St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s Church is Ysgol Talhaiarn’s closest neighbour and the links between church and school are very strong.
Sited on the hill above the village of Llanfairtalhaiarn within a walled churchyard St Mary’s is listed Grade II* for its “special historic and architectural interest as a parish church of Medieval origin …” It is double naved, of rubble construction with a slate roof. A belfry topped with a gilded fish weathervane, contains a C17th bell. The churchyard contains many ancient gravestones that reflect the social history of the area as well as two very old yew trees. The church’s origins are linked to St Talhearn reputed to have had a cell on this site in C5th. Taxes were paid to the Roman Catholic Church in C13. There are now remnants of medieval origin but restorations throughout the centuries have wreaked many changes.
There are strong links to the Wynne family of local large properties, Melai and later Garthewin, via many memorials in both church and churchyard. The wordings on these reflect the history of both church and community.A significant memorial is the grave of John Jones, (Bardic name, Talhaiarn), a celebrated Welsh bard of the C19. Remnants of the church’s medieval past are in the oak entrance door with a Sanctuary ring that traditionally provided protection to fugitives from justice. On an arch in the church is a primitive stone carved face probably once a corbel. Remaining in the church also is an ancient though currently unused stone font. Church archives provide a window into the history of the church in C16. Memorial stones sunk into the church floor date back to C17.The church was subject to a Victorian “reordering” in C19 led by John Oldrid Scott has created much of the church seen today. Of significant interest is a sunken baptismal font installed at that time. A dramatic stained glass East window represents the Crucifixion and the Ministry of Holy Women. We have a two-manual tracker organ built by Peter Conacher in 1880 in good working order.
Ysgol Talhaiarn and the Church
Over the years the church and churchyard has welcomed the children from school on many occasions. Steeped in history and the heritage of the whole area it has been possible to use the church as a basis for learning and for fun.
School projects so far have been
Church and community: The whole school spent sessions in both church and churchyard. The School theme for the term was Ein Bro – Our Neighbourhood.
Visits to the churchyard and church were aimed at enriching the curriculum.
5 Topics during the visits covered:
History: Particularly links of the memorials to local people. Geography – places named on the memorials identified on an OS map. Exploring the inside of the church via a “treasure hunt”
Geography” of the churchyard – measurements of area, geographical position, placing of significant features on the plan. – This included maths
Nature: Birds, bugs, and particularly the Slow worms present in the churchyard. Also trees and wild flowers the latter particularly in the designated wildflower area.
Nature day: The school attended the churchyard for this which was organised in conjunction with North Wales Wildlife trust. From this bird boxes made by the children have been placed around the area, a bug house has been built by the younger children and a solitary bee box has been installed. The churchyard continues to be developed as a nature area with wild flowers being allowed to grow and bird life encouraged. There is seating including a picnic bench in a position over looking the Elwy valley and an array of tree stumps ideal for small groups to perch on.
The church has been delighted to welcome children from school for many events. It was the venue for the filming of the school’s entry into S4C’sCarol yr Wyl in which it was in the top 10 in Wales. The school’s Christmas Concerts have filled the church to bursting. In 2019 the whole school came into church class by class to create Christmas lanterns from plastic bottles, tissue paper and much glue. The results were carried for the carol singing evening and procession during the church’s Festival of Lights and the lanterns continued to decorate the church throughout the year. Despite the restrictions during 2020 the children have decorated paper angels that will be laminated and hung on the yew trees outside the church.
As soon as restrictions are lifted more School – Church projects will be discussed and arranged.
At present events have been restricted by the absence of facilities in St Mary’s. There are now exciting plans in progress which will result in the installation of toilet and simple kitchen facilities, increased social space at the west end of the church created by the re-siting of the font, and importantly a major upgrade of the heating system. Also a path will be created around the side of the church that is wheelchair accessible together with the installation of steps up a very steep and grassy bank. It will take a while for these plans to be put into action as funding has still to be obtained but this WILL happen.
All these improvements will allow St Mary’s to welcome the whole community and especially the school to use the church for a wide variety of activities.
A website for the church is under construction but in the meantime please visit the church’s Facebook page ST MARY’S CHURCH WORKING WITH THE COMMUNITY.