top of page

Within the churchyard of St Bridget’s in Dyserth are two hooded tombs, worn weary by near 350 years of weathering freeze and thaw. These rare canopied tombs form part of a series of ten 17th century monuments which, along with the two stunning hooded tombs include flat stone slabs and table tombs.

 

Hooded tombs are something of a rarity in North Wales - the fashion did not seem to take as it did elsewhere. The wealthy here continued to favour the artisans of the Burton on Trent area, while the lesser gentry were apt to use local craftsmen that followed older traditions. But they can be found, here and there - small worn wonders. The earliest hooded tomb in North Wales is thought to be that of Robert Wynne of Conwy, he of Plas Mawr in the town, and dated to 1598, resting against the south chancel of St Mary’s. The most extravagant hooded tomb, perhaps in all of Wales is at Cwm, an astonishingly ostentatious memorial to Grace Williams and dated to 1642.

IMG_1536.JPG

Memorials to the influential Hughes family, the tombs reflect their status and standing in Dyserth.

The Dyserth examples are rather later, and less sophisticated, built almost at the end of the age of the hooded tomb in North Wales in the later 17th century - only the examples at Trelawnyd and Beaumaris clearly post date those at St Bridget’s. It’s possible however, that the mason responsible for the tombs of Dyserth, or his apprentice perhaps, moved south towards Bala, since there would seem to be stylistic similarities with the remains of a probable hooded tomb at Llanycil, on the banks of Llyn Tegid dated to the very beginning of the 18th century.

 

The Dyserth tombs are those of Eubele Hughes (d. 1667) and that of his cousin John. The Hughes family were said to be descended from Cynwrig ap Bleddyn ap Madog (b. 1385) and were by far the most influential in Dyserth during the 17th century, owning land throughout the area, largely in Llewerllyd and Trecastell. The hooded tombs clearly reflect their status and standing. The family were established at Dyserth Hall on the northern outskirts of the village - later linked with the captains of industry responsible for the management of the Talargoch Mine on the road to Meliden.

IMG_9511.JPG

Though far less ornate than the Williams tomb at Cwm, those of Dyserth remain impressive. The ever so slightly older of the two, the southernmost example is the less ornate, and greatly worn. The hood is broken, and photographs of the mid 1980s show the fractured canopy in pieces on the ground, an affair confirmed by Hubbard writing in 1986. Thankfully, it has been returned to its tomb, the repairs obvious in facilitating its length along the table, a patchwork of flaking stone and render. The upper surface of the hood is plain, but the interior bears a skull and crossbones at its west end, while a vague shield can be seen at the east end. At the centre is a worn square boss. The base of the tomb has open arches, and the architectural features mentioned by Hubbard, would seem to be the remains of stone shields with some wonderful elaborate mantling.

IMG_E9514.JPG

Faded and vague, yet the ghost of a shield upon the southern tomb's flank, with its elaborate mantling suggests influence and power.

The northernmost tomb is a little more recent and at once more elaborate and the slightly better preserved of the two. The canopy has a panel on the outer facing,

 

I.H

mors mea

vita mihi

1676

 

The interior of the hood has, at the west an angel holding a scroll bearing the legend, ‘dominus abba’, with a skull and crossbones at its centre and a very badly worn angel at the eastern end, holding what is probably a scroll, though it is hard to tell now - it may be a shield with mantling. Again the tomb itself has open arches and chamfered edges, bearing what would seem to be floral designs.

IMG_9505.JPG

In a churchyard of magnificent interest, about a Church of such age and standing, in a village of which the origins stretch back to what was likely the dawn of Christianity in North Wales, the hooded tombs of St Bridget’s seem to further render an impression that here, at Dyserth, we are amongst magnificent antiquity.

 

 

Further Reading

 

 

L. A. S. Butler, The Hooded Tomb in North Wales, Archaeologia Cambrensis, (1973)

 

E. Hubbard, Buildings of Wales Clwyd, London, (1986)

bottom of page