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Llanyblodwel History

The church was built about 1160, probably on the foundation of a previous wattle and clay building. History suggests that long before the Christian era, the druids may well have met on this site to worship in the open. The church has changed a great deal over the centuries. Built by the Normans on the Welsh side of the Offa's Dyke, in 1536 it suddenly found itself part of Shropshire when Henry VIII added Llanyblodwel to the county!

 

In medieval times much was added to the church; an arcade, the east wall windows, the wonderful screen with interwoven vines, foliage, hares and animals, the intriguing 14th Century stone slab in the church porch, all link the church to Pennant Melangell (Melangell being regarded as the Patron Saint of hares, as St Michael was of geese!) As the 604AD legend goes, the Irish Princess Melangell was in hiding from her father in a wood near Pennant, Montgomeryshire, in exactly the spot where the Prince of Powys just happened to be hunting. By a dramatic act of heroism she protected the hare from capture and, instead of being angry, the Prince was stunned by her beauty and courage! He gave her enough land to build an abbey, as a sanctuary for all those needing refuge.

 

The Blodwel Charity School opened in 1719 in a room above the vestry, operating until 1844 when the Rev. John Parker arrived. Although other alterations had taken place, additions such as the new gallery made the church very much as we know it today.

 

This new vicar was a landowner, a man of wealth whose family home was Sweeney Hall (now the Sweeney Hotel) just outside Oswestry. A single man, the Rev Parker was a gothic enthusiast, an architect, a gifted water colour artist, an engineer and at 46, a man with a mission.

 

When he took it on, the church was in poor repair and through persuasion and the offer to pay for all the work himself, he began to rebuild the south side of the church and the two porches in the gothic style. With similar enthusiasm he built a new school and schoolmasters home in the village. The vicarage was also expanded and altered to fit in with his building style.

 

The octagonal spire is quite special and is perhaps the one feature well known by many people. Few, however, will realise what a feat of engineering he accomplished. The convex curvature of the outline was designed to give extra strength and durability to a structure being built on such a difficult site. How to achieve this shape was, in itself, a huge challenge. When unveiled in 1856, John Parker wrote that it was exactly as he had hoped, with a degree of scientific and geometric grandeur!

 

Inside the church, Parker's painted decorations offended the late Victorians who then covered them up with whitewash! It was only in the 1960's that they were restored to how we see them today.