History of Bodelwyddan

The name “Bodelwyddan” translates as Abode (Bod) of Elwyddan, he being a fifth century Romano Chieftain of the area.

While Bodelwyddan may not have a long and notable history, it does contain many historic buildings, and has been the site of several important military training exercises during the two World Wars. Until 1860, Bodelwyddan was a part of the parish of St. Asaph, before being gazetted as a new and separate parish on the 3rd of August, following the construction of the Marble Church. During the two World Wars, the nearby Kinmel Camp was used to house soldiers, and was the location of the Kinmel Park Riots in 1919, which led to several Canadian deaths. Historically, Bodelwyddan was home to a lead mine, but plans to abandon the mine were submitted in 1857 and the mine closed shortly thereafter.

Engine Hill

The nearby “Engine Hill” was named after the mine engines designed to keep the mine’s water problems under control. Engine Hill has four “main” engine shafts with multiple smaller shafts, however the majority of knowledge on earlier working has been lost. Despite Bodelwyddan’s small size, it is a town and not a village, as evidenced by its Town Council. To its South lies Bodelwyddan Castle, which sits on Engine Hill – so named for the Steam Engines that drove the mining operations that took place there in the past. In the area surrounding Bodelwyddan lie small farms, including two farm shops. Also nearby are several hamlets – including: Cefn Meiriadog, Marli, Llannefydd and Pengwern.

Bodelwyddan has one small public house known as the Ty Fry Inn, Primary School known as Ysgol Y Faenol several small shops and a new Costa drive thru. Bodelwyddan also has a large industrial business park this is known as St Asaph Business Park.

Bodelwyddan Castle

Bodelwyddan Castle was built around 1460 by the Humphreys family of Anglesey as a manor house. The castle was bought from the Humphreys by Sir William Williams, Speaker in the House of Commons from 1680–1681.

The castle which stands today was reconstructed between 1830 and 1832 by Sir John Hay Williams, who employed the architects Joseph Hansom (inventor of the Hansom cab) and Edward Welch to refurbish and extend the house. The Williams’ family fortunes started to decline in the 1850s, due to the loss of the main source of income for the estate, lead mining. The castle has been described as one of Hansom’s most ambitious projects, “being wildly dramatic and owing nothing to its predecessors” At the same time works were carried out to construct an estate wall and formal gardens.

Further refurbishment work was carried out in the 1880s by Sir Herbert, 7th Baronet, who inherited Bodelwyddan Castle from his heirless cousin. By the First World War the house had become a recuperation hospital for wounded soldiers. During this time, the grounds of the estate were used by soldiers based at the nearby Kinmel Camp for trench warfare training Traces of these trenches can still be seen.

St. Margaret’s Church (Marble Church)

St. Margaret’s Church, better known as The Marble Church, is clearly visible from a great distance up and down the A55 road and was erected between 1856 and 1860, and was built with local Limestone, sourced from nearby Llanddulas, whose appearance closely resembles porcelain. The Church is dedicated to two Saints, St. Margaret and St. Kentigern, and contains several notable graves – including the grave of Elizabeth James, mother of Sir Henry Morton Stanley, a renowned Victorian Explorer. It is also home to the graves of over eighty Canadian soldiers, dating back to between 1918 and 1919.

Village fountain nearby Marble Church, Vicarage and Village housing, circa 1857. Not known who designed and built but could be John Gibson, architect of the church, vicarage and village housing. The fountain was fed by pipes from ponds behind Bodelwyddan Castle, but the supply was cut when the dual carriageway was built in the 1980s. This has now been fully restored by Bodelwyddan Town Council, it can be seen fully functioning in the summer months.

Faenol Fawr

This mansion, now a country house hotel, was built in 1597 by John Lloyd, registrar for the St Asaph diocese. That date is inscribed above two fireplaces inside. The dormer windows with their stepped gables were installed as part of a rebuilding project in the 18th century, with a nod to the house’s Tudor origins.

One of the rooms, now a dining room, retains its original fireplace surround, intricately carved in wood and featuring two shields, side by side (see photo, right). The walls are lined with wood panels, also from the 16th century.

Joined to the main building’s rear wing is a dovecote, thought to have been built c.1597. Other buildings at the site may also date from the same period. Near the main forecourt is the Old Farmhouse, which may originally have been home to the estate’s steward.

Kinmel Camp

Kinmel Camp was built in 1915, during the First World War, as a military training camp. The camp was built in a valley between two hills, Engine Hill and Primrose Hill south of the village of Bodelwyddan. The site was largely empty prior to the camp’s construction with the only man made structures in close proximity being abandoned mining buildings. At the time of its construction, it was the largest army camp in Wales. The site of the camp was around 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) by 0.75 kilometres (0.47 mi).

Local residents set up small shops nearby, known as Tintown, where troops could buy basic items. The troops were sometimes given permission to travel by rail to Rhyl for social activities The Kinmel Camp Railway served the camp from its construction in 1915 and was later used for a nearby quarry, finally closing in 1964.

At the end of the war, thousands of Canadian troops remained in Europe. The military had initially planned to send the forces home at the earliest opportunity. However, considerable numbers of the troops had relatives and friends that lived in Britain and their deployment provided the opportunity to visit, a chance they would otherwise be unlikely to have. The army gave in to these demands an d stationed troops at Kinmel Camp during their stay.

The conditions at Kinmel Camp were described as “basic” and the soldiers began to grow dissatisfied by their living conditions after several months. Their chances to be repatriated home were also delayed on more than one occasion when troop carriers, initially designated to them, were used to transport other units home. An outbreak of influenza also claimed the lives of 80 soldiers at the barracks. In early 1919, small instances of looting broke out in the camp before, on 4–5 March 1919, the Kinmel Park mutiny broke out, in which 20,000 war weary soldiers expressed their anger at their treatment. The riot broke out in the Canadian section of the camp, and lasted for a night and a day. Five men were killed, and 23 were injured.

Four of the five Canadian troops killed during the riot were buried in the graveyard of Bodelwyddan church among other Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorials. Most of the war graves are casualties of the Spanish flu pandemic.

The majority of the camp was later demolished and converted into an industrial estate. A small military camp remains at the site, rebuilt to around half the size of the original structure, which contains training grounds and firing ranges and can hold around 250 soldiers. The camp is also used as a base for military training excersies in Snowdonia National Park. During the second world war, Bodelwyddan also housed an RAF surveillance posts and a prisoner of war camp at Little Pengwern.

All information on the history of Bodelwyddan can be found online.