Our Grapple with the Chapel: Rhoscolyn Renovations & Revelations

Painting you a Picture…

Being fortunate enough to both live and work here, as well as running the ‘Rhoscolyn Life’ Facebook page for Menai Holiday Cottages – and writing the blogs for the accompanying website – means I get lots of queries about beautiful Rhoscolyn, as well as Anglesey in general – but also about our Rhoscolyn Chapel Conversion, connection to the island, and how we ended up here. Today I’m going to try and answer some of those questions, and get you up to speed with our chapel project at the same time!

And yes, I have chosen fairly flattering photos of myself for this piece; what of it? And no, It has NOTHING whatsoever to do with being horrified by seeing myself on the video below (edited by Mark) – so there!

First Things First: A Polite Request

In case you haven’t heard, we’ve been granted permission to run an arts & crafts gallery with a tea-room – here in Rhoscolyn Chapel – and hope to be able to open our doors to you all as soon as possible!

Before I tell you more about that though, and about our own story too, I trust you won’t mind me mentioning that we’re right in the middle of a drive to raise a bit of extra cash to get this new venture up and running for the summer holidays!

If you’d like to take a look at a video of our renovation efforts to date…and perhaps make a pledge too… PLEASE, click on the link below! It’s SO easy to do – but time is fast running out!


Guilt Trip

So, for all of you who enjoy my regular Facebook posts, if I’ve ever cheered up your day with a ravishing Rhoscolyn view, or you’ve clocked a seaside scene of mine that’s made you smile – a pledge of any size would be most appreciated! If you think about it, if everyone who follows me (that’s over 1,600 of you) were to pledge just £5…we’d hit our target; no problem at all!

For those of you that might need persuading that extra bit, please remember, not only have our efforts made a new Anglesey (eating-out and artistic) experience likely in the near future, we’ve also preserved this special Grade II building for future generations to enjoy! Indeed, before our intervention the chapel was close to succumbing to the elements completely – and really wouldn’t have lasted much longer without our help!

Keeping up Appearances…

Seriously, when we got here in 2012, it looked nothing like the photo above – with the wild Welsh weather having done its worst for years! Sadly, a diminishing congregation, and little money to spend on repairs, meant the chapel’s officials had had to let things slide. Although, not at the ‘no-going-back stage’ just then, its missing tiles, ill-fitting doors, and broken glass were already allowing rain-water and wind inside, and the whole place was rapidly beginning to rot!

Window Dressing..

For example, the window frames were soft to the touch (as were many of the floor and ceiling joists); coming away in damp or dusty handfuls – but, you’ll be pleased to hear, they’ve now been replaced! Added to this, the pesky woodworm had been making a proper meal of the pews for quite some period – and there were many more issues of a similar ‘nature’!

We’ve obviously kept or incorporated as many of the original features as possible, but in some instances, it’s been more a case of reworking them into the design. For example, the remaining pews have been remodelled into booth-style seating areas, and the redundant wooden wall-panelling (from what is now the kitchen area) makes up part of the ‘new’ counters! You’ll even be able to sit and enjoy a cuppa on the alter one of these days – with the area where the hymn numbers once hung having become a menu-board instead!

Take a Pew…

Although no longer a place of worship, we believe we’ve retained enough of it’s ecclesiastical dignity to impress, and to keep the traditionalist happy too – whilst gaining a sense of snugness and distinctiveness as well! And you won’t be disappointed with our other design flourishes either; Mark and I are both well known for our idiosyncratic, creative touches!

We hope you agree that Rhoscolyn just wouldn’t have been the same if its lovely old chapel had been left to spoil further  – and so, if its pretty facade has ever made you smile, or you’ve been delighted to see it slowly emerge ‘triumphantly’ from the edge  – please pledge whatever you can!

Blast From the Past…

Furthermore, by selling the work of lots of local artists, we’ll be facilitating extra income-sources for lots of people – as well as being able to share their talents with a much wider audience! We also hope to employ hitherto out-of-work and socially challenged youngsters from the area. Plus – it’ll be an attractive addition to the island, and somewhere special to enjoy a tasty treat with family & friends! By the way, we have a long list of gifted people ready to exhibit and sell stuff with us – they’re just waiting for the call! If you’re interested yourself you’ll find my contact details further on!

Not only that! Anyone who donates gets an invitation to our opening party!

Meet & Drink…

The Overall Scheme of Things

Right from the start we knew wanted to do something ‘special’ with the chapel space and, because we’re both very interested in arts & crafts (and cakes & cooking too!), we thought a gallery – showcasing Anglesey’s amazing talent – would be a perfect fit; not only in regards to us and the local creative expertise – but to the wonderful building, and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty it stands in!

We also recognised the need for a quirky, family-friendly cafe in Rhoscolyn – able to meet the needs of both locals, and the many walkers, cyclists, and visitors to this gorgeous part of northwest Wales – as well as forming a community hub and social hot-spot. In time we also hope to be able to run various artistic and musical workshops from the chapel too – and will actively encourage local school, social, and hobby groups to use it as a meeting, greeting, and teaching venue as well!  

Chapel of Dreams…

We’ll be dog-friendly too – and are even thinking of offering 5% off in the tearoom to anyone who walks or cycles here!

Making the Move

With the risk of this reading like the most self-indulgent newsletter ever – let me just say one thing before I go any further. If you think Mark and I haven’t rowed, screamed, or thrown tantrums when things have gone wrong (or just because we’ve been tired) you’d be mistaken! We love our life here, thank our lucky stars every day…but even in Rhoscolyn things can sometimes be less than perfect! Once, for example, I lay on a huge pile of wet mud (crying) and refused to move for an hour because I was so fed-up with shovelling in the rain!

Yes, tired of city life, and weary of the low we felt every time we left the islands, we threw caution to the wind, and – like family members before us – moved here permanently – and it’s the best decision we’ve ever made! Although, as I’ve mentioned, funds have been very tight (we had to live in a caravan for 6 months, gone without electricity, heating and water – and eaten a lot of baked beans), we’ve never regretted it for a moment…well, perhaps for a bit when I was lying in the mud!

Rhoscolyn Life…

For those that don’t know our background, 6 years ago, after buying the unloved and empty Methodist Chapel discussed above, my husband and I made Rhoscolyn our permanent home. Although there was a tiny cottage attached, as well as a dilapidated schoolroom, and cobble-floored stables – the whole lot was completely uninhabitable, damp, dreary – and in need of (amongst many other things), new wiring, new plumbing, new heating systems, more parking, new joists, new flooring, new roofing, bathrooms, kitchens, ceilings, new plastering – plus, a new septic-tank – and MUCH more besides!

A Rocky Start…

We’re fully aware that many of you will be looking at our lovely life and wondering why we need the help – and it’s true, we couldn’t be happier (apart from the frustration of not being able to open the Chapel just yet) – but honestly, we don’t have a penny to spare! The cost of renovating a Grade II property, paying the bills, as well as making sure we get everything legally signed-off, has really and truly added up! Lots of the issues mentioned weren’t at all obvious when we bought the place – and every seemingly simple job we’ve begun has thrown up a load more complicated (and expensive) ones along the way!

A Work in Progress…

We’re not struggling to live exactly, but have forfeited a lot of things like new cars (I’m still driving the same banger we rocked up in 6 years ago), foreign holidays, nice clothes, and most other indulgences – whilst obviously still doing our bit for the kids. We are struggling, however, to live AND get the Chapel ready! It’s a bit of a Catch 22 situation really – knowing that doing things slowly means not owing the bank, but the slower we go, the longer it’ll be until we open! But perhaps, with your generous help, we might make it happen sooner rather than later! If not, bear with us – we’ll get there someday; come-what-may!

Listen, we’re not silly, and know there are a 101 more worthy causes to support out there, and we don’t expect you to feel sorry for us either – that’s why we’re only asking for small amounts – but TRUELY – every bit helps!

Also, we’re so excited about everything, and just want the chance to share it with you all as soon as possible!

Light of my Life…

It’s true we got a bargain in terms of the buy, but since then – with the whole property being in need of serious attention, and no planning permissions whatsoever – we’ve worked tirelessly (with little outside help – and  VERY limited funds) on renovating the place ourselves! Not only this, we’ve spent countless hours getting the permissions granted! All in all, we’ve had to spend a lot of time and effort (not to mention cash) getting where we are today…which is tantalisingly close!

Within Our Sights…

This problematic (but exciting) exercise has meant getting our heads around the weird and wonderful world of the planning process (with a Grade II listed status making things A LOT more complicated), grappling with eighteenth-century covenants, plus – getting fully involved in a DIY renovation! Almost everything we’ve ever saved, or earned since, has gone into bringing our dream to fruition – and all but the most technical of work has been done by us, and us alone – along with our friend, the wonderful Mr Ashley, who works with us part-time in exchange for board and lodging…and a bit of (unwanted) parenting besides!

A Tale of Two Hippies…

We got married shortly after arriving on Anglesey; with the civil ceremony taking place in Trearddur, and the Pagan ‘handfasting’ (and home-made reception) being in beautiful Rhoscolyn! FYI: Our wedding outfits cost £30 each, and we hired them from a theatre! We also spent countless hours making bunting and what-not, used flowers from the hedgerows and garden, and collected mix & match charity shop china instead of hiring it – which, by the way, we’ll be reusing in the tearoom! Although simple it was superb; cheap, yes – but wonderfully cheerful!

Introducing…the Glanvilles…

As you’ve probably guessed, we’re very into upcycling and salvage…and have used these skills to the full in terms of our own home  – and in the Chapel too. Not only has this helped to keep costs down, but it’s given us a huge sense of achievement – and it’s much more ethical as well. Below you can see some of my ‘car-boot bootie’ –  in the process of being ‘snazzed-up’ for the opening!

New Lease of Life…

Location, Location, Location

It was our great-grandparents who first chose Anglesey as a destination for the family – however, exactly ‘why’, is a little unclear. Obviously, we’re eternally grateful – and know it must have had something to do with the beauty, rugged charm, and special seaside atmosphere that we still love and cherish – but, coming from the Midlands (at least a four-hour drive away today, and even longer when the A5 had a grass track up the middle), didn’t make it an obvious choice! For years the family rented, only later building their own property – which was soon to become the WW2 refuge for the women and children of the family.

Ty Llewd: The Trearddur Safe Harbour…

Apparently though, in the 1920s and 30s, Trearddur Bay (which is just up the road – and where our great-grandmother chose to build her house after her husband’s death) was a hot-spot for artists and free spirits alike; being especially popular with those interested in the Arts and Crafts movement – as the number of properties built in that style – including the one that was once hers (shown above) stand testament to. Therefore, we can only assume they were lured by the bohemian ambience! I like to think that my husband and I have something of the same spirit!


Although the Henson family loved holidaying at Ty Llewd, and had fond memories of moving there more permanently during the1940s, as the family grew (there were to be eight children by the end) my grandparents needed to look for somewhere a bit bigger! Hence the move in 1958 to Borth Arian, in nearby Rhoscolyn. To find out more about the family’s war-time Trearddur years, and Borth Arian’s link to the world-famous architect and town-planner, Sir Patrick Abercrombie, click the link! By the way, it was the 8th child, Kate (the baby below), who finally forced the family move; and about time too! Incidentally, am I right in thinking this photo was taken on Port y Post? I think I’ve even cleaned the house behind them!

Baby One More Time…

Whatever our grandparent’s reason for choosing Anglesey, and this heavenly corner of Holy Island in particular, it’s certainly made its mark on the family! Over the years, one by one, four of my mother’s five brothers and their families moved here to live and work full-time. Two reside in Rhoscolyn (and still work as lobster-fisherman), one in Trearddur, with the youngest in Bodorgan. The oldest brother lives in South Wales, but he, as well as the other siblings, their children and grandchildren – make regular pilgrimages back to the island!

Incidentally, our mum (the extra-smiley one below – 2nd from the left) and her twin – were born in Trearddur! With so many family links, and people coming back and forth all the time, we get to see everyone more than we ever did before – which is a fantastic bonus; as are the lifelong family friends we’ve made here over the years! I can safely say that Anglesey, this little piece in particular, is a huge part of the (Henson) family’s heart and soul!

(and Grandpa Henson)…

Now we live here – we want to put OUR heart and soul into creating a lasting legacy to be proud of too – as well as being able to share this special place with you guys! The chapel has been an important part of Rhoscolyn life for over 100 years – and with our hard work, and your help, it’ll be around for over a hundred more!

The Shape of Things to Come…

Me, Myself, and I

Unlike my mum, I wasn’t born in Trearddur but, like her, I’ve been visiting Anglesey forever! Not a summer, Easter or half-term holiday has gone by without us wending our way here. With friends and cousins aplenty, rockpools and sand, freedom, fires on the beach, cliffs to climb, and abundance of wildlife to be wowed by – and with views to make our hearts soar – we were in seventh heaven! Even as teenagers the magic never wore off; in fact, we were given much more freedom here than at home! Wild and free (my husband would say feral), we all had a fabulous time!

Part of the ‘Henson’ Infestation…

Above you can see me (back-row, far-left) on one of our amazing Anglesey summer holidays – along with my naughty looking brother (up front with a crab!), and some of our many cousins (there are 25 Rhoscolyn-related 1st cousins in all…and loads of ‘2nd’ and ‘once-removed’ ones as well; most of whom either live closeby, or visit regularly! 3 of those shown above are my mum’s twin-sister’s children, another 4 grew up here – and went to local schools – and five of them have parents who live in Rhoscolyn to this day!

Taken on Rabbit Island (AKA Sausage Island/Ynys Las)  – this exciting place is still a favourite family focal point for a day of simple seaside pleasures! I’d like to draw your attention to Polly’s beautiful ‘bowl-like’ haircut – although, to be fair, look like a boy! I’m very envious of Kit’s Shetland jumper though, and would enjoy wearing that today…which can’t be said for a lot of our old outfits! As I said, these guys are still regular Rhoscolyn returnees, and I love them all to bits – along with their numerous munchkins too! Yes, we’re still multiplying!

The Questionable Safety Standards of the 1970s…

Even closer to home, I’m one of 5, and we have all, always, loved Anglesey!  My older sisters, Lucy and Emma (along with their husbands), have carried on the tradition of big families – with 5 kids apiece; who all adore the place as well! Our gorgeous younger sister (Georgia – born when the rest of us were aged: 21, 20, 16 and 12 – which was quite a shock, but a brilliant one) is yet to start a family, but we know when she does they’ll be just as crazy about it as the rest of! Silly, funny Jim is sadly no longer with us, but I think we all feel closer to him here than anywhere else.

Those Crazy Kids…

Brought up in the Midlands, after school I studied English and Drama at Queen Mary University, London (and The Central School of Speech & Drama); working as a stage manager during and after graduation – with a spot of acting thrown in here and there. The companies I worked with took shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival four years in a row; huge fun, but it meant shorter summers in Rhoscolyn…and earning a pittance! We also put on various small productions in London. Later, when I felt an unrelenting urge to travel, I worked for the holiday company Kuoni, with postings in both Switzerland and Cuba.

However, at 27 I decided I should do something sensible, and trained as an English and Drama teacher, gaining my PGCE from Leicester University. I returned to Cuba and taught English (and Geography) at the International School of Havana – then, after a short stint back in the UK – I also taught in the Cayman Islands, the Emirates, and Thailand – before finally returning, full-time, to Britain.

School Sports – Thai Style…

Here I took up my 3rd Head of Department role; this time in a large, socially challenged, Academy school in Leicester. This, as I’m sure you’ll understand (after a decade working in the relative calm of the international school setup), came as rather a shock to the system! However, it’s what I needed – and I was glad to give something back to the country that trained me.

Emirati Beach Party…

Although challenging on many levels, teaching in the private (international) sector can make you a bit ‘soft’…but I managed to escape its soothing grasp before it was too late! I’m not criticizing those that do it, not at all, but it wasn’t for me long-term; I needed something that suited my creative side more! Plus, teenagers (from any country) are really annoying after a while! Travel certainly widened my horizons in every sense, but coming home taught me valuable lessons about what I was REALLY interested in, and what I wanted from life going forwards – which wasn’t teaching!

During my time away, I certainly made the most of being in the midst of so many beautiful places and fascinating cultures, met lots of interesting people, and got to visit other countries including, Jamaica, Mexico, Oman, Egypt, India, and Kenya. Although very much on a shoestring (which is obviously the best way to do it) these adventures will live with me forever – and not only made me far more broad-minded – but helped form my eclectic interior design style as well!

Full of both highs and lows, I count myself as very lucky to have been able to wander so far, and experience so much.

Pyramid Scene…

Although I’d decided to leave the teaching profession by this stage, in the run-up to the Anglesey move I worked as a supply teacher for a bit in the Midlands, then here on the Island too (primarily in Amlwch and Bodedern). You’ve no idea how liberating knowing a job you’ve fallen out of love with is now only a short-term thing! I ended up leaving the career on a high, and enjoyed (almost) every ‘last’ minute! Don’t panic – I wasn’t putting my feet up and ignoring the syllabus (or students!) – it’s just that it was no longer a life-sentence – which freed me up to appreciate the good bits again! There’s obviously a lot that I miss about teaching – but there’s also a lot that I don’t!

Soon after arriving on Anglesey, I also tried my hand at managing The White Eagle in Rhoscolyn – but, although a super pub, I decided the late nights weren’t for me – and also that I wanted to be my own boss! As well as this I’ve done: private tutoring, exam marking, waitressing, writing-work, gardening, photography, decorating, cleaning, and housekeeping – basically, anything to keep the pennies coming in! In the meantime, Mark’s been tackling the main parts of the renovation – and making a fantastic job of it too! Nowadays, we also rent out parts of the property as holiday lets; which is really great, but very seasonal in terms of income.

I’ve certainly not sidestepped getting my hands dirty on the renovation project though –  as anyone who knows me can testify! I’m now a dab-hand with a power tool, and can often be seen wheelbarrowing rocks in the rain, bashing through walls, and climbing (precariously) up ladders! Indeed, I have a wardrobe full of my smart teaching gear that I barely ever wear; nowadays, I’m more usually seen ‘modelling’ ripped clothes covered in mud, paint and/or dust; not very glamorous (poor Mark), but I love it!

More Tea Vicar…?

My hobbies are: interior design, LOTS of reading, writing, local history, photography, gardening, foraging, arts & crafts – as well as all things Anglesey offers in terms of wildlife, walks, and water! My worst trait is my astonishingly awful temper (when I feel an injustice has taken place!), and my best is my positive outlook!

I would have loved children of my own, but with 3 brilliant step-kids (now 22, 19 and 14), and with zillions of students over the years, as well as all the scrummy children in the family – what’s there to moan about? Rhoscolyn is now a part of my step-children’s lives too, and we believe always will be; it’s been amazing fun introducing them to it!

Spring in our Step…

My Better Half

Mark left home and school at 16, and has basically fended for himself ever since. He worked for a while in Leicester’s once-thriving textile industry, before becoming Head of Maintenance in a large care-home – where he stayed for over 10 years. We met when I returned from working in Thailand, and he was the person renting my house! As I needed it back we came to an agreement; I’d stay there during the week, but go back to my parents on the weekends he had his kids over. The rest is history!  Obviously, he passed the Rhoscolyn ‘Litmus Test’ first though – any screaming at seaweed, or leaping away from lobsters and limpets – and he’d have been history! Luckily for me, he fell in love with the place too (and me) – and embraced it (and me) in all its wild and wonderful glory! 

It’s strange but true – that I travelled all over the world in search of something, or someone special…and there he was, in my own home, waiting for me the whole time! Oh, and if you hadn’t already realised it – he has 3 wonderful children! Obviously, I have to say that just in case they read this one day! Only joking, I love them all very much!  

Rhoscolyn’s Got Rhythm!

Mark’s the love of my life and, although he barely has a qualification to his name, he’s MUCH cleverer than me, a fantastic artist and craftsman – and really has been the driving force behind turning our ramshackle property into something precious! He’s the only person I know who’s read ‘A Brief History of Time’ to the end AND understands it! Yes, he’s very talented, as well as a cheesecloth wearing, MESSY, didgeridoo (he even made the one he’s playing on below) and bongo playing, science and technology obsessed, Pagan, hippie! My family adore him – not only has he helped to calm me down (somewhat) – but because he can make and mend just about anything – oh, and he’s really lovely too!

Sunset Serenade…

He’s now looking forward to putting his hand to more artistic matters – so look out for his gorgeous creations coming soon! We make a really great team, and if anyone can make this new venture work – we can!

Life is far too short for what-ifs, and regrets – and so here we are. My family, by the way, have been AMAZING – we couldn’t have done this without them!   


The Name Game
We can’t decide on a name for the tearoom and gallery! Can you help?

We’ve been thinking about this for far too long – and now we’re in a pickle! Here are the ideas/suggestions so far – but, please, if you have others – let us know:

  • Rhoscolyn Chapel– Gallery & Tearoom
  • Rhoscolyn – Tearoom & Gallery
  • The Chapel/Y Capel – Gallery & Tearoom
  • The Rock Rose – Gallery & Tearoom
  • The Spotted Rock Rose – Tearoom & Gallery (county flower of Anglesey)
  • The Beach Rose – Tearoom & Gallery
  • The Pink Limpet – Gallery & Tearoom
  • Ty’n Rhos Tearoom & Gallery
  • The Dragon-pie Tearoom & Gallery
  • The Kittiwake Cafe & Gallery (a local seabird)
  • Daffodils and Dragons – Gallery & Tearoom
  • The Glanville Gallery (& Tearoom)

Scouting For Talent

For anyone interested in exhibiting and selling their art and/or craft work with us – please contact me on: sophiefionaclark@hotmail.co.uk

Only High quality, quirky, original, and/or professional pieces, please! Also, we’re only really interested in artifacts based on UK coastal and country themes – so (although super in a different context) no paintings of London skylines, rampaging elephants, or representations of robots! Abstract is fine – but DO think about your audience! Paintings, pottery, textiles, weaving, woodcraft, jewellery – and anything else you can think of – we’re open to lots of ideas!

The same goes for the cafe!

See you (for a painting, panad, and slice of bara-brith) Soon!

Until Next Time

I hope that’s cleared up a few things! Sorry to waffle on so much – but you have no idea how many times we’ve had to tell this story to interested passers-by, as well as people in the pub – and we thought this might help! We also want you to understand the passion behind the project – and share in the excitement of our journey!

We’d love to be able to say we’ll be open this summer – and that’s certainly the plan…but, we’re not promising anything! All we will say is this – you’ll be the first to know when we do, and –  if the Kickstarter thing works out –  it’ll be sooner rather than later!

Thank you SO much for taking the time to be interested, and (hopefully) for donating too – I can’t tell you how much it means to us!

We simply CAN’T WAIT to welcome you to the revamped Rhoscolyn Chapel in the not too distant future!

Once again, if you feel you could help us out in any way, please make a pledge via the following easy to navigate link below:

Diolch yn Fawr  – Thank you Very Much!

With love – and lots to look forward to,

Soph & Mark Glanville X


P.S. For anyone interested in the reason the chapel got its Grade II listing, the 19th century architecture, and the old covenants that caused us so much grief early on in the planning process  – click on the following link: Rhoscolyn Chapel – Past, Present, and Future – but remember, the opening dates for the Tearoom & Gallery have changed since then!