We know that there has been a church in Dyserth since 1086 as reference is made to it in the Domesday Book. However, the exact date of any foundation is unknown and very little is known of the saints to whom the church is dedicated. The name Dyserth itself is said to mean 'the place of the hermit's cell'. The original structure of the church would have been made from wood and has long since disappeared. The earliest parts of the church structure are medieval, dating from the thirteenth century, and are most clearly seen in the great butresses that frame the West door which looks out towards the stream. Throughout the centuries there have been occasions when the church has been repaired and renovated. The most thoroughgoing of these renovations was in the 1870's when the church was virtually rebuilt by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the victorian architect who restored the choir of Westminster Abbey and who renovated the cathedral of St. Asaph at about the same time. Scott replaced the South porch and added the North transept and vestry. The gallery was taken down and other alterations made.
If you look down at the floor beyond the south entrance, you will see a grave slab on the left, on which is carved a sword whose hilt disappears under the aisle carpet. This marks a knight's grave.
If you face towards the altar and look up, you will see a number of large wooden roof trusses. The second of these nave arches has the date 1579 carved on it with the initials ERIS, DH and WH together with a Tudor rose. The fourth arch with its carved wooden angels is obviously more modern and was added during Scott's restoration.
If you look back at the South door, you can see the mason's marks carved on the stones which frame the door. Now walk along the aisle and on your right you will see a grave stone set against the wall to the right of the pulpit. The explanatory stone at the top of the slab details the original inscription. Henry IV's reign was from 1399 to 1413. Further along in the chancel itself are two wall plaques. The brass one commemorates many generations of the Hughes family who are buried in the church and churchyard, while the marble one remembers a young parishioner who died in the First World War. Under the carpet of the chancel are two further coffin slabs. Part of the inscriptions on these are still legible and tell us that they are the graves of two gentlemen of the seventeenth century: Edward Parry, son of Bishop Parry, and William Mostyn of Rhyl.
The sanctuary is panelled and the reredos, behind the altar, is in memory of those who died in the First World War. Most of the furniture in the sanctuary has been presented in memory of former members of the church congregation. A number of aristocratic families have been associated with the church over the years including the Hughes and Edwards and the Tates and Conways of Bodrhyddan Hall. Lady Tate presented the choir stalls.
The chief glory of the church is the stained glass window above the altar. This has been described as the finest example of a medieval Jesse window in North Wales. If you look carefully, you will see that it is basically in two sections. The upper part is a representation of the twelve Apostles and some feel that this is older than the lower section which is the Jesse window - that is a family tree of Christ. Some authorities say the older part dates from 1430 and the second part resulted in a bequest in 1530. One tradition has it that the glass was originally in the Abbey at Basingwerk.
Retrace your steps, this time concentrating on the North wall of the church, and you will note that the organ is built into the first two arches. These arches were added in 1875 and the organ, built by Casson of Denbigh, dates from 1900. There are pseudo medieval heads on the transept, which is not currently in use, and to the vestry, which is not open to the public.
The brass War Memorials on this wall are in memory of those who died in the two World Wars. You will see that the casualty list for the First World War is, as usual, longer than that for the Second World War, despite the growth of the village population in the intervening period.
The South West corner of the church contains the remains of two Celtic crosses which originally stood in the churchyard. The one stands over two metres in height, but of the second only the decorated base remains. This is on a stone table by the door. The font itself was heavily restored in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
If the weather is fine you will find a stroll through the churchyard a pleasant and rewarding experience. Leave by the South porch, turn left and you will see an inscription over the final oblong window of the church - Sir John Conway, Knight, 1636
Just beyond the end of the church, behind a large tree, is a collection of seventeenth century tombs. Two of these are rare Jacobean canopied tombs and if you look carefully at the underside of one of these canopies you will see a carved skull and cross bones. This gives rise to the tale of pirate's graves in Dyserth churchyard but the carving is rather a reminder of man's mortality, although generations of school children will tell you another story.
At the other end of the church, in a section of the churchyard to the left, you can see a large granite slab to the memory of Sir Geoffey Summers who owned the great steel works at Shotton and who gave Graig Fawr to the National Trust. There are many hundreds of graves dating from the seventeenth century to the present day. They encapsulate the history of Dyserth and a walk through them is a walk through history.
The building at the other end of the churchyard was originally the first school in the village. It has had several other uses since then, including being a shop, a builder's store and a craft workshop. However, it has now been renovated and serves as the Church Hall.
Opposite the church on the other side of the road is a building now used as an inn - the New Inn. It was originally used by a religious foundation but the building has been much altered and adapted. If you look across the car park of the inn and across the stream you will see a large building, This was originally the Bishop's Palace. It then became the Vicarage and is now an Old Folk's Home, having been somewhat extended.
Some of these photographs have been used with the kind permission of Peter Robinson
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