10 days ago I visited the church of St Tegla and its nearby holy well at Llandegla, Denbigshire and the tweet ‘went viral’ – at least in relative terms for me! I’ve posted about Llandegla before here and this post aims to contextualise the tweet.
Situated on the Offa’s Dyke Path and at the north (lower) end of the village, this simple beautiful 19th-century church, but located on a spot occupied by an ecclesiastical site since perhaps the Early Middle Ages, is well worth a visit. There are no surviving medieval architectural or sculptural fragments – the kind of thing that usually inspires my interest. However, there is a pleasant and fascinating heritage dimension to the church, enhanced by a recent Heritage Lottery grant.
The church has gone to great efforts with its welcoming signage and invite walkers on the Offa’s Dyke Path, other visitors and locals, to visit, with the fabulous message:
Free Tea, Coffee, Biscuits & History Inside
There are other signs on the way in, explaining this sign further and the brand-new heritage display.
The Sign is Accurate – Facilities
Inside, there are emaculate toilet facilities, a wonderful little kitchen where you can eat packed lunches at a table for 6, make your own tea and coffee. And yes, there were free biscuits – good ones too.
The Heritage Display
The heritage display is wonderfully compact and mobile – made in two foldable sets of panels, framed in wood like an ecclesiastical screen. These displays are positioned to frame the kitchen area and therefore demarcate space, but allow in a way that doesn’t intervene with the rest of the use of the church, to communicate a phenomenal amount of information about the history and archaeology of the village and its environs. The longer board takes a chronological view of the history of the environs, taking in the following themes over 12 panels – 6 on the outer face, 6 on the inner.
On the outer:
- Introducing the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB
- St Tecla’s Well
- The Prehistory of Llandegla
- ?Prehistoric stone heads from Llandegla (now lost)
- Tomen-y-Rhodwydd – the motte-and-bailey castle close by
- St Tecla’s church
On the inner, not precisely in chronological order:
- 19th-century tithe wars
- The drovers’ route through Llandegla
- Ghost stories
- Wartime evacuation
- An RAF aircrash nearby in 1953
- Local community walks
The smaller display is half the size – 6 panels: 3 on each side. These are dedicated to explaining the history and archaeology of Offa’s Dyke and explaining the Offa’s Dyke path.
This is the first time in many years on Twitter that I’ve been retweeted and liked so much!
Apparently my tweeted image of the church sign – free tea, coffee, biscuits & history inside’ – got included in a Twitter Moment “This Week in Church Signs” and as a result it has gone more ‘viral’ than any of my tweets have ever before. It currently has 810 likes and 156 ReTweets! Most of those looking at this are from America. At least one doubted it was a real church sign – since it looks so different from what US citizens regard a church sign looks like. Some were deriding the idea of a church containing ‘history’ – it must contain either faith or lies it seems (depending on your viewpoint). Little did they know from the tweeted picture that the church did indeed have ‘history’ inside, in this sense they meant the brand-new heritage display more than the building and its furniture and fittings!
Still, many seemed to appreciate this wonderful church sign, perhaps for its stark invitation and perhaps the enthusiasm of a non-religious message. Although perhaps not fully intended by its creators, or fully understood by many of those RT’ing and ‘like’-ing it, this comes across as funny. Yet of course, it is sincere rather than funny in the Welsh context of a church site in a fascinating region, part of the AONB, and with an environs rich in history and archaeology.
In my view, this is the best, compact, new heritage display in a Welsh church. Unless someone can direct me to something better…