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Capel Celyn Memorial Chapel

A Grade II* Listed Building in Llanycil, Gwynedd

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.957 / 52°57'25"N

Longitude: -3.7159 / 3°42'57"W

OS Eastings: 284831

OS Northings: 341332

OS Grid: SH848413

Mapcode National: GBR 67.KPW8

Mapcode Global: WH66Q.WYQ0

Entry Name: Capel Celyn Memorial Chapel

Listing Date: 18 June 2019

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 87791

Building Class: Commemorative

Location: Towards the head of Llyn Celyn, on the north shore of the lake just below the A4212.

County: Gwynedd

Community: Llanycil

Community: Llandderfel

Locality: Llyn Celyn

Traditional County: Merionethshire

History

The reservoir of Llyn Celyn was created as part of the water supply for Liverpool by damming the River Tryweryn and flooding its valley, with the loss of the little village of Capel Celyn. The primary purpose of the scheme was to regulate river flows in the Dee valley to facilitate water extraction downstream at Huntington near Chester for the benefit of Liverpool and its industries. The scheme had been deeply controversial from the outset: Liverpool Corporation announced its proposals in the Liverpool Daily Post in December 1955, and went on to sponsor a private bill in Parliament in 1956, by-passing thereby the need to gain consent from Welsh planning authorities. The Tryweryn Reservoir Bill was passed by Harold McMillan’s government in 1957 despite the opposition of 35 out of the 36 Welsh MPs. The Tryweryn Defence Committee was established, and Plaid Cymru (led by Gwynfor Evans) played an active part in opposition to the scheme, but neither peaceful protest nor the attempts at sabotage carried out by the Free Wales Army availed, and the reservoir was inaugurated in October 1965. The struggle to save the settlement was a defining moment for nationalism; the name Tryweryn remains emblematic, and the controversy probably gave impetus to the first steps towards devolution: in 1959, the establishment of a Secretary of State for Wales became Labour Party policy under Aneurin Bevan, implemented in 1965 by the Labour government of Harold Wilson, which also established a Welsh Office directly administering a range of functions.

Construction of the reservoir entailed the loss of the entire village of Capel Celyn, including its school and chapel, post office and 12 farms. 67 people lost their homes as a result. The original Capel Celyn was a Calvinistic Methodist chapel built in 1820, rebuilt in 1892 and taken down in 1964.

The memorial chapel is situated towards the NW end of the reservoir. The original intention was to establish a garden of remembrance, in which those buried in the graveyard of the original chapel could be commemorated, but the concept grew to encompass a memorial chapel, designed by the Welsh sculptor R.L. Gapper of Aberystwyth. Gapper worked with the Liverpool City architect Ronald Bradbury, who drew up the specification for the chapel in 1966. Its completion was timed to coincide with the National Eisteddfod in Bala in 1967.

The chapel was built on the site of the lost farm of Gwern Delwau, and used stones retrieved from this and buildings demolished when the reservoir was constructed, including from the original Capel Celyn. Gapper wanted the building to resemble a boat, which would symbolise the culture and religion of the community surviving the flood and coming to shore, and the choice of local, re-used stone was intended to root the building to its place. The distinctive angled window which is a strong feature of the design was positioned so as to look towards the site of the original chapel.

The memorial garden that houses grave-stones re-sited from the original Capel Celyn is surrounded by boulder field walls which incorporate the date stone from the original chapel.

R.L.Gapper was born in 1897, studied at the Royal College of Art and was principal lecturer in art and keeper of the college collections at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, between 1934 and 1962. He was best known for public works including memorials and gravestones, and was closely associated with the development of art and craft at the National Eisteddfod. He died in 1984.

Exterior

Built of local rubble stone with some dressed Arenig granite blocks; monopitch Blaenau Ffestiniog slate roof. Simple geometric form with walls gradually rising from the low entrance front overlooking the lake to a curved end with a high parapet, wrapping round an angled full-height glazed panel illuminating memorial stones within, and facing towards the site of the chapel in the lost village of Capel Celyn. There is a simple small cross at one end of this high curving wall. At their lower end, the side walls of the chapel step down and continue to enclose a terraced area overlooking the lake. From here, steps lead down to a slate path which runs around the chapel, bounded by a rubble retaining wall to the garden of remembrance above. The terraced is paved with riven slate, as a continuation of the floor inside the chapel. A further flight of steps leads down to the lake shore.

Interior

Simple interior, with bare stone walls and slate slab floor, and exposed stained roof timbers. Two steps up to curved end, on which 3 finely lettered Aberllefenni slates (inscribed by R.L.Gapper) commemorate all those buried at the original chapel, and the names of those re-buried at Llanycil and Trawsfynydd, as well as the names of two men who lost their lives in the Second World War, and were buried overseas. There is also a short line of verse from the poem Y Diwygiwr by Ben Bowen (1878-1903, whose poem ‘Pantycelyn’ won second prize at the Liverpool National Eisteddfod in 1900): ‘Yn nwfn swyn ei fynwes o/caf lonydd caf le i huno’.

Reasons for Listing

Listed at II* for both its special architectural and historic interest. The building is of special architectural interest as a modern memorial chapel, beautifully modelled and adapted to its site, and giving powerful but subtle expression to the circumstances of its building. The building is of special historic interest not only as a fine memorial to the lost chapel of Capel Celyn and the people of its community who had been buried there, but also as a symbol of the troubled story of Llyn Celyn and its defining place in the history of modern Wales.

This structure has been afforded Interim Protection under the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. It is an offence to damage this structure and you may be prosecuted.

To find out more about Interim Protection, please visit the statutory notices page on the Cadw website. For further information about this structure, or to report any damage please contact Cadw.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

  • II Pant Llwyni
    On rough ground on the slopes of Arenig Fawr, north of the A4212 above Afon Tryweryn, immediately west of the western end of Llyn Celyn.

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