A beautiful 13th century church nestled along the banks of the River Alwen in a landscape that inspired William Wordsworth.
Parish records suggest that St Mary Magdalene was founded in 440AD but the first documented reference to the church is in the 13th century, when it appears in the 1254 Norwich Taxation.
The winding tracks and roads that cross outside the church were used by the cattle drovers who made this village a stopping place on their long journey from mountains to market. Being on the drovers’ route, the village grew quickly and while the original church building was probably a small wooden hut, between the 13th and 15th century the stone structure you see now would have been built and extended to accommodate the growing number of worshippers.
The church was repaired and enlarged in 1503, from which period it is likely that the roof and some masonry survives. By 1800 accommodating the large congregation had become increasingly difficult. There was much discussion about demolishing the church and rebuilding a larger one, but eventually a gallery was added to seat more people and musicians. At this time the thatched roof was also replaced with slate. The 1800s had seen the growing rise of nonconformity in Wales, and less people attended church; instead they flocked to the chapels to hear the rousing Methodist preachers of their day and many churches fell into disrepair.
As nonconformity levelled, the church needed major restoration work (carried out in 1874). During the late 1600s the side chapel was built by the Prys (Price) family of Gilar. Elis Prys was known as the 'Red Doctor' of Plas Iolyn and he played a leading role in the dissolution of the monasteries in Wales. His son, Captain Thomas Prys saw military service in his youth, and returned from his missions at the time of the threat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Legend has it that he felt guilty about the actions of his father and, after the Spanish Armada was defeated, he played an integral part in the reconstruction of churches in the area. His son Robert was an eminent judge in London who sponsored the construction of the almshouses opposite the church in 1717.