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Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A new virtual museum will tell the story of chapels in Wales!

Digital Dissent: The Story of Welsh Chapels
The Royal Commission and Addoldai Cymru (The Welsh Religious Buildings Trust) have recently been granted over £60,000 for the development of a virtual museum recounting the story of over 300 years of Nonconformity in Wales!

Visit Wales has awarded the funding (part of the Digital Tourism Framework Programme) as part of a larger project, supported by Heritage Lottery funding and Cadw grant aid. The project aims to restore and interpret Yr Hen Gapel, Llwynrhydowen, the famous Grade II* listed Unitarian chapel and the centre from which grew a remarkable group of Unitarian chapels in Dyffryn Teifi, Ceredigion. This was the area called Y Smotyn Du (The Black Spot) by some of their opponents.

Resources will include the creation of virtual access to chapels in the care of Addoldai Cymru through laser scanning, gigapixel photography and computer visualisation. It will also provide interpretative analysis and GIS mapping of the Royal Commission’s 6400 plus records of Nonconformist chapels across Wales via an interactive website.

This project will build on the long-running work of the Royal Commission, in conjunction with Addoldai Cymru and Capel, in highlighting the importance of chapels as a distinctive and iconic building type in Wales, which contributes significantly to both our urban and rural landscapes. Variety in chapel building ranges from the small and simple vernacular chapels, commonly associated with the Welsh countryside, to the grandiose architect-designed ‘show façades’ in our towns and cities, which are now recognised as being on a par with the other great public buildings of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Chapels are now one of the classes of buildings in Wales most at threat from redundancy. The Royal Commission’s chapels database holds a wealth of information on individual chapels, including denomination, dates, architects, language, and cost of construction. The database is supported by a programme of survey and photography, and there is an ever-increasing archive held within the National Monuments Record of Wales, with nearly 1300 digital images available on the Royal Commission’s online database, Coflein (

Bethania Welsh Baptist Chapel was originally built in 1832, and then rebuilt by the great chapel architect, William Beddoe, in 1908. NPRN: 13780.

Hen Dŷ Cwrdd Unitarian Chapel was built in 1751. Described as the Mother Church of Unitarianism in the Cynon valley, it was the first Nonconformist place of worship in the valley. Its most prominent minister was the Rev. Thomas Evans (Tomos Glyn Cothi), prolific author, imprisoned radical and friend of Iolo Morganwg. NPRN: 8941

The exciting new project will be working with local communities to hold survey training days, community history days, and a series of lectures.

Forthcoming events include:

Community history days: tell your stories and bring your photos!

Drop in and share your memories with staff from the Royal Commission, and discover what information we have about your chapel:

  • Hen Dŷ Cwrdd, Trecynon: 11 June, 3─6pm at Mount Pleasant public house, Trecynon, Aberdare, CF44 8NG.
  • Hen Gapel, Llwynrhydowen: 25 June, 2─7pm at Capel Llwynrhydowen, Pontsian, Llandysul, Ceredigion, SA44 4UB.
  • Peniel, Tremadog: 10 July, 2─7pm at Capel Peniel, Tremadog, Porthmadog, Gwynedd, LL49 9PS.
  • Bethania, Maesteg: 23 July, 2─7pm at Capel Bethania, Bethania Street, Maesteg CF34 9EX.

Open Doors: this year there will be three Royal Commission and Addoldai Cymru Open Doors partnership events.

  • Hen Dŷ Cwrdd Unitarian Chapel, Trecynon, Aberdare, CF44 8NT, 6 September. A display of hand-drawn architectural drawings of Aberdare chapels by Mr William King and an opportunity to view the oldest Nonconformist chapel in the Cynon valley from 10am-12pm. There will also be a talk by Royal Commission chapel’s expert, Stephen Hughes, “Chapels: The National Architecture of Wales”.
  •  Yr Hen Gapel, Llwynrhydowen, Rhydowen, Llandysul, Ceredigion, SA44 4QB, September 13. Talk by Royal Commission chapels expert, Stephen Hughes, “Chapels: The National Architecture of Wales” and local choir from 3-6pm; refreshments available from the Alltyrodyn Arms, Rhydowen. 
  • Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, Crown Building, Plascrug, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 1NJ, 20 September. Talks 11am -1pm, tours 1.30pm and 2pm. Come and find out more about the chapel architecture of Wales. On 20 September, the Royal Commission is opening its doors for a chapels’ history day. There will be talks by leading experts, rich archival material on display, and the opportunity to discover more about the database of over 6000 chapels and the exciting partnership project between the Royal Commission and Addoldai Cymru. The afternoon tours of Aberystwyth’s historic chapels are limited to 15 people per tour. For further information and booking, please contact , tel: 01970 621200. Tours will start at 1.30pm and 2pm and will meet outside The English Baptist Chapel, Alfred Place, Aberystwyth.

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