Llanelly, Gilwern, Wales.

(Monmouthshire & formerly in Brecknockshire, Breconshire & Powys)

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At the time of the 1831 Census the population of Llanelly was 4,041. So, to find out what it is like today, I chose at random a company listed in the on line telephone directory of  Brecon/Llanelly. I  wrote a letter asking that question. A copy of the reply follows. Note who signed the reply.

From - Steve Morgan - Llanelly

"The Llanelly that you refer to is a tiny place with just the church and a couple of old houses - and that's it. It is named on the map which gives the impression that there is a community there. This is misleading as there really is no such place as Llanelly now, just the church. So it's not surprising that you were having difficulty finding out about it.

Having said that, it is a beautiful and historic church set in a picturesque location. I'm sure that plenty has been written about it in local historical works. I did a quick search on "Llanelly Church" on and it seemed to throw up a few things about the church. You have to distinguish the responses from those referring to other places also called Llanelly. Especially Llanelly in West Wales which is quite a big place. I hope that this has been some help and good luck".


Steve Morgan.

From - Lee Bowen - Llanelli  (Western Wales)

Then on the 25th July 2002 our guestbook was signed by Lee Bowen of Llanelli in Western Wales (Carmarthenshire) Thankfully, Lee found our site of interest and he went to the trouble to go take a look at Llanelly, Powys, which is located some 100 miles away. His findings were very interesting and he has sent photos of Llanelly. A copy of his letter and some of the photos he sent are displayed below. Thank you Lee, we are very grateful.

"HI Kieran,

We went to Llanelly Church on Monday. We did not find any graves with matching names and dates, but some matching names???. There were plenty of Williams graves there.  A 3 yr old John son of John and Mary, also a Robert and his wife Emma. Some of the graves were in a poor condition especially pre 1850 and were therefore impossible to read. I took a few photos while I was there which I shall send you when I get them developed this week.

The church is still in use today and it is one of the prettiest little churches I have seen. It was locked when we arrived but looking in through the window we could see it was in constant use with hymn books etc laying around. The cemetery is fairly large we strolled around the grave yard for nearly three hours.

Gilwern seems a friendly little village and made us feel quite croeso. There is a busy little canal going through Gilwern carrying tourists along it every twenty minutes or so. We wondered if Llanelly might have been bigger years ago being adopted into Gilwern later. There are literally less than ten houses standing around the church which itself is less than a mile from Gilwern centre. References on grave stones to "Llanelly hill" seem to give better results when searching the internet, giving results specifically on Llanelly Monmouthshire.

Cheers and Croeso


Click on the photos for a full view


From Howell Davies - Llanelly, Gilwern

What a pleasant surprise I received on the morning of 25 October 2002 when I checked my email in-box in the morning. Here is a copy of a letter I received from one Howell Davies from right there in Llanelly. Here is what Howell had to say:

"Hi there Kieran,

My name is Howell Davies and I just chanced upon your 'Williams Story' on the 'net' while looking for something else. The amazing thing is that I live in Gilwern and first attended Llanelly Church as a 14 year old boy in 1939. A lifetime later I am still a member.

The purpose of this Email is to establish initial contact with you. Once I receive a reply from you I'm sure I have much useful information that I can forward to you about Llanelly Church and this area and possibly your ancestors.

Awaiting your reply.



Second Letter from Howell Davies

Howell followed up on this email with detailed information which has changed my perception of Llanelly altogether. Here is what Howell has to say on 27 October 2002

Let me give you information that will, I am sure, help you to understand something of the layout etc. of this lovely part of Wales where your ancestor John Williams originated. (To help you I am putting in brackets the phonetic pronunciation of some of our Welsh place names).

Here we go:-

England and Wales are divided up into COUNTIES. For example: the county of Monmouthshire, Breconshire, Powys etc. Each county is divided up into PARISHES. Each parish has a Parish Church and a priest, known either as a Rector or Vicar. (Our present Rector is a woman, The Rev. Annette Francis).

Here in the village of Gilwern we are located in the 'PARISH OF LLANELLY' (Lanethlee). It is a very large parish and also includes the villages of Clydach (Kliduck), almost 2-miles from the parish church and Blackrock, and Llanelly Hill which are even further away from the parish church.

Our parish church is known as 'LLANELLY PARISH CHURCH' and is located on high ground almost a mile from Gilwern village. It is fairly isolated and has only 4 or 5 houses in it's immediate vicinity. This will explain why there is no place (i.e. village or town), called Llanelly in this part of Wales but only the above mentioned villages which are in the 'Parish of Llanelly'.

Of course, just to confuse you, there is a large industrial town called Llanelly some 70 miles to the west of Gilwern in the county of Carmarthenshire but you already know this from what Lee Bowen has told you.

Llanelly Church has more than one burial ground (or graveyard). The oldest is located immediately around the church. The 2nd oldest is just across the road to the south. You must appreciate that because of it's high location Llanelly Church experiences cold and windy weather especially in the winter. Because of this many of the older grave stones have become very difficult, if not impossible, to read. Unfortunately, and I checked this with Rev Francis today, there are no records identifying the graves (by row and number) for the 2 older yards referred to above.

Also, allow for the fact that in earlier times not all families could afford to pay for gravestones and many deceased lie in unmarked graves. However I will certainly see if I can locate any of the Williams family as listed in your website.

There are, of course quite a few Williams still living in the Parish and Paul's idea of contacting our local newspaper 'The Abergavenny Chronicle' might bring results.

Mary is calling me for supper now so I must bring this Email to a close. However, I am going to send you, by ordinary mail, a fairly large scale map which I am sure will give you a good appreciation of this area. I shall also include some photographs  taken by me some years ago, showing the inside and outside of Llanelly Church.

Also  a copy of a newspaper article about Llanelly Church written by Canon D. Parry-Jones  in 1963. (he was rector of this parish from about 1932 until 1962).

Best wishes to you both and rest assured I shall do all I can to help you.

Howell Davies.

Well thank you ever so much for all that Howell. Your efforts for us are greatly appreciated. The photos that Howells sent are shown below.

Click on the photos for a full view

Artist's Impression - Llanelly Church

Church yard ...................Spire................... Interior


Visit to the Parish of Llanelly, Gilwern, Monmouthshire, Wales UK - November 2003.

Our Hosts in Llanelly were - Howell & Mary Davies

Howell & Mary
(Click picture for full view)

The Bells

The writer, Kieran Williams and his wife Claire, visited the "Land of our Fathers" during November 2003. It was a wonderful experience to see the places John Williams would himself have seen. John may not have worshiped at St Elli's in Llanelly but he would have heard its bells which have been ringing over the town for a thousand years. Howell invited me to ring the bells and hear what our ancestor would also have heard, Oh, so many years ago.


St Elli Parish Church.

Writings by Canon D. Parry-Jones.

 Who was St Elli.?

Llanelly Church is dedicated to St Elli, a saint of the sixth century, that famous "age of saints." Our only source of information about him is the Life of St. Cadoc, written in the eleventh century.

St. Elli is said to have been entrusted by his mother to the care of St Cadoc, who was abbot at Llancarfan. St Cadoc took him with him to Llancarfan, supervised his studies and directed his life according to his mother's wish. When Cadoc was leaving for Benevnto, Elli was chosen to succeed him. Two churches are dedicated to St. Elli - ours and Llanelly in Carmathenshire.

The Church

It is difficult exactly to date the tower and the earlier parts of the church. However, an antiquarian friend who visited the church said that there occurred periods of building activities and that the tower was, at any rate, built when craftsmen were in the neighbourhood building castles. It may therefore have been built between 1150 and 1200, St. Elli's was built .

The Yews

Visitors cannot fail to notice the magnificent circle of yew trees which surround the church, scarcely to be matched anywhere else in the British Isles. I do not doubt that they were planted at the same time the church was built. (1150 - 1200) They once numbered sixteen. Thirteen are still standing and though their trunks are hollow with age, they look sturdy enough to last many centuries yet. It is said the famous long-bowmen of Gwent came here for their bows.

The Bells

Bell-ringing has always been a great attraction for our young people and one, Williams, late of Ty Isha Farm, became the Chief Ringer in the band of St Paul's Cathedral. ( There are six bells dating from 1440 - 1908.

The old Rector, in his book, gives the names of the well known ringers and shows how much their ringing was enjoyed by the people. When the ringers rang at their accustomed times, those on the common down in the vale, used to assemble in groups to listen to them. The old women may be seen carrying their three legged stools and knitting materials. They sat together in fine weather and their ears seemed never tired of hearing and listening to the sweet sound of their village bells.

Oak Screen

A beautiful oak screen made from oak has been erected between the tower and the nave in memory of the late Mrs Walwyn Trumper of Glanwysg. Looking down the nave from the top of the tower steps, one gains the impression of its arrangement and its character. It has a simple, homely and friendly aspect, breathing an invitation to the visitor to stay and worship.

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