Capel Als Chapel

Llanelli, Carmarthenshire

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Huw Edwards

Journalist and Broadcaster

Place of Worship
Capel Als Chapel
Location
Llanelli, Carmarthenshire SA15 1LA

The crowning glory is the coved ceiling.

Capel Als is one of the most significant religious buildings in Wales. The chapel, opened in 1780, was the first Nonconformist cause to be established in Llanelli, a town noted for its blend of industrial heritage and rich Welsh-speaking culture.

Capel Als fills a chapter of prime importance in the story of Nonconformist worship in Wales. Its first minister, David Rees, was a noted preacher, publisher, entrepreneur, agitator, gutsy fighter for workers’ rights, and indefatigable campaigner for religious freedom. He was no fan of the state church and its autocratic clergy. The feeling was mutual. The building is also significant and deserves far wider attention. There is little to commend it externally, but the interior is one of the best examples of exquisite, ornate chapel design anywhere in the United Kingdom. The chapel was reconfigured by the architect Owen Morris Roberts in 1894-5, increasing the capacity to 1,150 worshippers and incorporating the rare Bishop organ. There is a large platform-pulpit fronted by a spacious, curve-cornered ‘big seat’ for the deacons. The crowning glory is the coved ceiling, decorated with an ornate combination of boarding and moulded plaster in squares and circles.

These days, Capel Als is one of a handful of Welsh chapels held up as a great example of the confident, ambitious, high-quality chapel designs which typified the late Victorian period. In a sane world, Capel Als would be accorded maximum listed status. Sadly, as in the case of several other majestic chapel buildings in Wales, Cadw (the Welsh government’s historic environment service) relegates it to miserable Grade 2 status. Castles, country homes and Anglican churches tend to come first in Cadw’s Wales.

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