Month: July 2022
Day 8 – Two churches and another giraffe
Back in April friend Eileen sent me a link to an online local news article about the friendly neighbourhood giraffe and one of the following comments mentioned another giraffe situated in the village of St. George, a mile or so off one of the roads into Abergele, and as I was going into the town anyway I decided to make a detour and go in search of it.
The giraffe was said to be in the garden of the village pub but when I got there I could see no sign of it anywhere and the pub wasn’t open so I couldn’t go in and ask. I was delighted to find that the church was open though so I went in to have look round and got chatting to a local couple who were just leaving. When I mentioned I was looking for the giraffe they said it had been moved to another garden just over a mile along the road and they very kindly told me where to find it.
The Parish Church of St. George is Grade ll listed and was designed and built by C H M Mileham between 1887 and 1894, funded by Hugh R Hughes of Kinmel, a landowner and well known genealogist from a wealthy family. Constructed from local limestone with sandstone detailing and a single nave the church was built in the Perpendicular Gothic style, replacing an earlier double-naved church with medieval origins which had existed within the same churchyard.
Unfortunately, in spite of exploring several avenues of research I’ve only been able to find a few scant details of the church interior. The reredos and communion rail are oak, the octagonal font is limestone, and the oak chancel screen has a semi-octagonal lectern and pulpit built in. The south transept contains the organ and at the rear of the church is the Hughes family pew, upholstered and extending across the width of the building under a timber canopy. The stained glass east window is in memory of H R Hughes and and his wife Lady Florentia, given by their grandchildren in 1919.
Something which did puzzle me though was in a section of one of the stained glass windows – a tiny image of the windmill at Lytham on the Lancashire coast and a reference to Lytham’s Lowther College in connection to Bodelywyddan Castle. This was intriguing and deserved a bit of investigation.
Lowther College, a private girls’ school, was set up in 1896 in Lytham by Florence Lindley who was its first headmistress. In 1920 she leased Bodelwyddan Castle from its then owners and moved the college from Lytham to the castle, purchasing the property five years later and remaining as headmistress until 1927 when the college was sold to Allied Schools, an association of independent schools. She then moved a few miles away to Kinmel Hall where she converted the building into a ‘rheuma spa’ for the treatment of people with rheumatism. A well worn brass plaque below the window says it’s in memory of Florence, ”founder of Lowther College, Lytham St Annes and Bodelwyddan” so presumably this was the church she attended during and after her years at the castle.
At the bottom end of the churchyard was the Grade ll listed Gothic Revival style mausoleum, erected when the previous church still existed. Built of Derbyshire sandstone in 1835-6 by architect Thomas Jones of Chester it was commissioned for the Hughes family by William Lewis Hughes who was created first Baron Dinorben in 1831. Three of its sides have blind 4-light Perpendicular traceried windows while the front has a carved Hughes’ coat-of-arms combined with that of William’s first wife, Charlotte Margaret Grey.
With St. George only being a tiny place – more hamlet than proper village – there was nothing else to see once I’d looked round the church so I set off along the road in search of the giraffe. Thanks to the directions of the local couple it was easy enough to find and even from the end of the lane it was obvious that it was a much larger and taller creature than the other one. Made of wood it looked quite weathered in its appearance so must have existed for quite some time though I couldn’t see the significance of the flower stalk in its mouth.
Happy that I’d found the giraffe I followed the road down into Abergele, parked at Tesco and walked round to St. Michael’s church nearby. The first church building on the site was founded in the 8th century, the land having been granted by the Prince of North Wales to Elfod, Bishop of Bangor, for the purpose of establishing a place of worship on the banks of the River Gele. This early church was probably a group of timber domestic dwellings and a burial ground all enclosed by a fence, and worship would have been held in the open air.
The present church is built of local limestone and sandstone with a slate roof and dates from the late 12th/early 13th century when it was dedicated to St. Michael. It was modified and partially rebuilt around 1400, at which time the tower was also built, then after a period of neglect the building was restored in 1663. During the 19th century the Victorians made various alterations to the church including adding to the height of the tower in 1861 and building a castellated wall around the top. The tower itself is home to a peal of six bells – two by Taylor’s of Loughborough dated 1887, two dated 1844, one dated 1895 and a sixth dated 1730 – plus a single Sanctus bell, the smallest and oldest dated 1723.
The church clock was maintained in Victorian times by the poet David Griffith, a clock maker by trade and famous as the first Archdruid of Wales, and shortly after his 83rd birthday in 1883 he gave the clock a complete restoration. During the Victorian renovations the porch was built in 1879, replacing a previous stone porch, and the lychgate was erected in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. The church interior and the lychgate were renovated in 2004.
Close to the inner door the octagonal font is set on two steps. Although the base is late medieval the bowl dates from 1663 and was given by vicar Henry Pugh to mark the church’s restoration and also to replace the original bowl which had at some point been destroyed. The bowl itself is lead lined and the cover is oak with a wrought iron handle. Set in the wall near the font are two Celtic Cross slabs dating from the 13th century and a stone coffin lid believed to date from the late 14th century after the time of the Black Death. Originally set in the tiled floor of the Chancery, probably sited there in Victorian times, it was moved to its current position in 2008.
The double nave is divided by an arcade of eight bays with octagonal columns and with the rood screen extending across both naves. Dating from the 15th century this screen is all that remains of the original rood screen and loft which were removed at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century.
The original organ was built by William Hill and installed on the south side of the St. Elfod Chapel after the 1879 renovation, then in 1924 it was completely renovated and rebuilt by Rushworth and Draper using pneumatic action and was moved to the north side of the chapel. In 1982 it was overhauled and moved to the west end of the north aisle but it was found to cause problems for the organist and choir who were now at opposite ends of the church, making the musical balance between them difficult. In 1999 the organ was moved back to the north side of the St. Elfod Chapel by organ builder and tuner Eric Newbound and the pneumatic action was replaced by electric action which provided a separate console.