A nineteenth-century guidebook describes Llanhywel as a parish ‘pleasantly situated in the north-western part of the county, and nearly in the centre of a peninsula stretching into St George’s channel, and terminating in the promontory called St. David’s Head. The surrounding scenery is pleasing, but not characterized by any peculiarity of feature. The church, dedicated to St. Hywel, is not distinguished by any architectural details of importance’.
It is a description that fails to do justice to the charm and beauty of this out-of-the-way church. St Hywel’s is situated within a rectilinear churchyard on a site that is early medieval in origin. Parts of the church can be dated back to the fourteenth century, but the church as it appears today is essentially a restoration dating from the 1890s when, along with other work, the windows and door were rebuilt. The church was also reroofed at this time.
Hywel, or Hoel, appears in Welsh mythology as a king of Brittany. He was a relative of King Arthur and one of his most loyal knights. The historical Hywel was the son of Budic, a king in Brittany. For all or most of his childhood, a usurping cousin ruled in Budic’s place and the family resided in exile in Wales. Hywel was credited with the foundation of Llanhywel during this time and, as Saint Hywel, was revered by a local cult as its patron saint
- The benefice of Llanhywel was held in multiple patronage (a pre-Conquest form of land tenure) by the Welsh tenants of the parish until it was purchased by the Bishop of St Davids between 1280 and 1302. The church was a parish church during the post-Conquest period, belonging to the Deanery of Pebidiog. The advowson had been held in chief by the Crown, but in 1302 was appropriated by Bishop David Martin to the Chapter of St Davids Cathedral in order to provide three chantry priests to say Mass for the soul of the king. The appropriation was licensed in 1313, when the church (along with Llandeloy Church) was appropriated for the provision of chantry and for services to the king, William de Valence and John Wogan of Picton Castle
- The church was first mentioned in historical records around 1290, and the parish was united with Llandeloy from at least 1302.
- Inside the church is a fifth or sixth century burial stone removed from Upper Carnhedryn Farm and inscribed ‘RINACI NOMENA’. The square scalloped font on a circular shaft and square base dates from the twelfth century. The pews, pulpit and reading desk in the church are Victorian. The early nineteenth-century chamber organ was installed in 1975
- Hywel and his family were eventually restored to their home in Brittany, where Hywel may have ruled jointly with his father. Hywel died shortly before he would have inherited the throne, however, and Budic’s attempts to enlist his neighbour Macliau’s support for the succession of Hywel’s son Tewdwr ended badly. After Budic’s death, Macliau invaded and the boy was forced into exile in Penwith in Cornwall.
- There are many churches dedicated to Mary and other saints, but Llanhywel Church is the only church dedicated to St Hywel.
Llanhywel: Church of St Hywel
Haverfordwest, SA62 6YD
Rev Diana Hoare: 01437 721205
Rev Canon Michael Rowlands: 01348 831382