'Henllan, the parish church of these parts; remarkable for the schism between church and steeple'
Thomas Pennant, 'Tours in Wales' Vol 2 (1781)
St Sadwrn is believed to have been the brother of the rather better known Illtud, and whose power and influence rested largely in south and central Wales. Little is known of Sadwrn, and the church in Henllan is certainly the only one dedicated to him in North East Wales. The saint is believed to be buried in St Sadwrn's Church at Llansadwrn on Anglesey, along with his wife, St Canna.
The Church was heavily restored, largely rebuilt in truth in 1806-8, although some medieval features remain, such as some interesting medieval headstops and a piscina. However, its chief interest is the really rather incredible and much older detached bell tower. Battlemented and unbuttressed, it stands on an outcrop of rock above the ancient churchyard. Separate bell towers are more common in southern England than in North East Wales, but it is thought they were built in an attempt to protect the fabric of the main church from possible concussive damage from the peal of bells within them. Whether that was the case at St Sadwrn’s is unknown, but the tradition is that the bell tower was built higher up from the church in order for the sound of its bells to be heard throughout the parish, extensive as it was at the time.
The churchyard is quite fascinating. A medieval font, removed from the church in 1856 and subsequently lost has been found and returned. It stands now opposite the porch and beside the medieval village cross. This cross has been much used in its lifetime, serving as a support for the gallery against the west wall within the church and, later removed to the churchyard where it served as a lamp stand.
Henllan is a wonderfully curious place, made more curious for the presence of the unique St Sadwrn’s Church and its bell tower.