Rhoscolyn Chapel – Past, Present and Future

In 2011 my then fiancé and I finally decided to make our longed for move to the seaside, leaving the Midlands behind.  Circumstances had made us decide that life’s too short to wish it away, and NOW was the time to do something about it. We knew that we wanted to move to Anglesey – not only the place where my mother, Fiona Henson and her twin were born, the place where my granny and her in-laws moved to (away from dangerous Coventry, during WW2), and the place where some of the family had already settled, but also an area my family has been in love with…almost forever! My relatives have, like many we know, long been drawn to the island; not only because of its immense beauty, but also because of its character, charm and ‘getting away from it all’ pull. My Grandfather (Mr. William Richard Henson LLB) often visited Anglesey as a boy, falling for it from the start and had, according to family legend, vowed one day to own his own property here, specifically Borth Arian in Rhoscolyn, which belonged to family friends at the time. His own mother built Ty Llwyd in Trearddur Bay, which is where my mother was born – but this was sold in 1958 when they moved to Borth Arian, which now belongs to my own parents. Both Borth Arian and Ty Lllwyd are now holiday-lets, available to book through Menai Holiday Cottages.

However, never in a million years did Mark and I believe we’d be able to relocate to Rhoscolyn. Not only do properties rarely come up for sale here, but we had a very limited budget. So, you can imagine our delight when, whilst scoring the property websites, we chanced upon an advert for Rhoscolyn Chapel (along with the cottage,Ty Capel, and outbuildings) – and found the cost manageable! Within the week I’d arranged a viewing, and soon after that we’d made an offer! How strange, yet wonderful, to be the new owners of a building I’d passed so many times, never imagining it would one day be ours! I can’t tell you how often I bemoaned the fact that it wasn’t being properly looked after, and what a great renovation project it would make! We bought it in the full knowledge that the price reflected the amount of work that needed doing but even so, as we stood there, keys in hand on the 14th of April 2012, full of excitement, it truly dawned on us what lay ahead! We also had a wedding to plan!

The reason why completion on the sale took over 6 months is another tale. To cut a long story short, ancient documents, including a covenant, came to light during the consultancy stage. They stated that the land was originally gifted to the Methodist cause by a Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lewis Hampton in May 1885, made expressly pursuant to the ‘Places of Worship Act 1873’ stating, in short, that should it ever cease to be a ‘Place of Worship’ the land would revert back to the original owner or, as in this case, to his ancestors. Apparently the trustees hadn’t done their homework! Anyway, after months of wrangling, solicitors’ letters, and barristers trying to find a way forward…the situation was finally resolved! Basically, the sale could go ahead, however, the trustees had to contact any living relatives of the Lieutenant Colonel, who were now the ones entitled to the profits. We’ve since heard that 6 living relatives were found, and one of the families has even visited us. Sorry to say, the Church made little or nothing from the sale. The chapel closed in October 2010; Its small congregation moving to a neighboring chapel in Trearddur Bay. The cemetery is still in use and we allow parking for funerals whenever there’s a need.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lewis Hampton’s link to Rhoscolyn is this. He’s connected to ‘Henllys Hall’ near Beaumaris, the Anglesey home of the Hampton family from the 16th Century; now a hotel with golf course. His father, John Hampton, High Sheriff of Anglesey, and Esquire of Henllys, inherited the Bodior Estate (which was linked to the family through marriage) in Rhoscolyn. When he died, in 1843, the estate passed to his son, John Hampton Lewis – also High Sheriff of Anglesey. The Hampton-Lewis family owned the Bodior Estate until 1946, when the Bulmer family ( of cider fame) bought it. In those days it was quite common for wealthy land-owners to ‘gift’ land to religious organisations.

Having bought such an arresting and historically interesting property, we wanted to find out more – the following is what we have gleaned thus far:

History

This Welsh Calvanistic Methodist chapel replaced an 1805-built chapel; also known as Capel Ty’n Rhos, where the Methodist cause in Rhoscolyn was first housed; a cottage on the road to the right of the present chapel (now owned by our lovely neighbours, the Webbs). It was later held in Ty Capel, the smallholding to the left of the present chapel, which later housed a schoolroom and stable area too. We now rent out Ty Capel as holiday-let with Menai Holiday Cottages. The new chapel was built in 1906, which is dated by ‘stressed rendered’ lettering above the entrance – that can still be seen today.

Interior

The Main entrance leads into a rectangular lobby with opposing side entrances witch once had panelled doors (sadly these had been removed before we moved in); the doorways lead into the chapel with ‘set fawr’ (which translates as ‘large set’ and refers to the alter area with surround) at the opposite end. All fittings are of pitch pine with 3 ranks of raking (sloped) pews. The set fawr is raised-up by steps that are rectangular with an advanced central bay flanked by entrances. The lower part of recessed panelling has turned balusters above, supporting a molded rail with turned newel posts at angles. The pulpit is raised by 3 steps; rectangular, with a slightly advanced central bay, formed by recessed panelling with the central part raised, under a molded cornice; side entrances with turned balusters and newel posts. Behind the pulpit are 3 tall recesses with open-pedimented, molded, wooden surround; the central recess with a shallow pointed head, lower flanking recesses with square-heads. The ceiling is of diagonally set tongued and grooved panels, recessed and with molded wooden dividers and circular, pierced, decorative ventilation grilles. The walls are plastered, painted, with tongued and grooved panelling under a dado rail to the lower part.

Exterior

The large single-storey, gable-entry Methodist Chapel has Renaissance style detail to the front elevation. Built of rubble masonry, rendered and pebble-dashed, with rendered dressings; hipped slate roof with red clay ridge tiles. The main entrance elevation is strongly symmetrical with a central panelled door under a gabled porch flanked by tall round-headed, sliding sash windows with margin panes; molded surrounds and stressed keystones. Above the doorway are 3 stepped, round-headed lights with corbelled sill and stressed, molded, shaped hoodmold carried down to corbels. The shaped hoodmold is mirrored in the shaped centerpiece of the parapet above, and linked to it by molded strips, framing stressed lettering reading: 1906 RHOSCOLYN; this raised panel is surmounted by a fluted urn finial on a molded plinth. The parapet is stepped down to either side, terminating in raised blocks with ‘floriate’ panels, stepped caps and urn finials, over the engaged angle pilasters of the chapel: these are reeded in their upper sections only, and have recessed floriate panels at their heads. 4 bay return elevations, each bay with segmental-headed windows and the rear elevation has 2 round-headed windows; all with slightly recessed sash windows with margin panes.

The gabled porch once had a slate roof with bargeboards supported on timber piers with chamfered angles – but, once again, this was missing when be moved in – however, we plan to reinstate it. In front of the chapel is a small yard enclosed by a low rendered wall with wrought iron railings and gates; the pedestrian gates in front of the chapel entrance have ‘chinoiserie’ style decorative piers with moulded caps surmounted by ball finials, the gates have arched head rails and horizontal upper, lock and base rails with upright railings of varying heights topped by ‘fleur de lys’ finials. Flanking low rendered wall with railings above terminates with square piers with stepped caps; the gateway to left with similar pier at left side; similarly detailed gates with circular design between the 2 lock rails.

Listed Building

The whole property, including the chapel, cottage, schoolroom and stables, was listed on the 6th of March 1998. The Reason for Listing: ”as a good example of an early C20 Methodist Chapel boldly designed and of an ambitious scale for a small rural community”. Cadw Building ID: 19947.

As far as the social history of the place goes, we’re still looking for more information. Over the past 4 years we’ve had numerous passers by and visitors stopping to tell us their tales of the place, but we’d love to have some written down for posterity. We plan to put together a book of old photos, stories and more. So please, if you have any connection, or memories to do with the chapel, we’d love to hear about them!

The Future of the chapel

As you may know, after a long and complicated journey, we were finally granted planning permission for a ‘Tearoom with an Arts & Crafts Centre’ last year. We really hope people will be pleased that the chapel is going to remain an open, community space; a place that the neighbourhood will be proud to call their own.

Our goal is to open sometime this year, hopefully in the late spring …but let’s see what happens! We have no idea how it’s going to work out, whether we’ll open all year or close in the winter; only time will tell. We’ll start of small and simple, and take things from there. We just hope you’ll all pop in for a panad one of these days!

Our aim is to use as many local producers as possible, serving only high quality homemade cakes, etc. The other plan is to involve local artists – giving them somewhere to showcase and sell their work. If you’re interested, get in touch!  We may even rent out spaces in the chapel to individual sellers but again, only time will tell. I hope to sell my own shabby-chic furniture too, and Mark is an amazing artist, and maker of all sorts of fabulous pieces, so watch this space; literally!

Other than a small kitchen area, some storage and a loo, the chapel will remain pretty much ‘as is’, so no worries on that score. Obviously, as stated before, the majority of the pews have had to be removed, but many are being used as seating for the café area!

People have given us all sorts of ideas for further uses for the space, including: cinema nights, supper clubs and so-forth. If you have any other ideas we’ve love to hear about them! No promises for what will or will not happen, but we’re open to suggestions!

Last year we applied to The Anglesey Development Fund for a Grant to get the chapel’s windows repaired/replaced. Obviously, as it has Grade II status, they had to be like-for-like, and were therefore quite costly. You’ll be pleased to hear we were awarded the Grant, and the new windows are now in place! The original glass was yellow, which we didn’t think let in enough light, so we sought permission to change these; we hope you’ll agree that it’s made a massive difference. We’ve also had Communities First (Mon CF) on board. They’re a social enterprise group whose ethos is all about providing help and support for members of our community, specialising in getting people trained and ready for work. Their carpentry team helped us detach the pews; their help was invaluable!

Thank you also to all those who wrote support letters for the grant, and to those who have expressed their enthusiasm for our project. The panel said the letters, and obvious local support, were a major factor in their decision. We’ve worked SO hard, and it’s lovely to hear that it’s appreciated. Also, a massive THANK YOU to our neighbours, the Webbs and Knowles, who have been so kind and understanding; the amount of banging, sawing and swearing has, I’m sure, been difficult to live with!

We’re so exited about opening, and are working our socks off to make that happen as soon as possible! We’ll keep you posted!