The Old Chapel was a Welsh Calvinist-Methodist chapel, formerly known as 'Capel Isaf', meaning "lowest" chapel as distinct from 'Capel Uchaf', meaning "highest" of two in the Dernol Valley. In the Religious Census of 1851 the Calvinistic Methodists were just in the majority of those who attended a church or chapel of some sort in the whole of Wales (25% of all attenders). In this county of Montgomeryshire, however, the Anglicans were in the majority overall. Like so many others Capel Isaf has not been used as a chapel since 1992. We found it in late summer, 1997
The earliest date mentioned in a Conveyance drafted in 1924, which refers to an 'Indenture of Lease', is 13th May 1826. We can tell from the building itself that most likely it began as a simple dwelling with a barn attached. Later the 'barn' was evidently enlarged at least twice and, probably after it had become a chapel, its orientation was rotated through 90 degrees. The stonework on all four sides is quite different
We'd like to discover more about when the earliest part of the present building was built and its history as a chapel and before. In the meantime we are delighted that Montgomeryshire Genealogical Society – Cymdeithas Achyddol Maldwyn – publishes many excellent books with details of memorials and their inscriptions in the burial ground here and throughout Montgomeryshire
Wales is the part of Great Britain which reaches out into the Irish Sea to the west of England and is separated by the Bristol Channel from the extended leg of land to the south, which is Devon and Cornwall
The Old Chapel is in the Cambrian Mountains, which form the vertical spine of the country and are the source of both the River Wye and River Severn, which both flow by different routes into the Bristol Channel in south-east Wales
It cannot be far away from wherever you would estimate the very centre of Wales to be. And The Old Chapel must always have been the most southerly chapel and/or dwelling of any kind in the ancient county of Montgomeryshire, since the border at the southern tip of the county has been the Dernol and the River Wye for a very long time
This is the countryside where the once extinct raptor, the Red Kite, has been successfully re-introduced and in which the semi-rare wild flowers, Great Burnet and Devil's-bit Scabious, still retain a toe-hold – even in our 'garden'
Furthermore we can tell you that it hosts the most enormous black- or tan-coloured slugs in veritably industrial quantities. We hope to start gently researching all the flora and fauna and putting up an account of them here just as soon as we get going properly in the garden and on the stream bank …
"To begin at the beginning … "
When you find somewhere like this, it is the easiest thing to convince yourself you can afford it, especially if it comes cheap – well, cheapish after all the other places you've been looking at for weeks and weeks. And this one did – on account of the "extensive modernisation and renovation required", which means it has no water or sewage disposal and is hoping somebody will come and do something before it crumbles away
At the beginning the intention was simply to make the place weather-proof, get the basic services up and running and make just a portion of the place liveable-in. The rest would have to be a matter for the future
The detailed planning stage which followed upon the high drama of completing the initial purchase was huge fun and took forever. Our first 'big shock' was when we looked up one day and realised that a whole year had already passed since that moment. It was still far from certain when any work might actually start and there was absolutely no way of even guessing how long it might be before we could hope to move in
We did not have to wait quite so long again for the second 'big shock' … but hey, we're getting ahead of ourselves here. To 'read on', click on 'Our Story' or maybe 'QuickDiary' or 'The Property' which tells you more about the building and the site, or 'Transformations' to see some 'before and after' pictures from different viewpoints and 'Contacts' for information about sources supplies and skills. Genealogists might be interested in the 'Burial Ground'