"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Anglesey - Day 8 22nd June - Conwy Part 2: St Mary's Church and town centre

After visiting the castle I had a choice - visit the church or go round the town centre with the rest of the family. To be honest I wanted to do both and I would have liked to have visited Plas Mawr but B was keen to re-commence the journey home so I knew time was limited. In the end I decided on the church especially as after the crowds in the the castle (including those dreadful "selfie" sticks putting in appearances - sorry I am turning into a grumpy old woman!) I was keen to get some tranquility and solitude.

St Mary's Church

There was a religious settlement on the site of the present church even before the castle was built. In 1172 Cistercian monks started the foundations of Aberconwy Abbey beside the Conwy river. From 1186 the monks lived for a century a simple life under the patronage of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth the Great. It became the leading monastery in North Wales and Llewelyn was buried there in 1240.

The abbey was ransacked by by Henry III's army in 1245 and the Treaty of Aberconwy was signed here in 1277. In 1283 following his conquest King Edward I decided to build a castle and walled town in the same area as the abbey so the monks were forced to move to Maenan taking the remains of Llywelyn with them.

St Mary's has been the parish church of Conwy since 1284. The South Transept, porches, charnel house and part of the tower are 14th century and the tower was finished in the 15h century. In 1872 there was a major restoration by Sir Gilbert Scott and in the twentieth century the memorial chapel and choir vestry were added and Robert "Mouseman" Thompson made a new wooden altar rail.

This grave sent shivers up my spine for some reason.

Fox and cubs flowering everywhere.

The font is 15th century with a heavily moulded bowl and octagonal base. The steps may have come from the cross in the market place.

Stone carvings

Is this one based on King Edward I?

Cistercian encaustic floor tiles now hanging on the wall in the sanctuary. These were just beautiful and presumably may have come from the original abbey. Sadly the position meant it was hard to get decent photos.

The tomb of Robert Wynn (1598) who built Plas Mawr (again it was in the Sanctuary and hard to get a photo).

John Wynn memorial

The choir stalls are 15th century - sadly most of photos were not very good but this owl turned out ok.

The stalls have ancient graffiti carved all over them.

"Christ the Redeemer" - this is a rare reproduction painting from the original by Florentine artist Andrea del Sarta (1487-1531)

Unfortunately my photo of the rood screen did not come out very well as it is far too dark and this is a trifle disappointing as I gather it is one of the finest in Europe (a pity I didn't realise this at the time as I would have made sure I got better pictures!).It is 15th century and marked the wedding of Henry VII's son Arthur to Catherine of Aragon.

Modern stone carvings?

I think these are stairs that would once have led to a loft or gallery above the rood screen.

Windows above depicting William Morgan and William Salesbury who translated the bible into Welsh

A marble bust of famous sculptor John Gibson who was baptised at the church in 1790

Not the best of photos but these two windows were made in the workshop of Burne Jones.

Even though I had longer in this church than Beaumaris there were still items I missed! A medieval processional cross and an ancient chest lid dated 1631 but which is believed to be 14th century. B and E appeared looking for me so I had to give up the hunt for Robert Thompson mice carvings!

A few photos taken by D in the town centre.


Plas Mawr - finest surviving Elizabethan town house in Britain











Back in England!

We all really enjoyed our holiday and would certainly return to Anglesey and would like to stay in the same house. There were a few places we didn't visit that I would have liked to - Brynn Celli Ddu burial chamber in particular. I would also have liked to have seen the Charles Tunniclife paintings in a gallery and Plas Newydd although the latter was always unlikey as D and E are too old now to be in family membership of the NT and B isn't keen on houses. There were also quite a few nature reserves that looked good.

*D Photos taken by my son with the Canon SX50HS bridge camera
Rest of photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FX3330 bridge camera

Reference leaflet on St Mary's Church


Rustic Pumpkin said...

It sounds as if you have reason aplenty to return to Anglesey some day ~soon! I wonder how many cathedrals and churches have their origins in an earlier monastic settlement of some kind, for our own cathedral here is built on one such site. Also, two restoration phases, one 18th century by John Nash, and a later Victorian one by Gilbert Scott, so he obviously got around! The quarry at Caerbwdi bay was opened in the 1980's for stone to facilitate much needed repairs again. {little morsels to tempt you to Pembrokeshire}

Ragged Robin said...

Rustic Pumpkin Thank you so much. I suspect quite a few re: origins of cathedrals and churches being on earlier monastic settlements/churches. You often read about churches being built on the site of an earlier church and these were often built on old pagan sites - such a fascinating subject :)

You are right Gilbert Scott did get around!! He seems to have been involved in countless restorations. I am not an expert but I have read some Victorian stained glass is poor (not necessarily connected with GS I hasten to add) and I thought a couple of the windows in this church were not brilliant - but that is a personal opinion!

So interesting to read of the quarry re: your cathedral - Pembrokeshire high on my list of places to holiday :) So thank you for all your snippets. Have been just once a two night camping stay somewhere near Saundersfoot or Tenby (all I can remember is a long walk over a field from camp site to a little beach!).

Pam said...

It's been a great holiday for you and you couldn't have asked for better weather! I've enjoyed reading through the days :)

Ragged Robin said...

Pam - Thanks so much. So glad you enjoyed. We really all enjoyed the holiday and so many new places to visit :) Yes, we were very very lucky with the weather :)

Rosie said...

What a lovely church it is and how wonderful you got to see inside as there is so much of interest. We passed through the churchyard on our way between Plas Mawr and the Castle the last time we visited Conwy and I remember seeing 'We are Seven' and wondering about it. We visited a little church in Co. Durham when we were away to take photos for my sister-in-law who I've been helping with her family tree. It had pews by Robert Thompson with both carved and indented mice. I didn't know he'd done work in St Mary's. You have certainly seen a lot of places and done so much during your time in Wales but as you say there is never enough time to do and see everything. Do go inside Plas Mawr next time you visit, it's wonderful:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks so much. I have just googled We are Seven in Conwy churchyard and may have solved the mystery. Apparently it is taken from a William Wordsworth poem "Nay master we are seven". It doesn't seem so eery now!!:)

I think Robert Thompson "got around"! There is woodwork and carved mice at Berkswell church (I have never managed to find them all!.)

Thanks so much for the tip re: Plas Mawr - will definitely visit next time - my son would have liked to have gone in too but even if I had given church a miss there wouldn't have been enough time this holiday to do it justice. We all really enjoyed the holiday and look forward to going back. Much as I love the Isle of Wight it is nice to see new places and do new things. I am still "swooning" over Llandwyn island!

Bovey Belle said...

It definitely sounds like you need to go back, as so much to see, but you have certainly done this church justice.

Fancy calling your baby "Silence" (bet she wasn't silent as a baby!!!)

YZ 1066 has piqued my interest too. What's that about I wonder?

Lovely encaustic tiles - much use of compass to draw those loops and arches and you're right about Burne Jones' work getting about a bit too.

A shame we didn't visit Plas Mawr when we were there for the Eistedfodd with our daughters many years back. It's a bit too far for a day out for us from here!

Ragged Robin said...

Bovey Belle - Thank you. As you say Silence is not very apt for a baby!! I am very interested too in the YZ 1066 (nothing in the church leaflet about it) - there are guides in the church to welcome you so perhaps they know?

I too loved the encaustic tiles - there is so much history at times in churches.

Plas Mawr does look worth a visit and I think there may be another old house there too?? Plus somewhere (the other side of the river I think) is the smallest house in Britain. I think you could spend a lot of time in Conwy! :) As you say a bit far for you for a day trip :(

CherryPie said...

The church looks lovely. I think you made the right choice but there again I am biased with regards to visiting churches and cathedrals.

I have enjoyed following your holiday adventures :-)

Ragged Robin said...

CherryPie - Thank you. There is a lot to do in and around Conwy and we had so little time! I am so glad you enjoyed my holiday posts :)

Caroline Gill said...

How lovely to find work by the 'Mouseman'. Did you see his mouse (or are there mice)? We visited his home in Yorkshire some years back... and treated ourselves to a mouse table napkin ring!!!

I have spent a truly wonderful evening, travelling with you along the Anglesey coast. You saw so much. We did visit Brynn Celli Ddu, so perhaps that will be on your list for a future occasion. Thank you, RR, for letting us share in your holiday in this way... and thanks to Timothy, too, for keeping us on our toes! I am way, way behind with everything... but who knows, I might manage to post our 'half-bridge' pic of Tintagel at some point, LOL!

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thanks so much for all your lovely comments :) No sadly ran out of time as OH and family turned up and I hadn't found the mouse. I have seen them though in a local church. What a wonderful treat :)

I am so glad you enjoyed the Anglesey posts - we really did have a super holiday and saw so many lovely places. We will certainly return as well as Brynn Celli Ddu there were other places we didn't have time to go.

Look forward to your half-bridge pic at some point!! Not sure with my fear of heights I would ever have walked over it even if complete!!! :)

Caroline Gill said...

Your posts brought such pleasure, RR, and made me feel a bit more 'back in the saddle' after a number of distractions since our return from Cornwall. I'm not promising to catch up quickly, though, as September looks like yet another busy month... Penmon itself is such a beautiful spot: I wonder if it is all much busier these days. We were delighted in Cornwall to find it was still fairly easy to find quiet corners if you knew where to look!

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thanks so much for your very kind comment. I am so pleased you enjoyed the posts and thank you for reading them and commenting. It makes the time spent worthwhile when I get a comment like yours :) No rush with catching up. Compared to the Isle of Wight in June we found Anglesey quiet. Beaumaris town was busy. Penmon Point was quite busy but not the church or priory or well. Newborough Warren area was again quite busy but it is a large beach and forest and even the island was quite large so it didn't feel crowded. But rest of Anglesey was relatively quiet although of course most places there were a few holiday makers!! But as you say you can always escape the crowds as they do seem to congregate in certain areas!!!