We expected our visit to Halkyn to be brief and unsuccessful, but it turned out that we spent well over an hour wandering around this fascinating and haunting location.
Halkyn Old Churchyard lies about 100 yards from the new St Mary’s Church in Halkyn, new in this case meaning that it was built in around 1880. Unusually the new church was built at a different location to the existing village church. The earlier church, built in 1745, was small, the village grew rapidly during the 19th century following the development of an important lead mining industry in the area. It maybe that the footprint of the old church was too small to hold a new church of sufficient size for the increasing population and thus it was necessary to build the new church away from the original site.
What remains at the old churchyard is a roughly rectangular mound in the centre where the church would have stood, and the graveyard attached to the church, frozen in time with the last burials made there in the 1870s.
It is a large site, and many of the graves are remarkably well preserved, with many inscriptions legible from the mid eighteenth century. Clearly it isn’t completely untended, as it is possible to walk through it, but it was severly over grown, with graves and memorials half hidden in an undergrowth of long grass, ferns and brambles. A number of yew trees remain which would have been there at the time of the original church.
St Mary’s Well – Ffynnon Fair was recorded by Lhuyd in 1699 as “a circular stone basin“. The Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments visited the site in September 1910 and reported that “It is now covered with cemented flags, and its water supplied the neighbouring houses.”
We searched in the southern corner of the churchyard for these cemented flags, which have also been described as “possibly old gravestones”. What we did find was a significant hollow in the ground in an area devoid of gravestones. At this location a small spring bubbles up, on the outside of the churchyard wall, into the grounds of neighbouring Halkyn Castle.
In a heavily landscaped area of the castle grounds this spring forms a small stream which runs for about 10 to 20 yards before falling into a pond.
The sides of the stream are flagged with large stones, at least one of which appears to be a reused grave stone.
Is this just a coincidence, or has Ffynnon Fair been relieved of its duties of supplying neighbouring houses and is it once again flowing freely through the grounds of Halkyn Castle ?
We should certainly like to think so.
That was very interesting thank you. Very sad when you think someone may have reused a grave stone for their own needs.
I’m going to check out this burial area, August 2020. A few of my early 19th century ancestors had connections with old St Mary’s, Halkyn. Shame they’ve got such a common surname – Hughes !
Are there any foundations left of the church?
Hi – no there are no significant remains of the church, you can make out where it was from the rectangular platform in the centre of the graveyard, but the building has gone. It is a fascinatingly atmospheric graveyard though – well worth visiting for its own sake so I hope you find it and if you have ancestors there then I hope you find them – though as you say there may be many Hugheses there
It’s a pity you didn’t research further. The new church was built and paid for by The Duke of Westminster, as he did not want the old church so close to his castle, and wanted to improve his view from the castle.
Yes, I read that, J. Baker. However, the occupants of the castle must’ve been visiting the old church. If you look at old maps you’ll see the castle had its own path leading directly to it. When I visited the site I attempted to find the break in the perimeter wall where this path came into the churchyard. I searched thoroughly but it must’ve been filled in very well because I couldn’t find it.
Thanks for the information J Baker- I agree that I could have done a lot more research on this one – it was one of my first posts, there are a lot of questions unanswered and I have been meaning to revise it for a while. Hopefully soon we will be able to travel more freely and i will get back there and take another look
Rebecca – glad you got a chance to visit – hope you found a few Hughes graves there.
Visited this graveyard on 22nd September 2021 with a friend to photograph the area. Very interesting graves and the further you go into the graveyard the older the graves are but unfortunately also the undergrowth takes over. It fascinated me how some of the stones had been what appeared to be slid sideways possible grave robbers? I was led to believe that this graveyard contains the grave of a pirate with possible skull and crossbones on the grave I failed to find it if it ever existed? Does anyone one know of the possibility of this grave? We got some interesting photos on our explore.
Many thanks Richard
Hi – I think I found the “pirate grave” here you can see my picture in this post https://gothicheroine.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/one-place-i-wont-be-visiting-this-halloween/ There are a number of others in the area, I wrote a more general post on “pirate graves” here https://gothicheroine.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/pirate-graves/ . The skull and crossbones symbol is really a memento mori – a reminder to the observer that one day soon they too will follow the occupant of the grave, but I find the pirate explanation much more exciting – I certainly always look out for them on my regular graveyard expeditions. Hope you get back there soon and find it – thanks for visiting.