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Visiting St Trillo's Church in Rhos-on-Sea in Wales

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L.M. Reid is an Irish writer who has published many articles in magazines and online.

The Chapel of St Trillo is the smallest  church in the UK.

The Chapel of St Trillo is the smallest church in the UK.

St Trillo Chapel

Over 1,500 years ago, St Trillo was a Celtic monk who came from Brittany, France. He built his cell there because there was natural spring water well that he could use. He preached to the local people in the area, including the farmers and fishermen.

Rhos on Sea lies between Llandudno and Colwyn Bay in northern Wales and is known Llandrillo-yn-Rhos in Welsh. It is named after the monk and the cell he built which is now the site of the chapel. He built an enclosure, called Llan, around it where he could plant food and keep livestock. And rhos means a marsh, so it became known as Llan of St Trillo by the marsh.

The Church in Rhos-on-Sea

I was in Llandudno in North Wales on holiday when I accidentally came across the delightful little village Rhos on Sea. We drove along the coast for about 10 minutes and were greeted with a harbour of small boats and a small beach. Then, as I was walking by the sea I came across this chapel of St Trillo.

St Trillo's Church is a beautiful building. It is built with stone and mortar and is eleven feet by eight feet. It has two stained glass windows in which St Trillo and St Elian are depicted.

St Trillo's Chapel,is the smallest in Britain.

St Trillo's Chapel,is the smallest in Britain.

The Holy Well in St Trillo Church

The altar in the church was built over a holy well. There is a removable stone slab for easy access. This well was used for baptisms for centuries and the water had a reputation as having great healing powers. It was around 1896 when the chapel was restored to its present state.

Visitors can enter the chapel every day as it is left open. There is enough room for the alter and the chapel contains only six seats. Once inside you can look at the stained glass windows and sit down on the wooden chairs. There are small prayer request sheets that can be filled in and left on the altar and services are held here bi-weekly.

The Rhos-on-Sea Pier

There used to be a large 1,500 foot pier in the fishing village. During World War II the pier had a lot of its wooden planks removed. This was done to make it harder on the Germans if they invaded Wales and wanted to use it to land their troops. They were not replaced after the war and the pier became a dangerous ruin. The pier caught on fire and was badly damaged and was eventually demolished in 1954.

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The Sinking of the Steamboat Rhos Neigr

In 1908 on 20th July a ship, the Rhos Neigr, was about to dock at the pier when it got into trouble. All those on board were rescued before it sank. At low tide, the wreck of the ship can still be seen from the promenade, while the anchor is on display outside the Fishing Tackle shop beside the old pier entrance.

Rhos-on-Sea harbour, Wales

Rhos-on-Sea harbour, Wales

The Rock Breakwater

Rhos-on-Sea has a harbour which holds lots of small boats. The rocks surrounding the harbour work well to protect the boats. It was made because the village was getting flooded when there was a high tide. Though it is there for practical purposes, it does make the harbour look very nice.

The Fishing Village

There were two fishing weirs in Rhos-on-Sea. These were made out of stone and wicker fencing and shaped like a V. If the fish swam in during the high tide, they would get trapped when the tide went out; it was a very effective way to catch fish.

In 1850 there were as many as 35,000 fish caught in just one night. Unfortunately, too many fish were being caught all over the country. So in 1861, British Parliament passed a law stating they all had to be destroyed. One of the weirs was demolished but the other one survived.

This was because there was an exemption included in this law. It stated that if it could be proven that the weir had been built before 1215, then it could remain. It was proven the Rhos Fynach Weir had indeed been built before that time, so it survived. Then, in 1865 an eight foot shark was caught in the weir!

Jetty at Rhos-on-Sea

Jetty at Rhos-on-Sea

Stories From the Locals

Jack the Terrier Dog

When John Parry Evans owned the Rhos Fynach Weir, he trained his terrier Jack to go into it and retrieve fish. This was such a novelty that Jack became very popular with the local people. When word got around about Jack, he became a tourist attraction in the town.

But one day in 1873, Jack jumped into the weir and was bitten by another shark that had been trapped and he died of his injuries. John Parry Evans became the last owner and the weir was left to decay. The remainder of the wooden structure in the water eventually became such a danger to boats it was removed. If you walk along the pier at low tide you will be able to see what is left of the stone part of the weir.

A Welsh Prince Discovers America

There is a local legend recounting Madog who was the son of the Welsh Prince Owain Gwynedd. It's said he sailed from Rhos on Sea in 1170 and landed in America well before Christopher Columbus arrived there in the late 1400s.

Madog's story found new life during the Elizabethan Era (roughly 1560-1600) when the English used the legend as justification for North America being a possession of the Kingdom of England. There is no historical proof that such a journey ever took place, though there are still stories heard about Madog's fellow voyagers marrying Native Americans and bringing Welsh-speaking descendants to the newly discovered continent.

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