A Potted History of Bryneglwys

Bryneg from the Carrog road

Bryneglwys (right) looking north-east from the Carrog road

Nobody knows when a settlement first sprang up on the site of the current village of Bryneglwys, but we do know that it existed in 1284 with the spelling of Breneglus. This was formalised in 1291 to Ecclia de Bryn Eglwys, Ecclia de being Latin for 'the church from the Eucharist'. Translating to English as 'hill-church', the name is shown as Bryn-Eglwys on an OS map of 1874, and then it emerges as Bryneglwys on an OS map of 1899.

Little is known of the village's past residents, but the population of the parish was recorded in 1831 as 450, dropping to 273 in the census of 1901. In 1927 the parish gained 2,439 acres from the Llantysilio parish, being most of the north-west side of Llantysilio Mountain. Prior to that, the boundary skirted close to the village, following a track of roughly constant altitude along the side of the valley. In 2001 the population was recorded as 344, 50% of whom could speak Welsh, and in 2011 this had risen to 369, 36% of whom could speak Welsh.

"A parish in the Union of Corwen, hundred of Yale, five miles (NW) from Llangollen. This parish is situated among mountains of various elevations, and characterised by boldness of scenery."
A Topographical Dictionary of Wales, 1833 & 1849, Samuel Lewis

The village is described in Wikipedia as lying approximately 6 miles to the northeast of Corwen on a hill above a small river, Afon Morwynion - a rather plain description for such a picturesque setting. The parish covers an area of 9.5 square miles (see map above-left) and extends to the top of Llantysilio Mountain, the peaks of which define the entire parish. The village church is dedicated to Saint Tysilio and has been on the site since the 7th century. The current building dates from the 15th century and was restored in 1570, and then again in 1875. Yale Chapel was added to the church in about 1575.

St Tysilio's Church, Bryneglwys

St Tysilio's Church - the 'church on the hill' that gives Bryneglwys its name

The Yale family and Elihu Yale

To the northeast of the village stands Plas yn Iâl, the ancestral home of the Yale family who included Elihu Yale.

Elihu was born on 5 April 1649 in Boston, Massachusetts, to David and Ursula Yale, and was the grandson of Ann and Thomas Yale from Chester and Plas yn Iâl. The Yale family returned to England when Elihu was only three years old, so he attended school in London, knowing nothing of life in Boston.

Elihu worked for the Honourable East India Company for 20 years, being president and governor of the company's settlement in Fort St. George at Madras. It is widely recorded that Yale amassed a fortune, largely through the slave trade and secret contracts with Madras merchants, against the East India Company's directive. This eventually resulted in his removal from office in 1692, and he spent the rest of his life at Plas Grono, a mansion bought by his father near Wrexham.

So how did the Yale name end up being used for an American university?

According to a heavily cited article in Wikipedia, in 1718, New England Puritan minister and author Cotton Mather (remembered today for his vigorous support for the Salem witch trials) contacted Elihu Yale and asked for his help. Mather represented a small institution of learning that had been founded in 1701 in New Haven, Connecticut, as the Collegiate School of Connecticut, and it needed money for a new building.

Yale university records show that Elihu sent Mather 417 books, a portrait of King George I, and nine bales of goods. The latter was sold for £800, which was a substantial sum in the early 18th century. In gratitude, officials of the college named the new building 'Yale', and eventually the entire institution became Yale College, or more recently, simply 'Yale'.

The current community boundaries of Bryneglwys
(click or tap to enlarge)

Settlement Survey

Click the button above to view the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust Historic Settlement Survey of Bryneglwys (2014) which, if anything, shows how little is known of the area's past.

1874 OS map

An OS map from 1874 showing the village name as Bryn-Eglwys