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The Tan-y-Coed Medieval Carved Stones

The carved medieval stones at Tan-y-Coed are a wonder. Here, beneath Bailey Hill, the site of the frankly astonishing Mold Castle, a series of haunting heads and grotesques stare out at you from the wall within which they have been fixed. All expression seems to be present here - pain, joy and sometimes nothing short of madness.

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It is not entirely certain where they have come from, but it is more likely than not that they originated from St Mary’s Church - just a short distance from Tan-y-Coed. They were probably removed in one of the several restorations, renovations or rebuilds of the church. It is possible that they were removed during the work done at the time of the Margaret Beaufort patronage of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. It is possible that they were removed during the rebuild of the tower in the late 18th century. It is just as possible that they were in fact removed during the Gilbert Scott renovations in the mid 19th century. We simply do not know for certain.

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It is thought that the owner of Tan-y-Coed discovered the stones in his garden, and at sometime, possibly in the 1950s, had them cemented into the road facing wall. They have been looking out at passers-by ever since. It is likely that further pieces of the medieval church remain dotted about the town, parts of rockeries or other decorative garden features, awaiting discovery.

 

As to their age, they would seem to date from between the 12th and 15th centuries. As such, they align nicely from the likely date of the first Norman build, to the time of the Beaufort works. It is tempting to see them having been removed at the time of that first major restoration, but we cannot be certain. Not certain perhaps, but likely, I feel. It's possible, if not probable, that the stones found themselves heaped up somewhere in the churchyard for many years, before being removed to elsewhere, eventually finding themselves at Tan-y-Coed.

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George Lloyd, writing in the Flintshire Historical Society Publications, tells of writing to the British Museum seeking information on the carved stones. The answer he eventually received is the basis for dates ascribed to the stones, but also seems to suggest that the earlier stones were the product of a provincial school of masonry.

 

Today, the stones remain at Tan y Coed, and while the elements have worn and weathered them, they retain a certain wonder and mystery.

 

 

Further Reading

 

G. Lloyd, The Medieval Carved Stones at Mold, Flintshire Historical Society Publications 18, (1960)

 

T. W. Pritchard, Mold Town and Country, Bridge Books, Wrexham, (2012)

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