The church of St. Marcella (or Marchell) stands on the Llandyrnog road, more than a mile east of the town of Denbigh. It is also known as Whitchurch (Eglwys Wen), possibly because its exterior walls were at one time whitewashed. Despite being so far from the town, it is in fact the original parish church of Denbigh.
The church is mentioned in the Norwich Taxation of 1254. However, only the tower, an Early English doorway and the Priest's Door still remain of the early building. Most of the present building dates from the late sixteenth century. By 1828, the church had fallen into disuse, except for burials, in favour of St. Hilary's, which was much closer to the town centre. It was extensively restored in 1908/1909, and was re-opened on 1 April 1909. The church is still in regular use.
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St. Hilary's was built in the early fourteenth century, as the Garrison Chapel to Denbigh Castle. It is mentioned in a document of 1335. Strictly speaking, the official parish church was St. Marcella's; but St. Hilary's was much nearer to the centre of population, and it gradually took over many of the functions of the parish church.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, it was in need of extensive restoration; and at a Vestry meeting on 26 April 1867, it was reported that £1760 would have to be spent on essential repairs. The decision was taken, unanimously, to erect a new church, (St. Mary's), in a more convenient location. After St. Mary's had been opened, in 1875, St. Hilary's was allowed to become derelict. The roof was removed in 1904, and the church was demolished (apart from the tower) during the 1920's
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The present St. David's is the second church to be erected on this site in Denbigh. The earlier church was built between 1838 and 1840. The tower, which was not completed until 1858, is still standing, but the rest of the earlier church was demolished in 1894, and a new building was erected in its place.
St. David's is not used at present by the Church in Wales - it is leased to Howell's School, Denbigh.
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The foundation stone of St. Mary's church (which was intended to replace St. Hilary's) was laid on 6 July 1871. The consecration service was due to take place on 29 January 1874; but on 27 January 1874, the Bishop of St. Asaph announced that he would not conduct the ceremony, because he considered that a panel of the reredos "had a somewhat ritualistic tendency". Eventually the panel was removed, and after a delay of almost two years, the Bishop consecrated the church on Tuesday, 7 December 1875. There were further interruptions during the consecration service.
St. Mary's now serves, to all intents and purposes, as the parish church of Denbigh.
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Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, began the building of this church in 1578, with the intention that it should become a cathedral, to replace St. Asaph. Work was abandoned a few years later.
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For family history information about the churches and parish, visit the GenUKI Denbigh page.