Wednesday, 16 July 2014


Capel-y-Ffin - this translates to "chapel of the boundary" and indeed it is right on the border between Wales and England.  The little River Hondu runs along the valley bottom and Offa's Dyke still guards the boundaries between the two countries. It has long been one of my aims to walk a good stretch of it.

Apparently this little hamlet was the last Welsh-speaking community in this area.

The sculptor Eric Gill spent 4 years here, setting up a commune (I bet that upset the locals!) before deciding that the area was too remote - especially from London.  However, it had served its purpose as a rural retreat, and was not totally remote as the Doctor arrived on horseback once a week, and there was a postal delivery.  Other artists, including the poet and painter David Jones.  Perhaps the serenity of the area, and its religious roots back to the 12th century, gave the area an ambiance which drew in sensitive people.  It is not hard to imagine them dining by the light of oil lamps, clad against the cold in Trench Coats.  The Gill women folk wove clothing and the only water supply was the River Hondu itself.  See HERE for the source of these facts.

The curate-writer the Rev. Francis Kilvert also loved this place and regularly walked here from his home in Clyro (9 miles to the West).  He said it reminded him of an owl.  The interior is small - about 26 feet x 13 feet, although it does have stairs and an upper gallery.

I hope you are able to read this piece about Kilvert, though it's looking dodgy this end!!!

I loved this teddy family on top of the organ - obviously a very family-orientated chapel.

This little mouse on the top of the font, was carved - I assume - by Robert "Mouseman" Thompson, a British furniture maker from Yorkshire.  The mouse was his signature on each piece he made. Apparently the first mouse came about following a conversation he had where the expression "as poor as a church mouse" was used, when he was carving a cornice on a screen for a church.  He added a wee mouse, and the rest, as they say, is history.

There are always flowers in the chapel - usually a little bouquet of wild flowers.  The light was against me in this photo but I am sure you get the idea.

And some more, against a better backdrop.

A beautiful East-facing window inscribed with Psalm 121, which I had read at my mother's funeral, inspired by this view and mum's family connections in the Welsh mining valleys.

Date on an old pew right at the back.

A plaque on the wall outside the chapel, in memory of Jane P?? who died February 27th 17(7?)96 aged 84.

A quiet corner of the churchyard.

A simple gravestone for Charlie Stoner, Carpenter, who died in 1935.  I like that he was remembered for his trade and I think he must have been very good at his trade.

I love the flowers and motifs carved on this 18th C headstone.

The remains of an early preaching cross in the churchyard.

Out along the tiny narrow lane (with passing places) under a tunnel of trees and that back out onto the mountainside and beautiful views again.  A lovely lovely day.


  1. What a special place.

  2. Lucky you, and the chapel does look like an 'owl', the weather looks perfect as well, There is a sort of atmosphere, down that valley, slightly spooky and very Welsh.

  3. What an enchanting place. I would have liked to simply sit there and absorb.

  4. it all looks divine, I love the etched window.

  5. Thelma - there's an atmosphere alright, when you meet a queue of traffic coming towards you and there's other cars behind you as well! A blue one I think . . .

    MM - it really is so lovely there, and I had such a yen to go back.

    Kath - isn't it lovely? Such a simple idea and with a wonderful backdrop behind it.

  6. What a great post - I found it so interesting and lovely to see all the photos. The chapel looks as though it has a very special atmosphere. I would so love to visit this area for a holiday. Interesting to see the Thompson mice - we have some in a church near us. I've got a book containing Kilvert's diaires - you've made me want to read it again - thank you :)

  7. RR - re-read Kilvert. I find him so delightful and his writing is a door straight into the past - especially as he used to chat with an old boy who had been in the Peninsula Wars! You would love this area to explore. It is so beautiful. Keep away from the main summer period though, as the road to Capel-y-Ffin and Llantony Priory are murder in the summer with queues of cars getting into traffic jams, trying to pass.