St Meilig’s Church, Llowes

button-theme-slavesSt Meilig’s Church, Llowes

This churchyard’s circular shape indicates that the site has early Christian origins. It’s thought that St Meilig founded a religious institution here after fleeing from his native Strathclyde c.650AD. The church was recorded in 1291 as Ecclesia de Lewas.

According to the clergyman and writer Gerald of Wales, in the late 12th century a hermit named Wechelen lived in Llowes. Wechelen’s cell seems, from Gerald’s notes, to have adjoined the church, with an aperture for him to receive food and drink and watch the priest at the altar. Wechelen was poorly educated and became a hermit after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He was unhappy because he couldn’t understand Latin, so the Mass and Gospel were unfathomable. In answer to his prayers, he miraculously found one day that he could understand everything the priest said in Latin, according to Gerald.

The church building was almost entirely rebuilt in the 1850s. The lower part of the tower survives from the medieval church.

Inside you can see a sandstone slab bearing ancient cross carvings. It was in the churchyard until moved into the church for protection in 1956, but may originally have stood somewhere else. One legend suggests that Moll Walbec, a giantess, dropped the stone from her apron; it fell into her shoe and she threw it into the churchyard. Several prehistoric monoliths in Wales are named after stones from giantesses’ aprons.

Inside the church are memorials to the Beavan family of Bryn yr Hydd, who funded stained glass windows instead of plain ones for the 1850s rebuilding. One member of the family, Thomas Drew Beavan, became a goldsmith in London. After Britain abolished slavery in 1833, he received £4,184 compensation for the loss of 240 slaves on a Jamaican estate. He received the money as a trustee for a Philip Browne, and is likely to have been rewarded for his involvement.

His brother John, a London solicitor, also made a claim for compensation for loss of slaves in British Guiana, possibly as agent for Thomas Hopkinson of Liverpool. The claim was unsuccessful.

The sundial in the churchyard was given by vicar John Williams in 1810 and remounted in 1954 on a pillar dedicated to the diarist Francis Kilvert, curate of Clyro 1865-1872.

With thanks to Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, Glasbury Historical Society and the Centre for the Study of Legacies of British Slave-ownership

Postcode: HR3 5NU View Location Map

Church website