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Bethesda Chapel, Brechfa, Llandefalle, Breconshire

Name: Bethesda

Denomination: Calvinistic Methodist / United Reformed Church

Built: 1791

Rebuilt: 1803 (now [2011] a private residence)
 
Colour photography: John Ball
Date: 20 September 2009
Camera: Nikon D50 digital SLR
Bethesda Chapel, Brechfa

 
Our home in Brecon had previously been the residence of Roland Mathias, writer, poet, and literary critic, who died in 2007, aged 91. Research into his life and work revealed that he had composed a poem entitled Brechfa Chapel. On a still and bright September day in 2009, we decided to invesigate the subject of Mathias's poem, and discovered the chapel was situated in a most beautiful and tranquil setting, overlooking Brechfa Pool.

Note 1. The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) includes the 19th century Bethesda Chapel in its Historic Landscape Characterisation of the Middle Wye: "The chapel, like many other nonconformist chapels in the area, is sited on the margins of the Common Land, in this instance on the hilltop next to Brechfa Pool on Llangoed Common, and like other contemporary buildings in the area it is of stone rubble construction with brick dressings."
[Source: Historic Landscape Characterisation — The Middle Wye (Trebarried, Bronllys, Felinfach and Talgarth section), on the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) website]

Note 2. Brechfa Chapel was built in 1791 and rebuilt in 1803 in the Vernacular style of the long-wall entry type.
[Source: Coflein database (NPRN 6073)]

Bethesda Chapel, Brechfa
Above and below: Chapel photographs, probably dating from the 1970s, by kind permission of Peter Richards of Brecon.
Bethesda Chapel, Brechfa
Bethesda Chapel, Brechfa
Above: Bethesda Chapel, southeastern aspect.

Below: Bethesda Chapel, northeastern aspect.

Bethesda Chapel, Brechfa

Below: Half-hidden post-1970s name-plate identifying
the chapel as property of the United Reformed Church.

Bethesda Chapel, Brechfa

Note 3. Brechfa Chapel is the title and subject of a rather dark poem composed by Anglo-Welsh writer Roland Mathias (1915-2007). In the third verse he refers to the proximity of the chapel to Brechfa Pool:

Opposite to the west of the harsh lagoon,
Stands a chapel, shut in its kindred wall
With a score of graves. Legend on one
Cries a minister, dead of the heats in Newport
Before he came twenty-eight, his wife
Rambling on to her eighties. . . .

Below: Brechfa Pool viewed from the 'kindred wall' of the chapel graveyard.
Bethesda Chapel, Brechfa
Bethesda Chapel, Brechfa Above: Brechfa Pool

Note 4. The Brechfa Pool nature reserve is a small shallow-bottomed lake located at a height of 270 metres (900 feet) above sea level. Its seasonally varying water level provides an ideal home for several rare plants. In spring and autumn the reserve is a very popular and valuable refuelling stop for wading birds on migration.
Further details of Brechfa Pool are described on the Brecknock Wildlife Trust website.

Below: Bethesda Chapel, viewed from the edge of Brechfa Pool.
Bethesda Chapel, Brechfa

Below: On the interactive Google Map of the area, Bethesda Chapel is near the road junction, just to the west of Brechfa Pool.
 
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