The origins of the pretty little village of Cilcain are shrouded in mystery. The village, sited to the east of Moel Famau some 6km north west of Mold certainly lies within an ancient environment, dotted with the remains of Bronze and Iron Age activity. Yet, the first recorded references to the village are from the 13th century, where in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 it is named, ‘Kilkeyn’. An entry in Pope Nicholas’ Taxation of 1291 calls the village, ‘Kylleyn’. The name of the village is likely to mean, ‘fair corner’, though it is possible that, ‘Cain’ could be a personal name. However, there is a tradition that the village was a retreat at some time in the distant past, that St Eurgain, daughter of Maelgwyn Gwynedd sought and found refuge here, and as a consequence the former interpretation of the name is as likely as not an accurate one.
Despite the lack of written record, it is likely that the Church of St Mary’s is of an early foundation, since the churchyard is quite obviously curvilinear. How far the church was the centre of a community is unknown, but given the possibility of its status being that of a retreat, it seems unlikely that there would have been any sizeable settlement here, but rather almost a small monastic community. Little is known of the village until Edward Lhuyd’s ‘Parochialia’ at the end of the 17th century records the village, which he names as ‘Kilken’ as having seven households.
Though the Clwyd and Powys Archaeological Trust records no earthworks at Cilcain itself, you do not have to go far from the village before encountering several. Cilcain’s past may have avoided written record, but there is much here to suggest an ancient past.