The site of Llanlleonfel church dates back to early Roman times when a branch of the roman road connecting Neath and Chester ran past the church. A gravestone inscribed in ancient latin is now situated in the church by the lectern. It has been suggested by Theophilus Jones, in a "History of Brecknock", that the name of the church was originally "Llan Lleon Voel" which translates as "church upon the bare moor". The church is situated on a rise and would have been an obvious meeting place for worship as well as having the added attraction of an adjacent sulphur spring known as "Billy Wern". A thatched roofed rough shelter was likely to have been the original place of worship before a more substantial building was erected in the 16th century.
The church has strong connections with the Gwynne family. The first member of the family to live at Garth was Judge Gwynne, who bought the Manor of Garth towards the end of the 17th century. In 1716 Marmaduke Gwynne, the judge's son, presented a bell which can now be seen beside the font and in 1730, he also gave a distinctive silver chalice and paten to the church. Three memorial tablets dedicated to the Gwynne family can be seen on the west wall.
The most noteworthy event which happened at Llanlleonfel church was the marriage of Sally Gwynne in 1749 to the well known Methodist hymn writer, Charles Wesley. The ceremony was performed by John Wesley who established the Methodist church. The wedding party walked for half a mile across the fields from Garth House. It was reputedly upstairs in Garth House that Charles wrote the hymn "Jesu Lover of my Soul" during a thunderstorm. He watched a sparrow shelter from the weather on the window sill and then penned the words:-
The fortunes of the Gwynnes and the state of the church deteriorated in the following years and in 1873 the Rev. Francis Kilvert noted in his diaries "the ruined church tottered lone upon a hill in desolate silence. The only occupants being several white owls". The church was rebuilt in 1876 with the bell tower positioned in the centre of the church, but this was later rebuilt on the west wall. The three stained glass windows in the east wall are in memory of the Fuller-Maitland family who lived at Garth House after the Gwynnes and, in the south wall, by the altar rail, is a stained glass window in memory of Commander and Mrs Alec Wilson, whose family now live at Garth House.
| While the nearer waters roll|
| While the tempest still is high|
| Hide me, O my saviour, hide|
| Till the storm of life be past|
| Safe into the haven guide|
O receive my soul at last.
We hope you can visit Llanlleonfel church either to join in our services or, at any other time to experience the peace and beauty of our little church on the hill.
Chris Fairhurst Mathew Wilson
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An aerial view of Llanlleonfel