A Grade II listed Welsh Baptist chapel is set to be converted into a modern family home.
Tirzah Chapel has stood in the mining village of Llanmorlais on the north Gower coast since 1905. The building was originally intended to be used as a Sunday School but later became a full chapel and then a community hub in later years.
Sadly, it has not been used as a place of worship since 2017 and many of its original features, including the organ and pulpit, have been left to decay, with paint and plaster peeling off the exterior walls and tiles falling from the roof.
Following a planning application submitted to Swansea Council, the “unusually well preserved” chapel is set to be given a new lease of life with many of its original features retained when it is converted into a modern two-bedroom home.
Although much of the original detailing will be retained, including the scrolled text above the door and the pulpit, and the distinctive pastel colour scheme of the outside of the building, other features will be removed for the building work to take place. It’s far from the first chapel to have a new future considered for it, with this one in Waunarlwydd having a graveyard as its ‘garden’.
Planning documents state: ” The proposed works are for the conversion of the existing chapel into a two-bedroom family home by refurbishing the existing building, whilst retaining as much as is possible of the character and features of the chapel, and building a rear extension to provide a living room and a bedroom suite above”.
However, despite an objection from the Ancient Monuments Society (AMS), the organ and original pulpit will be removed when the chapel becomes a residential property.
A letter from the AMS states: “We must query the wholesale ejection of the organ, platform, and pulpit. The Heritage Impact Assessment says on pages 7 and 8 (photo 24) that their loss would have a ‘neutral’ effect, whilst their retention would introduce a ‘suffocating presence’. The first seems an understatement, the second, an overstatement.
“The visual build-up of these three items is the logic behind all chapel interiors, where primacy goes to singing (the organ), preaching the Word (the pulpit) and the platform (for the Minister and Elders). Without them, the historical resonance of the interior will be sadly diminished, especially as Tirzah lacks that other distinctive emblem of the chapel – a gallery.
“There is a strong Gothic character to these features, again important in an interior which is otherwise simple. There is surely room for compromise here, with some careful remodelling rather than wholesale ejection and the listing requires a solution along those lines.”
It added that “less destructive options must be explored”.
However, Swansea Council ‘s p lacemaking and heritage lead said:“The Ancient Monuments Society has raised objection to the removal of the organ, platform and pulpit. This concern is acknowledged as these features are the original focal point of the listed building.
“However, full consideration has been given to the removal of these aspects, and whilst the removal is clearly harmful it is viewed that this harm can be mitigated by recording in situ (to English Heritage standards) and a condition imposed to require reuse of some of the decorative timers in an agreed manner within the new interior. The removal is viewed as acceptable in order to bring back into use a deteriorating listed building”.
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A new drive and gateway will be constructed to the front of the chapel and the existing timber frame windows, roof tiles, and plasterwork will be repaired and retained.
A two-storey extension to the rear of the chapel will also be added.