Leicester's Church, Denbigh
Leicester's Church, Denbigh

The substantial remains of a large 16th-century church begun by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Dudley was a favourite of Elizabeth I, and one of the most powerful men in Elizabethan England, until he lost the queen's favour - and his life.

The church was begun in 1578 and was probably the largest church begun during Elizabeth's long reign. Dudley intended the church to replace St Hilary's Chapel, and possibly to become a new Protestant cathedral, replacing St Asaph's Cathedral. However, work petered out after only a few years, partly because the Earl's personal unpopularity made it impossible for him to raise the necessary funds to finance the project.

The money that had already been raised was instead used to pay for a military campaign in Ireland. Work proceeded sporadically, but local people were so vehemently opposed to it that they frequently destroyed work as it was completed. Eventually, the project was completely abandoned and the church was left a roofless ruin and a testament to one man's ambition.

The design was modelled after medieval friary churches, with no division between the chancel and nave. It was intended to have 10 bays, with side aisles, and it measured 55 metres long by 23 metres wide. The design called for a Gothic exterior, but a classically inspired interior, with arcades of Tuscan columns alternating between single columns and pairs.


The church ruins stand just below Denbigh Castle, and just a stone's throw from the medieval town walls wall-walk entrance. The church is in a fairly ruinous condition and when we visited it was locked and looked like it had been so for some time. But, and it's a big but, you can easily see through the barred gate, and see a lot of the church building from outside; enough to realise just how impressive it would have been if it had been completed.