St Ffraid’s Church, Glan Conwy
The parish of Llansanffraid Glan Conwy was reputedly founded in the 5th century by King Maelgwn. The church is dedicated to St Ffraid, who is said to have crossed the sea from Ireland on a piece of turf and landed on the banks of the Conwy estuary.
The church we see today is the result of a rebuilding project from 1839 to 1841. The previous church building had a double nave but was completely taken down for rebuilding. There are two narrow windows which contain glass from the 15th century, probably re-used from the earlier building. The church’s font, which holds water for baptisms, dates from the 17th century.
In 1594, an investigation was held at the church into allegations of witchcraft against Gwen ferch Elis, a weaver and herbal healer of people and animals. She hailed from Yale, near Wrexham, but her third husband was from Betws-yn-Rhos. Wealthy people as well as commoners sought her advice and help, and the witchcraft accusation arose from her attempts to help a woman who lived at Marl Hall, a mansion north of Glan Conwy.
She was questioned by the Bishop of St Asaph while in jail. At the formal hearing in St Ffraid’s Church, she was accused of offences including manslaughter. Five men and two women testified against her. The tribunal concluded that she was a witch, and she was committed to stand trial for witchcraft in Denbigh, where she was hanged in the town square towards the end of 1594.
On February 1, the feast day of St Ffraid, the church is decorated with rushes from the banks of the Conwy estuary. A collection is made and from the proceeds, according to an ancient custom, the Rector is given 12p, the clerk 6p and the churchwardens 9p each.