Llanfihangel Yng Ngwynfa
This small village is really a hamlet, situated half a mile off the main Llanfyllin-Llanwddyn road. It is a steep village, dominated by St Michael’s church, known as the ‘Church on the Hill’, a landmark for miles around.
Alas, the church is no longer used. It is known to have existed in the 13th century and until it was rebuilt in 1862 was patronised by the famous Welsh family and supporters of Owain Glyndwr, the Vaughans of Llwydriath Hall. Their great family pew dominates the chancel. The family married into the Watkin Williams Wynn family, who the became landlords of the Llwydiarth estate until its disposal in 1946, when most of the tenants became owner-occupiers.
Ann Griffiths, 1776-1805, famous Welsh hymn writer, is buried in the churchyard. Her well known hymns are loved and sung throughout Wales and pilgrims visit her grave and home at Dolwar Fach, a few miles away.
On the outskirts of the village is the cemetery, a council estate of six houses, and a couple of privately owned bungalows. There is the Goat Inn in the centre, a village hall that was opened in 1981 and now the hub of the community. There used to be a post office/shop and school. Older villagers are predominantly Welsh speaking, whilst the children are increasingly bilingual. Farming is the chief occupation, mostly sheep and cattle rearing with some dairying.
Before the turn of the 20th Century Llanfihangel had a resident clockmaker-carpenter, a dressmaker, a cobbler and a visiting knife-grinder. The clockmaker ran a savings club, into which thrifty folk could pay a shilling a year, so that when they married, or set up home, they could buy from him a clock, dresser, or table, depending on how much they had saved.
Today all this has gone, but one old aged custom remains, the Plygain Fawr held annually on the second Sunday in January. Parties of singers from the surrounding parishes lend their support, then after the service, all are invited for supper and the singing has been known to go on until the early hours of the morning.
The war memorial stands at the centre of the village, and behind it is a typical Welsh bwythyn (cottage), called Poplar Cottage. This was once the home of ED O’Biren, a gifted Eisteddfod conductor and concert compare (1911-1953). Pat as he was affectionately called endeared himself to all with his wit and charm. His untimely death was a great loss to Welsh culture.
Other people who greatly influenced and enhanced the cultural life of the parish were Canon JR Roberts, MA, rector for 43 years until his death in 1942 and Mr CE Shimmin, headmaster for 36 years until he retired in 1937. Both were accomplished musicians and were most successful with their respective choirs and at concerts.
A fair, known as Ffair Llan, used to be held on 9th May every year, when store cattle and sheep were sold to visiting dealers. Piglets were brought by horse and cart, with a mesh strung over to prevent their escape. With the advent of stock wagons, stock could be taken to markets at Llanfyllin, Oswestry and Welshpool.
Half a mile from the village, on the B4393, is a stone-built bridge called Pont Sgaden, Herring Bridge, so called cecause it was used by a wagon carrying red herrings to be delivered locally.
Llanfihangel yng Ngwynfa possibly derives its name from the township of Cadwnfa, later known as Gwynfa (a place in the hills). The yng Ngwynfa is added to distinguish it from all other Llanfihangels in Wales – Llanfihangel y Pennant, Llanfihangel y Creuddyn and so on. Many locals though interpreted the name to say Church of St Michael in Paradise or in the Bright Light.
In this friendly community with the formidable name, folk are known either by Christian names or house names – Jones The Shop for example – and are willing to lend a helping hand wherever it is needed.