Selattyn rhymes with Prestatyn (with the main stress on the second syllable), but it is not a Welsh name. An old spelling in the year 1254 –
Selalun – suggests that the name should be split into the old English words Sulh, meaning a gully or a narrow valley, and actun, meaning the
settlement by the oak trees. If you go to the north boundary of the churchyard, and look over the wall, you will see a steep slope covered
with trees and the stream far below in the bottom of the Nant dingle. The name perfectly describes the position.
THE AGE OF THE CHURCH
The ﬁrst mention of the church is in the Papal taxation records for 1291: clearly the church was already in existence. However, it is likely that
there has been a church on this site for much longer than seven centuries. The stonework on the south wall between the porch and the transept
shows typical Norman stonework and the little doorway (now blocked up) is Norman. It is a narrow doorway, and is probably early rather than late Norman.
Also a stone in the churchyard wall bears the marks of a Celtic cross of the 8th Century, which strongly suggests that Celtic missionaries came to
this settlement and set up their cross here. The almost oval platform on which the churchyard is laid suggests that before the missionaries came
the site may well have been in use for pagan worship.
In the Middle Ages the church would have been a simple oblong. consisting of the Nave and Chancel, perhaps with a tower. The internal roof timbers are about this period, 14th Century. The north and south transepts were not added until 1821-28. Then in 1891- the church was extensively rebuilt, with the addition of the north aisle and the red sandstone arches, while red roof tiles replaced slates.
A WALK AROUND
Having entered the church look around you. The darkness of the church makes ‘ you look to the east where the light glints through the stained glass. It shows Jesus on the Cross and suggests the purpose of Christian worship: O Holy Jesus, Most merciful Redeemer , Friend and Brother; May we see You more clearly, Love You more dearly, And follow You more nearly, Day by day.
The Altar may seem empty without furnishings; in the same way a church does not come to life without people to worship in it.
As you look up, the roof is still as it was in the 15th Century. The sandstone arcades and facings of the tower arch are the work of the Victorians in 1891. Until then the present porch area was part of the churchyard,- and the main door was at the west under the tower; while the Font was near where the pulpit now stands.
We begin our walk with the Font, the place of baptism. It is placed by the door as a reminder that our entrance into life in Christ is through the waters of baptism. The Font is probably 13th century, although the shaft and plinth are modern: the band of running foliage around the bowl appears to have been re—tooled and so has lost the appearance of age. The language of the Baptism service reminds us that Christian life begins here with three promises: “I turn to Christ: I repent of my sins: I renounce evil. ”
Under the Tower
In 2001 a toilet facility for disabled and able-bodied persons was put under the tower, making good use of the space. The tower arch was ﬁlled with an oak screen, the stained glass at the top being taken from the West window of the tower. This has enhanced the building and made it warmer.
We now walk into the north aisle and up towards the Vestry door…
The Wall Panels, particularly those of the North Aisle
These are the bench ends and doors of the box pews which were cleared from the nave in the rebuilding of 1891. The panels on the South side are the pew backs. Careful examination shows the holes of the nails that held the seats in place, and the seat line that has not darkened with age.
The Monument to Thomas Nicholas
This is near the vestry door. This memorial to the Revd. Thomas John Nicholas is unremarkable in its design, but a recent churchwarden once commented on the faith of the parents who put it there. Their words are: “We thank God for giving us such a son for nearly 29 years.”
The Beam over the Vestry Door
This is one of the great beams of the 16th century (?) Rood Screen which once divided the nave from the chancel. It was demolished in 1752. It then did service as a beam in the Gallery which once spanned the west end of the church (possibly for the church musicians). Finally, it was put on corbels here in 1891. As you stand below it, you can see the slot holes for the tongues of the
vertical timbers of the screen. A slot hole at the centre of the beam is missing indicating the position of the entrance doorway into the chancel.
The Stone above the Vestry Door
This is carved with a heart, three nail heads and the date 1679. Its origin and commemoration are unknown. It was placed here when the end of the north transept was walled off to form the vestry in 1891.
The East Window in the North Aisle
The subject is the legend of Saint Hubert, the patron saint of huntsmen. It is said that one Good Friday morning while hunting he saw a Cross in the midst of a stag’s antlers. On asking for guidance as to the meaning of this from Saint Lambert, he received instruction and was converted to Christianity. The window was the gift of George Ralph Charles, Baron Harlech and Margaret Ethel his wife, in 1938, “In gratitude to God for a life full of years and great happiness.”
The shields have the following signiﬁcance:- The lily in the pot: the dedication of the church to St. Mary the Virgin: The large Cross with the four small ones: the Lichﬁeld Diocese of Saint Chad to which the parish at present belongs. The Cross Keys: the Diocese of Saint Asaph to which the parish belonged before the dis-establishment of the Church in Wales in 1920: The “Y” shaped Pall and Crosses: the Province of Canterbury to which the Diocese of Lichﬁeld belongs (these second, third and fourth symbols are all part of their respective diocesan coats of arms).
The Oak Frontal chest below the window
This is a neat piece of joinery. Careful examination of the front shows it is made up of two panels of slightly different proportions. The carved panels inside the larger framings are much older, possibly 16th or 17th century. It was constructed in 1891 from old material and so suggests there must have been interesting woodwork in the old church before rebuilding.
The Oak Chest
This is probably one of the old parish chests for registers and records. The date on the lid, made with a centre punch appears to be 1760.
The Brass Plaque by the Rector’s stall
This records the re-opening of the church, after the rebuilding, on 4th August, 1892. The Bill of Quantities with free hand drawings of the carving for the bench ends, pillars etc., and the plans by the Architect, C. Hodgson Fowler, are among the Church Records of the rebuilding.
We now move up into the chancel…
The Old Ledger Stones on the Chancel Floor
These commemorate the Owens of Porkington (This is the old name of the Brogyntyn estate).
The Oak Panels around the Chancel
These were made and ﬁtted in 1748 in the time of Rector Thomas Hanmer.
The Barrel Roof
The chief glory of Selattyn church, perhaps as old as the 14th Century. In the early 19th century it was covered with lathe and plaster. Look carefully for the rows of black nail marks in the ribs running from the apex of the roof to the wall-plate.
The Oak Plaque on the North Wall of the Sanctuary
This records the death of Rossendale Lloyd in 1940. At the time of his death he was Lord of the Manor and Patron of Selattyn and Whittington. He had previously been Rector from 1890 until 1927, and had been responsible for the major re-building of the church in 1891.
The East Window
This is a very ﬁne window by Kempe, given in memory of John Ralph, lst Baron Harlech who died 15th July 1876. It is of the Crucifixion with the Mother of Jesus and St. John standing at the foot of the Cross.
The South Window in the Sanctuary
The mouldings are ‘probably’ the oldest stonework in the church dating from the 11th or 12th century.
Signs of Red Decoration
The east and south windows just mentioned have faint red decorations on the stonework of the splays. Diagonal lines and asterisks can be identiﬁed. They were found when the accumulations of whitewash were scraped off the walls in the rebuilding of 1891.
We now move back into the nave and to the south transept.
This was the gift of a lady staying at The Rectory around 1891: having asked what was still needed for the church; the Rector replied “a new organ”. The following morning at breakfast she presented the Rector with a substantial cheque! The organ was built by Wordsworth & Co. of Leeds. It was cleaned and restored in memory of Peter William Haydon, who had retired to Selattyn and was a regular worshipper.
The Oak Beams in the South Transept
The two long beams in the South Transept are the companions of the one on corbels over the vestry door. Traces of blue colour wash can be seen on one of them probably dating from when they had been re-used as part of the west gallery. You can identify the centre of the beam, which has been cut short, by the way the “ﬂames” change their direction upward at the centre point.
The short decayed Beam seems to have been a cross-member near the apex of a roof. The inscription on it appears to be: “Richard Morgan. Francis Jons 1707, Churchwardens”.
The South Transept Monuments
The dark grey slab on the wall records the death of Charles Morris in 1721. He left £500 for the purchase of lands to provide “for the poor and Charity children.” This benefaction is now linked with that of Bishop John Hanmer of Saint Asaph, who died and was buried in the church in 1629. It is now known as the Hanmer Morris Charity and is still doing signiﬁcant work in the local community.
The large Monument with finials commemorates George Newton Kynaston Lloyd, Rector of Selattyn from 1810 till his death in 1846. He built the school in 1811, and the Transepts of the church in 1821 and 1828. He was long remembered as a saintly man. From 1825 to 1844 he was the ﬁrst to record Confirmations in Selattyn. During this period when there were 1130 people“ in the parish, 276 people were prepared for Confirmation by him.
The Monument on the south wall of the transept commemorates Albany Rossendale Lloyd, a nephew of the above Rector. This memorial came from St. Barnabas Church, Hengoed, which was built by Albany Lloyd in 1849. When St.Barnabas was demolished in 1985 the memorial found a place here. He was a member of the Lloyd family of Aston (the Patrons of Selattyn). His father, Charles was Rector of Whittington and Selattyn (which he held in plurality), and Albany acted as his father’s Curate, residing at Selattyn until his father’s death. It was then that the parish of Hengoed was carved out of both Selattyn and Whittington to provide Albany with a parish of his own.
Finally we return to the main door…
The Holy Water Stoup
The mutilated remains of a Holy Water Stoop can be seen inside the south door, no doubt cut back to facilitate the erection of pews. It recalls the custom of dipping the fingers in consecrated water and making the sign of the Cross as the worshipper entered and left the church – a reminder of baptism. At the end of the Eucharist the people are sent out with the words: “Go in peace to love and serve and witness to the Lord”. As God welcomes us into his family through baptism, so he sends us out of his house to bring his love to others.
You may like to pause for a moment in the quiet, and re-calling all the generations of villagers who have worshipped here week by week, join in prayer to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who touched and transformed their lives with His love, and who still meets us today.
We now walk out into the churchyard…
OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
The old circular plinth at the base of the sundial alongside the path is all that is left of an old bronze sundial, which bore the inscription “Wm Jared fecit 1759”. Sadly, one winter’s night in 1985 a thief stole it, leaving his footprints in the snow. But in June 1987 this new sundial was erected on the old circular plinth and dedicated to the memory of Ivy Whiled Jones, a member of the Village and a faithful member of the church, who was held in high regard in Selattyn.
The Church Tower
The Tower has buttresses of unusual proportions. The belfry windows look as though they were late Saxon or early Norman; a weather-worn stone about twelve feet above the ground, below the clock face, has the date 1704; the Registers say “the present steeple began to be built in May A.D. 1703” while an Inventory refers to a steeple in 1553. We agree with experts that the date of the tower is uncertain!
St Mary’s church is open during the day from Easter until Harvest-time. It is a place to visit and admire. It is also a house of prayer and contemplation for ‘Where there is God, there is peace’.
If you would like a tour of the church just ring Miss Betty Shaw (who prepared the History above) on 01691 658876. A cup of tea or coffee can also be provided.
St Mary‘s church is open to the public every day from April to October.