The Welsh chapel is one of the most distinctive building types in Wales, both in style, and in its contribution to townscapes and landscapes. The wealth of variety that exists within chapel building, and precise principles of design that went into the architect-designed chapels, are now recognised as being on a par with other great public buildings of the late 19th century. In a time when the official language of education and the workplace was English, it was the chapel that allowed much of the Welsh population to run part of their lives in Welsh and ensured the survival of the language in to the early twentieth century. The complexes of chapel, Sunday school and chapel house were centres of community life in industrial and rural areas alike and were used throughout the week.
The Royal Commission, in conjunction with Capel: The Welsh Chapels Society has been at the forefront in recognising the cultural and social importance of these buildings in the heritage of Wales. Today chapels are one of the classes of building most at threat of closure in Wales and, in repose to this situation, the Royal Commission has been carrying out a systematic programme of collecting and analysing information regarding these structures. Through the collection of data through field study, map and documentary searches, and the integration of existing surveys and databases such as the 1851 Religious census, the 1905 Royal Commission on Church of England and Other Religious Buildings in Wales and Monmouthshire and the Pritchard database resulting from work by the Board of Celtic Studies, the Commission now holds a database of some 6426 chapels. This database holds information relating to the different architectural elements, key dates, associated architects and builders where known, language, cost and value, seating capacity and related structures such as vestries, chapel houses and Sunday schools. This database is supplemented by an ever increasing archive of photographs; collections held within the National Monuments Record of Wales include the Royal Commission’s Chapels Collection, the Chapels Photographic Societies Photographic Collection, and the Cadw Chapels Collection to name but a few. In addition there are now over 1300 digital images available on the Royal Commissions on-line database Coflein (www.coflein.gov.uk). Key chapels across Wales have been surveyed by Commission investigators, providing invaluable records of chapels at risk or exemplars of their type.
Performing standard searches of the Chapels Database
The search box can be found at the top of all pages. This will search all the fields in all the records of all the Chapels Database, and all content of the website. If you only want to perform an overall search of the Chapels Database, select only that using the tab.
Searching ALL is a very powerful but not very selective way to search.
To start a search, type in the word or phrase in “quotations” you want to search for and click Search Button. This will return records and display them in order, with the most relevant (those with the search term appearing most frequently) being first. The search on this field is not case sensitive.
If you are not sure of the spelling, you can use an asterisk as a ‘wildcard’ to represent any letters you’re not certain of. For example: ‘ye*man*’ will bring up results for ‘yeoman’ and ‘yeomanry’. You cannot start a search term with an asterisk however.
You can search for more than one word. If you enter more than one word, the website will presume you want to search for both words, and will only give you records that mention both. Records where both words appear together will appear first, followed by records that include both words, but separately. If you want to search for either of the words you are using and not both you will need to type ‘OR’ in between the words, e.g: ‘Word1 OR Word2′.
Boolean searches of collection records Specifically for the records from the Chapels Database: If you want to search for one word, but don’t want any records to have a specific second word, you can use + and – . To use them you just need to type them next to the words like this: +Word1 -Word2 . This will make sure the chapel records have Word1 but don’t have Word2, for example: +Queen -Mary will find all records with ‘Queen’ but without ‘Mary’ in them.
We have grouped sets of types of fields from the Chapels’ Database into search groups to make it easier to cover various fields in one go, such as all the different types of People, Places and Architectural Styles. This will mean on most occasions your search results will still need to be narrowed using the ‘Narrow Your Search options‘ so that you can find what you are looking for.
You will notice that when you start to type in a field in Advanced Search, the website will suggest various words that have been collated from the different fields in that group: styles will suggest both Window Styles and Glazing Types (which come from different fields).
Narrow your search
On the left-hand side of the results page is the ‘Narrow your search’ section. This is a list of additional terms that group together the results and show how many items from the overall results fall within each group. Clicking one of these will filter the results, only showing those associated with that term.You can normally only apply one filter per group, but you can filter on multiple groups. For example, you can filter by the group ‘Denomination’ and by the group ‘Style’, but only choose one filter within each.
If you want to remove a filter and try another one, all you need to do is click on the ticked checkbox again beside the filter. These filters are only relevant to the results listing that you have produced. When initially viewing the map, this shows every single result (all records), and so all filters: if you zoom in on an area you will find the filters change and reduce to only those chapels visible.
The structure of the Chapels Database
The RCAHMW Chapels database has a sophisticated relational structure, with Chapel records at the centre and related Architecture (building materials, gallery locations, plan, pulpit position, styles, window styles and glazing styles). It contains people related to the Chapel, such as founders, designers, architects and ministers, and addressing data such as Parish, Old County. Text descriptions, both the name and descriptions are split in two (a core and secondary name, and a short summary and longer description).
If you wish to perform a very specialised structured search of specific fields of the RCAHMW Chapels database, we provide the query building tool at Specialist Search. The query builder creates a special structured query statement that is then run against the Chapel database index, and produces a set of results you can then narrow down further, or produce a map.