St Mair Church Bryncroes

by

Rev J Lodwick Davies, MA, Vicar.

Bryncroes is an agricultural parish on the Lleyn Peninsula and according to the 1901 census has 744 residents. It’s interesting to note that the number of the population in 1801 stood at 799. The church is situated a quiet and pleasant area close to the centre of the parish, about half a mile from the main road which goes from Aberdaron to Pwllheli, it’s about five miles from the former and twelve to Pwllheli, the capital of Lleyn. It is not known for certain why the parish got its name Bryncroes (Crosshill). Some say that it’s has to do with the geographical layout of the parish, whilst others think it dates back to the middle ages and that the parish was formed in the times of the Crusades and the first church built here, another theory is that the church is dedicated to the Holy Cross, but this can hardly be true as the church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Most of the churches on Lleyn are dedicated to the early saints of the 5th and 6th centuries, so it is highly that Bryncroes church is of a much later period. Perhaps the early Christians built an altar in the form of a cross. We know that the early Christians were very fond of building their churches close to Holy Wells, and Bryncroes is no exception to this. The church stands close to St Mary’s Well, and without doubt the early Christians would have used the well for Baptism and indeed the water from the well is still used to this day when the Sacrament of Baptism is held in the church.

It is without doubt that there is a close connection between Bryncroes and the famous Abbey at Bardsey during the middle Ages. This can be clearly seen by noting some of the names of the farmhouses such as Monachdy (Monk’s House) and Ty Fair (The house of Mary) etc.

We know from old manuscripts that the tithes of the parish of Bryncroes were paid to the Abbey at Bardsey. The church was on the pilgrim’s route to the Island, and also the Monks of the island would no doubt cross over to visit the various churches in their care on mainland Lleyn. It is said that the Monks used to spend their winters on the mainland and yet again the name of two farmhouses confirm this Bodgaeaf  Ucha/Isa (winter dwelling)

In the first picture we see the church as it was before the latest reconstruction (1906) – we were kindly lent the pictures by Mr ER Williams, Council School-.

Some 70 years ago the church was under reconstruction. At that time the door was at the northern end, but this was blocked up and a new door was opened up on the western end as it is now. Some of the older parishioners remember the door when it was in the northern end. Many of them can still remember going to the school, which was held in the church. It appears that the church held one of the ‘circuitry schools’ of the Rev Griffith Jones, Llanddowror and Madam Bevan. Quite a few parishioners recall the church as it was 70 years ago before reconstruction. It was said that there was a piece of timber across the church from one wall to the other known as ‘Pren Pumtheg’ (Fifteen Wood). Why it got this name no one seems to know. Carved on it were a Lamb a Cross and a Serpent. During that reconstruction the timber disappeared and no one knows to this day what became of it.

It could have been that there was a crogloft in the church and that the ‘Pren Pumtheg’ was part of it.

By the end of the 19th century it became clear that the church was in dire need of repair and restoration and many years ago now a Lady who was descended from the old Trygarn family left 100p in her will towards setting up a fund to restore the church. And in 1903 it was decided to seriously undertake the task of restoration. The late Col Wynne Finch (the patron of the benefice) took a great interest in the restoration movement, but sadly he died before seeing the work begin, but his widow Mrs Wynne Finch took over and played her part admirably giving every help and encouragement to raise funds, also Col and Mrs Alan Gough, Gelliwig gave of their generosity and hard work as well as the landowners the late Mr Lloyd Edwards and Lady Reade and other kind benefactors such as the late Mr Asseton Smith, Col Lloyd Evans, Broomhall and others such as the parishioners both church and chapel members who subscribed to the fund the sum of 800p was soon raised.

The consequence of this was that the plain old building that we saw in the picture was taken down to it’s foundations so that a complete renovation could take place. Great care was taken of that which was truly antique and valuable in the church during the demolition.

The old font remains as do the Communion Vessels that have been in use since 1574. The same altar is in use though it did undergo repair – on the wall close to the font are two old wooden boards on which are carved the Creed, The Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments in the common language as well as the date 1601, which is when they were written.

On the chancel wall are two memorial tablets to the old Trygarn Family from which Lady Reade, Llanfaethlu, Anglesey is descended. They read as follows

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Herelyeth the body of Richard Trygarn of Trygarn, gentlm:

He dyed March 1666

Aged 80 years; He had issue by his second wife Margaret

Daughter to Humphrey Lloyd of Rhogill fawr in

Fionydd, gentlem two sons Griffith & Herbert:

She died about ye yeare 165 aged 45 yeares:

Herbert their son died 1662 aged 16 years

Both interred underneath.

 

This was erected by their son

Gruffyth Trygarn of Chester in remembrance of a

Deare and tender father and mother

And loveing brother 1691.

 

Underneath lyeth the body of Gruffyth Trygarn

Of Trygarn, g.n.

He married martha, daughter to Richard

Edwards of Nanhoron; but noe issue

He was buried from thence on Easter Tuesday

1687 in or about 23 year of his age.

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The windows of the church at present are of Norman design and have been carved from stone from the quarry at Nevin. The old oak beams remain but have been strengthened, they are one of the main features of the building and rarely nowadays will see you timbers like these, they are centuries old and look set to last for centuries to come. The roof is covered in slates under which lies a layer of felt and pitch pine, the woodwork has been stained.

The pulpit is of a beautiful light oak as are the pews in the chancel. The floor is paved with blocks of oak. A porch was built on the western gable – it’s a great blessing on stormy days. On the bell tower is a stone cross, carved from a local quarry situated in the parish. The restored church is a fitting testament to the both the architect Mr Harold Hughes of Bangor and the builder Mr Robert Jones, bron Philip Bottwnog.

The Opening Services

The opening services took place on the 27th and 28th of August 1906. The following is a correspondents report of the occasion.

‘The opening of the church was greeted with a festive mood by the parishioners and their hearts were filled with thanksgiving for the successful completion of the restoration. On the opening days the greatest treasure was the glorious weather, the hills a flurry of purple heather, surrounding pastures clothed in green and the gold of the cornfields all looked upon by a golden sun swimming in a sea of clear blue skies, shining down as if in great admiration of the occasion. The services were a worthy reflection of all this. On Monday the 27th the first service was Evening Prayers intoned by the Rev Vicar, Revs J Wheldon Griffith, curate of Llangian and Henry Lloyd, vicar of Aberdaron read the lessons. The Rev RT Jones BA, Vicar of Glanogwen gave a fitting sermon on loyalty to the church based on the sanctity of its heritage. At nine the following morning the Communion Service was taken by the Vicar, this service was much appreciated by the parishioners. At two in the afternoon the whole building was presented to the service of God by the Bishop. This service was bi lingual – English and Welsh, afternoon prayers were said by the vicar, the first lesson was read in Welsh by Rev D Sinnett Jones, Rhiw whilst Canon Davies, Pwllheli read the second lesson in English. Towards the end of the service both church wardens approached the altar to see the Bishop and one of them Col Alan Gough read out a script setting out all the aims of the project and asking the Bishop to present these through his good and sacred offices to service of the Trinity. The Bishop consented to their request, beseeching God’s Blessings on the Sacraments performed at the Font, the Pulpit and the Altar. The Bishop then ascended to the pulpit and delivered his sermon in which he praised everyone for their hard work and wished them every success for the future of the church. After the service everyone was invited to tea, which had been prepared in the nearby school.

At six the evening service took place it was taken by Rev DT Davies MA, Tydweiliog with the Vicar and the Rev T Jones, BA, Vicar of Llangwnadl reading the lessons. The Rev M Roberts, Vicar of Rhosybol delivered the sermon based on the question ‘Why do we Congregate in the House of God’ Throughout all the services the organist was Miss Mary Herbert Jones, LRAM, The Vicarage, Llangwnadl, she presented her task admirably. Large congregations, summery weather, excellent singing, good collections and suitable sermons, these are the things that made the opening services of St Mary’s church, Bryncroes an overwhelming success’. HL

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Thanks to Mr E Evans for the 1905 photograph.

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