Llangelynin Old Church is high in the hills to the south of Conwy. Climbing up there provides a panoramic view of the river, Conwy Castle and the harbour. The church dates from the 12th or 13th century, probably built on the site of an earlier church. It has once been at the centre of a widespread rural community, as evident from the number of derelict houses littered across the surrounding hills. It is also on the route of an long abandoned road, the discovery of the foundations of an inn built against the church wall demonstrates that in the past this must have been a thriving community. The church was abandoned in 1840 as a result of shifting population, and replaced with a new building lower in the valley.
The church is still used for three services a year, held on summer Sunday afternoons since there is no electricity for light and no heating in the church. The body of the church is in the form of an L shape, with two distinct chapels facing the altar. The second chapel is known as the Men’s Chapel. It is thought that the drovers would be accomodated here, to separate the unwashed and the uncouth from the remainder of the congregation. A third chapel was also added in the 16th century, but later demolished. the remains can be seen outside the church. The church is plain with few memorials, the chief feature being the inscription of the Lords Prayer and Ten commandments in Welsh on the wall beside the altar, to which a skull and crossbones are appended.
The well house is in a southern corner of the dry stone wall that surrounds the very uneven church yard. The walls surrounding the well and the benches have been restored, although the current layout fits a description of the site from 1739. The original well house according to records from 1622 was roofed.
The well was believed to have powers to cure sick children, and children were brought from a wide disatnce around for cure. Sick children would be bathed in the well either early in the morning or in the evening and would then be wrapped in a blanket and allowed to sleep at a house at Cae Iol nearby. During this time their clothes would be washed in the water. the belief being that if the clothes floated then the cure would be successful, but if the clothes sank then the child would not recover.
The remains of Cae Iol where the children were taken lie about 100 yards from the church. The Ancient Monuments record notes a post medieval farm house and a medieval platform house, I assume it was to the latter that children were taken, although I think only the more recent house is shown in the photograph.
Celynin dates from the 6th century and was one of twelve sons of Helig ab Glannog, whose territories, between Penmaenmawr and Anglesey were flooded and now lie under Beaumaris Bay and Lavan Sands. It was said that the remains of Llys Helig could still be seen at very low tides a mile or so off the coast at Penmaenmawr. Loosing their family lands in this way the sons became monks at Bangor on Dee and Bardsey Island. A second church dedicated to St Celynin is in Llwyngwril near Barmouth.
The festival date for the church here is variously given as the 2nd or the 22nd of November. the calendars do not give a date for the festival of St Celynin.
The enclosed churchyard covers a very wide area, there are apparently records of burials there dating back to the 14th century, however the rocky nature of the churchyard means that only some areas can be used for burial.
A couple of hundred yards westwards along the drover’s path you can also find what we supposed to be Ffynnon Gwynwy.
Llangelynin Old Church is near Garnedd-wen farm and is signposted on the roads up from Henryd. The route is a steeply climbing single track road, but there is parking space at the top, about 100 yards from the church.