The River Elwy
This beautiful valley has been lauded enthusiastically by bards, writers and artists. Among them Sion Tudur, one of Elisabeth’s courtiers in the 16th century, who welcomed fellow bards to his home at Wigfair. Later well known visitors came here to be enraptured: Gerard Manly Hopkins while on his sojourn at the Jesuit college, St Beuno’s; Felitia Hemans in her Victorian style adored its tranquillity.
The River, up until early in the 20th century, worked several water mills which ground corn for local farmers. The last of them, Melin y Ddol, finally expired in 1946, a casualty of the atrocious weather. It is claimed that another mill, at Bont Newydd, was operated in the 12th century by a well known poet called by the bardic title of ‘Prydydd y Moch’ (‘Bard of the Pigs’), so called because he was rewarded for his services with a scoop of flour from each bag of corn ground – which he promptly fed to his pigs!
In the lea of this peaceful river you will find an ancient ruined church and well, known as St Mary’s Well. Here once, whether by drinking or bathing, pilgrims would come seeking a cure for blindness or infertility. But what a river, in the 17th century bursting its banks and trashing bridges. It’s a river whilst quietly wending its way most of the time, sometimes shows a very aggressive nature as when on Tuesday November 27th 2012 at St Asaph, following a period of wind and rain, it raged furiously!
The Roman Road of former days
The parish boundary on the northern edge, was once the arterial roadway from the Legion’s major fort at Chester via Varae (now St Asaph) to Caernarfon. Still very well used: in days of yore it had several inns with stabling to refresh the traveller, both man and beast. Now alas, remembered only in place names and folklore. Notable travellers have included Dr Samuel Johnson, Thomas Pennant, John Wesley and Queen Victoria. One popular stopping place was the Cross Foxes Inn at Glascoed (jt closed as an inn in the 1920s), where once Elizabeth and Robert Jones were the licensees – she being the mother of Henry Morton Stanley. Although Elizabeth Jones and her husband died and were buried in the cemetery at the Marble Church Bodelwyddan in the 1880s, Cross Foxes retained its fascination on account of the H.M.Stanley connection, he being a visitor to Glascoed.
The Ridge along the length of the parish,in parts known as The Bryn, are part of the area’s fascination. The views from the summit on clear days are truly magnificent. In places there is evidence of mining and quarrying in former days. There may have been an Iron Age Hill Fort here.
Tales abound, tis said that a giant lived up there on the hill, and sitting in his chair, dangled his toes in the River Elwy down in the valley. Here be the stuff of legends!
Up until the early 1860s was a country area composed of two townships, Wigfair and Meiriadog, a part of St Asaph. But an ‘order in council’ then decreed it to be a separate parish.
We see a new chapel (the second, – the first built in 1796 had become too small) opened in 1863 while the Anglican St Mary’s Church was declared open in 1864 and the smaller sister All Saints Church at Sinan opened in 1873. Two very notable historians, Archdeacon D. R. Thomas (the first Rector) and Canon John Fisher , Rector 1901 – 1931 have been incumbents of this benefice. D.R.Thomas wrote a ‘History of the Diocese of St Asaph’ (three volumes) and John Fisher (with Sabine Baring Gould) wrote ‘History of the British Saints’ (three volumes).
But there remains the standard question: Who was Meiriadog? Research by Tristan Gray Hulse has revealed him to have been a 6th century monk at the collegium/monastery founded by Saints Kentigern and Asaph. He then came to evangelise the area which now bears his name. He was reputed to miraculously cure ailments in farm animals. He went from here to Camborne, where there is a church dedicated to him. And thence to Brittany where he is revered with celebratory ‘Pardons’ in a country village near Pluvigner. Here his ability to ward off ailments in livestock is still respected, typically a colourful picture of the Saint is pasted to the wall of the cattle sheds.
Inside the caves human remains dating back 250,000 years have been discovered, unique in Western Europe.
Old Houses and Mansions
Old houses/mansions dating back to the 12th century ( e.g. ‘Bryn y Pin’, built around the watch tower of a Welsh Prince), and ‘Plas Newydd’, ‘Plas yn Cefn’ and ‘Dolbelydr’, good 16th century examples of the influence of the great financier and building innovator Richard Clough (the second husband of Catrin o Ferain – the distinguished lady who went on to marry twice more, to the most well endowed men in the land!), they’re all here together with a few Welsh Long Houses which originally housed both humans and farm livestock under the one roof!