7.15 am. Arose. 9.15 am. A trip to Rhug Chapel, Denbyshire. I was first made aware of it in 1983, at the outset of my research into the visual culture of Welsh Nonconformist chapels … of which this not an example. The church was (very high) Anglican and built in 1637 by William Salisbury as a private chapel, in collaboration with William Morgan, the translator of the first Welsh Bible:
(I’ve been dealing with Morgan’s translation of the Second Commandment in my ‘Image and Inscription’ sound work.)
The interior has one foot still firmly placed in the medieval world. Remarkably, it escaped Cromwell’s wreckers. The decorative painting and carving have an almost ecstatic intensity. This is a visual testament to a sure-fired conviction about the reality of the eternal heavenly realm and its proximity to the temporal material world:
A reconciliation with our own temporality was enjoined by a memento mori painted high up on the wall in front of the gallery:
Lest we despair … carved angels look down, benignly and as though offering benediction, from the rafters. (I recalled the angelic appearance in the Red Room at the close of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me):
I was also put in mind of stories that emerged in Wales and elsewhere during times of revival concerning the phenomenon called ‘the singing in the air’. Witnesses testified to hearing invisible choirs of angels singing in the rafters of the chapels during times of particularly intense religious fervour during the services.
1.30 pm. I arrived at Llangar Old Parish Chapel, established in the twelfth century:
The vestiges of several overlaid wall paintings (ghosts of images) from the fifteenth century are still visible. They’d been preserved due largely to having been painted over (and thereby protected) with lime wash by the Protestant spoilers in the seventeenth century:
There’s also evidence of post-Reformation text-based painting on the front wall of the gallery (which was a later edition to the interior). Curiously, while the painter’s name is intact, their work has almost completely dematerialised. I’m intrigued by this idea of a disappearing text, and suspect that I’ll return to it in the near future:
None of the walls of the church are perpendicular; the interior lurches sideways, like buildings in Ben Nicholson’s drawings. The key-holder provided a running commentary on the site’s known history (which appears to be comparatively slight). CADW ought to invest more in promoting these buildings, and to open them at times when people are most likely to visit.
Situated in the same place as the example in Rhug Chapel — high on the wall and and close to the gallery’s frontside — was another memento mori. In this respect at least, I conjecture that Llangar Church exerted an influence on the subsequent development of Salisbury’s project:
3.30 pm. Then, on to Llangollen for a quick whizz-round the town before driving to the Ponctcysyllte Aquaduct, built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, and completed in 1805. It’s the tallest and longest of its kind in Great Britain:
4.30 pm. I arrived at my hotel for the evening: Sweeney Hall, Shropshire. A newspaper in the entrance hallway caught my eye:
Earlier in the week, a guest had experienced an inexplicable light shining through his bedroom window, photographed it and, in the morning, discovered that there was a human-like shape in the foreground. The ‘haunted’ Room 7 was down the corridor from my own. A apparition of twin girls at the end of the corridor would have been more persuasive: