It is believed the missionaries of the Celtic Church first came to the area round Groes Faen. They were followers of St Bridget (or St Bride), known in Welsh as Sant Ffraid (an Irish Saint whose Saint’s Day is 1st February). Not far up the hill from Groes Faen is a natural spring sanctified as Ffynon Sant Ffraid although it is not clear whether the spring was sanctified by the missionaries or they settled at Groes Faen because of the already sanctified water source.

There is a deed of a gift of land in Llansantffraid Edeyrnion, made prior to 1190 AD. By 1254 the Parish of Llansantffraid had an income of £2 from tithes.

The site of the original church was land close to the river, believed to be below the property known as ‘Riverdale’, built in 1881. Which side of the river is unclear, as there are footpaths on both sides. At that time the church owned considerable land in the area.

By 1563 the population of the parish was some 405 persons. Searching old records one finds reference to ‘townships’. These are nearly always the names of farms, many still the seat of a local single farm. In post medieval times these ‘townships’, might have been home to as many as a hundred and fifty people with up to thirty or forty dwellings. They were really little gatherings of people grouped together and supporting, and supported by the parent ‘farm’. Reference is made on various documents to the townships of Llan, Rhagatt, Hendreforfydd, Bodorlas, Morfydd, Tir Llanerch, and Carrog amongst others.

It is believed the original church was lost in 1601. According to an Englyn (a stanza or verse) by a local contemporary poet, Thomas Evans of Hendreforfydd);

‘Dyfrdwy, Dyfrdwy fawr ei naid
Aeth at Eglwys Llansanffraid,
Y Llyfrau bendigedig
A'r Gwppan Arian hefyd.’

which translates as;

‘The Dee of the great leaps
Took Llansanffraid church,
The sacred books
and the Silver Chalice also.’

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What the community did for a meeting site in the years immediately following is not known, but records indicate building of the present church started in 1611 (although recent restoration work has uncovered a stone door jamb inscribed with the date 1610). Building was probably completed around 1613/4.

This present church started life as a small rectangular building, now the nave. Windows would have been simple and minimal. It is quite likely the two doorways are original, although the south porch would not have been present and the main door was probably hung on the interior wall as is the present door from the nave to the vestry. The age of the doors is unknown although they almost certainly predate the later Victorian modifications to the church.

In 1730 the Rural Dean recorded a report on the parish (the spelling is taken from the original document) and described the parish as follows;

A Report of Penllyn and Edernion


Having concluded the visitation of his own parish, Mr. Wynne then turned to the parish of Llansanffraid, which he describes as,

‘a small slank running northward from the river Dee to the black mountain or Cefn Du. A long mile in length and in breadth is no more than the 3d part of a mile. Its within the parish of Corwen, being, I think I may say, wholy and on all sides surrounded by it. It consists but of one township which, some imagine, was taken from Corwen and appropriated to this litle church. Indeed it seems to have been originally a chappel of ease to Corwen, and the inhabitants of the lower part of Corwen parish bury here, frequent this church, and this only.’

The church was dedicated to a saint called Freada, which explained the name of the parish.

The church building consisted of;

‘but one small isle, 10 yards long and 7 in breadth. The walls are very strong and the plaistering fresh, but the slating is so wretchedly, so shamefully, bad that owles and jackdaws may make the church their habitation. The parishioners, on any sudden bad weather. are forc’d to quit the church. When rain. hail or snow happens to fall, off the people go, their zeal waxing cold. The timber work I observ’d to be strong and without any failure, notwithstanding the slating is so monstrously bad. The roof of the west end has, I heard, some time agoe been left quite open, and the gallery receiv’d such injury from the weather that the boards were rotted and ye greatest. part of it fell. This damage was repair’d by some or other of the family of Rug, which family did, I find, formerly at their own expence maintain the church. The said gallery is at present pretty strong, and has in it a great number of forms. The windows are 4. neither uniform nor whole, the glass being all shattered to pieces. They have no more than 4 small pews and the rest very ordinary benches. The reading desk; stands at the south east end, and is raised a litle above the few pews and benches and wants a door. The pulpit stands full south, is mean, pitiful and low, has no door nor cloath, and the cushion is old, bare and dirty. It seems to have been originally black. Their chancel and communion table are very plain and unadorn’d. The fabrick was once good, and, if the church were but slated, the timber work and walls wd. want no repair for ages to come.’

Proceeding to examine the ornaments and utensils the visitor found that;

‘the walls. as I before observ’d, are strong and the plaistering neither crack’d nor mouldring off as I found it in most other churches. And yet the inscriptions requir’d to be on the church walls were so dark that I was not able to read either the Creed, Lord's Prayer or l0 Comm.ts, no King’s Arms nor indeed a table of the prohibited degrees of matrimony, the rector marrying all that offer, be the relation between ’em what it will. They have a Welsh Bible and a Welsh Comm. Pr., neither of which is amiss. This is their whole stock of books, there being no other of any language or kind whatsoever. They have all proper implements for burials, such as bier, spades, pick axe, iron bar and the like, but no cloath at all, the frantick rector having some time ago in a solemn manner committed the cloath to the earth together with the remains of some old woman. This I had heard before I visited there, and asked the rector whether he had done so or not. He frankly own’d that he had, alledging it was too bad and scandalous to remain above ground. Considering that this litle parish did once belong to Corwen and that several of the parish resort constantly hither for service, I left in the hands of a parishioner, who is said to have probity and sense, what will purchase a new cloath. I pressed the vicar to do somewhat, but found him void of bowels towards this poor place as well as his own church. Their communion linen is one, plain cloath bestowd some time since by the family of Rug, and a plainer napkin. Their plate is a poor, tatterd, worn out chalice, having a hole or 2 actually patchd up with brown paper. They have neither flagon nor plate for the bread, both which are borrow’d of a neighbour when the sacrament is administred. There is one surplice and not very bad, a chest with one lock and strong enough for the res contentae, a font which is decent, and a bell, tho' small, yet tolerably well sounded.

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In the account of the churchyard we are given a glimpse of the destruction caused by the river Dee in the neighbourhood. We are told that the yard was;

‘pretty large and much excpos'd, the church standing on a great eminence above the river Dee. The church that now is has not been built many years. and was plac'd on this eminence as likely to be here secure from the fate of the former church. The old church stood on a level with the river and one night swam along towards Chester. It spar'd nor the churchyard but consumd and quite eat it up. The same ungodly and impious river pursues the church even hither, and undermines the wall of the church yard apace. Were the pulpit not sacred, it wd. be no matter of grief if it and the lining were washd and made to swim. The fences in some places are as low as those above the river are high. All want repair, and want they will, unless some pious and zealous churchman will take into consideration the poor and forlorn state of this church. The bounty of Q. Anne cannot be had but by lot, and fortune will hardly smile on such a church and such a parson.

The concluding sentence of the above account seems to suggest that the parson in question did not find much favour in Mr. Wynne's eyes, and the section dealing with the minister confirms this opinion. He was;

Mr. James Langford, A.B., of Jesus Coll. in Oxford, br. to Mr. Archdn., who was never instituted into this living and has been rector of it just l1 years. He had, before he came hither, officiated in Anglesey and some other places full 13 years. To the question put whether he married clandestinely or not, he readily and frankly answer’d in the affirmative. He made it unnecessary to produce any proofs agst. him on this account, and pleaded poverty and want of bowells in his br. the Archdn. He very much mov'd my compassion by telling me that he had beg’d his bread in Ireland, and, yet forbore to transgress the laws in the way he has since confessedly done, that he forbore here for 6 years of the 11, and began the practice just 3 years ago. He further told me yt. if his br. wd. give him but 10 guineas a year, or if his income were enlarg’d to that sum by any other method. he wou’d bind himself by a sacramental oath never to read over the form of marriage but when warranted by law. The case of this poor man seem’d to me pitiable. and I coud not but promise to sollicit his brother in his behalf. The Archdn. is, I know, too much a child of this world and too wise to pay any regard to my motion, tho’ its what he ought to consider . . . What may be offer’d mitigation of his crime is that he has been ever cautious not to meddle with any that happen’d to be better attir’d than ordinary. He insists on’t that no heir or heiress has been married by him. I have nothing more to alledge in his favour, and as to his character, he is freakish and too apt to sip. There are some in the diocese whose lives and conduct are far more liable to censure, and even in the deanery of Penllyn.’

As one proof of Mr. Langford's guilt in the matter of clandestine marriages the visitor cites an instance which had been brought to his notice when he visited the parish of Llanyckil. Mr. Robert Meyricke, who was the son of the serving warden of that parish, had, apparently, been married in this manner to Eleanor Roberts of the same parish by Mr. Langford. As a result of this case the offender had been presented at the correction court at Oswestry, but Mr. Wynne had no information as to his punishment.

This parish did not appoint any churchwardens, and when the necessity arose of doing something in the church the parishioners did it themselves.

The parish clerk, however, was the best the visitor had met in the whole of his circuit. He was not licensed and received no fixed salary, but he seemed to be possessed of good sense and discharged his duties well. According to the report given by the few people who attended the church at the time of the visitation,

Mr. Langford, the rector, read there every Holy Day, and Sunday and preached every other Sunday. The sacrament was administered only at Easter time, when the rector provided the wine. The sick were visited whenever there was call, and marriages and burials were attended to; with great alacrity. No terrier was to be found, neither was any register of christenings, marriage and burials kept. There was no table of charities set up in the church and no poor box was in evidence. No tax was levied, and no collection made for the maintenance and relief of the poor, which fact brought forth some critical comments from the visitor. 'The people must, I thinke, have callous and harden’d hearts void of all tenderness and pity, or they wou’d study out some method of relieving an object which they all see once, if not oftner, every week, and whose wants the very stones and walls testify and declare. There was no school, modus, or conventicle in the parish to give any account of. The parish consisted of one township only, and the glebe land was set at five pounds per annum. The rector possessed a house, described as very ordinary and consisting of about two bays inclusive of the stable and cow house. The walls were strong, but the slating was not unlike that of the church. This house was inhabited by a tenant. The value of the rectory, inclusive of the glebe, was just on eighteen pounds.’

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There were apparently no gentlemen’s seats with which to conclude the report on this small parish, but Mr. Wynne sums up with a section on certain iniquities he found there.

I have now gone thro’ my several heads of enquiry and given yr Lordship an uncomfortable view of the church of Llansanffraid, but cannot conclude without greatly bewailing the poor and distressed condition of the place, and signifying my just abhorrence of those who are found, not only to deny the place succour and aid, but to defraud it of the litle that has been bequeathd for its benefit and use, to steal away even all that the poor church had. Some or other of the family of Rug inclos’d part of the neighbouring mountain, being lords of all, and devisd what was inclos’d to this church. The field is set at no more than 9 shillings, and a couple of moan, paultry thieves contriv’d to rob the church even of this. The great knave of all, Hugh Jones of Ddol in the parish of Corwen before mention’d is at the bottom of this iniquity and fraud. The late Mr. Salisbury of Rug did, in his lifetime, carefully lay out the profits of this field and expend much more in the annual repairs of Llansanffraid, but upon his death, the said Hugh Jones became governr. of the ladies and of their estate. He himself in propria persona rob’d, and still dies rob,, the poor of Corwen, but, the field left this church being too slender a morsel for his eager and vast appetite, he appointed one Jeffrey Roberts of the parish of Corwen to be forsooth the guardian of Llansanffraid and its rights. I had heard that this trustee had laid out nothing upon the ch. for 3 or 4 years, and therefore sent for him and strictly examind him. He gave me dark, unsatisfying answers, and by threats and menaces I extorted from him an account more dark and unsatisfying than his oral answers were. I have, vi et armis, taken the trust out of his hands.’

And so ends the report on Llansanffraid.

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The Rectory referred to above is now the Smithy, on the opposite bank of the stream to the west of the church. The original building is the part furthest from the road and must indeed have been a somewhat rude dwelling.

In 1797 a John Jones, described as Gentleman of Cychardy paid for his seat in church by a Deed of Faculty, and in 1814 a Hugh Jones of Afon Ro, Mwstwr, paid £3 for his seat ‘upon common behind front door’. Whereas John Jones and Thomas Jones of Tir Llanerch paid £5 for ‘a new seat behind Hugh Jones upon the common’. Hugh Price, miller, paid £1 ‘for a small seat opposite back door of church, upon common, below the stairs which lead to the gallery’.

In 1830 Gertrude Lloyd, of Rhagatt, renovated Tyn Llwyn and opened a school there in connection with the church.

In 1837 the Rectory was sold to the Lloyd family who converted it to a smithy for the use of the blacksmith who lived in Bronant (Yr Hen Efail), the cottage on the opposite side of the road. A new Rectory was built (presently known as Pentir). Below the road opposite the Post Office.

By 1849 the number of scholars at Tyn Llwyn was 34 and they were taught scripture, Church catechism, Welsh reading and writing, a bit of English reading and arithmetic. Fees were ld. a week. During the Victorian era many old churches were altered and 'modernised' mostly at the instigation of the landed gentry who gave large sums of money for the purpose. For some years there had been a steady movement of people away from the church to the non-conformist chapels and it was felt something had to be done to stop the erosion and bring people 'back into the fold’. The Clergy and gentry could see their power and influence slipping away from them.

The church of Llansantffraid Glyn Dyfrdwy was no exception and in 1852 renovation began. The old pulpit and reading desk were replaced by new ones of carved oak and moved to the east end. Some reports state the high box pews and the north gallery were removed, a small vestry and bell cote were added. If correct, the pews were replaced by open seating. A bell cote with bells was given by Edward Lloyd on the marriage of his daughter to Sir Robert Vaughan of Nannau and Rug. New stone work put on the windows which were filled with stained glass - two of then in memory of Rhagatt children and one in memory of Edward and Francis Lloyd of Rhagatt. This couple had 17 children, seven of whom died while still children and this sad little group is buried in the vault beneath the stone which is against the outside of the north wall. Possibly the original vestry was added at this time. The boundary of the original church was not as we know it today. The area to the east, where the gates are was privately owned land. This is quite possibly why the path exists leading south from the main door to the road below. This would have been the original access to the church and the graveyard.

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In 1858, Sir Robert Vaughan gave a small plot of land to Llansantffraid on which to build a Church School. The cost of the school, and the masters residence attached (now Tirionfa), was £848.

The school at Tyn Llwyn was closed. In 1860 the Church School was opened and pupils were admitted for a payment of 2d per week, in advance, whilst private pupils paid 2 shillings and six pence quarterly. The children were required to attend church services and Sunday School. Any child unable to read Welsh on entry would be taught to do so until fluent. Prayers in school were always to be in Welsh. Children had to supply their own slates and copy books. Girls were to be taught needlework but must bring their own thread, tape, buttons, etc.

In 1863, by an Order In Council (a copy of which is on view in the church), the ‘townships’ of Morfydd, Hendreforfydd and Bodorlas were separated from Corwen and attached to Llansantffraid Glyn Dyfrdwy. At this time the only two bridges over the river were the bridge at Llansantffraid Glyn Dyfrdwy and the bridge to the west of Corwen. Consequently, people from the ‘townships’ above were in the habit of attending services at Llansantffraid Glyn Dyfrdwy.

Two Church Wardens were appointed for the first time in 1866, the Rector noting ...‘I never consulted the Parishioners as to this appointment; therefore the appointment of the two Church Wardens remains with the Rector of Llansantffraid’.

In 1867, Gertrude Lloyd of Rhagatt, had a chancel added in memory of her husband, John Lloyd. A small vestry was added and the gallery at the west end removed. (This vestry forms the east part of the present vestry. Originally extending only to the west wall of the church. It is not known if there was a door directly into the vestry, but it is assumed there was a fireplace as a photograph of 1888 clearly shows the chimney.

In 1893, Mr H Jones, of Pen Y Bont, found large wooden (oak) beams in the river bed some 200 yards below Carrog bridge. Many consider these to have been part of the structure of the original church (swept away in 1601 before the present bridge was built); although in the 1960s some of the older residents of the village maintained these, and the finds of the latter date, were in fact the remnants of a wooden footbridge.

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In 1911 the vestry was extended in commemoration of the coronation of Their Majesties. This was combined with Harvest Festival and a celebratory concert in the National School. To quote from church records ...there were processions with the Bishop and other high ranking clergy to see the stone laid by Mrs Sydney Lloyd, the wife of ‘our dear squire’ EOV Lloyd of Rhagatt.

The disestablishment of the Church in Wales generated just a few lines in the PCC Minutes, a resolution condemning the process. However, it would appear to have generated far stronger feelings. Again, to quote from church records;

...September 1913 - A great demonstration of over 25,000 people gathered in Wrexham to protest at the suggested disestablishment of the Church in Wales. Forty eight of them were from Carrog carrying a huge red banner with Llansantffraid Glyn Dyfrdwy embroidered on it in white.

In 1914 the Rector noted ...Dec 25 - Christmas Day - Only 25 communicants. However on April 14 1915, Easter Sunday, he records 85 communicants without additional comment!

By 1919 some form of heating was available to the church. The vestry minutes refer to the necessity of repairs.

In 1920 the Church School was finally closed as an educational establishment.

In 1921 the first Parochial Church Council was elected under the new constitution, in 1922 the Whitsunday Offertories are recorded as amounting to £35 - 13 - 3d toward a quota of £38!

In 1924 it is recorded that part of the proceeds of a Jumble Sale was given to the Carrog War Memorial.

Electric lighting finally came to the church in 1927 when it was installed by a Mr W J Kington of Corwen for the princely sum of £36. The three light fittings used in the nave have been retained. Two are now used in the vestry and the third is used in the main porch. A Mr Rowlands Williams supplied and fitted carved and panelled oak frontals for the choir stalls for the sum of £14 - 10s. A Hymn Board was purchased for £3 – 3s, a doormat for £1 - 2s and new books for the choir for £6 - 4 - 6, although it is not known how many books were bought.

The following year the records indicate the church was ‘renovated’ at a cost of £42. This might well mean redecorated, but even allowing for inflation is somewhat less than the £80,000 plus spent on restoration in 2003.

December 1929 refers to a ‘new furnace’ being installed for heating the church – at a cost of £30. Somewhat less than the £8,000 required to install new heating in 2003.

In the early 1930s a brass Ewer was purchased for the Font (a price of £6 – 6s). New Red and Gold Altar Frontal, matching Pulpit Frontal, 2 Antipendinnes for reading Desks and 4 Book Markers for a total cost of £19. New iron railings in 1932 for the south side of the graveyard were made and installed by James Morris, the local blacksmith, for a cost of £20 – 15 – 7d, the cost of replacing them in 2003 was some £4,000.

A safe, for storage of the Communion vessels cost £4 – 17 – 6d in 1933, it is still in use today.

In 1936 stained glass windows from the chapel at Berth (property of the Lloyd family of Rhagatt who also owned property near Ruthin) were installed in the chancel.

In the late 1960 further beams were found in the same area of the river as the 1893 find, although it would seem few, if any, locals were aware of the find some seventy years earlier.