The tale of Winifred and her holy well
Dedicated to St Winifred and situated in the picturesque village of Gwytherin, in Conwy, this church was completely rebuilt in 1867. A slight rise in the meadow beyond, known as Cae Bryn Capel, is thought to be the site of a much older chapel, dedicated to the saint and demolished around the turn of the 18th century. It is thought that this chapel may mark the site of the earlier monastery that existed here.
According to legend, Winifred (Gwenffrewi) was the daughter of Tevyth, chieftain of Tegeingl. When she broke off her engagement to become a nun, her suitor Caradog became so enraged that he cut off her head. A healing spring is said to have appeared where her head fell, and it still bears the name Holywell today. Winifred’s uncle, the legendary St Beuno, is said to have miraculously reattached her head to her body to bring her back to life; he also invoked the chastisement of heaven to fall upon Caradog, who dropped dead on the spot. Winifred herself later became abbess of the monastery at Gwytherin.
In the churchyard stand three ancient yew trees, together with a row of four standing stones; these are of unknown date, though clearly very old. One of the stones carries the Latin inscription VINNEMAGLI FILI SENEMAGLI, believed to translate as ‘Vinnemaglus, son of Senemaglus’. The names, unknown to us, are thought to date to the 5th or 6th century.
Gwytherin is one of the locations in A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters – the first of the Brother Cadfael novels. The village is also part of the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way.
Centre of village on B554 which links Llanwrst and Llansannan
Llanwrst - 8 miles, Abergele - 13 miles
Nearest bus stop at Llansannan or Llangernyw
No official cycle route
Full Grid Reference: SH 877615
OS Landranger map sheet: 116