On a recent wet Saturday, me and three of my kids visited Worthenbury Church just north-east of Bangor-on-Dee. This is part of the open church network which has a fantastic website outlining the rich and varied churches that can be visited in Wrexham County Borough. Have a butchers here.
Worthenbury Church is a real gem of 18th-century design, and is heralded as the finest Georgian church in Wales. Llangar near Corwen, with its surviving wall-paintings and fittings, many gravestones, lychgate and churchyard boundary, and rebuilding phases, all of the 18th-century date, was originally a far older medieval building. The same applies at Worthenbury but in stark contrast with Llangar here the church was completely rebuilt in brick between 1736 and 1739. A formal description of the building can be found on the CPAT website here.
The churchyard is an interesting space for the way it has turned out and this reminded me of many 18th/early 19th-century churches in Sweden. All memorials to the south of the path running beside the south wall of the church have been cleared nearly completely creating an open green space. All surviving 18th- and 19th-century chest and table-tombs and grave-slabs crammed into the narrower northern side. Meanwhile, the churchyard has been extended to the west for the use of the newer 20th-century graves. This stark tripartite division between cleared, old and new sections within a tall brick wall set the scene for the organisation of the church within. A further distinctive feature that is rare elsewhere (in my experience) is a series of late 19th-century bronze plaques placed along the church’s south wall in the narrow plantings between the wall and the path; a clear concession to a sizable and enduring monument in favour of proximity to visitors and the church structure itself.
The overriding features inside the church from my perspective is the striking surviving of the 18th-century box-pews, two with fireplaces to keep their occupants warm, and the pulpit which is noticeably high to allow views over the boxed congregation. There is also some scary 19th-century glass.
The memorials are all mural, including one obscured by the pulpit, which is intriguing since it looks older than the pulpit. It would be interesting to learn more about this and whether the pulpit was added and part-obscured a memorial or the location was preferred, obscurity
There are a range of grand 18th-century mural monuments line the walls, the survival of the pews demonstrating the logic behind raising the dead high up on the walls to ensure remembrance.
There are also some smaller 19th and early 20th-century plaques, including a pairing of memorials to individuals killed in the First World War.
There are also 21st-century memorial plaques on at least one bench within a box-pew.
A noticeable survival is (what anthropologists and archaeologists would call) a monument with a biography. This is a memorial wooden cross that was not original to the church but retrieved from Emral Chapel and when it was demolished in the 18th century was displayed at Emral Hall. It was later (at a date not mentioned) brought to Worthenbury Church. So, as with many churches that have been rebuilt, fittings are sometimes older than the building.