Rhoscolyn has a fascinating history, with its patron saint, Gwenfaen, first making her home and church here in 630 AD. Some say that the druids’ last stand against the Romans, who invaded Mona (Anglesey) in 60 or 61 AD, was at Cymyran, the inland sea between Mona and Holy Island and the open sea, south of Four Mile Bridge. Anglesey itself also has a very interesting history as you will see below.
Nation’s bells to ring out together to mark Armistice Centenary
On 11 November 2018, 100 years since Armistice, bells will ring out in unison from churches and cathedrals in villages, towns and cities across the country. Hopefully St Gwenfaen’s bell will join in this wonderful effort.
Pictures by Ian Walker (left) and Stephen Knight (right
In medieval times, according to a script originally written in Latin, the island enjoyed the reputation of producing more grain than all the other regions of Wales. it was said when crops failed elsewhere it could supply the rest of Wales. Hence in those times it was called Mon Mam Cymru – Mother of Wales. The same writings also spoke of another smaller island, close to its shore, almost adjoining it. Here a group of hermits lived, dedicted to religious service. When quarrels broke out amongst them, small mice would appear, eat their food and what they couldn’t eat they would deface. As soon as the arguments were resolved the mice would disappear! Women were never allowed on this island, then called Ynys Llannog – Priests Island, now known as Ynys Seiriol, or Puffin Island.
Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis), a renowned scholar priest of this time, whose writings these were, also told of a mysterious stone found on Anglesey that was the size and shape of a man’s thigh bone. It had the extraordinary property of however far it was carried away it would return of its own accord that night! This was proved true by local people – when the Earl of Shrewsbury had it chained to another much larger stone and dumped far out to sea, early next morning, there it was back in place! The Earl then made a public edict that it was never again to be moved – which didn’t stop a countryman attempting to test the power by strapping it to his leg. His leg turned gangrenous before the stone returned to its place!
We’ve talked above about ringing bells, and shown the old St Gwenfaen’s bell in its bell tower. Now we take a look at some even older bells and their bellmaker, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. They made the bells of Westminster Abbey and the bell of Big Ben (the biggest bell the foundry ever made). And very sadly there is a battle going on at the moment to prevent the foundry from being turned into a luxury hotel by the site’s new owner, US investor, Raycliff. National Heritage want to preserve it as an example of industrial heritage.
The foundry, which Ian and I were lucky enough to visit when we took our front door bell* there to be renovated, had been operating since the 1740’s, but sadly in spite of its long history, the fourth-generation bell-founder, Alan Hughes, and his wife Cathryn decided to sell the site last year, due to financial pressures. Now the UK Historical Preservation Trust is fighting to preserve it.
The Big Ben chime has been silenced, apparently until 2021, for renovation work. But if you click on the link below you can hear its last chime from last year: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=big+ben+bell&view=detail&mid=3F9DDC29987AE9C0C6883F9DDC29987AE9C0C688&FORM=VIR
*The Whitechapel Bell Foundry didn’t just make large bells, they also produced smaller ones, like the bell at Tan y Bryn which was dedicated to our grandfather, Canon C C Marshall, by the St Chad’s Bellringers Society of which he was a member (he was vicar of St Chads, Far Headingly, for many years).