- Nprn: 7147
- Cadw Ref: 22/B/10(4)
- Cadw Record No: 10181
- Summary: By the end of the 1870s, a number of the mother chapels of the Welsh nonconformist denominations were not only reaching full capacity but also the early-nineteenth century designs and layouts were dated. The time was ripe for them to update and also to assert newfound confidence by making their mark on the townscape. By about 1870, the Penmaesglas Welsh Independent chapel of 1821, up in the old town, was becoming rather cramped. Also, the centre of the town had moved from the old medieval borough, north and northwest; the town hall for example had moved from its original site at the top of Great Darkgate Street to its present position well outside the town walls. In 1875, a block of houses due for demolition was purchased for the site of a new chapel, Seion. Richard Owens of Liverpool was appointed architect. The chapel was opened on 1 May 1876.
It is built on a tighly enclosed urban site, and is in the Italianate Classical style, with two storeys plus a basement. The gable end facade is of snecked rubble masonry with painted freestone dressings; the central bay is articulated by paired giant pilasters with composite caps and by a crowning triangular pediment and has paired central entrances below a tripartite round-headed window. The outer bays each have rusticated facades, with a single plain sash window to the ground floor and an arch-headed window with tracery to the upper storey.Interestingly the double pilasters on the gable façade are not vertical but rake towards the top, presumably acting as buttresses to counteract the thrust of the arcade.
The Cambrian News described the interior as the most handsome in the town. Within the chapel has a three-sided panelled and bracketed gallery mounted upon cast-iron plain Ionic columns. Above, the ceiling is plastered, with coving and panelling to the central nave, with acanthus ornamented roses in each bay. Transverse ribs cut through the dentil cornice and are carried on Corinthian corbel shafts. Behind the platform and set fawr with balustraded parapets rests a full height organ case.
Source: Cadw Listed Building Record
RCAHMW Inventory Documents
K Steele, RCAHMW, 16 November 2009
- Description: Chapel built 1814/15; rebuilt 1878 in Classical style, gable entry type, to the design of Richard Owen of Liverpool. Cost £4400. The schoolroom is beneath the chapel. Modified 1903 & post 1908. Status (1998): in chapel use.
History: the present chapel, built 1876-78, is the 5th chapel to be built in Aberystwyth in the 19th century for the Independent cause. The Welsh Independent cause had been established in Llanbadarn Fawr rather than Aberystwyth and a new chapel was built there in 1804, which people from Aberystwyth supported. Only in 1810 was it resolved to build a small chapel in Aberystwyth itself (adapting an old storehouse below Rheidol bridge); before then Aberystwyth Independents had relied on itinerant preachers. Even so the cause in Aberystwyth did not prosper until the advent of Azariah Shadrach. A largely self-taught man from a poor family, he was invited to take charge of the chapel at Talybont and of Capel Soar in Llanbadarn Fawr in 1806. Under him, the first Capel Seion was established in Aberystwyth in 1816, near the lower end of Eastgate, and then, when the rent doubled in 1818, the congregation used an old barn with earth floor in Queen Street. The cause began to prosper after the big mass meeting on Penmaesglas Common in 1818, in which some very eminent preachers participated. As a result, the foundations were laid on 21 August, 1821 (W. J. Lewis) for a new church in Penmaesglas, now Vulcan Street; this new church was opened 11 May, 1823, the great Dr Phillips of Neuaddlwyd, near Aberaeron, preaching the first sermon. A gallery was added later, and the ground floor was without seats until 1830 (W. J. Lewis).
So things remained until 1871, on the death of the next Minister. The Vulcan Street chapel was by now too small; The Reverend Job Miles (from Merthyr Tydfil) accepted an call as Minister but on condition a new chapel was built. By now the centre of the town was moving N. and NE. from the Penmaesglas area. Four houses were purchased in 1875 on the site of the present chapel, and an architect was appointed: Richard Owen of Liverpool (1831-91), relative of Hugh Owen, one of the founders of the University College in Aberystwyth. The new chapel was begun 15 May, 1876. Richard Owen designed over 250 chapels in Wales; in Cardiganshire, he had also designed the English Presbyterian Church in Bath Street, Aberystwyth, ca. 1872, in a Victorian Gothic style, but with his distinctive lean-to narthex and semi-octagonal turrets, which also adorned his Calvinistic Methodist Capel Shiloh in Lampeter of 1874 and which were also found on the contemporary Capel Soar at Tre'r ddol of 1874-7, which may be to his design. At Capel Seion, however, the style is classical with some Venetian traceried windows of ca. 1500 in style, the centre tri-partite window set within a giant order of paired Composite pilasters beneath a centre pediment which is raised above the end wings. The chapel was opened 30 April and 1 May, 1878. By 1902 the chapel debt was cleared and in 1903 the chapel was painted, and electric light and a new organ installed, built by Norman and Beard; the organ chamber was built after 1928. In 1904 central heating was added. In 1933 the chapel was repaired and painted, and the organ "perfected"; similar works were carried out in 1953. The chapel in Penmaesglas was repaired in the 1920s; the old chapel here was finally sold in 1956, first to the Apostolic Church and then to the Red Cross.
Summary: narrow-wall façade chapel, faced with stone, with paired centre entrances; Italianate style. Urban site comprising galleried chapel set above basement schoolroom. Open bench seats . Gallery round 3 sides. Pulpit against rear gable. Rectangular Sedd Fawr as in Capel Salem, Caernarfon. Gallery arcading supports the centre ceiling.
Front elevation of snecked stone with painted stone dressings; narrower end bays of 2 storeys and basement; the wider two-storey centre portion is articulated by paired giant pilasters with Composite caps and by a crowning triangular pediment.
In each end bay there is a 4-panel basement window under a painted chamfered lintel, in turn under a moulded string. The ground floor is articulated by pilasters; the flat-arched ground-floor window is of 5 panes including a transom pane and has a moulded architrave. There is a painted frieze with cornice at gallery level, the gallery storey articulated by plain painted pilasters and entablature, with balustraded parapet over; pyramidal turret roof to rear with finial; the round-headed gallery window opening here has pilasters with caps, impost string, moulded head and keyblock, and contains a 2-light window with round-arched head to lights and cable moulding to centre mullion below glazed circlet and spandrels.
In the centre portion, 1 common doorstep and 1 single upper step, up to each of the 2 round-headed doorways: these have moulded heads and keyblocks and paired doors, each of 3 moulded panels (flush panels to rear) with frosted-glass overlight. There is a panelled and balustraded apron below the tripartite and round-headed gallery window, which has single-light flanking windows and a taller and wider centre window of 2-lights, all three taller that and stylistically resembling the end gallery windows. In the ympanum of the main pediment is a circular plaque in moulded surround with keyblock and flanking consoles.
3-storey, 5-bay side elevations, each with a projecting bay at NE. end, continuing the articulation of the end bays in the front elevation; the SW. end bays are set back, where the building plot narrows. In the SE. elevation, the NE. end bay is faced with stone in snecked courses; pilasters of painted stone above the basement, the "ground floor" pilasters channelled. 5-pane basement window beneath a painted chamfered lintel with painted and moulded band above it. Flat-arched ground-floor opening with moulded architrave and similar 5-pane window. Band with cornice at gallery cill level; the gallery window opening has pilasters with caps, impost string, moulded head and keyblock; 2-light window with round-arched heads to lights and cable moulding to centre mullion, below glazed circlet and spandrels; frieze and cornice and balustraded parapet. Otherwise, in the SE. basement storey, a pair of later-C19 doors (in the 2nd bay from NE. end), with 3 moulded-panel doors and 6-pane overlight; 12-pane sash windows in the 3rd and 4th bays from NE.; the SW. end bay is windowless. At "ground floor", 8-pane sash windows of obscured glass; round-headed gallery window openings with 10-pane sash window with horns, including 2 top quadrant panes. The NW. elevation is similar, but the bay nearest the front is rendered and has a doorway on the ground floor. Lean-to organ chamber at back.
Adjacent grounds and front boundary: the tightly-enclosed urban site is paved with a concrete walkway along the SE. side, with a flight of steps up to the front forecourts. There are stone flags alongside the NW. elevation at basement level, the steep drop to the basement here, on this uphill site, protected by C19 and later iron railings which extend from the NW. corner of the chapel to the adjoining property.
The chapel is enclosed along the pavement in Baker Street by gates and gate piers and by walls and railings: the painted and stopped and chamfered gate piers have panels with rounded tops to their front face, moulded caps and pyramidal tops. The square uprights with spiked finials on the gates rise alternately top top and lock rails. Slate flags inside the gates; the front doors of the chapel are raised above the street, with a small landing in front, approached from each side by a flight of ?York stone steps: 10 wider steps, on SE., and 7 on NW.. The C19 front wall and railings rise in a straight line parallel with the steps: wall of snecked stone with painted coping; railings with square uprights partly of iron twist, and with spiked finials; square, chamfered standards with caps and larger spiked finials; wall pier at the top in centre, similar to the gate piers. 2 bays of dwarf wall and railings to NW. of NW. gates.
Vestibule: encaustic-tile floor. Matchboarded dado and pale grey-blue painted walls, lined as if of ashlar, the walls canted inwards towards the external doors; dark-blue painted plaster ceiling with white-painted moulded plaster rose and ceiling cornice. At either end, a gallery staircase against each outer wall and a flanking door of 4 stop-chamfer panels to cupboard under stairs. In SW. vestibule wall, 2 similar doors lead into ground-floor auditorium of chapel, each flanking a C19 2-tier patterned window of obscured glass, with coloured glass alternating with patterned-glass margin panes.
Gallery stairs: lower flights of 10 blue-carpeted steps below a turn, rising through pale-blue painted walls with varnished skirting, with stop-chamfer balustrade in front of lower staircase window. Upper flights of 12 blue-carpeted steps, rising partly through blue-painted plaster walls and partly through a matchboarded enclosure; varnished gallery door of 4 stop-chamfer panels with brass handle above bottom step of each upper flight.
On ground floor there are blue-carpeted aisles and, beneath the seats, wood-boarded paltforms. There is a sloping matchboarded dado rising to just above cill height. Pale-blue painted plaster walls.The window openings have splayed reveals and chamfered jambs; translucent glass panes.
The gallery has carpeted aisles; matchboarded dado above cill height of side windows, continuing into the splayed window reveals. The side windows have plain semi-circular heads with chamfered jambs, timber cills and blue-painted and splayed reveals above the dado; tranlsucent glass panes.The tripartite window at the Baker Street end has bright-blue moulded heads with keyblocks and flanking volutes, all supported by foliage corbels.
Ceiling: separate ceiling over side and centre of chapel, separated by 2 gallery arcades made up of wide, moulded arches with keyblocks, supported by iron columns with enriched blue and white-painted caps; the arches are painted bright blue and have gilded rosettes in a guilloche band on their soffits; white and blue-painted keyblocks. Flat, panelled ceilings over NW. and SE. sides of gallery, with the lateral windows set below the centre of each side ceiling bay; white moulded plaster ceiling cornice to each bay and stopped and chamfered ceiling beam, the beam fixed on to the gallery arcade, behind the short columns on corbels which support the stop-chamfer and blue-painted ceiling ribs over the centre of the chapel. The 5-bay ceiling in the centre has deep coving to its sides and a flat, panelled portion in the centre, divided by ribs; these ceiling ribs descend to the short gilded columns on the white, blue and gilded corbels set between the springing of the arcade arches. White-plaster dentil cornice below the coving. Flat-blue-painted centre ceiling panels with white, moulded edging, inset with blue and white-painted roses-cum-vents.
C20 ?bronze pendant light fittings, with white, opaque glass bowls.
Gallery round 3 sides, the gallery front curved at the intersections. Gallery supported by 8 white-painted iron columns with foliage caps with volutes. A large iron bracket projects from each gallery column and supports a flat, cantilevered soffit beneath the gallery front. The gallery front has a moulded cornice at top and bottom and, in between these, is faced with small circular panels alternating with wide and partly-gilded panels with curved ends, ornamented with stencilled? Decoration.
Seating: like the slightly later Capel Tabernacl, Aberystwyth, the side seats at ground floor still largely face on to the centre rather than straight ahead. But these are no longer box pews, even of the type found in some of Owen Morris Roberts's chapels of the 1880 and 1890s; instead, open bench seats with shaped and chamfered bench ends and gold and shadow seat numbering and top beading. The fairly ubiquitous stop-chamfer panel seat backs are here: horizontal panels to the ground floor seats and taller seats in the gallery with vertical panels. There is a separate numbering sequence to ground floor and gallery.
Ground-floor seating: there is a block of paired seats in the centre of the chapel, with 6-panel seat backs, the rear seats with matchboarded dado as seat backs; umbrella holders and pans on the bench ends. The NW. seats are numbered 23 (r.) to 36 (fr) and the SE. seats 37 (fr.) to 50 (r.).
There are 3 blocks of paired seats to each side of the chapel, all of 4 seats depth, apart from the shallower SW. end of the 1st block where the lateral walls protrude. Each side from the Sedd Fawr end: block 1) comprises a block of paired seats: on the NW. side of the chapel, the SW. seats in this block are numbered 1 (r.) to 3, and its NE. seats are numbered 4 (fr.) to 7 . On the SE. side of the chapel, the SW. seats in block 1) are numbered 70 (fr) to 72 and the NE. seats 66 (r.) to 69.
2) comprises a block of paired seats of 4 seats depth. On the NW. side of the chapel, the SW. seats in this block are numbered 8 (r.) to 11 and the NE. seats 12 (fr.) to 15. In the corresponding block on the SE. side of the chapel, the SW. seats are numbered 62 (fr.) to 65 and the NE. seats numbered 58 (r.) to 61.
3): comprises the 3rd block of seats, of 3 seats depth,at the back of the auditorium; the SW. seats in the block face, like the other side seats, on to the centre of the auditorium, but the seats are set on a curve in front of the rear corners, so that, at the back, the seats face almost straight ahead, on to the pulpit; the 4th, rear seat is a rectangular corner seat. In this block on the NW. side of the chapel, the SW. seats are numbered 16 (r.) to 19, and the SE. seats, facing forward, are numbered 20 (fr.) to 22; no 19 continues across the front of the block. In the corresponding block on the SE. side of the chapel, the SW. seats are numbered 54 (fr.) to 57, 54 continuing across the front of the block, while the NW. seats are numbered 51 (r.) to 53.
Sedd Fawr and pulpit: the pulpit is apparently of Richard Owen's design, as is the Sedd Fawr which closely resmbles his directly contemporary Sedd Fawr of 1877-78 at Thomas Thomas's Capel Salem, Caernarfon.
2 steps up each side to rectangular and blue-carpeted Sedd Fawr, the bottom step common with the bottom step to the pulpit stairs. The Sedd Fawr enclosure is faced with horizontal stop-chamfer wooden panels beneath a turned wood balustrade and moulded handrail; table in centre front, backing on to organ console; turned wood newels with stop-chamfer caps and ball finials, at centre front, at corners, and flanking the Sedd Fawr steps and one side of the pulpit stairs. Similar newels also on the pulpit but with small sunk lozenges in the caps; rear bottom newel to pulpit stairs is of slightly different design. Sedd Fawr benches with flat and buttoned dark-blue cushion strips. Three Eisteddfod chairs in front of the pulpit: Eisteddfod Colwyn, 1911; Eisteddfod Llundain, 1938; Eisteddfod Gadeiriol Pontardawe 1913.
7 steps up each side to pulpit rostrum, the steps enclosed by turned baluster balustrade, the handrails ramped up to the top stair newels. The rostrum is faced with stop-chamfer wood panels beneath the coved and moulded mid-cornice, and with smaller and moulded panels and a short balustrade of turned wood balusters above it. There is a projection with canted sides in the centre for the pulpit: this is faced with 2 tiers of moulded panels between the mid and crowning cornices; lectern on large carved and scroll brackets.
Gallery seating: each side from Sedd Fawr end, 1) there is firstly, a block of single seats of 3 seats depth, including the rear bench seat; 4-panel seat backs; the block on the NW. side of the chapel is numbered 1 (fr) to 3 and the corresponding block on the SE. side is numbered 66 (r.) to 68.
2): comprises a block of paired seats of 3 seats depth, including the rear bench seat which continues partly behind this block; 4-panel seat backs; on the NW. side of the chapel, the SW. seats in the block are numbered 4 (fr.) to 6 and the NE. seats are numbered 7 to 9. In the corresponding block on the SE. side of the chapel, the SW. seats are numbered 64 (fr.), 65 and 63 (r.) and the NE. seats numbered 60 (r.) to 62.
3): comprises a block of paired seats, each side of the chapel, and that begins to curve round the gallery intersection, fanning out in width towards the rear; 3 seats depth. In the block on NW. side of the chapel, the SW. seats are numbered 10 (r.) to 12 and the NE. seats numbered 13 (fr.) to 15. In the corresponding block on the SE. side of the chapel, the SW. seats are numbered 57 to 59, and the NE. seats are numbered 54 (r.) to 56.
4): comprises a block on each side of the chapel, curved round the gallery intersection, and fanning out in width to the rear. In this block on the NW. side of the chapel, the SW. seats are numbered 16 (r.) to 18, and the E. seats numbered 19 (fr.) to 21 (rear). In the corresponding block on the SE. side of the chapel, the SW. seats are numbered 51 (fr.) to 53, and the W. seats numbered 48 ® to 50.
5): is a block at the centre front of the back of the gallery, the seats fanning out in width to rear, its NW. seats numbered 32 (r.) to 34 (fr.) and its SE. seats numbered 35 (fr.) to 37.
6): comprises a block of paired seats to rear of block 5). Its NW. seats are numbered 29 (r.) to 31, with 27 along the back wall; its SE. seats are numbered 38 (fr.) to 40 (r.), with 42 along the back wall.
7): comprises a block of single seats on each side of the chapel, at the back of the gallery, and alongside the gallery stairs. Seats in the NW. block are numbered 22 (narrower seat in fr.) to 26 with 28 along the rear wall; seats in the SE. block are numbered 46 (fr.) to 43 (r.) with 41 along the back wall.
Organ: 2-manual organ console set before the Sedd Fawr, and bearing plaque: "Norman & Beard Ltd. 1903". Wood bench organist's seat; velvet curtain on brass rail behind it. Timber-framed organ case behind the pulpit, ornamented with punched trefoils and quatrefoils and with pinnacles; tiers of wooden-boarded panelling below the organ pipes; the grey-metal organ pipes are arranged in 7 bays, with 3 narrow bays in the centre.
The basement contains the large schoolroom, with classrooms, kitchen and storeroom on its NW.; on its SW. are a ?Minister's vestry and the internal stairs to the ground floor of the chapel.
The large schoolroom has a brown carpet tile floor, a varnished dado, cream-painted walls and ceiling, the ceiling raked up on SE. side; picture rail. Rectangular window openings with chamfered jambs. Ceiling girders supported on cast-iron columns. Lobby behind SE. external door. SE. dais with bench at back, and flanking doors: the E. door to the Minister's vestry and the NW. door to the stairs up to the chapel. Upright piano. Iron-framed wood bench seats of ca. 1900 with adjustable wood-plank seat backs and red felt covers, these bench seats partly along NW. and SE. sides, with iron-framed "Formica"-topped tables in front of them; the benches are also partly stacked at the NE. end. Metal-framed plastic stacking chairs in the middle of the room.
The smaller rooms along the NW. side include the boiler room at NE. end with concrete floor; a kitchen adjoins it on SW., with matchboarded dado and cream-painted walls, white-painted ceiling with stop-chamfered beam, later-C20 fittings; contains chapel tea set. The kitchen is separated from the adjoining classroom by a moveable screen of varnished pine of ca. 1900.
Adjoining classroom with varnished matchboarded dado, partly with attached bench seat; remains of diagonal fireplace surround. 2 further classrooms beyond, with matchboarded dado and painted walls and ceiling, the 2nd room with fireplace surround of apparently late C19.
Minister's vestry with cream-painted dado and walls; white-painted ceiling; white-painted late-C19 fireplace surround.
Sources: Llawlyfr: Undeb Gogledd Ceredigion 1955, braslun hanes eglwysi Annibynnol Gogledd Ceredigion; E. D. Jones, Trem ar ganrif yn hanes Eglwys Gynulleidfaol, Baker Street, Aberystwyth (1978); W. J. Lewis, Born on a perilous rock: Aberystwyth past and present (1980-); programme notes by W. J. Lewis and A. J. Parkinson for Capel visit of October, 1987 (e.g., in NMR).
In the same street as Bethel Baptist. Bears same general resemblance to it - emphasis on central bay, pilasters, shaped plaque, windows grouped with balustraded balcony under, balustrade on side bays at roofline etc.
Bold contrast btween dressed stone and the white mouldings, pilasters etc.
Schoolroom under. Floor level reached by big set of steps - sloping street. (Anthony Jones)
OMJ.; 11/97-5/98. Visited 18-19/11/1997, in company of DJR. And IW and by kind permission of the Minister
- Central Heating Installed: 1904 Source:Capel
- Organ Chamber: Post 1928 Source:Cadw
- Built: 1876 Source:Capel
- Built: 1873 Source:James, Evan
- Built: 1814 Source:RCAHMW
- Built: 1878 Source:Anthony Jones
- Date Of Chapel: 1878 Source:
- Opened: 01/05/1878 Source:Cadw
- Opened: 01/05/1878 Source:Cadw
- Organ Installed: 1903 Source:Capel
- Rebuilt: 1878 Source:RCAHMW
- Builder: 1876 Thomas Jones,
- Architect: 1878 Richard Owens, Liverpool
- Builder: 01/05/1878 Thomas Jones, Dolau
- £ 5500: 1905 (RCCEORBWM)
- 740: 1905 (RCCEORBWM)
- 429: 1905 (RCCEORBWM)
- Chapel: 1998 (Blwyddiadur)
- Chapel: 2010 (Site visit)
- Chapel: 2/12/2010 (Denominational website)
- Welsh: ()
- Monument Type: CHAPEL
- Form: Building
- Storey: Two Storey and Basement
- Style: Classical
- Gallery: On Three Sides
- Plan: Gable Entry
- Pulpit Position: Rear Wall
- Window Glazing: Florentine Tracery
- Windows: Round-Headed
Key Details of this Chapel
Key Dates of this Chapel
Key People in this Chapel History
Costs during this Chapels History
Capacities during this Chapels History
Changes of Status its History
The Languages of the Chapel during its History
Key Characteristics of this Chapel
Images from Coflein
- Grid Reference: SN58358174
- Address: BAKER STREET, ABERYSTWYTHABERYSTWYTH