The Marble Church of St Margaret, Bodelwyddan
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The Marble Church of St Margaret, Bodelwyddan

The marble church of St Margaret the Virgin of Antioch, is situated in the village of Bodelwyddan in North Wales.Canadian war graves, North Wales. Lady Margaret Willoughby de Broke. North Wales churches.

On the 10th of March 1829, Margaret Williams, daughter of Sir John Hey Williams, 2nd Baronet of Bodlewyddan in North wales, married Henry Peyto - Verney, 16th Baron Willoughby de Broke, of Compton Verney House ( now an art gallery ) in Warwickshire.

Their childless union was to last 33 years.

Upon the death of the 16th Baron in 1852, the now Lady Margaret, returned to her father's Baronial family home, in her native North wales

 

Lady Margaret Willoughby de Broke. 

The Williams family home in the Clwyd Valley has a history that dates back to 1460, but the Williams family did not take up ownership of the estate until 1690, when William Williams first Baron of Bodelwyddan and speaker of the house of Commons to King Charles II bought the estate from the Humphreys family.

When Lady Margaret's father, the High Sheriff of Flint and Anglesey, was knighted and titled in 1830, he took to rebuilding the family home. It was a labour of love that would take him 22 years to complete.

The estate today is now Bodelwyddan Castle, a large estate with a long and chequered history, that has been a military hospital with a longstanding unsubstantiated rumour, a girls private school and now a hotel and art gallery with the dubious honour of being the most haunted house in wales

    

   Bodelwyddan ( pronounced bodel wethan) Castle.

Upon Lady Margaret's return, it was her desire to make her family home and surrounding area a village and parish in it's own right, this would also serve as a fitting memorial to the memory of her husband.

At this point the castle was in the parish and diocese of St Asaph, and for the Lady Margaret to realise her dream, she first had to gain permission from the then bishop of St Asaph, Dr Vowler Short.

This was duly granted, and Lady Margaret and her brother, Hugh, spent six months travelling the country in order to seek a church of their liking that they could reproduce at Bodelwyddan.

Unfortunately their mission was unsuccessful, as the Lady Margaret found nothing that satisfied her ideal. 

    

  St Margaret the Virgin of Antioch, Church in Wales, Anglican Church, Bodelwyddan. 

During her years in Warwickshire she had witnessed the work of a certain John Gibson, a scholar and former pupil of Sir Charles Barry, one of Britain's most eminent architects who was builder of the Houses of Parliament ( the Palace of Westminster) in London.

The Lady Margaret and her brother Hugh, contacted John Gibson, in order to have him design and build their new church, offering him complete reign over all building materials, skilled labour and expenses.

At this point in his career Gibson was hailed as one of Britian's most successful architects, having recently completed the building of the Bank of Scotland and Stock Exchange buildings in Glasgow. 

  

 St Margaret of Antioch.

On July 24th 1856, Lady Margaret Willoughby de Broke, laid the foundation stone upon what would be the porch of her new church.

The stone reads,

This stone was laid by Margaret Willoughby de Broke,

who founded,erected and endowed this church,

at her own expense.

in the devout hope that it may tend to the glory of God.

Due to the amount of marble used in the building of it's interior, it would come to be known as the Marble Church of Boddelwyddan.

The church was four years in the building at a cost of £60,000, and would become known as John Gibson's most prominent work.

The church was consecrated on 23 rd of August 1860 and dedicated to Saint Margaret the Virgin of Antioch, of the Anglican denomination.

Today the church stands proud and alone amid the North wales countryside, and can be seen for miles around, due to it's white limestone that glistens like snow in the Welsh sunshine, and it's magnificent 202 foot tall, unique spire.

Both inside and out, the church boasts everything that is great about Victorian Gothic Revivial architecture, sporting buttresses,

 finials, gargoyles, stained glass and rich oak carvings, of such amazing quality, skill and fine workmanship, that it is thought unlikely that any of these pieces could be reproduced or equalled today. 

The unique 202 foot tall, limestone spire consists of four traceried windows, bands of ornamental tracery, and at each corner are four finnials atop exquisitely worked flying buttresses.

The body of the church is built of local limestone and consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, porch, vestry and war memorial chapel.

It's interior roof is hammer beamed oak, with not a single nail or screw used in it's construction, with all timbers being secured by wooden pegs.The roof's exterior is topped with local slate tiles.

Eight stained glass windows grace the church, all of which were produced by the most eminent glass makers of the day, including the most important examples of Irish glazier O'Connor and English glazier T.F Curtis.

Fourteen differing types of marble were used in the decoration of the interior, including Sicilian marble, Derbyshire alabaster, Irish Girotte and Caen stone. 

  

             Pulpit.                            Lectern.

In the nave are positioned two of the most striking wood carvings and one example of stone sculpture totally unique to this church.

The lectern is an exquisitely carved eagle standing on a rock, carved from a single oak tree stump, by the carver T.H Kendall, famous for his works at Sandringham House in Norfolk and the members dining room in the House of Commons.

This carving took Kendall 6,000 hours to complete at a cost of £600.

The pulpit is an outstanding carving of the Lord and his four apostles, surrounded by five angels, created by master carver Thomas Earp of London.

The pulpit was a gift for the church donated by Lady Margaret's older sisters Emma and Harriet.

The marble font is a unique and original art form that depicts the children Mary and Arabella Williams, holding a large scolloped edged shell, the two daughters of Hugh Williams, Lady Margaret's brother.

The work is that of sculptor Peter Hollins of Birmingham.  

     

    Stained glass window by Michael O'Connor.

                                               

The eight bells housed in the belfry were produced at the Whitechapel Bell Foundary in London, the foundery that produced the world famous Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament.

Outside, the church is surrounded on all sides by well tended gardens and graveyards.The graveyard houses graves of members of the Williams family, local people from the 17 houses of the village, 33 local war dead of the first World War and the graves of 83 Canadian soldiers, also of the first World War. 

  

Canadian war graves and memorial.

Much speculation has been made of these 83 Canadian soldiers graves, located in the isolation of a North wales valley.

From historical records, we know that part of Bodelwyddan Castle was turned over into a military hospital known as Kinmel Park during the years of the Great War.

At the end of the Great War in 1918, allied soldiers of various Canadian regiments, were sent to Kinmel Park in order to await their passage home to Canada.

In March of 1919, nine months after the official end of the war,certain Canadian soldiers began to protest at the length of time it was taking for the British government to have them repatriated.

The protest turned violent, culminating in the deaths of three Canadian soldiers on the day of the protest and another five from injuries sustained at the protest, a few days later.

The other soldiers involved were apparantly courtmartialled and shot for mutiny against the British Crown.

It is indeed true, that eight unfortunate and brave men from Canada died on and around that fateful day, but as for the execution of others on the grounds of treason, this has been rigorously denied by the British Government and the War Office.

The cause of death of so many of the other soldiers based at Kinmel Park, has now been confirmed as being due to the Spanish Influenza pandemic that claimed the deaths of millions of people during the Winter of 1918 / 1919, not just in North wales, but all over the world.

No where in the church is there reference to it being a memorial to Lady Margaret's husband, Baron Willoughby de Broke, although positioned on the chancel archway are two large and very life like carvings of the couple.

    

 Stained glass window by Burne - Jones.

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                                                                         WEBSITES CONNECTED TO THIS ARTICLE 

                                                                         www.themarblechurch.org.uk/ 

                                                                         www.bodelwyddan-castle.co.uk/ 

                                                                         www.comptonverney.org.uk/page=home 

                                             

                                                          © D.B.Bellamy. June 2010.

                                               Images courtesy of C.J Slade and D.Potter.

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Comments (11)

Interesting snip from History. I love the painting of Lady Margaret. She looks like a calm person, a dreamer maybe!

This is my kind of article. Excellent historical and architectural discussion. Gibson is a little known architect, but he was very talented, although he specialised in Renaissance styles. It's fascinating to see him designing a Gothic church.

Ranked #1 in Europe

Hi Lisa, I felt obliged to put up her picture as there is absolutely no reference about this woman anywhere, I could'nt even find a bithdate for her, everything that mentions her pertains to the men in her life, father, husband, brother. Piffle, I am now on a mission to find out about her, watch this space !

Ranked #1 in Europe

Hi Michael, I live quite near this church, but never ventured inside until last week, I was knocked out, it is absolutely gorgeous, and I was so surprised to see it had been built by John Gibson. And then of course is the rumours about the Canadian soldiers, all good stuff !!

Thats really sad DeeBee, I feel sorry for this woman. Maybe her life was sad also and thats why she looks distant and a dreamer. I think a lot of women got lost in the very male environment of the time. I would love to know more about her, perhaps someone that works for the church will know more or where to find more. I feel a real empathy towards her, I have got to get a grip! LOL

Ranked #1 in Europe

That's just how I felt, 33 years in Warwickshire and before hubby is cold, she hightails it back to Wales, she definately had a sad life me thinks. The hubby sounds a bit of a weirdo too, by all accounts he was a loner and lived a life of solitude, although he was married. We owe it to Lady Margaret to do the right thing, no worries, I'm on the case.

A long yet well told history.

Ranked #1 in Europe

Thankyou deep blue.

Yes, I've read that this Bodelwyddan Castle is haunted with very deep history. The photos of the marble church interior display the elegance and masterfully crafted sculptures within this wonderous architectural beauty. Well written article and very informative history.

Ranked #1 in Europe

I.ve never been to the castle as yet, but I have the church, it's not too far from where I live, and I can attest to the fact that it is indeed the most beautiful building, inside and out.

Barry Lewis

This is amazing. I visited this lovely place in 2010 along with the beautiful castle. This year when doing my family history I found that my Great Grandad was wounded in WW1 and was treated in the Castle, part of which had become Kinmel Park hospital. I knew nothing about this man untilo I did my research and then found that I had unknowingly visited the place he had been hospitalised in.

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