The parish and well at Llanneydd are named today for St Nefydd. As with so many of these local saints we are looking back to a time before written accounts, it is difficult to say with any certainty who so many of them were, and indeed whether they actually ever existed; but it seems for St Nefydd we are on much more uncertain ground than we are for some of the others. In fact today the church hedges its bets with a double dedication to Saints Mary and Nefydd. The dedication to Mary having replaced that of Nefydd during the middle ages. A well dedicated to Mary is reported by Gray Hulse (2000) to be much closer to the church in the area of Gwyndy, which today consists of several large modern farm buildings and could not be explored during this visit. It seems, however, that Nefydd has arisen due to some confusion over time and maybe the dedication is one of those linguistic tricks of rebracketing whereby consonants transfer themselves between words, so that the parish Llan-efydd, as it is recorded in 1801, gradually became the parish Llan-nefydd.
There is a local tradition that a saint is buried in the churchyard within a circular ditch with stones on edge around. This was known as Frymder’s grave, but was cleared in the 1890s.
Clearly the earliest references identify the name as Efydd or Ufydd. Lhuyd’s Parochialia from the 1690s records two wells in the parish – ffynnon Yvydh and ffynnon Assa. Two 16th century manuscripts identify a river and field respectively called Avon ffynnon Efyth and Cae ffynnon Evydd. Leland also writing in the 16th century calls the parish Llan Heueth , the shrine of obedience from the Welsh ufudd meaning obedient or dutiful.
The name is retained by Baring Gould and Fisher in their early 20th century Lives of the British Saints (LBS) which states that
Ffynnon Ufydd, a small bath at the bottom of a field below the village, is now in a dilapidated and uncared for condition. Huw Llifon informs us in a cywydd written in 1604, when the stone work round the well was reconstructed by the Vicar, Evan Morris, that cures were effected by bathing in it three Fridays in succession.
The church guide book suggests that at this time the well was in the form of a bath and that the Rev. Morris built a wall around it.
The account of the well is included in the LBS record for St Nefydd, but it stresses the uncertainty surrounding the saint in the historical record. Nefydd is identified as either a son or daughter of Brychan, the father of a large family of saints, in the Iolo Manuscripts but there are no other sources to link him or her to the Brychan dynasty.
Gray Hulse points to a 1930 article by Rev Wade-Evans which suggests Efydd/Nefydd might actually derive from Tefydd who was father to St Winifred noting the proximity of Llannefydd to Henllan which had strong links with the legend of St Winifred.
D R Thomas (1911) accepts the link with Nefydd, and credits the church foundation with St Nefydd stating that Ffynnon Nefydd still exists in the village. He also mentions Pant yr Hen Eglwys not far from the well ,which probably marks the site of the first foundation.
The well was in the field below, behind a modern row of houses which retain the name Ffynnon Nefydd, close to the line of trees on the left hand side.
In 1912 Inspectors from the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales visited the site. In their report they use the name Ffynnon Nefydd, By this time it appears that the structure of the well has disappeared, they find only
A neglected spring situated about 300 yards from the church. It is now frequented only by the cattle of the farmstead.
There is little record of the well since that time. It would seem that at some stage in the late 20th century the well was filled in and grassed over. A report from 2004 says that nothing could be seen of it then. The site of the well would be in front of the area of the base of the tree above.
A gothic gateway leads to a path that probably once led to Ffynnon Asa, one of several wells dedicated to St Asaph in the area. I had discussed the well previously during lockdown, so this was my chance to actually go out and look for it.
The search for Ffynnon Asa, however, proved difficult and fruitless. The RCAHMW Inventory from 1914 described it as
A spring rising at the foot of a bank; the water falls into no cavity but trickles down into the little River Asa.
The spot identified by the Inventory is some half a mile upstream from the roadside gateway, the River Asa was fast flowing and the banks were steep and covered in undergrowth so progress upstream was difficult. In the end it is disappointing to report that there was no sign of any spring or stream entering the river close to the location identified by the RCAHMW.
D R Thomas (1911) The History of the Diocese of St Asaph. Volume II. Caxton Press.
R Silvester and R Hankinson (2004) Early Medieval Ecclesiastical and Burial Sites in Mid and North East Wales CPAT Report 612.
Tristan Gray Hulse (2000) The Documentation of Ffynnon Ddeier: Some Problems Reconsidered Living Spring Journal.
RCAHMW (1914) An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales – Denbighshire
Rev A W Wade-Evans (1930) Beuno Sant. Archaeologia Cambrensis 85, pp315-341
Gwyn Jones (2007) A History of the Church of St Nefydd & St Mary, Llannefydd.
Hope you have had your facs correct this time and not like with Ffynnon Mair, Llanfair that you still have not corrected
I hope so too. I’m really sorry not to have got back to you on Ffynnon Mai’r. I didn’t travel over there during all the lockdowns then because I’d left it so long didn’t get back to you. If the offer is still open then I’d love to come. Sorry
It need to be corrected before history is lost
I like that it’s still marked with a handsome tree.
Brilliant work Ian you have worked so hard trying to discover things, keep it going.