Transept of St Mary’s Church, Caerhun

Link to French translationTransept of St Mary’s Church, Caerhun

This transept, or chapel, was added to St Mary’s Church in the 16th century. Above the window to the left of the transept entrance is a board of black oak with a Latin inscription which translates as: “Edward Williams, knight, and his wife Grace built this in 1591.”

Edward Williams was the third son of William Williams of Cochwillan, near Bangor, and was High Sheriff of Caernarvonshire 1570-1571. He fought against the French at the siege of Boulogne in 1546 and was Captain of Cannon in 1588, when England supported Hungary against Turkey. He and Grace built a house called Maes-y-Castell, near Llanbedr-y-Cennin, in 1582. A stone there bears the couple’s initials, a stag’s head and the date 1582.

You can see an almost identical stone – dated 1591 – embedded in one of the transept’s exterior walls. The stag’s head  was part of the Cochwillan family crest which was the same as that of the ancient Iarddur family.

Edward and Grace died in the early 17th century, without any surviving children. Their burial place is unknown today, but they may well have been laid to rest under the floor of this transept.

Also in the transept (left of the south window) is a memorial to a Catherine Roberts, descended from the Roberts family of Bryn y Neuadd, Llanfairfechan. The memorial includes her grandmother’s crest, which includes three stag heads. This family was also descended from Iarddur.

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Footnotes: More about the Williams family

Cochwillan Hall is near the village of Tal-y-Bont, Bangor. It was built c.1465 by William ap Gruffudd, who fought at Bosworth for the victorious Henry Tudor in 1485. As a reward, he was made High Sheriff of Caernarvonshire for life.

His grandson Edward Williams, who built the transept at Caerhun, was also known as Edward Wynne ap William. He probably adopted the name Wynne after marrying Grace, daughter of John Wyn (or Owen) of Garth-y-medd, near Abergele. 

Edward’s elder brother William married Dorothy Grifffiths of Penrhyn. After his death in 1586, she married Robert Wynne of Plas Mawr, the Elizabeth town house which is now a museum in Conwy.

A later member of the family was Archbishop John Williams, who was born in Conwy and held great influence in the early years of King Charles I. He later restored Conwy Castle and town walls for the King in the Civil War, only to switch sides after being snubbed.

Cochwillan Hall was sold to the 3rd Earl of Pembroke in 1620, and eventually passed into the hands of John Williams, Archbishop of York.  He merged the hall with the Penrhyn estates. After a long period of neglect, the hall was restored in 1969-70 by CADW and the Penrhyn estate.  It is open to the public by appointment only (tel 01248 364608).

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