If you are travelling from Llangoed toward Llanddona you may well spot a church School House that stands miles from anywhere. Like me you may wonder, Where’s the church or chapel?
It puzzled me for a long while until I was aware enough to spot a sign on the right a few miles ahead for St Michael’s Church. In Welsh, that’s Llanfihangel Din Sylwy.
Note: The sign below is by the church and not the one you'll see on the road. That's a standard little sign.
As you’ll probably have read elsewhere on Anglesey Hidden Gem Llan means ‘church'. You can probably guess that ‘Fihangel’ (or its un-mutated Welsh form, Mihangel) means Michael.
Din Sylwy in Llanfihangel Din Sylwy makes reference to the hill fort on the flat top hill above it, also known as Bwrdd Arthur (Arthur’s Table). I’ll mention this later.
Getting to Llanfihangel Din Sylwy Church
Llanfihangel Din Sylwy
A Church Between an Iron Age Hill Fort and the Sea
LLANFIHANGEL DIN SYLWY
Llanfihangel Din Sylwy is a very small 15th Century church in a very rural location just off the east coast of Anglesey.
It was renovated in 1855 but retains a great deal of its mediaeval architecture and character, which is likely to reflect the Victorian romantic and melodramatic sensibility.
Like Llanfihangel Din Sylwy, most of Anglesey’s ancient churches date back to the 5th Century.
There is very little (if any) archaeological evidence of the original church, as they would originally have been built from wattle and daub.
It was not until the 11th & 12th Century that the churches began to be constructed from stone.
Although these structures would have been of rude architecture it was generally across the next three centuries to the 15th Century that they became the ancient mediaeval structures that we recognise today.
Randolph Pritchard 1746 Aged 58
Its isolation also reflects the very Welsh emotion of melancholia. Hiraeth is the Welsh word for existential longing.
Sigmund Freud would posit it as ‘A Search for Unity’.
We Welsh can talk about this as the existential void within. This we manage without making unnecessary reference to Sex and other bodily functions.
Llanfihangel Din Sylwy is a very small church of two parts. The narrower Chancel is intriguing, not only because it retains many of its original internal and external features, but because of the blocked off door.
You’ll have noticed a number of ancient Anglesey churches with architecturally different additions.
Llangadwaladr Church is an excellent example of this eclectic architectural mix. The additions at this church are a consequence of local noble families sponsoring their own wings.
Llangadwaladr Church near Aberffraw
The blocked off door might be an original, albeit very small, entrance before its enlargement at some time into a two chamber church. That is, before a new nave or an extension was added.
Again, I refer you to Llangadwaladr Church for a similar blocked off entrance and church extensions.
You could also investigate Aberffraw’s St Cwyfan's Church in the Sea - weather and tide permitting.
St Cwyfan's Church in the Sea - Aberffraw, Anglesey
ANGLESEY HOLY WELLS
Many churches have a well nearby associated with the church’s patron saint and purported to possess unique healing powers.
A number of these holy wells remain. Along the coast from Llaneilian Church is Eilian’s Well which is said to heal mental health problems. Let’s queue.
St Patricks's Church - Cemaes Bay, Anglesey
You can also visit St Patrick's Well in the cliffs where the Patron Saint of Ireland (no friend of snakes) who rested and recuperated after being shipwrecked off the Cemaes Coastline.
Very Dangerous Approach – Take The Greatest of Care.
St Dwynwen’s Well on Llanddwyn Island is purported to assist the lovelorn among us to find Love or discover if the partner is being unfaithful.
Llanddwyn Island - St Dwynwen, Anglesey
The beautiful well chamber at St Seiriol’s Priory in Penmon seems to be a place to make wishes, drop coins and leave letters asking for wishes to be fulfilled and help to be given.
This is an age old custom of offering tribute for good fortune.
St Patricks's Church - Cemaes Bay, Anglesey
With so much unhappiness in the world I can find no reason at all to criticise these customs and traditional beliefs.
They are almost always sincere and conducted in holy places out of reach of money-grabbing charlatan astrologers.
THE ANGLESEY BADLANDS
You only have to reach back slightly over fifty years to understand why Anglesey has so many isolated churches. Rhydwyn on Anglesey’s north west coast was only served by a weekly bus in the early 1940s and 1950s.
Churches like St Pabo’s Church north of Llyn Alaw seems to be in the middle of nowhere. Not so, it’s in the heart of an agricultural area. The gravestones record of the passing of members of local farm families.
The heart of Anglesey was never really a Badlands; however, when two men escaped from the Gaol in Beaumaris in the mid 18th Century it was reported that they headed straight or the security of the heart of Anglesey. I believe they were both re-captured, though.
Beaumaris Gaol Hanging Door and Bell
Nonetheless, Anglesey, ‘Breadbasket of Wales’, ‘Mother of Wales’ or ‘Môn Mam Cymru was a very poor and lonely countryside. Churches were a vitally important component to satisfy a spiritual need and equally important social need. There weren’t many other opportunities for meeting a mate.
For the most remote areas there would be ‘Chapels of Ease’. The best known is at Lligwy Chapel of Ease, while others still remain although in infrequent use.
Lligwy Church of Ease - Lligwy, Anglesey
The more rural a church the less likely it was to be supported by noble families trying to impress God and accrue blessing and ease of access to Heaven by creating chancels in which to bathe in their own glory.
Therefore we owe an enormous debt to the Friends of Friendless Churches for their excellent work in saving a number of sad and abandoned churches. A few are to be found here on Anglesey and I will write about these later.
Their Patron is The Most Hon the Marquess of Anglesey FSA FR Hist S Hon FRIBA Hon D Litt. Bless Him. Excellent intelligent and witty company, I hear.
Din Lligwy stands as a significant Iron Age Hill Fort and Llanfihangel Din Sylwy lies on its lower flanks.
‘Din’ refers to a walled fort or village enclosure at Din Sylwy the walls are quite formidable at almost 2.5metres in width.
I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t been to Din Sylwy. Yet! However, I feel compelled to tell you about it briefly and to place it in an Anglesey Historical context.
As I write above ‘DIN’ refers to an Iron Age sanctuary or hill fort surrounded by a stone wall to ward off those intent on taking you into slavery, stealing your cattle or just killing you.
These walls consist of parallel large slabs filled in with stones as one would to reinforce its strength as a defensive wall. The Din Sylwy hill fort stands on top of large natural flat land, now called, Bwrdd Arthur - Arthur’s Table.
There are some very obscure, let be honest, contrived links between King Arthur and Anglesey, which I choose to dismiss as little more than interpolation between historical facts and fanciful romanticism.
Remember, there exists a correlation between the importation of bananas into the UK in 1947 and an increase in the purchase of cars that year.
Another excellent example of a walled structure on Anglesey reaching back from Neolithic to the Iron Age Settlements and Roman occupation lies at Din Lligwy in the woods a mile or so above Lligwy Beach. It’s on a back road to Moelfre.
Din Lligwy - Iron Age/Roman Secure Enclosure
Very similar to the fortified commune at Din Lligwy Din Sylwy’s last significant occupation was during the 4th Century and artefacts from that period confirm the Roman presence.
Coins, brooches and Roman pottery confirm their presence as an occupying force on Anglesey, as does a length of iron chain and an iron ring-headed pin obviously form the Iron Age
However, the construction of the site would most likely have occurred between 2,500 to 3000 years ago - middle to late Iron Age and is one the largest hill fort on Anglesey of about 7.7 hectares.
LLANFIHANGEL DIN SYLWY
A SIMPLE PLACE TO VISIT AND TO REFLECT
Even if you choose to pay no attention whatsoever to what I have written above I do sincerely encourage you to visit these small churches; if only to reflect on your own mortality.
To read the words that are all that are left of the once mortal incumbents reminds us that our own days are numbered. All that we ever hope to be or hope to possess we have to achieve in a very short time.
Remember, Time Is Always Against You. Get A Move On.
GETTING TO LLANFIHANGEL DIN SYLWY CHURCH
LET'S KEEP IT SIMPLE SHALL WE?
Let's arrive from Beaumaris. It's much easier than guiding you to Llanddona and then onwards.
Drive through Beaumaris, past the castle and keep heading east until you reach at the village of Llangoed.
Drive through Llangoed and down the hill. Take the first left at the bottom of the hill and past the village hall toward Glanrafon (Signposted).
Psst! At the bottom of the hill on your right is the car park for Aberlleiniog Castle.
It's about a mile to Glanrafon. Drive through and up the hill and out of the village. Follow the road for a mile and you'l pass the chapel schoolhouse on your right among large conifers.
You'll only encounter a single right hand junction on this road about a mile onwards - Signposted St Michael's Church.
Down this road for about half a mile. I like to believe you can't miss it in a field on your left below the trees that flank Din Silwy Hill Fort.
Parking is a major issue. I allow your good sense and good manners to dominate your choices.
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