Rug Chapel

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We have driven past here many times but never stopped before. It was time to remedy that. Signed off the A494 to the west of Corwen it is hidden among trees. There is a large car park with picnic tables, toilets (key from reception) and Visitor Centre with small shop and exhibition. it is a 400yd walk to the chapel.

The chapel is a small dark stone building with a single bell cote in a lovely setting surrounded by grassland with bluebells, buttercups, speedwell and trees. Entry is through a simple wooden door with huge metal hinges into a tiny porch. Wooden steps lead up to a balcony.

From the outside it is a very plain building with the only decoration being small carvings at the base of the door arch and the base of the bell cote. Nothing prepares you for the magnificence of the interior where every available bit of wood is carved and every surface painted.

The chapel was built as a private chapel for Colonel William Salesbury in 1637. He was a staunch Royalist and scorned Puritan simplicity and wanted a chapel full of high church decoration. It is a rare survivor of a chapel from this time.

By the door is an octagonal font with a wooden cover with a large metal cross and an inscription in Welsh round the rim.

There are simple wooden benches in the nave with a single rail as a back support. The seats are carefully dovetailed in to a long piece of wood long the nave which forms a ‘door step’ into the pew, or a trip hazard for the unwary. This has a series of animal carvings under the pew benches. The lower part of the nave walls are covered with wooden panelling which has four scrolls with a flower motif along the top.

Separating nave and chancel is a rood screen. Beyond is a bannistered altar rail with a wooden altar. This has a painting of an angel on the front with an inscription. On either side are large ‘four poster’ style choir stalls with a canopy above them. These have carved fronts and painted panels.

A beam over the east window is dated 1637.

The wooden beam ceiling has carved and painted beams with scrolls and red or white roses with foliage. Between the beams the nave ceiling has a painted abstract swirl pattern. The chancel ceiling is painted blue with images of cherub heads and stars. In the corners of the choir are cut out figures of angels and there are more on the beam ends in the nave. These have either red and blue robes or yellow and green. Their wings are yellow with red and blue horizontal stripes at the bottom.

Around the top of the walls is a frieze with carved panels with green, red and grey scrolls of abstract style foliage and different carved animals in the centre.

Hanging from the ceiling is a wooden chandelier with candles and angels on the top.

There are memorial slabs on the walls and a splendid painted monument on the north wall of a skeleton and a skull set in a portico with pillars. With a Welsh inscription, it reminds the congregation of their own mortality.

The stained glass windows are 19thC. The large east window features Christ in Glory with saints, kings and bishops around him and angels above. The double window in the south wall of the chancel has a scene of the nativity and one of the risen Christ surrounded by Roman soldiers. Another window in the south wall has images of angels and beneath is written “Rock of Ages Cleft for me”.

The window in the north wall has a quote from Matthew “Have nothing to do with that man for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him” with what looks like an angel, Christ, a cross and other figures.

The nave floor is tiled with a geometric pattern in red, beige and black tiles. The tiles in the choir are more elaborate with a white pelican on a blue background, plucking her breast to feed her young. In medieval allegory this represents Christ shedding his blood to save sinners.

The chapel is lit by quite harsh electric light bulbs which cast shadows and make photography difficult.

We didn’t visit the exhibition in the Visitor Centre. Time was tight and the receptionist extremely garrulous.

The property is in the care of CADW. Entry is £2.55 for senior citizens. This also includes entry to Llangar Old Church a short distance away. 

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