Peniel History

The genesis of this remarkable chapel began with the opening of a Sunday School in 1805 in one of the few houses that had been built in William A Madocks’ embryonic ‘new town’ of Tre Madoc.  Madocks was a London entrepreneur, who bought the marsh land in 1798 and envisioned it as a settlement on the trade route between London and Ireland. By 1808 moves had been made to erect a purpose-built Calvinistic Methodist chapel in the developing town and by February 1810 construction work was sufficiently advanced to hold an opening service in the presence of the influential Welsh preacher Rev. Thomas Charles of Bala. Construction work was completed a year later, in 1811, eighteen months ahead of the nearby new Anglican church. Madocks himself was not a dissenter, so his allowing a chapel within the town was a shock to some. However Madocks was not threatened by the idea of such a large chapel being built, observing that “the church is built on rocks, the chapel is built on sand.”

The chapel as completed in 1811 was without the Classical portico that was to give the building its iconic character; that came later. Apparently, the pedimented portico with its Tuscan columns had been intended from the start (probably by Madocks as an adornment to his new town), but as the promised £50 towards its cost was not forthcoming it was left off. But, even without its portico the chapel was unique in Wales at the time of its erection, both for its innovative size and for its unusual plan. Its gable fronted auditorium plan was in contrast to the contemporary trend of small chapels with long wall facades and the pulpit located between the two entrance doors. Gradually this style was generally adopted in Wales and Peniel is regarded as being of critical importance in the process with congregations appreciating the advantages of an auditorium.

The chapel thrived and various alterations were made later, e.g. insertion of a gallery at the rear in 1840; completion of the pedimented portico in 1849; introduction of fixed seating in 1860; extension of the gallery along side walls in 1880; a new sedd fawr and pulpit in 1898; and a new ceiling in 1908-10.

The two-story dwelling house at the rear of the chapel appears to have been built during the middle of the 19th century, while the substantial, single-storey schoolroom alongside it was added in the late 19th century.

Peniel was transferred to the Trust in 2010 for the nominal sum of £100, under its status as a prescribed charity under the Redundant Churches and Other Religious Buildings Act 1969, (as amended in Schedule 5 of the Charities Act 1992).

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