‘As Clwyd villages go, Llanasa is a good one’.
Edward Hubbard, ‘The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd’ (1986)
Faint praise indeed, from Hubbard, but the truth of the beauty of Llanasa lays far deeper than the visible architecture of this pretty little village set back some 5km from Prestatyn. Llanasa remains something of a mystery. Only ever served by minor roads, very little is known of its early history, though there are hints it is very ancient indeed. In the fields surrounding Llanasa there have been notable finds of artefacts ranging from the Mesolithic and Neolithic. It is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, surrounded by cairn and tumulus. People have been foraging, farming and burying their dead in this area for many thousands of years, in a landscape which includes such wonders as Cop Cave and Hill. So, while its early recorded history is virtually non-existent, it should come as no surprise that its history stretches back much earlier.
Llanasa is fairly obviously named for St Asaph, pupil of St Kentigern, and it is to both that the current church is dedicated. The village first enters recorded history with the Norwich Taxation of 1254, in which it is named, ‘Llanassa’, with only minor variations thereafter. It is thought that there was a much older church here, possibly pre-Conquest, since there is a popular belief that the tomb and relics of St Asaph himself were enshrined here before being removed to his cathedral sometime before 1281. Unfortunately, the churchyard gives no hint of this early foundation, since it remains stubbornly quadrilateral. A curvilinear nature would have so much more convenient.
The church itself is a double naved and perpendicular affair, much restored from the 18th century onwards. Its earliest dateable remains being some superb sepulchral slabs from the 14th century, one of which bears the inscription, ‘HIC LACET GRVFVD VACHAN’ which translates as, ‘Here lies Gruffudd Fychan’, and which could be then, the resting place of Owain Glyndwr’s father. There is also the remains of a cross which Hubbard dates to the 14th century, which is now in the south wall in the east end of the north nave. The stained glass in the eastern end of church is said to have been removed from Basingwerk Abbey at its dissolution in 1537. Of more interest is the moving memorial to the 13 crew members of the Point of Ayr lifeboat that died in an attempt to save the crew of the schooner, Temperance in 1857. The churchyard has the rather lovely hooded tomb, of which further examples can be seen in North East Wales (notably, at Cwm), of Sir Peter Mostyn who died in 1605.
The parish of Llanasa was also the birthplace of Elis Gruffudd, the Soldier of Calais, who is discussed elsewhere. The village has a number of early properties from the 16th and 17th centuries, the most important of which are the Golden Grove and the fabulous Henblas. Both are interesting enough to merit their own page.
While Hubbard’s stark analysis of Llanasa seems a trifle terse, the tiny village of Llanasa is a place that punches well above its weight in its influence on the history of North East Wales.