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Wrexham, St Giles’ Parish Church

History

Described by Sir Simon Jenkins as “the glory of the Marches” and by Bonney and earlier writers as “the glory of North Wales”, St Giles’ at 180’ long is the largest mediaeval parish church in Wales. It reflects the fortunes of Wrexham which, since the middles ages, has been the largest town in North Wales.

There are the remains of an 11th century church beneath the foundations of the present church, which was built in three main stages between c.1330 and c.1520, and probably reflects the influence of the Cistercian Abbots of nearly Valley Crucis who were the lay rectors of Wrexham, the fabulously wealthy Stanley family and the Bishops of St Asaph who were looking to move the centre of their diocese to Wrexham.

The internal features and furnishings reflect Wrexham’s later fortunes, the landed families in the area, and the town itself, and successive liturgical fashions.

 

Architecture

From the outside, the church appears to be very late Perpendicular, dominated by its massive 135 feet high panelled and highly decorated tower, which still houses a series of contemporary statues of the saints, although the golden sandstone has worn and blackened over the centuries.

On entering the building, it becomes evident that the six bay Decorated nave arcade of the 1330s still forms the heart of the church, although once in the nave, the eye is drawn through what was once a great East window to the apsidal Perpendicular chancel, which dates from the very early 16th century. The nave has a camberbeam roof which dates from the late 15th century, and a series of Tudor-period musical angels. At the West end, the final nave bay is blind, and beyond this, through a massive arch, is the vaulted ceiling of the tower.

Attractions

Churchyard:

The churchyard gates (1720) are by Robert Davies who also created gates for Chirk Castle and Sandringham.

Tomb of Elihu Yale (1649-1721) , to the West of the tower. Son of a Wrexham family, benefactor of Yale University and of the church.

Interior:

windows by Burne-Jones, Clayton and Bell, and by Kempe and Kempe and Co.

Monuments include two by Roubilliac: Mary Myddleton rising from her tomb at the last trump (North Aisle), and Thomas and Arabella Myddleton (North wall behind pulpit).

Brass eagle lectern of 1524, and stone font of a similar date.

Local Interest

Wrexham County Museum (in town centre adjacent to RC Cathedral)

Erddig Hall (NT)

Chirk Castle (NT)

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (UNESCO Would Heritage Site)

Llangollen (International Eisteddfod, Castell Dinas Bran and Plas Newydd)