The best way to get a good view of this little building is to approach by boat which is why, I suppose, we have some fishermen from Pwllgwaelod to thank for restoring the little Church after it had fallen into disrepair.
It is possible to climb down from the coast path but it’s a hazardous climb and when I was tempted, a few weeks ago, the wet weather and the strong winds dissuaded me and I’ve borrowed Ceridwen’s photo for my first picture to show you the building in a bit more detail. If you peer down from the coastal path on your way to Aberbach, this is what you can see.
The Church on the Rock, as it was known locally, was originally built by Alfred Harford*, an artist from the Bristol area, who spent some time in Dinas at the turn of the twentieth century. He painted pictures for local residents, possibly in lieu of payment,
and was seen carrying buckets of mortar along the coast for his construction project.
Surprisingly, the ruins of his original were still visible on the rock in the 1970s but the little building would have disappeared for ever if it hadn’t have been for the vigilance and skill of local fishermen who carried out the restoration, about 15 or 20 years ago.
What could have prompted them to rebuild, after so many years, when all that was left standing was one dilapidated wall? At this point the story gets more complicated, perhaps casting some doubt on my original claim of the house’s artistic beginnings.
Part two of the project began in ‘The Sailor’s Safety’ in the 1990s when local people overheard a visitor from the north of England ask about something special on the beach. He’d been told a story by his English grandfather.
His story was set in the early 1900s and tells of a young girl from Liverpool who was very sick. The doctors couldn’t do much for her but suggested she go and stay near the sea. So the girl and her father got on the train to Goodwick and stayed in a cottage in Lower Town for a month in the summer. The daughter soon began to look better, regained an appetite and before long was strong enough to venture as far as that little beach outside of Pwllgwaelod. The girl felt it was a special place and persuaded her father to build a house for the whole family to live in. They built the house from the rocks and sand around the little beach and it was almost autumn when they put the last stone in place.
They returned to Liverpool to the rest of the family but the winter was hard and soon the girl was unwell again and sadly died. They never returned.
I’ve heard the story of the sick little girl from two sources. However, I have also spoken to two people whose families have lived in Bryn Henllan, close to Pwllgwaelod, for generations and neither of them had heard this version before. The Parkes brothers, builders who also have a fishing boat at Pwllgwaelod, apparently heard the tale in the pub and were inspired to rebuild. Thank you!
I’m not convinced that I have got to the bottom of this. I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who can add information and help resolve the contradictions. Over to you!
* The name passed down the generations is ‘Hurford’ and there is no signed picture to decide the matter. But Alfred Harford (1848-1915) member of the Royal West of England Academy seems to fit the bill. He was from Bristol and painted scenes from rural life in oils. According to the RWA, who kindly supplied enough information to convince me, he frequently painted scenes from North Wales, submitting pictures of Betws-y-Coed, Pont-y-Pant and Beddgelert to the RWA annual exhibitions. He must have stopped off in North Pembrokeshire on his way.