‘The ultimate in splendiferous estate churches’.
Edward Hubbard, ‘The Buildings of Wales Clwyd’ (1986)
Nicknamed the marble church for obvious reasons, it is impossible not to be impressed with this towering memorial to Carl Fisher, 16th Baron Willoughby de Broke, the husband of Lady Willoughby de Broke who spent much of her late husband’s fortune on its building. Designed by John Gibson, pupil to Sir Charles Barry, the foundation stone was laid in July 1856 and consecrated in 1860. The astronomical sum of £60000 was spent on its building, and it is easy to see where.
Some fourteen different different varieties of marble were used, including Belgian Red as well as stone from Anglesey, with interior marbles quarried in Dorset. There is marble here from Ireland, Italy and also France, with granite from Aberdeen in the western entrance to remember St Kentigern, exiled from Strathclyde and founder of nearby St Asaph Cathedral. There is much limestone in its exterior fabric, quarried from nearby Llanddulas, which has the notable impression of porcelain. The church glows, as you might expect, and is undeniably breath taking, even in the gloomiest of weather. Visible from miles around, it is possible to view its 62 feet of Northamptonshire style spire (Hubbard claims it is based on the Church of Saints Peter and Paul at Kings Sutton in that county) from the top of Twt Hill in Rhuddlan. The interior is lavish to say the least, in keeping with a keen Victorian sentimentality, especially the elaborate font, which shows the two nieces of Lady Willoughby de Broke holding a shell. The lectern is also worth a study, with its elaborate eagle perched on a rock. There remains a legend that the Church was built entirely without nails.
The graveyard is of great interest, containing as it does the graves of some 80 Canadian soldiers that had been encamped at nearby Kinmel Park Camp at the end of the First World War. Most of these unfortunate men, far from home men died as a result of the devastating influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1919. However, four of the graves are of soldiers that were involved in disturbances at the Camp, brought on by frustration at delays in being returned home and the monotony of camp life with very little to do, and were killed in the rioting. One of these is William Tarasevich, considered the ringleader by British authorities. There are also a number of British war dead, and two women who were involved in the much-overlooked medical care of the men who were involved in the four years of war.
It is rather brutally divided from the grounds of Bodelwyddan Castle by the A55 expressway, but should be viewed as part of an immense development of this once serene landscape. The Church is open to visitors, who are asked to donate to its upkeep.