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Description

Photography by John Ball - 12 June 2003 (with a Fuji FinePix S602 Zoom digital camera)

The tiny village of Llanfilo is located on a hillside about five miles northeast of Brecon. It is accessible via a narrow country lane off the main A438 Brecon to Hereford road, but appears a remote and peaceful place. It is approximately 700ft above sea level, close to Allt Filo (1,000 ft) the highest point in the parish. The parish of Llanfilo covers an area of 300 hectares, and has a population of about 170 people. It is well wooded and has a network of public footpaths and bridleways, accessible to walkers and horse-riders. The focus of the parish, and of this Images of Wales feature, is the medieval parish church, dedicated to St Bilo.

This Images of Wales feature employs photographs taken during a short side-visit I made to Llanfilo on my way back from Hay-on-Wye in June 2003. The church was locked at the time I visited, so only the exterior of the church is illustrated. One day, I hope to revisit St Bilo's to explore the church interior.

Image 1:

The village of Llanfilo, viewed from the upper end of the village.This quiet country lane runs through the centre of the village. In clear weather, the elevated position of the village offers wonderful views of the lush Breconshire countryside.

Image 2:

St Bilo's, the parish church of Llanfilo.The parish church is situated at the top end of the village, with ancient steps and a lych-gate providing access to the churchyard. A lych-gate is a roofed gateway to a churchyard, originally used prior to a burial for sheltering the coffin until the arrival of the clergyman.

Image 3:

The sign-board gives details of the services.

As the sign-board indicates, the church is dedicated to St Bilo (Beilo), a local saint and the daughter of Brychan. The dedication to Beilo is clearly recorded in 13th- and 14th-century documents, but despite this evidence, for several hundred years, and well into the 20th century, the dedication was erroneously attributed to St Milburga (or Milburg), the Abbess of Wenlock in Shropshire, and daughter of Merwald a 7th-century king of Mercia. For example, The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (published 1868) stated: "The living is a rectory in the diocese of St. David's, value with the curacy of Llandefailog-Tre'r-Graig, £324. The church is dedicated to St. Millburg". Only in the middle of the 20th century was this curious anomaly rectified.

Image 4:

St Bilo's Church, viewed here from the lych-gate, is on a sloping site.

Image 5:

The south section of the churchyard, viewed from the lych-gate. In the foreground is a PRYCE family grave.

The churchyard has a roughly oval perimeter, most of which may be the original boundary. It occupies a relatively level shelf on a northwest-facing slope, but the ground within the churchyard slopes gently from west to east. It is well-maintained and is used for modern burials. A stone wall surrounds most of the churchyard, sometimes acting as a revetment.

Image 6:

The stone lych-gate, on the east side of the churchyard, is claimed to date from circa 1700.

Image 7:

A plaque inside the lych-gate indicates that the structure was repaired after the Great War.

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