The pretty and peaceful village of Gwytherin stands in a small valley through which the River Cledwen flows. Winner of 'Best Kept Village’ on four occasions, this is a great place to come for a quiet walk off the beaten track, and afterwards enjoy a pint with some of the locals at the village inn. The village has remained relatively unchanged over the centuries and its surrounding rich pastures are still farmed by local families.
This has been a special place for hundreds of years as one of the country’s major destinations for Christian pilgrims, thanks to St Winifrede. The church located opposite the Lion Inn in the centre of the village was built and dedicated to her. St Winifrede’s Church is believed to have originated in the mid 600s AD, established by Prince Eleri who then went on to set up a double monastery in the village. He was the Abbot to the monks, and his cousin’s daughter, St Gwenfrewy (Winifrede) was the Abbess to the nuns.
Legend has it that Winifrede had her head severed by prince Caradoc after she spurned his advances. A spring arose where her head landed and she was later restored to life by her uncle St Beuno. Today pilgrims visit the healing waters at Holywell in Flintshire. It is thought that St Winifrede was buried in the churchyard in the latter part of the seventh century, and that relics were removed by Benedictine monks in the 12th century and taken to their abbey in Shrewsbury to form the basis of an elaborate shrine which was destroyed by Henry VIII in the 16th century.
Today the church is under private ownership, lovingly restored and now the venue for a number of concerts and exhibitions, as well as being a place of contemplation for pilgrims. In the peaceful churchyard are three ancient yew trees. You will also find a row of four ancient standing stones approximately 1 metre high and aligned roughly east to west.
Gwytherin is the setting for much of the action in the novel ‘A Morbid Taste for Bones’, the first book in a series of twenty novels set in the 12th century featuring the fictional Brother Cadfael, the real Prior Robert Pennant, and the rest of the monks at Shrewsbury Abbey.
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