St. Tysilio's Bryneglwys

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The Parish Church

Tysilio  The church is dedicated to St. Tysilio. Tysilio (also known as Sulian) was born towards the end of the sixth century. His father was Brochwel, the reigning prince of Old Powys, living at Pengwern (Shrewsbury). At an early age Tysilio felt drawn to the religious life, to serve God as a monk. His father was strongly opposed to the idea. It was an unsettled time, with Powys constantly harassed from the neighbouring province of Mercia. Brochwel intended his son to be a leader in his army.

Seeing no other way, Tysilio fled while out hunting one day with his brothers. He went to join the Abbott Gwyddfarch's community at Meifod, near Welshpool. In order to avoid a further encounter with his father, Tysilio was sent to live on a small island (known as Ynys Sulian - Sulian's Island) in the Menai Straits. After seven years he returned to Meifod to succeed Gwyyfarch as Abbot.

Tysilio's problems were not over however. His father died soon after the battle of Chester (about 603 AD) and was succeeded by Iago, Tysilio's elder brother. A couple of years later Iago also died, leaving no son to take his place. Iago's widow, in an effort to retain the power she had enjoyed as his wife, resolved to withdraw Tysilio from his abbey and marry him, making him king of Powys. When Tysilio refused her 'offer' she used her influence to make life difficult for the community in the abbey. In the hope that his absence would ease the persecution, Tysilio, with some of his monks, crossed the sea to Brittany where he settled in  the neighbourhood of St. Malo. There he set up a monastery and remained there until his death in about 650.


'Bryneglwys' means 'Church Hill'. There has been a church on this hill in Bryneglwys since at least the early seventh century. Tysilio's route from Meifod was most probably the Roman Road 'Ffordd Gamelen'. Almost directly on this route is the church of Llantysilio in the Dee Valley near Llangollen and the church here. He probably then travelled north-eastwards through Llanarmon yn Ial and on to Maes Glas (Greenfield) below Holywell, where he could get a boat for Anglesey. Some of the round, untrimmed boulders in the west wall outside and in the south wall in the porch may well date from the early stone building which would probably have replaced the original turf and wattle church.

The parish of Bryneglwys was part of the 'cwmwd' (commote) of Iāl or Yale, near the Welsh/English border but consistently held by the Welsh. Iāl means 'cultivated land', the opposite to 'anial' meaning 'wild'. After the English conquest of 1282 the lordship of Bromfield and Yale was formed from the three cymydau of Yale, Marford and Wrexham (the two latter were early thirteenth century subdivisions of the larger single cwmwd of Maelor Gymraeg or Bromfield). The territory was placed under the lordship of the Earl of Surrey. Bryneglwys at that time was made up of the townships of Bodanwdog, Bryneglwys (Tre'r Llan), Bryntangor, Chwithrynnau,and Talybidwal. This group of medieval townships remains as the present parish and there are still signs of the old names.

Between 1247 and 1254 Bishop Anian I of St. Asaph granted the rectorial tithes of Bryneglwys to the Abbott of Valle Crucis under Abbot Madoc. This was in lieu of the tithes of Llandegla which reverted to the vicar of that parish. The parish was served for a time directly from the Abbey about six miles away. Valle Crucis was the first of the Welsh monasteries to be dissolved in 1535. In 1539 Bryneglwys was one of the parishes granted to Sir William Pickering, Knight. He died in 1547 and the grant was renewed to his son in law, Sir Edward Wooton, from whom it descended to the Wynnstay family.

The present church building is said to have been  extensively restored in about 1570, with the Yale Chapel added a few years later by Dr. Ial, Chancellor to Archbishop Parker ( Archbishop of Canterbury in Elizabeth I's reign) The church was restored in 1875 by Mr. Arthur Baker and the font, East window and stalls date from this time. The gallery at the west end was removed then too and at some point one of the oak pillars between the Yale Chapel and chancel was renewed.

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