Newborough - St. Peter's

Located on the outskirts of Newborough village, on the road to the beach and Llanddwyn island, the church of St. Peter in Newborough, is interesting for many reasons. Not least is that it is the longest church on Anglesey, having been extended a couple of times.

The church was originally called Llananno. Local stories say that it was founded around 500AD by Amon of Dyfed and Anna of Gwynedd, a noble couple who were the parents of St. Sampson, who is the patron saint of Caldey Island in Pembrokeshire, where he was abbot. Others say it was dedicated to St. Amo; the church of Llananno in Radnorshire is also dedicated to this saint.

The church stands next to the excavated remains of Llys Rhosyr, the royal court of the Princes of Gwynedd when they were on Anglesey, and is likely to have been associated with the Royal court. After the conquest of Gwynedd by Edward I in 1283 the community of Rhosyr was renamed Newborough and was set up to accommodate the residents of Llanfaes, who were evicted by the king when the nearby borough of Beaumaris was formed.

It was around this time that the present church building was begun, with the chancel and part of the nave being constructed in the early 14th century. It has been suggested that there were actually two separate chapels built next to each other that were eventually combined. According to Hugh Owen in 1949 the current chancel (at the right in the picture above) was first built as a Royal Chapel, dedicated to St. Mary. A second chapel, dedicated to St. Peter, was built next to it. These were later connected together into a single chancel and nave. The photo above shows a slight difference in height of the roof between the two sections, and there are differences in the stonework and roof rafters.

The church was further extended in the late 15th century by lengthening the nave, adding a south porch, and a double bellcote. One of the bells in the bellcote reportedly came from the old Llanddwyn church. The old north doorway of the nave was then blocked off.

As is common with other medieval churches, this was restored in the Victorian era. A new roof and chancel arch were installed in 1850, along with some new windows. In 1886 further restoration was undertaken, supported by Lord Stanley. As in the other medieval church that he restored, Llanbadrig, St. Peter's reflects his conversion to Islam in the Islamic patterns in some of the windows.

Also added in this restoration was exquisite Pre-Raphaelite stained glass in the east window, designed by Harry Wooldridge. This depicts several scenes from the Old Testament, including Jonah and the Whale and the baby Moses being found by the Pharaoh's daughter. It is unusual to have only Old Testament scenes in church east windows, which usually reserve this space for New Testament stories.

The neatly manicured churchyard has one of the best views of any on Anglesey, overlooking the Menai Strait, with Caernarfon and its castle and the Snowdonia Mountains beyond. There are several interesting gravestones, including two for maritime captains, decorated with chains and anchors. The tallest monument is for Sir John Prichard-Jones, local boy made good as the fabulously rich co-owner of the Dickins & Jones department store on Regent Street in London. He endowed the local Prichard Jones Institute, which provides the local community with a free library, meeting, reading and recreation rooms, as well as cottages and pensions for needy local elderly people.

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Last modified 2 January, 2017