A tiny, ancient church perched near the sea in the quiet of remotest north Anglesey.
If you follow the signpost down the single track road from the A5025, you come to a place steeped in silence broken only by the cawing of rooks and the wind in the trees. There you find St Mary’s church, Llanfairynghornwy, a Grade I listed hidden gem of north west Anglesey.
While the date of its original founding has been lost, the oldest parts of the building (the nave walls and the arch between nave and chancel) date from the 11th or 12 century. The original porch was turned into a vestry at some point, so you enter the church through a narrow doorway in the 17th century tower.
Progressing towards the chancel (rebuilt in the 15th century), notice the colourful ceiling bosses. These were a gift of the poet RS Thomas who not only worshipped here for a time in his retirement but also married his second wife, Betty Vernon, in St Mary’s.
At the east end, the church opens out unexpectedly into the light and space of Capel Mynachdy or ‘chapel of the monks’ house’, built in the early 16th century with stone said to have come from the ruins of an old chapel at Cader Mynachdy near Carmel Head. One of the three dividing arches includes a Latin inscription, SCA MARIA ORA PRO ME DAVID A JACO ‘Saint Mary pray for me David ap Iago’, while another bears a simple carved stone head.
Church memorials include commemoration of Evan Thomas, bonesetter and founder of a dynasty of skilled practitioners, one of whom became a renowned orthopaedic surgeon. There is also a plaque to the Revd James Williams and his wife Frances, founders of the Anglesey Life Saving Association (later part of the RNLI). When an 1823 shipwreck on the nearby island of West Mouse cost 140 lives, the couple vowed to provide a lifeboat at Cemlyn and then at Holyhead. A talented artist, Frances sold prints of her work to raise funds, while James received a gold medal in 1835 for his lifesaving efforts. They are buried in the churchyard, as is their great grandson, acclaimed artist Kyffin Williams.