St Dunawd’s Bangor on Dee church

Bangor-on-Dee (Bangor Isycoed or Bangor Monarchorum) is a large parish church dedicated to St Dunawd in Wrexham borough, one of the open churches in Wrexham’s Open Church Network. Bangor is famous for its large early British monastic centre. The archaeological evidence for this is scant but hints of Roman settlement have encouraged speculation that this might have been a very early church site of the 5th or 6th centuries.

Medieval grave-slab fragment

Those who know their Venerable Bede will remember it was the monastery that sent 500 monks to the Battle of Chester in c. AD 605-6 to pray for the British victory. Bede gleefully revels in their slaughter, even by a pagan Northumbrian king Aethelfrith, given they were British Christians and thus had refused to follow St Augustine’s advice and celebrate Easter following the Roman calendar. Bede was also a Geordie and hence naturally sympathetic to his own kingdom’s pagan ancestors.


Church Memorials

There are many dimensions of archaeodeath interest at Bangor on Dee.

  • There are some spolia on the floor including a fragment of medieval grave-slab.
  • post-medieval mural monuments of 18th to 20th century date including a terrifying cherub-head (they are always terrifying to me).
  • There is also a memorial plaque to the restoration of the church in 1877.
  • the war memorial is lcoated on the north side of the north aisle
  • military memorials includea cenotaph plaque commemorating to Roger Mansel William Fenwick who died in an air raid on 19th May 1918 whilst on service with the 1st Life Guards in France and buried at Etaples military cemetery.
  • Another example is the fabulously named Pilot Officer Oliver Ogle Ormrod who died on his 20th birthday in the defence of Malta on 22nd April 1942.
  • There is also a lovely bier and parish chest.


War memorial

The Visitor Centre and Monk

Of particular interest is the small museum integrated into the south aisle of the nave and incorporating photographs of the village and even artefacts found nearby. Adjacent is the monk…

The real presence and memorable dimension of this modest display is a fully bilingual talking early medieval monk. It is unclear precisely when he is supposed to be living, I guess sometime in the later 7th century… He drones on constantly about the early history of the monastery.

Whether people listen or not, I wonder if his presence serves to defend the church against theft (like a sleeping policeman prevents speeding or a life-sized photograph of a policeman with fixed stare reduces shoplifting…).

I also wonder if he is popular with visitors and whether they talk to him. My eldest daughter as ASD and she found him fascinating. She even had a nice long chat to him; a nice break from talking to Uncle Rex, her favourite toy dinosaur.

In previous posts I have discussed animatronic dinosaurs and bugs at Chester Zoo. Also, I have discussed the animatronic Cistercian monk previously in the Summer House in the grounds of Valle Crucis Abbey but now installed in the recently opened display within Llangollen Museum. Is the Bangor monk his ancestor (obviously not in biological terms, monks aren’t supposed to father offspring as we all know).

Human automatons are inevitably sinister and odd, but monks are particular creepy. It made me think about how long they will operate; what is the average life expectancy of an animatronic figure? I also wonder whether he has nicknames and is loved or hated by locals who attend church services? Also, what happens to them when he is decommissioned? Will Bangor’s monk get his own burial and memorial or will he be recycled?

A friendly smile or a sinister gloat? It depends on one’s mood and for how long one looks at him…


He is frozen in his own monastic Tartarus in which he is poised to write but never writes. This is painful to watch…
My eldest talking to the monk; for once she found someone who listens….