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St Eilian's Church is to be found in the village of Llaneilian in the north east of Anglesey, Llaneilian ChurchNorth Wales. And what a church!
It is a superb example of a late medieval parish church having a Norman tower, a 15th century rood screen, a 17th century altar and 17th century paintings. I must admit when I first saw the church I didn't know what to think. From the front you see a large white tower with a pyramid shaped and slated roof. Almost hidden behind the tower is the main body of the church. The tower and the church seem out of proportion, they don't match at all. But this is understandable when you realise that the tower is 12th Century while the Nave and Chancel are 15th Century.

At least the nave and the chancel are constructed at right angles to the tower, but the position of the smaller chapel of St Eilian's, at the rear,  can only be described as squew wiff. The chapel has been joined on to the chancel by an interesting bit of building work which is to a large part a slate roof. I don't know whether the roof leaks but the slate joints have been patched with cement mortar (which seems to be common practice in the area) and the roof abutment to the stone walls of the chapel and chancel have been made with benching rather than with lead.

I understand that considerable repairs have been undertaken in recent years (c.2007) with a grant from Cadw, the Lottery Fund and others. New lead to roofs, repointing to external walls, window repairs, stonework repairs, lime plastering and re-rendering the Norman Tower with lime mortar and limewash. The cost was over £150,000 and to my eyes it seems they ran out of money half way. The front and side elevation appear to have been repointed but the rear walls, chapel and north side do not. In fact the old place seems to be in a state of disrepair !
But this is not necessarily a bad thing as there is nothing worse than an ancient building being renovated too much. Rather like Trigger's sweeping brush (Trigger of "Only fools and horses" fame) ... "I've had the same brush for 30 years..... but it has had several new brush heads and quite a few new handles !"

As long as the roof doesn't leak and the structure is reasonably sound leave the old buildings alone!

St Eilian came to Anglesey from Rome in the 6th Century. He founded his "Llan" and built the original cell or church on the present site close to where he landed at Porth yr Ychen (Porthyrychen). The church would have been rebuilt several times and the tower is all that now remains of a 12th Century building. The nave St Eilian's Church east and north elevationsand chancel date to the 15th Century, and within the church is a beautifully carved 15th Century oak rood loft . A painted figure of Death as a skeleton on one panel may date from the 16th century.


The side chapel was built in the 14th Century and joined to the main church in 1614. It is reputed to mark the site of Eilian’s original church and it contains the base of a very rare 15th century wooden altar. You may also appreciate the original mediaeval joinery in the chapel, not a single nail, only wooden pegs.

A short walk along the coast from the nearby Point Lynas takes you to the Holy Well of St Eilian. Medieval pilgrims would visit the well and their donations would add to the wealth of Llaneilian's Church. This would explain the more "English" style, the more prosperous looking style, of Llaneilian Church with its crenellations or battlements which are much more common amongst the English counties and the Welsh Borders than in Anglesey and North West Wales. The picture below shows the stream that runs past the well and not the well itself. Yes I walked past it without realising it was a few yards up the hill!

Unfortunately the church was closed on my visit but if you plan ahead you may telephone 01407 830349/710356/830754 for a key. Alternatively plan your visit to arrive during service hours.

There is good disabled access to the Church.

Update

I have recently (September 2009) received an update about the church from the restoration manager.

St Elian Church is OPEN from 1st May to the 30th September daily from 10am to 4pm.  During other times a list of key holders is exhibited on the Porch Gate.
 
The church tower is not whitewashed but is rendered with an ochre pigment which came from the nearby Parys Mountain (noted for its copper mines).  The church under went a £200,000 restoration carried out in 2002 and the architect, Adam Voelcker recieved the King of Prussia Gold Medal for the work carried out on the Tower. 
The church is one of the most well preserved 12th century churches on the Isle of Anglesey and noted for its rood screen (dated 1495) bearing a painting of a skeleton, and wooden carvings, and Cyff Eilian which has associations with Ffynnon Eilian.

Directions:    [ Map of St Eilians Church location  ]

Find directions on the map of north east Anglesey

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Please - click on the pictures - for enlarged pictures of St Eilians Church Llaneilian © All pictures and text copyright Bernard Wellings

View of Llaneilian Church across the meadow Gateway to the Church
First view of Llaneilian Church above the wild meadow flowers  
Gateway to the Church
Church porch and south elevation   St Eilians Chapel
Church porch and south elevation   The 14th Century St Eilians Chapel
Llaneilian Church's poor neighbours St Eilian's Holy Well
Llaneilian Church graveyard  
The stream leading to St Eilian's Holy Well, or Ffynnon Eilian
 

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