A DESPERATE plea for more people to save a beloved Amman Valley chapel has been issued.

Yr Hen Fethel in Glanaman, was built around 1773 on the site of an older church but its use began to decline after the New Bethel was built at the bottom of the valley and over the years, Hen Fethel has only opened for Plygain, the traditional service held before dawn on Christmas Day – which is believed to be the only chapel in Wales to still host this session.

Work began on the building to ensure its continued survival in the 1970s with stabilisation of the roof and a chimney. “But since then nothing has been done,” said Emyr Jenkins, who has taken the lead on trying to get the chapel restored.

South Wales Guardian: Hen Fethel a few years ago.Hen Fethel a few years ago. (Image: Emyr Jenkins)

In 2011, there was an initial appeal for restoring the chapel but it wasn't long before that appeal fizzed out, due to a number of reasons, including the lack of support.

Despite the chapel needing work, the Plygain services was attracting around 70 to 100 people each year before covid. However, during the chapel was forced to close due to restrictions, and concerns began to grown surrounding the safety of the stable block adjoining the chapel. 

There was a further blow when Carmarthenshire County Council closed the path in front of the chapel due to the stable being unsafe leading to those visiting having to navigate a tricky driveway and reverse their car back out of the graveyard rather than use the drive in front of the chapel. "The attendance at Plygain last year was lower than usual because of these concerns", said Mr Jenkins.

South Wales Guardian: Emyr Jenkins lighting the candles for Plygain in 2018Emyr Jenkins lighting the candles for Plygain in 2018 (Image: Emyr Jenkins)

The Friends of Hen Fethel group were quoted that it would cost £30,000 to partially demolish the stable block and make it safe but this was something that they did not want to do. This is alongside the fact that the chapel itself needs work on the windows and some of the pews have been condemned as unsafe. Work is also needed on the doors, ceiling and floor as well as whitewashing the outside to restore it to its former glory.

South Wales Guardian: Plygain in 2015 at Hen FethelPlygain in 2015 at Hen Fethel (Image: Emyr Jenkins)

“I said on Christmas Day that this may be the last service we will ever have at the chapel,” said Mr Jenkins, due to the concerns over the safety of the building and the lack of progress moving forward.

There has been some offers of assistance and Friends of Hen Fethel have some funds in the bank thanks to a range of TV appearances, opening up for walking groups, officiating at ashes burials and donations from BBC and S4C who have filmed at the chapel, however Mr Jenkins has been struggling to access this as HSBC froze the account.

Mr Jenkins is appealing to anyone who can offer any help to get in touch with him, either via email jenkinsbrynmair@aol.com or by calling 07733117845.