St Seiriol's Church

link_to_welsh_translationSt Seiriol’s Church, Church Road, Penmaenmawr

St Seiriol’s Church was built in 1867. The foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, who frequently took his holidays in Penmaenmawr. He also gave the church a set of silver Communion Vessels and the tenor bell that hangs in the tower. The architect was Sir Alfred Waterhouse, whose other public buildings include Manchester Town Hall. The church is mainly built of the granite-like stone from the local quarry, offset by details in sandstone.

Mrs Gladstone donated the church bell, which of course needed a bell tower. This was funded, at considerable cost, by WE Gladstone and was erected in 1885. Unusually, it stands apart from the main church building. An enclosed passageway connects the structures.

The reredos (screen behind the altar) dates from 1907 and was erected in memory of Dr JR Williams, a local doctor who was well respected locally. It was designed by WD Caroe and carved in oak by Waring & Gillow, a large furnishing firm whose head, SJ Waring, was one of the main shareholders in Llandudno’s Grand Hotel, where he died in 1907. A delicate filigree screen, again by WD Caroe, was placed in the church in 1925.

St Seiriol was a 6th-century descendant of the Celtic Prince Cunedda Wledig. He is said to have built small chapels or cells where he could retire and meditate. He built one on Ynys Seiriol or Priestholme (also known as Puffin Island). One of his cells was said to be on the steep slope of Penmaenmawr headland, and another in nearby Cwm Graiglwyd.

Legend has it that he built a causeway from Penmon, Anglesey, to Penmaenmawr and regularly passed Cybi (founder of Holyhead) as they crossed the Menai Strait in opposite directions. Seiriol walked westwards in the mornings and eastwards when he returned in the evening, so he always had his back to the sun and remained fair of complexion. Cybi was sunburnt because he faced the sun on both journeys. The saints were nicknamed Seiriol Wyn and Cybi Felyn – Seiriol the Fair and Cybi the Tawny.

With thanks to David Bathers and Dennis Roberts, of Penmaenmawr Historical Society, and to Pauline Churchill, whose research on Waring & Gillow is partly available here

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Postcode: LL34 6YD

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