The UK's smallest church and why it's found next to North Wales beach

St Trillo's Chapel in Rhos on Sea is considered to be the smallest chapel in the UK and it's sat on a North Wales beach.
-Credit: (Image: Jeff Buck/Geograph.org)


North Wales is home to many historical buildings and landmarks of all shapes and sizes. This history leaves fascinating titbits to be explored and wondered about as you explore the beaches, mountains and towns of the region.

One such piece of history is Saint Trillo's church in Rhos-on-Sea, which sits tucked away in its own alcove overlooking the sea. The church itself is still active and has been for nearly 1500 years, yet it is easy to miss because of its size, offering only a total seating for six people within the church, all set into a single small space.

Anyone is welcome to enter the church, which keeps its doors open for those wishing to visit.

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The original church would have dated back to the 6th century, built of wood and wattle and named after St Trillo a saint from the period who built his cell there, choosing the spot for its placement over a fresh water well, an ancient spring that can still be seen running beneath the church. St Trillo himself is said to founded the church in his name in Llandrillo-yn-Edeyrn in Denbighshire.

This water is also what would have been used to supply the baptisms across Llandrillo, along with having a tradition of being a healing well. A wall of stone was also constructed around the back of the chapel in a bid to protect it, though it would still have been buffeted by the winds from the coast as it sat only a short distance from the sea, though these days the coastline is much closer.

Just 6 seats are available within the chapel.
Just 6 seats are available within the chapel. -Credit:Christopher Davies / North Wales Live

Celtic monks were said to build an enclosure around their cells in order to feed themselves, these were known as a Llan, while Rhos stands for marsh, meaning Llandrillo yn Rhos, (Rhos-on-Sea in English) means St Trillo's enclosure by the marsh, thus naming today's village.

Over the centuries the building has seen heavy repairs done, and it is likely little, if any, of the original building still remains as part of it, though in spite of this the fresh water below still runs and can be seen underneath the front of alter. A fence has been erected around the chapel to help protect and preserve it for future generations.

Nearby, to the south east of the seafront, you can also spot the remains of Rhos Fynach's medieval fishing weir, which was functioning at the time of the Magna Carta in 1215, one of two which once existed in the area. It notably trapped a shark of 2.4m in length in 1865, sadly though it fell into disuse during the First World War, it's wooden stakes later being removed to protect boats.

Access to the chapel is available most days.
Access to the chapel is available most days. -Credit:Christopher Davies / North Wales Live

For a building that is so easily missed by following the road above it, the chapel is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the area, offering an insight into the history of this small village, just a small snippet of what was that still lives on. It is far from the only building like this, blending into the background, and as such it's important we remember its history, so it can be preserved for years to come.

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