St Collen’s Church, Llangollen

Link to French translationSt Collen’s Church, Llangollen

This church is dedicated to Collen, a 6th-century saint who established a cell beside the river Dee. The church has a spectacular carved-oak ceiling from the 15th-century. This may have been installed soon after a fire – recorded by contemporary bards – badly damaged the church.

The town of Llangollen takes its name from the church. Llan denotes a walled enclosure with a religious cell at its centre. The first letter of Collen mutates to G after Llan. To hear how to pronounce Llangollen, press play:Or, download mp3 (25KB)

The church was recorded as Lancollien in 1234 and Sancti Colyenni, Llancallen in 1254. The oldest elements of the stone church probably date from around that time, with alterations in the 15th or early 16th century.

A church report in 1749 recorded that St Collen’s remains lay in a building adjoining the church tower. This capel-y-bedd (“chapel of the grave”) was so dilapidated that the report recommended demolishing it and using the stone to build a new tower, to replace the decaying wooden one. This project also involved building a gallery at the west end of the church, with raised seating for about 100 people.

Alterations in the 1860s included an extension to provide the south aisle, chancel, vestry and organ chamber. A new doorway was created at the building’s western end.

Unusually, the church forms part of the churchyard’s boundary wall. According to Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, parts of the original churchyard were truncated in the distant past. Notice, for example, how the Hand Hotel seems to barge in, north west of the church!

In the churchyard (south west of the church) is a memorial to the Ladies of Llangollen and their housekeeper. They lived in Plas Newydd, not far from the church. The influence of people like them who settled in Llangollen led to English becoming the main language of services at St Collen’s, with specific Welsh services eventually provided at St John’s Church.

With thanks to Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust

Postcode: LL26 0LE     View Location Map


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