The community of Llanfihangel y Creuddyn celebrated the completion of a major project to undertake repairs and improvements to this important medieval church and to develop new ways for the community to share its heritage.
A celebratory event was held on 19 July to thank the organisations that provided funding and support for the project and key people who have undertaken the work along with members of the community.
The project combined urgent repairs to prevent water leaking into the tower and to replace rotting timbers, with actions to enable the community and visitors to better appreciate its special qualities and history. A highlight of the project was the creation of new oak staircases up the remarkable tower to enable safe public access for the first time.
The tower has stood as an important local landmark since the church was built in the 13th Century. There is nothing quite like it in the area and climbing up it to the top floor where the ancient bell frame sits is a wonderful experience. It is hoped that the revenue from running Tower Tours will enable the community to look after this nationally important listed building.
Speaking at the event, Elin Jones, MS for Ceredigion and Presiding Officer at the Welsh Senedd said: “It is wonderful to see the work that has been done at this church and the way that the community have, with the support of organisations and skilled craftsmen, restored the church as a place of worship and centrepiece of the community’s cultural heritage, at the same time as promoting it as a heritage visitor attraction. The sensitive revitalisation of ancient buildings is a valuable part of sustainable development and a sign of a vibrant community – in touch with and proud of its heritage, but looking forwards with an enterprising spirit.”
The project has taken some years to come to fruition and there have been many twists and turns along the way. Project co-ordinator, Peter Garson, said: “After securing funding and consents, work began in early 2021. We had to navigate through the Covid restrictions and deal with many unforeseen problems but fortunately, we were able to secure some additional funding to help towards the extra costs and the result has made it worth the effort.”
The project was informed by a detailed investigation of the church by experts from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments Wales, (RCAHMW,) who undertook tree ring dating, made digital scans of the building and examined historical features and records. This provided a much clearer insight into the history and special qualities of this important church. Local archaeologist Louise Barker then incorporated photographs and information provided by the local community to create some wonderful interpretative panels which are on display at the church along with various artefacts.
The project could not have been delivered without funding from various organisations and some kind donations.
The largest element of funding came from the National Lottery Heritage Fund which awarded a grant of £187,000. Andrew White, Wales Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales said: “Conserving and valuing heritage, for now and the future is a priority for us and our support for projects such as ‘Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn Church and Heritage’ helps ensure that heritage remains accessible, relevant, sustainable and valued. We’re committed to protecting, conserving and revitalising heritage that is in poor condition or at risk of loss, decline, damage, neglect or of being forgotten. Heritage has a unique role in bringing people together where they live, work and visit and we will increase people’s connection with the heritage of their local places through targeted investment in our historic and natural environment.”
The National Churches Trust provided the largest element of match funding. The charity is dedicated to keeping church buildings well maintained, valued and used. Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said: “Churches, like Eglwys a Threftadaeth in Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn, are full of local history and heritage that we risk losing if they are forced to close. They also offer tremendous support for local people, invaluable community support. The grants awarded by the National Churches Trust mean that this church will be open and kept in good repair, open and in use today for generations for come.”
“Eglwysa Threftadaeth also captured the hearts of our members, who voted to award an additional grant to the church, helping them with additional support that they needed to complete the urgent work to the tower.”
“We are pleased to join with them to celebrate the completion of the project and look forward to many more people now enjoying this wonderful church and all it has to offer.”
Ceredigion County Council also provided a grant of £10,000. Additional grants were provided by the Wolfson Foundation, The Headly Trust and the Church in Wales. Additional contributions came from kind donations and local fund raising.
The church is one of five covered by the Reverend Alun Evans who said: "Historic church buildings require the active support of their community. This project has been developed by members of the church committee with the support of the Church in Wales. The aim has been to help local people and visitors better appreciate it for what is it, a historic place, a place of worship, and a place for the community."
Services are held regularly at the church and it is open for visitors every weekend throughout the year and on weekdays between Easter and the end of October. Admission is free but donations are always welcome. For more information see https://eglwysllanfihangel.church/. In addition to the interpretation panels and artefacts in the church, the project has created film clips that can be viewed online via a mobile phone as there is now an internet connection with free WiFi at the church.
Tanya Friswell the Community & Tourism Development Officer for Pentir Pumlumon said: “As an organisation that serves to promote tourism and hospitality businesses in the Uplands of Ceredigion, Pentir Pumlumon is delighted and proud to be associated with the project; the church’s cultural and historical significance will be of great interest to locals and visitors alike”
Dafydd Wyn Morgan, Projects Manager at the Cambrian Mountains Initiative hopes the church tower become a must-do heritage experience. He said: “Aspart of a Cambrian Mountains Heritage Trail which is currently being developed, community members and visitors can now go on a ‘tower tour’ on set Open Days or arrange a private tour at a time of their choosing through specialist tour guides such as Cambrian Safaris.”
The ground floor of the church is open daily between Easter and the end of October but a guided tour of the tower will take place this Sunday afternoon, 20 August, between 1pm and 5pm. If combining this with a meal at y Ffarmers before a Tower Tour, please book a table in advance.
Another tour will take place on afternoon of Saturday, 16 September. This is the same day as a Classic Car event in the village. The Tower Tours will take place from 2pm-5pm as this is when the cars will be leaving the village for the classic car run.
The Tower Tours are hosted by volunteers from the community who will explain the history of the church and the recent restoration and community heritage project.
Donations of £5 per person towards the completion of restoration and maintenance of the church would be most welcome.
The aim is to hold Tower Tours on a regular basis but we are also open to hosting tours by arrangement for interest group and private parties, minimum charge £50.