On the road out of Oswestry travelling up the Tanant valley you will find a small village, Llanyblodwel, and tucked away the church of St Michael and the Archangel. It is beautifully kept and open each day for visitors. The church is believed to have been erected after the arrival of the Normans and its existence was noted in 1160. The building has survived turbulent centuries of boarder warfare between the Welsh and English.
Nothing could quite prepare me for the surprise that unfolded inside the church. John Parker, the vicar of the parish in the middle of the 19th century elected to be his own architect stimulated by the catholic and Gothic revival. The church as it stands is virtually his with a mediaeval core – but marked by an extravagant Gothic style which is used with exuberance and conviction. Take a look at some of what he did:
the parish could not pay for the repairs so John Parker resorted to his own pocket in return the being granted a free hand with the design and construction. The story goes that local people gave willingly of the time and labour and were awarded with and enlarged and highly decorated monument which incorporated a new tower. Parker built a new vicarage and schoolhouse or in this elaborate Gothic style. He proved himself to be a capable and multitalented custodian.
This work was restored in the 1960s and again earlier this year. The result is quite spectacular and happy edition one of my vacation surprises – it was a real delight to glimpse a parish church loved and cared for with a real atmosphere of prayer and devotion. It’s well worth a detour if you find yourself in those parts.