St Martin’s Church, Llay

St Martin’s Church, Llay

The Church of St Martin of Tours was the first church to be built in Wales after the Church in Wales was disestablished in 1920, a momentous event in Welsh history.

The foundation stone was laid in 1923 and the building was consecrated in February 1925 by Dr Alfred George Edwards, the first Archbishop of Wales. Ten years earlier his son Henry had been killed in France while serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

Before 1920, Anglican churches in Wales were part of the established church, headed by the reigning monarch and closely linked to the state. The campaign for a separate Church in Wales grew after Prime Minister William Gladstone, who lived in Hawarden, disestablished the Church of Ireland in 1869. After decades of debate, separation of the Anglican Church in Wales received Royal Assent in September 1914. The First World War delayed the separation until 1 April 1920.

Llay was a rural area during the war. Its war memorial records that only one local man was killed in the war. After the armistice, work resumed on digging the shaft for the new Llay Main colliery, which opened in 1921 and became Wales’ largest deep coal mine. Hundreds of houses were built for the large numbers of miners and other workers and their families.

Soon the population justified its own church, which initially came under the parish of Gresford. In 1944 St Martin’s Church became the parish church of Llay.

The church is dedicated to St Martin, a fourth-century Roman soldier who converted to Christianity after dreaming of Christ wearing the half of his cloak which he had given to a beggar. He became Bishop of Tours, France. In the Middle Ages, a garment said to be Martin’s cappa (cloak) was taken around Europe. Shacks known as capelli were erected to house the cloak on its travels, and the word chapel (capel in Welsh) comes from this.

Postcode: LL12 0TN    View Location Map

Parish website