St Trillo’s Church, Llandrillo-yn-Rhos

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St Trillo’s Church, Llandrillo-yn-Rhos

The present building dates from the 17th century but there has been a church on this site since about the 13th century.  The Pope of the time granted a license to Ednyfed Fychan of Llys Euryn – the ruined mansion on the hillside south of the church – to build a private chapel here, so that  “masses could be sung for his soul after his death for evermore”. Some fragments of that chapel can still be seen in parts of the present building.

Ednyfed, who died in 1246, was an ancestor of King Henry VII. His service for Llywelyn Fawr, the first Prince of Wales, was rewarded with large land grants and a decree that his descendants would be free of all services and taxes, except wartime military service. Many of Ednyfed’s descendants became administrators of Wales for the English crown. They included Owen Tudor, whose marriage to King Henry V’s widow produced Edmund Tudor, Henry’s father.

The church is dedicated to the 6th-century saint Trillo, who reputedly founded a cell 1km north east of here – now Britain’s smallest church.

The church was whitewashed to serve as a landmark for sailors at sea. The tower, rebuilt in 1552, has an unusual shape. Note the square turret, locally known as “the rector’s chair”. It was actually added in the 17th century as part of a chain of lookouts and signalling posts to alert the local populace to the approach of Barbary pirates. There are towers at Deganwy and Abergele which were links in the same system. The pirates were a serious problem for communities near the sea. They were looking for Christian slaves and it’s estimated that, over two centuries, they took over a million able-bodied men for the Muslim slave markets of North Africa. The women, children and old people would be herded into the local church, which would be set on fire.

Notable memorials inside the church include one to Sir Hugh Conwy (or Conway), who rebuilt the South Aisle in 1519, and other members of the Conwy family who were benefactors of this church. They lived at Llys Euryn and Pwllycrochan and worshipped here for over 400 years. Sir Hugh took information and money to Henry Tudor on behalf of Margaret Beaufort, Henry's mother, while Henry was exiled in Britanny and plans were being made for Henry to replace King Richard III.

The substantial vicarage next to the church is at least the third on this site. It shows the importance of the vicars when the parish covered a vast area (it now only serves Rhos). Protestors threatened to blow up the previous vicarage during the “tithe wars” of the late 19th century as the vicar, William Venables Williams, refused to reduce the tithes (taxes to fund the church and clergy) even though he was clearly very wealthy.

You can see his grave and other interesting tombs by following our mini tour of the churchyard.

With thanks to John Lawson-Reay, of the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay History Society

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