until the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1558, who endeavoured to improve the state of the Welsh Church, which was then in a deplorable condition, the greater part of the clergy being non-resident.

Under such circumstances as these we cannot expect to find the fabric of the church much cared for during the early years of the Queen's reign, or be surprised that the energies of the parishioners were rather devoted to house-building. There is scarcely an old house in this parish that does not bear evidence of having been altered or beautified in this reign.

But the translation of the New Testament and the Prayer-Book into Welsh by Bishop Davies of St. Asaph (and afterwards of St. David's) and William Salisbury, and afterwards the translation of the whole Bible by Dr. William Morgan, Vicar of Llanrhaiadr in Mochnant, in 1588, as well as the steps taken by Thomas Davies, Bishop of St. Asaph from 1561-73, to carry out the work of reformation, must have had its evidence in the fabric or fittings of the church. Very probably the western gallery was erected at this time the detail of the framing of the floor appears to me to be of this date.

We now come to one of the most interesting periods in the history of the diocese,— the reign of the Stuarts and the times of the civil war. In the early part of the reign of Charles I (1633) we read of a return made by Bishop Owen, in which he states that he was much troubled in some parts of the diocese by the growth of superstition on the one hand, and on the other with the spread of that profaneness and irreverence with which the more violent of the Puritans treated the Word of God, and caricatured religion in the language of their everyday life.

As at this time Archbishop Laud, with somewhat more zeal than judgement, was enforcing discipline, correcting disorder, and promoting the repair of churches, the more regular performance of services, and reverent administration of the Holy Communion and as this district appears also to have been very loyal to King Charles, we may look in the church for some evidence of this period, and I think we shall find it in the richly molded and carved panelling of the seats, which have been used up in forming the new chancel-seats, for in one of the panels may be seen the face of a gentleman and lady of this period.

The Communion-Table I should conjecture to be of this date, both from the character of its designs and ornament, and from the fact that it was evidently made to stand with one end against the east wall, as one end is not carved. A fragment of the ancient stone altar was discovered during the restoration in 1890, and has been placed on the cill of the eastern window, in the south wall of the chancel.

I imagine that at this time the rood-loft and many of the ancient fittings were in their places, and that these new seats were part of some scheme of rearrangement.

Richard Jarvis was now Vicar of Llansilin, and must have had an eventful occupation of the living, for in 1642 the wave of civil war came in his direction, when Colonel Ellis was directed by the King to take Chirk Castle, which he accomplished on Jan. 15th, 1643. On September 5th of the following year, Montgomery Castle was given up to Sir Thomas Middleton, the commander of the Parliamentary force (whose relatives lived at Plas Newydd), who three days after was routed by Colonel Vaughan, and fled to the Castle, where he was besieged till relieved by Sir William Brereton, who had previously defeated Lord Biron on Sept. 18th. Lord Biron had passed with his army through Llansilin, on Sept. 12th, on his way to meet Sir William Brereton.

During the following year (1645) Chirk Castle was held for the King by Sir John Watts, who was a great friend of the Vicar of Llansilin, as we learn from a letter which was found by one of the workmen in a mortice-hole in a beam of the west gallery.

"Sir, — Whereas I desired your and your brother's good companies to dinner on Friday next, I shall desire you will make choice of some other day to come and dine with mee; what day in the beginninge of the next weeke you please; In regard the next Friday is our fast day which I was ignorant of when I envited you, I desire you yee shall be most welcome to mee; at all times.
" I remain e your affectionate friende,

"John Watts.
"August 6th, 1645.

" For my very good friende,

"Mr. Jarvis, minister of Llansilin."

Seven weeks after this, on Sept. 21, the King passed through Montgomeryshire, and lay that night at Llanfyllin. On the following day he marched from Llanfyllin to Brithdiw, where he dined, and then went over the mountains, through Mochnant, to Chirk Cattle. The rest of his army passed through Llansilin. On the following day, the 23rd, he advanced to Chester, and was routed on the next day at Rowton Moor. He then retreated to Denbigh Castle, and from there, after two or three days, to Chirk Castle then on the 29th he passed again through Llansilin, and quartered at Halchdyn.

Early in the following year (1646), on Feb. 23rd, the Parliamentary force from Montgomeryshire got possession of Llansilin Church, and fortified it, to keep in the men of Chirk Castle, where Sir John Watts was Governor. That some skirmishing took place in getting possession of the church, or in defending it, is evident by the bullet-holes in the door. We may imagine the delight of the Parliamentary soldiers in having possession of the church, and being able to carry out, in all its rigour, the order which was given in 1641 to deface, demolish, and quite take away, all images, altars, and tables turned altarwise, crucifixes, superstitious pictures, monuments, and relics of idolatry; and that the church-wardens should forthwith remove the Communion-Table from the east end of the church, and take away the rails, and leave the church as before the late innovation, and also the subsequent order of 1643 for the sale of all vestments.

This appears to have been supplemented by the ruthless destruction of the beautiful east window erected by Ieuan Bach of Henblas, and Gwenhyfen his wife, of Moelwrch, about the middle of the fifteenth century. Very probably the beam of the rood-loft and the seats supplied material for barricading the door and windows.

The Parliamentary forces were, however, less successful in an attack on Tymaw, for, while endeavouring to force the door, the inmates discharged from the upper windows the contents of a hive of bees, and caused them utter discomfiture.

During the reign of Charles I, Glascoed changed hands. Joha Kyffin, the son of Richard Kyffin, sold the property to his nephew, Walter Kyffin, whose heiress, Margaret, married Sir William Williams, Bart., the ancestor of the Wynns of Wynnstay. This eventful marriage, doubtless, benefited the church and to him, or the other wealthy inhabitants of the parish, I think we may attribute the introduction of the square pews. This form of pew continued in fashion until the present century. Of these pews I have kept a specimen against the vestry-screen.

When Sir William Williams died he was buried in a vault in the centre of the chancel, and a beautiful monument erected to his memory against the south wall of the south aisle.

I give an illustration of a tombstone in the churchyard, but I am not sure as to the time when it was erected. It may have been as early as 1550, or as late as 1650.

The almsbox is dated 1664.

In the reign of Queen Anne, the royal arms were placed on the north wall. Heraldic devices were favourite ornaments from the time of Queen Elizabeth to this date, and the study of heraldry and genealogies was very popular, one of the best authorities on the subject being John Davies of Rhiwlas, in the parish, who wrote his “Display of Heraldry” in 1716.

About this time the enlargement of the gallery with the front (which now forms the vestry-screen) was made.

Against the north wall of the north aisle is a very magnificent monument to David Maurice of Pen y bont, who was High Sheriff for the county. He was a junior member of the large and powerful family of the Maurices of Lloran Ucha. The monument is protected by a very beautiful metal screen.

The present east window was the gift of John Morris of South Australia, and his brother, Mr. James Morris of Ruthin, descendants of the Morris of Lloran Ucha. He also put in the window over the south door.

In 1824 the fine chandelier in the chancel was presented by Mr. Richard Roberts of Birmingham, third son of Mr. Roberts of Pen-y-Bryn. This fine specimen of nineteenth century ironwork, I am told, had a companion in the gate of the south porch. The porch has been destroyed, and the gate is now in a garden in the village, opposite the Vicarage. I trust this may some day be restored to the church.

In giving this short historical sketch of the church I have mentioned every feature but two, the old belfry and the porch, of which I can say nothing, as they were destroyed the former in 1832, the latter in 1864.

- From Archaeologia Cambrensis, Vol. XI, Fifth Series, 1894


  1. Alice Jones
  2. Alice Jones
  3. Alice Ward
  4. Allen Thomas
  5. Ann Jones
  6. Anne Evans
  7. Anne Evans
  8. Anne Jones
  9. Anne Jones
  10. Anne Jones
  11. Anne Jones
  12. Anne Jones
  13. Anne Jones
  14. Anne Morris
  15. Benjamin Jones
  16. Catherine
  17. Catherine Jean Jones
  18. Catherine Jones
  19. Catherine Jones
  20. Catherine Jones
  21. Catherine Williams
  22. Charlotte Richards
  23. Charlotte Richards
  24. Charlotte Roberts
  25. David Arthur
  26. David Evans
  27. David Evans
  28. David Jones
  29. David Roberts
  30. David Silin Roberts
  31. David Thomas
  32. Edward Edwards
  33. Edward Edwards
  34. Edward Edwards
  35. Edward Evans
  36. Edward Jones
  37. Edward Jones
  38. Edward Jones
  39. Edward Jones
  40. Edward Jones
  41. Edward Jones
  42. Edward Jones
  43. Edward Jones
  44. Edward Jones
  45. Edward Rees
  46. Edward Roberts
  47. Edward Roberts
  48. Edward Thomas
  49. Edward Ward
  50. Edward Ward
  51. Edward Williams
  52. Edward Williams
  53. Eleanor Jones
  54. Elinor Jones
  55. Elizabeth
  56. Elizabeth Ann Hughes
  57. Elizabeth Ann Jones
  58. Elizabeth Davies
  59. Elizabeth Davies
  60. Elizabeth Evans
  61. Elizabeth Hughes
  62. Elizabeth Jones
  63. Elizabeth Jones
  64. Elizabeth Jones
  65. Elizabeth Morris
  66. Elizabeth Richards
  67. Elizabeth Roberts
  68. Elizabeth Roberts
  69. Elizabeth Thomas
  70. Elizabeth Ward
  71. Emma Williams
  72. Evan Evans
  73. Evan Evans
  74. Evan Jones
  75. Family of Allen Thomas and Sarah Chidlow
    1. Allen Thomas
    2. Sarah Chidlow
  76. Family of David Evans and Elizabeth Davies
    1. David Evans
    2. Elizabeth Davies
  77. Family of Edward Jones and Mary Roberts
    1. Edward Jones
    2. Mary Roberts
  78. Family of Edward Rees and Emma Williams
    1. Edward Rees
    2. Emma Williams
  79. Family of Edward Roberts and Mary James
    1. Edward Roberts
    2. Mary James
  80. Family of Edward Ward and Elizabeth Morris
    1. Edward Ward
    2. Elizabeth Morris
  81. Family of Evan Evans and Elizabeth Jones
    1. Elizabeth Jones
    2. Evan Evans
  82. Family of Evan Jones and Jane Edwards
    1. Evan Jones
    2. Jane Edwards
  83. Family of Henry Jones and Catherine Williams
    1. Catherine Williams
    2. Henry Jones
  84. Family of Henry Jones and Elizabeth Roberts
    1. Elizabeth Roberts
    2. Henry Jones
  85. Family of Humphrey Jones and Margaret Davies
    1. Humphrey Jones
    2. Margaret Davies
  86. Family of John Jones and Katherine Evans
    1. John Jones
    2. Katherine Evans
  87. Family of John Richards and Margaret Davies
    1. John Richards
    2. Margaret Davies
  88. Family of John Thomas and Anne Morris
    1. Anne Morris
    2. John Thomas
  89. Family of Joseph Phillips and Elizabeth Ward
    1. Elizabeth Ward
    2. Joseph Phillips
  90. Family of Matthew Davies and Mary Annie Jones
    1. Mary Annie Jones
    2. Matthew Davies
  91. Family of Richard Roberts and Catherine Jones
    1. Catherine Jones
    2. Richard Roberts
  92. Family of Richard Roberts and Charlotte Richards
    1. Charlotte Richards
    2. Richard Roberts
  93. Family of Richard Roberts and Mary Jones
    1. Mary Jones
    2. Richard Roberts
  94. Family of Richard Thomas J.P. and Mary Ward
    1. Mary Ward
    2. Richard Thomas J.P.
  95. Family of Robert Cadwaladr and Grace Hughes
    1. Grace Hughes
    2. Robert Cadwaladr
  96. Family of Robert Jones and Anne Evans
    1. Anne Evans
    2. Robert Jones
  97. Family of Roger Jones and Jane Davies
    1. Jane Davies
    2. Roger Jones
  98. Family of Roger Jones and Mary Morris
    1. Mary Morris
    2. Roger Jones
  99. Family of SSgt. Alfred Ernest Swannick and Margaret Elizabeth Roberts
    1. Margaret Elizabeth Roberts
    2. SSgt. Alfred Ernest Swannick
  100. Family of Thomas Lewis and Eleanor Jones
    1. Eleanor Jones
    2. Thomas Lewis
  101. Family of Thomas Roberts and Mary Edwards
    1. Mary Edwards
    2. Thomas Roberts
  102. Family of William Hughes and Elizabeth Davies
    1. Elizabeth Davies
    2. William Hughes
  103. Family of William Jones and Margaret Lewis
    1. Margaret Lewis
    2. William Jones
  104. Family of William Jones and Mary Jones
    1. Mary Jones
    2. William Jones
  105. Family of William Ward and Elizabeth Hughes
    1. Elizabeth Hughes
    2. William Ward
  106. Family of [Griffith] Jones and Catherine Jones
    1. Catherine Jones
    2. [Griffith] Jones
  107. Grace Hughes
  108. Griffith Jones
  109. Hannah Jones
  110. Harry Evans
  111. Harry Jones
  112. Henry Jones
  113. Henry Jones
  114. Henry Jones
  115. Henry Jones
  116. Henry Jones
  117. Henry Roberts
  118. Humphrey Evans
  119. Humphrey Jones
  120. Humphrey Jones
  121. Jane Davies
  122. Jane Edwards
  123. Jane Elizabeth Ward
  124. Jane Jones
  125. Jane Jones
  126. Jane Richards
  127. Jane Roberts
  128. John Alfred Ward
  129. John Broadfoot
  130. John Evans
  131. John Jones
  132. John Jones
  133. John Jones
  134. John Jones
  135. John Jones
  136. John Jones
  137. John Jones
  138. John Jones
  139. John Richards
  140. John Richards
  141. John Richards
  142. John Roberts
  143. John Roberts
  144. John Thomas
  145. John Thomas
  146. Jones
  147. Joseph Phillips
  148. Katherine Evans
  149. Margaret Davies
  150. Margaret Davies
  151. Margaret Elizabeth Roberts
  152. Margaret Ellen Jones
  153. Margaret Jones
  154. Margaret Jones
  155. Margaret Lewis
  156. Margaret Murchie
  157. Margaret Richards
  158. Margaret Williams
  159. Maria Jane Jones
  160. Maria Jones
  161. Maria Jones
  162. Maria Richards
  163. Martha Williams
  164. Mary
  165. Mary
  166. Mary
  167. Mary Ann Jones
  168. Mary Annie Jones
  169. Mary Annie Roberts
  170. Mary Edwards
  171. Mary Edwards
  172. Mary Elizabeth Jones
  173. Mary Evans
  174. Mary James
  175. Mary Jones
  176. Mary Jones
  177. Mary Jones
  178. Mary Jones
  179. Mary Jones
  180. Mary Morris
  181. Mary Morton
  182. Mary Richards
  183. Mary Roberts
  184. Mary Roberts
  185. Mary Roberts
  186. Mary Ward
  187. Matthew Davies
  188. NN Jones
  189. Owen Jones
  190. Owen Williams
  191. Rees Edwards
  192. Richard Jones
  193. Richard Jones
  194. Richard Jones
  195. Richard Jones
  196. Richard Jones
  197. Richard Roberts
  198. Richard Roberts
  199. Richard Roberts
  200. Richard Roberts
  201. Richard Roberts
  202. Richard Thomas J.P.
  203. Robert Cadwaladr
  204. Robert Edwards
  205. Robert Evans
  206. Robert Jones
  207. Robert Jones
  208. Robert Jones
  209. Robert Jones
  210. Robert Jones
  211. Robert Jones
  212. Robert Jones
  213. Robert Lloyd Jones
  214. Robert Richard Jones
  215. Robert Thomas
  216. Roger Jones
  217. Roger Jones
  218. SSgt. Alfred Ernest Swannick
  219. Samuel Jones
  220. Samuel Jones
  221. Sarah
  222. Sarah Chidlow
  223. Sarah Jones
  224. Sarah Richards
  225. Sarah Thomas
  226. Sarah Ward
  227. Thomas Edward Ward
  228. Thomas Evans
  229. Thomas James
  230. Thomas Jones
  231. Thomas Lewis
  232. Thomas Roberts
  233. Thomas Roberts
  234. Thomas Thomas
  235. Thomas Thomas
  236. Thomas Williams
  237. William Edwards
  238. William Edwards
  239. William Evans
  240. William Henry Ward
  241. William Hughes
  242. William Jones
  243. William Jones
  244. William Jones
  245. William Jones
  246. William Richards
  247. William Richards
  248. William Richards
  249. William Roberts
  250. William Thomas
  251. William Thomas
  252. William Ward
  253. William Williams
  254. [Griffith] Jones