St Dyfan’s Church and well, Llandyfân

St Dyfan’s Church and well, Llandyfân

This site has been used for Christian worship for centuries. Unusually it went from Anglican to Nonconformist and back to Anglican.

The first chapel here may have been built as accommodation for sick visitors, who hoped to be healed by the water of the well in what’s now the churchyard. According to some historical sources, the water was drunk from a human skull!

In 1786, workmen creating foundations for a limekiln nearby found the bones of three humans. There was speculation that the site had earlier been used for burials.

By the early 18th century, the area around the well was popular for activities such as sports and dancing, which Lord Mansel eventually stopped. Howell Harris, the renowned Methodist preacher, would have been unimpressed had he witnessed the revelry on his visits to Llandyfân in the mid-18th century. It was around then that Nonconformists were granted permission to use the building, which had become a chapel of ease for Llandybïe parish church.

The well was converted into a baptismal pool, with steps leading down to the water. One Baptist who preached here was Zorobabel Davies, who ran a school in the parish before emigrating with his family to Australia in 1852. He made money in mines before becoming a state-school teacher at Pleasant Creek, Victoria, c.1857. He founded a chapel there, preaching in Welsh and English, and owned a local newspaper. He died in 1877, aged 71.

The chapel of ease reverted to Anglican worship in 1838, forcing the remaining Nonconformists to move to a new chapel. It was rebuilt in the mid-1860s, with funding mainly from Lady Dynevor and Caroline Du Buisson of Glynhir (close to Llandyfân). Caroline had reputedly made a fortune in London by capitalising on the family being the first in Britain to learn of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo.

The church was designed by Richard Kyrke Penson, Carmarthenshire’s county surveyor. His other work in the area includes an ornate bank of limekilns near Llandybïe. He owned the kilns and latterly lived beside them.

In 1897-98 the source of the well water was tapped to supply clean drinking water to Llandybïe – after several years of wrangling. The vicar wanted the church to receive payment for water taken from within the churchyard, so the urban district council got workmen to dig holes outside the churchyard in an attempt to abstract the water from elsewhere!

With thanks to Terry Norman and Brian Hopkins

Postcode: SA18 2TU

Church website – details of service times etc

Detailed history of the church on Terry Norman’s website