The Displacement of Wrexham Church, Displacement of Church in Welsh folklore and mythology, a tale from Wrexham Wales
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Category: Displacement of Church
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Title: The Displacement of Wrexham Church


There is a curious local tradition, which, as I understand it, points distinctly to a re-erection of one of the earlier churches [Wrexham]on a site different from that on which the church preceding it had stood.|“According to the tradition just mentioned, which was collected and first published by the late Mr. Hugh Davies, the attempt to build the church on another spot (at Bryn-y-ffynnon as ’t is said), was constantly frustrated, that which was set up during the day being plucked down in the night. At last, one night when the work wrought on the day before was being watched, the wardens saw it thrown suddenly down, and heard a voice proceeding from a Spirit hovering above them which cried ever ‘Bryn-y-grog!’ ‘Bryn-y-grog!’ Now the site of the present church was at that time called ‘Bryn-y-grog’ (Hill of the Cross), and it was at once concluded that this was the spot on which the church should be built. The occupier of this spot, however, was exceedingly unwilling to part with the inheritance of his forefathers, and could only be induced to do so when the story which has just been related was told to him, and other land given him instead. The church was then founded at ‘Bryn-y-grog,’ where the progress of the work suffered no interruption, and where the Church of Wrexham still stands.”
Mr. Palmer, having remarked that there is a striking resemblance between all the traditions of churches removed mysteriously, proceeds to solve the difficulty, in these words:—|“The conclusions which occurred to me were, that these stories contain a record, imaginative and exaggerated, of real incidents connected with the history of the churches to which each of them belongs, and that they are in most cases reminiscences of an older church which once actually stood on another site. The destroying powers of which they all speak were probably human agents, working in the interest of those who were concerned in the transference of the site of the church about to be re-built; while the stories, as a whole, were apparently concocted and circulated with the intention of overbearing the opposition which the proposed transference raised—an opposition due to the inconvenience of the site proposed, to sacred associations connected with the older site, or to the unwillingness of the occupier to surrender the spot selected.”|This is, as everything Mr. Palmer writes, pertinent, and it is a reasonable solution, but whether it can be made to apply to all cases is somewhat doubtful. Perhaps we have not sufficient data to arrive at a correct explanation of this kind of myth. The objection was to the place selected and not to the building about to be erected on that spot; and the agents engaged in the destruction of the proposed edifice differ in different places; and in many instances, where these traditions exist, the land around, as regards agricultural uses, was equally useful, or equally useless, and often the distance between the two sites is not great, and the land in our days, at least, and presumably in former, belonged to the same proprietor—if indeed it had a proprietor at all. We must, therefore, I think, look outside the occupier of the land for objections to the surrender of the spot first selected as the site of the new church.|Mr. Gomme, in an able article in the Antiquary, vol. iii., p. 8-13, on “Some traditions and superstitions connected with buildings,” gives many typical examples of buildings removed by unseen agencies, and, from the fact that these stories are found in England, Scotland, and other parts, he rightly infers that they had a common origin, and that they take us back to primitive times of British history. The cause of the removal of the stones in those early times, or first stage of their history, is simply described as invisible agency, witches, fairies; in the second stage of these myths, the supernatural agency becomes more clearly defined, thus:—doves, a pig, a cat, a fish, a bull, do the work of demolishing the buildings, and Mr. Gomme remarks with reference to these animals:—“Now here we have some glimmer of light thrown upon the subject—the introduction of animal life leads to the subject of animal sacrifice.” I will not follow Mr. Gomme in this part of his dissertation, but I will remark that the agencies he mentions as belonging to the first stage are identical in Wales, England, and Scotland, and we have an example of the second stage in Wales, in the traditions of Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd, and of Llangar Church, near Corwen.


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