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Churches & Cathedrals. 17. Llangollen
Major Ifor Jackson
We had been to visit Plas Newydd, the home of the famous Ladies of Llangollen, so going back into town it was inevitable that we we would visit their grave in St Collen’s churchyard. Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, together with their servant Mary Carryl are remembered by an unusual large, three-sided monument, each of them having one of the inscribed with an epitaph.
The church is of interest itself, even if it had no connection with the Ladies. Although to founding of this church, like many in this part of the world, dates from the 6th century the present building is largely an 18th (the tower was built around 1750) and 19th century structure built around and upon a 13th century church. The south aisle and the eastern part of the church were added in 1863.
As one enters by the South porch you are welcomed by two ancient stone heads then by the coloured light of the stained glass. The church's guide book describe the windows as the oldest and the newest windows in the church. The newest depicts St Collen, dating from 1985 and the oldest showing Collen's Well is still modern, dating from 1833. Most of the windows are from the late nineteenth century, as indeed is much of the furnishing. The window in the vestry, “Suffer little children to come unto Me”, is particularly attractive.
The chancel, a Victorian extension, has a wrought iron screen which having been constructed in 1902, has obvious 'art nouveau’ influences. The reredos is a crucifixion scene sculpted from Caen stone. It is said to be similar to the one in The Prince Consort Chapel in Windsor.
One splendid mediæval feature is the ornate oak ceiling, other than a few panels almost every square inch has been decoratively carved. Constructed in 1450 under the guidance of the Abbot of Vallé Crucis, it is noticeable for the angels that adorn the brackets.
There is no ornate case for the organ, the plain modern structure with its rank of displayed pipes contains an instrument originally built in 1879 by Jones and Willis. Over the years there have been a number of modifications, notably in 1950 when it was moved to its present position and converted to electro-pneumatic action.
I find the church interesting in that, although in Wales and dedicated to its ancient Celtic Saint founder, it is a typically English parish church.