The church of St Michael the Archangel is situated in Llanyblodwel, a scenic rural village seven miles from Oswestry in north-western Shropshire, just a short distance from the Welsh border. The village name, Llanyblodwel, can be translated from Welsh as “Church of Blodwell” or “Parish of Blodwell”. Blodwell being from the old English name of “Blodwelle”, meaning “blood spring or stream” (probably a reference to the colour of the water), although there are other suggestions as to where “Blodwel” originates. The Afon (River) Tanat passes by the church.
I have wanted to visit Llanyblodwel Church for quite some time after seeing a picture of it in ‘The Churches of Shropshire & their Treasures’ book by John Leonard (picked up at a secondhand book sale). Its tower and spire are pretty unique. An 1860 newspaper article noted it as “incongruous”! So how did this unique tower come to be? Well…
It is believed that there has been a church here since Norman times, but it is the Rev. John Parker M.A. to which its current form and unique features are owed. When he arrived at the church in 1845, the south wall, the oldest part of the church, was unsafe and beyond repair. It was decided that the wall must be rebuilt from the ground up and that the church needed more space. Rev. John Parker spent his entire time at Llanyblodwel making the church his own, designing and renovating it, and, most notably, building the spire (built in 1855).
The Rev. John Parker died on 31st August 1860 and on 21st December 1860 the Shrewsbury Chronicle reports:
“An obituary for the late Rev. John Parker makes note that his “architectural portfolios are the best bits of all the medieval buildings in Wales”. It says “He had nearly finished the restoration of his church at his own sole cost and by his own hand, when he had to lay aside paper, pencil, and compasses forever! Much difference of opinion had been caused by his having erected a spire of a peculiarly curved outline in the new detached tower of Llanyblodwel church; by many it was considered incongruous, by some unauthorized. We do not know whether its architect was aware of the circumstance; but an admiral precedent for it exists in the church of Schelestadt, a building of the earlier portion of the thirteenth century, in the east of France.”
The Rev. John Parker is buried in the churchyard near the base of the church tower, forever to be a part of Llanyblodwel Church.
After the death of another of Llanyblodwel’s vicars, it seems the churchwardens had forgotten something quite important… On 10th June 1899, the Wellington Journal reported:
STRANGE INCIDENT AT A FUNERAL AT LLANYBLODWEL
“The death and burial of Mr John Griffiths of Llynclys has led to an extraordinary occurrence at Llanyblodwel. It seems that the church there, owing to the death of the Rev. Elias Owen, is without an incumbent, and the churchwardens had neglected to make arrangements for another clergyman to conduct the obsequies. The funeral party waited half an hour, and the Mayor of Oswestry, who was accompanied by the Town Clerk, at the request of the family, began the funeral service, when it was remembered that a clergyman had been seen fishing in a neighbouring river. Being summoned he came in his fishing “accoutrements” and performed the ceremony, to the great relief of the sorrowing relatives.”
Thankfully, Christmas of that year seemed to pass without incident. On 30th December 1899, The Montgomery County Times and Shropshire and Mid-Wales Advertiser reported:
“CHRISTMASTIDE – Christmas Day passed off very quietly in this Parish. Very few carol singers were about and this old custom is apparently dying out. The church was most tastefully decorated with evergreens by the ladies of the Parish, and Holy Communion was celebrated at dawn when a fair number were present. At the eleven o’clock service the vicar, the Rev. J. Allen Jones, officiated and the church was well filled. The choir sang with great expression the anthem “Magnify the Lord,” and also the carol by the late Henry Leslie “Sing, oh sing, this blessed morn”.
We visited a couple of days into the new year and the Christmas tree, along with some greenery, tastefully decorated the church.
The interior of the church is quite colourful by most churches standards. There is so much to look at and take in within this interesting and unique church.