Betws Gwerfil Goch

Betws Gwerfil Goch is small village on the Denbighshire border with Conwy.  Indeed, crossing the nearby River Alwen will take you into Conwy County.  It is served by minor roads, a mile or so north of the A5 trunk road, signposted clearly along with its near neighbour Melin y Wig.  A pretty village, a small stream runs through it, meeting the Alwen along the mill race a little to the south.

 

The history of Betws GG is, perhaps unsurprisingly somewhat unclear.  Interest is immediately heightened by the name of the village, and is thought to relate to one of the daughters of Cynan ab Owain Gwynedd, himself the illegitimate son of Owain Gwynedd. Essentially, the name of the village translates to, ‘The Prayer House of Gwerfil the Red’.  The village is referred to as Ecc’a de betos in 1254, Bettus Guerfyl in 1291 and Bettus in 1535.  The full name seems to have been settled by the later Elizabethan Age.

 

If indeed a prayer house was founded in the area by or in the name of Gwerfil Goch, then genealogies would suggest a founding of the 12th Century.  Of course, the presence of a prayer house does not mean a settlement did not exist before that date, but unfortunately, there remains little evidence.  The historian of the diocese, Archdeacon Thomas suggested that place name evidence from the locality pointed to an earlier religious site on a pilgrim route between Bala and Holywell.  However, the position of the village, close to its own parish boundary, with two other parishes close by (Corwen and Llanfihangel) suggests a late founding of Betws GG.

 

Edward Lhuyd mentions at the end of the 17th Century that there were nine cottages near the church, which indicates a not inconsiderable settlement.  Certainly, fairs were held in the churchyard until the 18th Century, which would have attracted a sizeable gathering from the area about.  The mid 19th Century Tithe Map indicates little change to the village in the intervening century.

 

Lhuyd also mentions a Ffynnon y Saint, very close to the church, but the memory of the well has been lost, and there is no sign of it in the area.  The village enjoys a series of pre 18th Century buildings, including a 16th Century or possibly 17th Century house at Wen Lan in the centre of the village.  The bridge to the south east which crosses the stream is thought to be 18th Century.  Ridge and furrow ploughing marks were noticed to the north east of the village which also points to a medieval presence in the area.

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