Despite successive invasions by the Romans, Saxons and Normans the west of mainland Britain remained Celtic. The first monasteries were established in Wales about the year 500. In this period numerous Celtic saints were recognised by the local church. In 616 The Battle of Chester left the people of Wales isolated from their fellow Celts in Cornwall and Cumbria. In 633 the word “Cymry” is first recorded referring to the people of what is now known as, “Cymru” (Wales). “Cymraeg” (the language) is arguably the most widely spoken of all the Celtic languages.
Places associated with Brighid in Wales include St. Bride's Bay in Pembrokeshire and a number of churches dedicated to St. Bride and San Ffraid. Many of these are in villages with names that begin with, “Llansanffraid” or “Llansantffraid”. The word “Llan”, denotes a church settlement and is usually followed by a saint's name. Examples include “Llanfair” (Mary) and “Llandewi” (David).
According to Welsh legend St. Ffraid was an Irish princess who crossed the Irish Sea on a sod of turf and landed on the banks of the Conwy river.
On the A470 just south of the A55 in the county of Conwy there is a village called Llansanffraid Glan Conwy (St. Ffraid's Church on the Bank of the Conwy). The parish church dedicated to St. Ffraid (OS SH804761) was rebuilt in 1839.
Close to the junction of the B4500 and the B4579 in the county of Wrecsam stands the church of Llansanffraid Glyn Ceiriog (The Church of St. Ffraid in the Valley of the River Ceiriog) (OS SJ205385). The church was rebuilt in 1790 and restored in 1887.
On the B5437 just off the A5 between Corwen and Llangollen there is a village called Carrog (Stream) which was once known as Llansantffraid Glyn Dyfrdwy (St. Ffraid's Church in the Valley of the River Dee). The old parish church (dating back to at least 1190) was destroyed in the flood of 1601 and rebuilt on higher ground in 1613 (OS SJ110435).
Dyserth is situated at the junction of the A5151 and B5119. The name suggests a place where a Christian hermit lived and there has been a Christian presence at Dyserth for 1500 years. The Doomsday Book (1086) mentions a church here and a stone building was dedicated by the 12th century (OS SJ056794). This was restored by Gilbert Scott in 1875. The Jesse window is said to be one of the finest in the UK. There is a fine 9th century preaching cross. The church was orginally dedicated to St. Cwyfan, a disciple of St. Beuno. Thanks to David Chapman.
The church of Llansantffraed Cwmdeuddwr (St. Ffraid's Church by the Two Waters) is located on the B4518 just to the south west of Rhayader in the county of Powys (OS SN967676). It was re-built in 1778 and in 1866. The motte nearby was built in the 12th century so it is likely that there was a church at this time.
This church is located off the A481 (OS SO099548) to the west of Llanfair-ym-Muallt (Builth Wells). It is set in a circular churchyard within a ring of yew trees. It was rebuilt in 1895.
The village of Llansanffraid Llanon (The Church of St. Ffraid by the Church of St. Non) is situated by the sea just off the A487 between Aberaeron and Aberystwyth in the county of Ceredigion (OS SN512674). This may be the site of the former Abbey of Llanfride.
This village in Powys is on the A495 some 8 miles north of Welshpool. The church (OS SJ220204) dates to the 12th century. It was extended in the 14th century, a north transept was added in 1727 and restorations took place in 1866 and 1893. The church has a mediaeval font and a window depicting St. Bride.
The beautiful west coastline of Pembrokeshire overlooks St. Bride's Bay which stretches from St. David's in the north to Wooltack Point in the south. Near the southern end of the bay there stands the tiny hamlet of St. Bride's. According to local legend St. Bride sailed from Ireland about 500ce with a group of women and established a nunnery here. The church at St. Bride's (OS SM802108) is mentioned in 1291. It was restored in 1863 and again in 2003. To the north of the Church on the beach of St. Bride's Haven there used to be the remains of a small chapel which has been lost to the sea. Fishermen prayed to Bridget for a good catch and protection at sea. Sometime between the 12th and 14th centuries this small chapel fell into decay and was used as a salt house for curing herring. In anger Bridget is said to have withdrawn her protection and there is an old rhyme that says,
When St. Bride's chapel a salt house was made,
St. Bride's lost the herring trade.
The old graveyard contained cist burials some of which have been carbon dated to the 10th century.
Brawdy parish church (OS SM857240) is situated a little inland from St. Bride's Bay off the A487 at Penycwm. The present church is 13th century restored in 1879, 1901 and 1990. It is on the site of a much earlier burial ground and there is a 6th century tombstone to the Irish man, Macutrenus. This church was originally dedicated to St. Bridget and the nave is aligned on St. Bridget's Day sunrise. The dedication was changed when the manor came under the ownership of the Bishop of St. David's Cathedral.
This holy well lies on the coastal footpath to the south of Tyddewi (St. David's). Monica Sjoo has suggested a connection with Brighid. The adjacent retreat centre has a modern chapel dedicated to St. Non with a window depicting St. Bride casting fishes into water.
The field to the North West of Castell Henllys (OS SN115393) is called Pant Sant Fread and a spring rises there. Castell Henllys is a now an arcehological centre for the understanding of the Iron Age and a spring on the site has once more been blessed by images of the Goddess.
The Norman church of Llansanffraid-ar-Elai (St. Bride's super Ely) dates from the early 13th century. It is situated just south of junction 33 on the M4 (OS ST097775). It is on a mound that is said to be a site of Druid worship and there is a very ancient yew tree in the churchyard. The church was restored in 1849 and again in 1902. There is a window dating from 1954 depicting St. Bride with a bishop's crosier in her hand.
This church is by the River Usk and A40 just south of Brecon (OS SO123235). A church on this site is mentioned in 1254 but by the late 19th century it was in ruins. The present gothic style building dates from 1885 and contains some stone and features rescued from the old church including the 13th century font.
This church lies to the south west of Bridgend by the B4265 (OS SS894750) on a small hill overlooking the village. It is a 12th century Norman church with a 15th century tower. On each side of the chancel arch there is a squint through which those in the nave can see the altar. In one of these stands a lovely statue of Bridget holding a book under her right arm and a pen in her left hand. There is a 16th century preaching cross in the churchyard.
This church lies just to the north of Bridgend by the A4065 and the river Ogmore (OS SS896835)
St. Bride's, Wentlooge (OS ST292823) stands at the mouth of the River Usk by the Bristol Channel off the B4239 south of Newport. The church is 15th century and was restored in the early 1990's.
This church is located by St. Bride's Brook in a tiny hamlet just north of junction 23a on the M4 (OS ST428895). To the west of the church is the site of the mediaeval village which may have had more than ten houses. To the north is the site of Bride's Mill.
This church stands next to the River Monnow (Afon Mynwy) close to the border with England (OS SO456203). The present building dates from 1207ce. Acorns, oak leaves and flames can be seen in the sanctuary and there is an ancient head of a nun over the porch which is said to represent Bridget.. The tower dates from a time when the Welsh borders were often raided by the English and people would need to take refuge. The walls of the tower are five feet thick. St. Fraed's Well is marked on the Ordance Survey map in nearby woods (SO 462203).