St Nidan’s Old Church and The Thigh Stone
St Nidan’s Church in Llanidan is associated with a stone that had strange magical like properties including aiding fertilisation and having the power to move on its own. Wirt Sykes in his British Goblins (1881) mentions that ‘The old British historian Nennius speaks of a stone, one of the wonders of the Isle of Anglesea, which walks during the night in the valley of Eitheinn. Being once thrown into the whirlpool Cerevus, which is in the middle of the sea called Menai, it was on the morrow found on the side of the aforesaid valley.’
Sykes goes on to say that ‘The Anglesea stone is also mentioned by Giraldus, through whom it achieved celebrity under the name of Maen Morddwyd, or the Thigh Stone — ‘a stone resembling a human thigh, which possesses this innate virtue, that whatever distance it may be carried it returns of its own accord the following night. Hugh, Earl of Chester*, in the reign of King Henry I, having by force occupied this island and the adjacent country, heard of the miraculous power of this stone, and for the purpose of trial ordered it to be fastened with strong iron chains to one of a larger size and to be thrown into the sea; on the following morning, however, according to custom, it was found in its original position, on which account the Earl issued a public edict that no one from that time should presume to move the stone from its place. A countryman also, to try the powers of this stone, fastened it to his thigh, which immediately became putrid, and the stone returned to its original situation. This stone ultimately lost its virtues, however, for it was stolen in the last century and never came back.’
The stone was also thought to sweat large drops of water whenever a couple had sexual intercourse close to it and the woman would fall pregnant.
Henry Rowland (Born 1655 – Died 1723) was the authur of ‘Mona Antiqua Restaurata: An Archaeological Discourse on the Antiquities, Natural and Historical, of the Isle of Anglesey, the Antient Seat of the British Druids’ ( 1723), and also vicar of St Nidan’s Church between 1696 and 1723 when he died. During the time that Rowland was at the Church, the stone was embedded in the churchyard wall, possibly a measure to prevent it wandering off. At some point before 1723 Rowland reported that the stone had been stolen.
Rowlands also apparently found a small chest thought to contain the bones of a saint which he thought had been taken to St Nidan’s Church between 1537 and 1553. Rowland’s St Nidan’s Church dated from the 14th century and was built on the site of an earlier 7th century church which was founded by St Nidan, the confessor of St Seiriol’s priory at Penmon. This building was eventually abandoned, left to ruin and partially demolished after a new church was built and opened in 1844. The Grade II listed remains of the medieval church are on private property, though it has been partially restored and I beleive may be occasionally open to the public.
*Hugh d’Avranches, 1st Earl of Chester (Born circa 1047 – Died 27 July 1101)