Church Island is a small island in the Menai Straits on the shores of Anglesey. The island is just 2.7 acres and is taken up with St Tysilio's Church. On top of the islands highest point is the local parish memorial to the local men who died during the two World Wars. At this point it is also the best place to view the Menai Strait and the two bridges that cross it, the Menai Suspension Bridge, which is the closest and the Britannia Bridge.
You get to the island via a short causeway that is reachable only on foot off the Belgian Promenade, which was constructed by Flemish refugees during the first World War. A short and winding path leads under the overhanging branches of a large yew tree to the old oak church door.
St Tysilio's Church
A plaque above the door states that the church was founded in the 7th Century by St Tysilio, but it seems to be accepted that the present church was built in the 1400's, and dedicated to him.
Tysilio was the younger son of Brochwel Ysgirthog, King of Powys during the mid 6th century. He rejected the future that had been set out for him, and instead turned to a life of religion. During his travels he met an anchorite by the name of Gwyddfarch, who it is believed joined him for instruction. Between them, a settlement at Meifod was established which became the main church for a wide area as well as becoming the mother church of Powys. At this time, Tysilio's older brother Cynan, had succeeded his father as King of Powys. He was a fearsome warrior waging successful wars against the men of Dyfed, Gwent, Cornwall, Brycheiniog and Anglesey. This resulted, in c.615, in his son having to fight against Saxon forces at Chester, where he was killed. It was at this time that Tysilio decided to leave his homeland of Powys, and settled on this small island.
No one knows who built the present church. It is of rectangular shape with an unusual shaped door, being rectangular in an arched frame, the timber for which was probably used as part of a porch on the church entrance before being set in it's present position. The roof is made up of three mediaeval trusses with curved collar beams. The windows are a mixture of old and new, with the north and south windows being modern replacements, whilst the east window was rebuilt in 1896 by Jones and Wallis of London to reproduce the original 15th century version. The other features of the church include the original 15th century coping and remains of the cross socket on the east end, and the font, which has been dated to the 14th century. It is popular for weddings and services are still held here.
Photo by Humphrey Bolton
The churchyard contains headstones dating to the 18th century of local families and of the workmen who died building the Menai Suspension Bridge.
From the island you can also view Ynys Gorad Goch Island, whose residents once made a living from the fish caught in the traps built on the island. And if wildlife watching is your hobby then there is a wide selection of seabirds to be seen. In 2002, Little Egrets bred in Wales for the first time on a small islet just off Church Island.
If you want to visit by car there is a car park off the A5, just past the Menai Heritage Experience. From here you then walk along the Belgian Promenade and onto the causeway.
The Anglesey Coastal Path also passes the head of the causeway, so it is worth a detour to explore.
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