Ruined Capel Ardda, Cwm Cowlyd
Capel Ardda was built on land donated by a man who was later evicted from his home for not voting Conservative. The old photo of the chapel, probably in the 1960s, is by Walter Harris and is shown here courtesy of Conwy Archive Service. The lower photo, by James Jones, shows the ruin in 2019.
The Calvinistic Methodist chapel was built in 1845 for the scattered population living in this upland area. By then, many people in Wales chose to worship in Nonconformist chapels instead of Anglican churches.
Thomas Pierce was tenant of Pant-y-Carw, Trefriw, when he donated the land for Capel Ardda, also known as Capel Tyddyn Bach after the nearest farmstead. In the 1868 general election he voted for the Liberal candidate. This was the first election to be held after reforms which entitled many men to vote for the first time, but it wasn’t a secret ballot (introduced at the 1875 general election).
In May 1869 Thomas was one of many men in the constituency who were ordered to leave their homes for having voted Liberal. In 1870 he donated land for a cemetery at Capel Ardda, as the chapel cemetery in Trefriw was full. He himself was buried outside Capel Ardda after his death in August 1871. He was later interred in Trefriw.
Also buried at Capel Ardda, in 1879, was John Roberts of nearby Tyddyn Gwilym. He was a founder of the chapel and its Sunday School. He fathered the eccentric poet Gwilym Cowlyd (William Roberts), who despised the National Eisteddfod and organised an annual rival event. John’s brother-in-law was Ieuan Glan Geirionydd (Evan Evans), who won the National Eisteddfod chair three times.
The horizontal slate gravestone just up from the grave surrounded by iron railings marks the resting place of John Griffith of Brwynog Isaf, the first person buried in the cemetery. He died aged 22.
Although the valley’s population began to decline in the late 19th century, Capel Ardda’s refurbishment was authorised in 1902. The historian and educationalist Owen Morgan Edwards attended a service here in 1912 and counted only 12 people in the congregation. Capel Ardda was disused by 1948.
Sources include: ‘Deserted Chapel in the Hills’, by Ivor E Davies, published in the North Wales Weekly News in 1969
Website of Conwy Archive Service