Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Visual Culture of Religion 1: Chapels in Wales 1696-1918
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 12 x 1 hour lectures
Other Field Studies: 2 x 9 hrs, 1 x 3 hrs


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay (5,000 words).  Both assessed elements must be passed. Only the failed component need be resubmitted  50%
Semester Assessment Project Document (2,500 words)  Both assessed elements must be passed. Only the failed component need be resubmitted.  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Account for the development of the visual styles of chapels in Wales from their origin in the eighteenth century barn-type building to the classical and eclectic edifices built in the late nineteenth century, and the relationship of such to Noncomformist architecture elsewhere, while demonstrating knowledge of specific case studies and relevant cultural determinants

Undertake a systematic and varied recording of a specific chapel to a professional standard following the principles and methods prescribed by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW)

Effectively write and access such information in the RCAHWM's chapel data-base and, in the process, contribute to the extension and refinement of data-base fields

Critically appraise past and current scholarship on the architectural history of chapels

Brief description

The module combines a study of the historical development of the chapel from a humble vernacular building into, what some architectural historians consider, the 'national architecture' of Wales. The study combines a survey of the general development of chapel styles with an in-depth examination of particular regions, edifices, and architects in Wales. Students are, in this way, introduced to the most recent research on the subject. They also engage in the formation of that research through a hands-on experience of chapel conservation and recording in collaboration with staff from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. This practical and vocationally orientated method of study is allied to a historical, socio-economic, cultural, and theological investigation of the edifices. The module argues that the visual character of the Nonconformist meeting-house and chapel was influenced by a complex of interrelated factors besides vernacular building methods and materials, prevailing architectural styles and tastes, such as the congregations? visual sensibility, practical expedience, theological restrictions, liturgical requirements, economics, social structure, indigenous and prevailing culture, and national, geographical, and historical contexts.


The module aims to:
A. combine a general overview of the historical development of chapel buildings and architecture with a series of in-depth studies of the work of particular architects and chapels derived from new research in the field
B. study chapel building in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Wales, principally, within a visual, historical, socio-economic, and theological context
C. provide students knowledge of current practices and methods of chapel preservation through field-study experience in chapel recording, and in developing and accessing a data-base system for storing recorded information
D. mount an historiographic examination of key texts on chapel architecture written during the period of study
E. where relevant, address chapel building during this period to precedents in the seventeenth century and cognate building practices in Great Britain, Europe, and the United States of America


Lectures and seminars will be drawn from the following:

1. Lecture: The Protestant Reformation of Church Architecture
2. Lecture: 'After the Fire' 1: Secession, Revival, and the Roots of Nonconformity
3. Lecture: 'Between Magnificence and Meanness': The Theological Significance of the Meeting-House and Early Chapels
4. Lecture: 'After the Fire' 2: Wren's Parish Churches after 1675, and their Relation to Nonconformist Chapels
5. Lecture: 'After the Pattern God had shown them': Biblical Connotations of the Classical-Styled Chapel
6. Lecture: Writing on the Walls 1: Word-orientated Elaborations of the Victorian Chapel Interior
Case Studies by Region
7. Lecture: Religious Buildings in Nineteenth Century Industrial Communities of Wales
8. Lecture: Chapels in Cardiganshire
9. Lecture: Chapels in Aberystwyth 1
10. Lecture: Chapels in Aberystwyth 2
Conservation, Representation, and Interpretation
11. Lecture/Seminar: Capel/Place: The Chapel as a Pictorial Subject, and a Motif in Welsh Landscape Art
12. Field Study: Visit to Capel Pen-Rhiw (rebuilt at St. Fagan's) and Examples of City and Urban Chapels in Cardiff and the Valleys
13. Lecture/Seminar: Writing on the Walls 2: The Historiography of Chapel Studies
14. Lecture/Field Study: Recording Chapels: An Introduction to the RCAHMW Chapel Project (Part 1)
15. Lecture/Field Study: Recording Chapels: An Introduction to the RCAHMW Chapel Project (Part 2)
16. Workshop: Creating and Using RCAHMW's Chapel Data-Base

Case studies by Architect
11. Lecture: Richard Owen and Richard Williams
12. Lecture: Thomas Thomas: The Buildings of the First National Chapel Architect in Wales
13. Lecture: John Pritchard: A Nineteenth Century Church Architect in Wales
14. Lecture: John Humphrey: The Architect of the 'Cathedral of Nonconformity'
15. Lecture: Owen Morris Roberts: The Chapels of a Gwynedd Chapel Architect

Transferable skills

The module will assist the development of the following academic and transferable skills:
  • Self-directed project work is developed through self-directed library research and, where appropriate, visits to local chapel sites towards the completion of the assessed essay.
  • IT and information handling is developed in the context of on-site digital photographing, and data-base writing and access management under the supervision and training of RCAHMW staff.
  • Writing in an academic context is developed and assessed through the essay and the project document.
  • Oral discussion and presentation is developed (though not assessed) chiefly through collaborative discussion with RCAHMW staff responsible for the field study and data-base management, and an essay tutorial with the Module Co-ordinator.
  • Careers need awareness is developed (though not assessed) through hands-on experience in the professional practice of architectural history, preservation, and archiving.
  • Self-management N/A
  • Group activity is developed (though not assessed) through collaborative work with RCAHMW staff responsible for the field study and data-base management..


This module is at CQFW Level 6