Concept - The Welsh Room is patterned after the Pen-rhiw Chapel at St. Fagan’s Museum of Welsh History near Cardiff, an eighteenth century Non-Conformist Chapel. The ability to worship and hear the sermon in Welsh was most important, rather than the style of the building and furniture. In a largely agrarian or mining community, simplicity was the fashion and the Chapel represented to the Welshman a very personal place. The Chapel could have once been a barn, so the walls were whitewashed; the beamed ceilings made of a local wood. Our chapel beams are poplar.
Display Case - Just inside the barn door with wrought iron hinges is a display case. The artifacts are typical possessions of a rural Welsh family. The minister would have lived at this end of the Chapel.
Long Case Clock - Directly opposite the door is an oak long case clock. In the style of the 1790s, its face is decorated with birds and flowers, and the name, Richard Thomas, is engraved around the face---not numbers. The clock was one of the most important furnishings in a Welsh home. It is placed on a platform faced in slate. Slate was an extremely valuable export from North Wales and is considered to be the world’s best.
Pulpit and Deacons’ Benches - In front of the bay window is the pulpit--the focus of attention. The minister mounts a few steps so that he has a view of his entire congregation. The pulpit and steps of our Chapel are white pine. A blue paint was used, much like the wooden trim at Pen-rhiw Chapel. Though a soft wood, pine is easy to fabricate, and plentiful in many parts of Wales. On either side of the pulpit is a Sêt Fawr, or deacon’s bench. Deacons, appointed congregational leaders, sat here. In the early days of Non-Conformism, one of their responsibilities would have been to serve as “lookouts” for the minister. Anglican leaders often tried to enter Non-Conformist chapels and displace the minister, feeling that his words were heretical.
Professor’s Table - A pine communion table stands at the end of the room where today’s lecturers will lead their classes. The table was built in Pittsburgh and complements the simple furnishings of the period.
Seating - Along the wall are box pews. A closer look will show they are not identical. Such pine pews with oak seats were hand built by wealthier families and were of the size and style that each family required. As Chapels were often unheated, people might have brought blankets, warming pans or bricks, or even their dogs! Sermons were quite long in that era, and the pews were not particularly comfortable. This encouraged people to devote all their attention to the sermon.
The Floors - The floors were dirt floors, as in a barn. They were made of fireplace ash, lime, gravel and dirt, mixed with water. People strapped wooden planks to their feet and stomped over the sluice until the water was gone, then it was left to dry. Candles provided lighting and were attached to the side of the pulpit,
Corridor Carving - Above the door in the corridor is a carved stone dragon, representing the triumph of the Red Dragon of Wales over his many would-be conquerors.
STYLE:18th century Non-Conformist Chapel
Edited and modified 7/08 by Michael Walter