Gwyddelwern lies on the A494, an old turnpike road, some 3km north of Corwen, which serves as the largest settlement nearby. As is common, the earliest origin of the village is lost and findings in the area which suggest an early prehistory are rare.
The dedication of the church to St Bueno, one of the best known of British saints would certainly suggest an early foundation, possibly early medieval, as does the shape of the churchyard. Certainly, an early written reference of 1198 names the village as ‘Gwothelwern’ and the Norwich Taxation of 1254 names the church, ‘Ecc’a de Gwidelwern’. As to the meaning of the name, the traditional understanding that it translates as, ‘The Irishman’s Alder Grove’, is unfortunately highly unlikely. The mistake seems to originate in the word, ‘Gwyddel’, meaning ‘Irishman’, and perhaps the belief that St Beuno raised an Irishman from the dead in the area. The name is more likely to refer to, ‘an alder marsh in the thickets’, perhaps referring to the prevalence of swampy ground due to its low-lying position in the valley.
It is not until Edward Lhuyd records at the end of the 17th century, ‘eight houses and two cottages’ by the church that the village once again emerges into the light of recorded history. The village does not seem to increase in size substantially in the intervening century or so.
St Bueno’s Church was largely rebuilt during the 19th century, enjoying the raising of a new chancel along with a striking tower and spire. This was the most recent rebuild, since earlier work occurred in 1538. All of this has complicated an understanding of the development of the church. There are 14th century windows in the nave, along with a priest’s door of the same century. The church has a 19th century screen but which seems to incorporate some medieval work, a late medieval dug out chest and a font from the 15th century. There is much more which seems to suggest a historical patchwork.
The churchyard, which owns a striking myth discussed elsewhere, was thought by Elias Owen to have been much bigger at one time, and circular, which would suggest an early possibly pre-conquest foundation. The village boasts two holy wells, though both are now seemingly lost. Ffynnon Bueno is a little north of the village on a sharp bend in the A494, but now seems to have been buried and overlooked. A reference to a Ffynnon Fair somewhere to the west of the village is little to be going on. Both holy wells have much more famous relations discussed elsewhere.
There a few old buildings in the village, largely the old public houses of The Crown and the Blue Bell, both of which have features that date from the medieval period and a little later.