St Mary's, Pilleth
|Brecon and Radnorshire|
Pilleth is a small village south of Knighton in Radnorshire. It is the site of the ancient church and well of St Mary’s which stands on Bryn Glas Hill overlooking the River Lugg, as it makes it way to Presteigne.
- Pwll-y-Llethr –from Welsh for The Pit on the Slope, which could refer to the healing well of the church of St Mary
- Pill Lledd – meaning The Wide Refuge
Well and the church
It is thought by historians that Pilleth has been a place of worship since the foundations of the early Celtic Christian church, its location founded on the well here. Throughout the Middle Ages pilgrims came to the holy well, reputed to have healing properties for the eyes in particular. The church was much frequented in the Middle Ages, with the current structure dating mainly from the 13th century, the tower from the 14th century, and its single bell from circa 1450.
The church was greatly damaged during a battle in 1402 battle. In 1894 a fire destroyed much of the ancient woodwork, with surviving items transferred to other local churches.
As a result of new cottages being built, the village began to grow again in late Victorian times to a population of over 100. In 1909 Edward Whitehead, a London lawyer resident in Nant-y-Groes, engaged Sir Walter Tapper who installed a temporary roof and the stone steps on the southern side.
After the sword, breastplate and set of spurs reportedly belonging to Sir John Price were stolen in the 1990s, The Friends of Pilleth was formed to help raise funds for the restoration and ongoing maintenance of St Mary’s. A major programme of restoration was undertaken in 2002-2004, partly funded by a grant from lottery funds.
Battle of Bryn Glas
Pilleth was also the location of one of the most important battles in Welsh history. On 22 June 1402 during the battle of Battle of Bryn Glas, the forces of Owain Glyndŵr defeated the forces of King Henry IV commanded by Sir Edmund Mortimer, Lord of the March. Glyndŵr's force went on to sack and burn Leominster.
The Battle of Pilleth was subsequently mentioned by Shakespeare in Henry IV, Part 1.
In the 19th century four redwood Wellingtonia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) were planted after the discovery of a large burial ground from the battle.