Close Window Understanding The Historic Site

Stylish Investment

The siting of Tremadog was chosen to give maximum drama to the relatively small buildings, which would otherwise have been seen as drifting on flat, bare newly reclaimed marshland. The principal buildings, the Town Hall, (which served also by turns as Market Hall, Theatre and Ballroom) and the Coaching Inn, (the Madocks Arms) are set close beneath the backdrop of the cliffs. Framing the space in front of them, are the terraced houses, shops and Taverns of the Market Square. Extending further onto the reclaimed marsh is the former London road, now Church Street. On the southern edge of his first phase of development Madocks set the church and the Chapel. Capel Peniel lies on the low ground but is made impressive by a giant Tuscan portico with triangular pediment on its east end. (This was apparently part of the original design though not installed until 1849, over twenty years after Madocks’ death, by his agent John Williams). Madocks sited his church on a little outcrop of rock, Carreg y Gwartheg, to give it prominence. In front of it, he set a Coadestone gateway as entrance to the churchyard - a highly fashionable artefact.

The whole was designed to create a sense of urban sophistication to encourage others to invest in his development. Illustration 1, Square & Town hall, Illustration 2, Peniel

The Church

For all its impressive location, the church is small - roughly 6m by 18 metres inside with very shallow transepts. According to Elisabeth Beazley (1), the church originally had box pews, and “2 fine Pictures on each side of the Altar piece, the one of the Woman taken in Adultery, the other of the Tribute Money shewn to Our Saviour, & a great deal of colour’d Glass in the windows”. This is partially corroborated by the discovery of pre-1900 photographs showing elaborate cast iron windows with delicately patterned tracery within the roughly dressed boulders of igneous rock from Moel y Gest. (And the story from a visitor, unfortunately not corroborated, that the studio version of the first survives.) Illustration of cast iron windows

According to Robert Isaac Jones (2), the church was built from 1806 onwards by the stonemasons John, Ellis and Robert Griffith; that it had a blue ceiling, painted with stars, and a gallery; and that the Coat of Arms of the Bishop of Rochester was in the East Windows in 1892. No trace survives of ceiling or gallery, or of this east window. The gallery might have been reached from the tower, as there is a blocked doorway in the tower that would have given access to the nave at about the right height. However, the westernmost window in the north wall of the nave is set in a partially blocked opening that may at some stage have been a doorway that could have given access to a flight of stairs.

Robert Isaac Jones reported that the original organ, a Flight and Robson barrelled organ, was obtained for £300 by David Ellis (later David Ellis-Nanney). He was a local landowner, a lawyer and supported Madocks by building or purchasing as an investment a gentleman’s residence in Tremadog, Ty Nanney. Robert Isaac Jones relates that this organ was moved in 1854 to the then parish church of Ynys Cynhaiarn (where it has recently been conserved by the Friends of Friendless Churches.) Surviving accounts show that the present organ in Tremadog by Bates of Ludgate Hill was installed in 1857, paid for by public subscription. Illustration 4, Bates organ

Robert Isaac Jones also states that the Tremadog School, originally held in the Town Hall, moved from there in 1837 to the church. It later moved to the Chapel.

The bell was made in 1840 and installed in 1842, the gift of John Williams. Madocks is said to have intended a peal of bells but these were turned back when Madocks could not pay for them.

The clock was installed in 1848 by David Griffith “Clwyd Fardd” 1800-1894. It was made by Thomas Cole in 1813, bought in Derby in 1846 by Nathanael Mathews of Wern and Robert Isaac Jones “Alltud Eifion”, the Mayor. It soon ceased to work. Richard Matthew Greaves (born 1852) spent £400 having it repaired possibly in the 1890s but by the late 1970s, only the oldest member of the congregation could recall it working. (3) In 1977, Dr John Jones Morris of Porthmadog and Terry Birch arranged for its repair, since which it was regularly wound and kept good time until, due to the condition of the timber floors, access was forbidden. It last sounded at the millennium.

A handsome wall memorial in slate and marble survives above the pulpit. This commemorates John Williams, Madocks’ agent 1778-1850, and his wife and son, and states that they are buried in the crypt below the plaque. His wife Anne died in 1863. His son, W. T Massey Williams died in 1856, the date at which the church might finally have been consecrated. A resident of the village, Mrs Glenys Simmons, whose grandfather and great grandfather were stone masons and built the houses in Tremadog opposite the church, confirms that there was once a crypt. These men were working on the church in the last years of the 19th Century, when Mrs Simmons’ mother, Kate Parry (b. 1883), went down into the crypt from within the church and saw the coffins on either side. The present floor is fully close boarded with no visible access to the crypt. According to Elisabeth Beazley, Madocks intended to be laid to rest in this crypt, but in the event he died in Paris in 1828 and was buried at Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Illustration 5, Williams memorial

In the Appeal launched in 1895 for the repair of the church, the works were summarised as “the complete substitution of more comfortable seats for the present pews, reconstruction of the windows in Freestone, new pulpit and communion rails, and the removal of the organ from the gallery to the east end of the church”.

The chancel is raised with stone-edged steps inlaid with mosaic. The balance sheet for the Tremadoc Church Restoration Fund printed 5th December 1898 shows that this was installed by J C Edwards of Ruabon and costs £18.18s.0d. Illustration 6, Mosaic

The Pulpit was carved by Constance Greaves, nee Dugdale, wife of Richard Matthew Greaves of Wern Manor. She was a fine craftswoman, also carving the lectern and the chancel screen at St Beuno’s Church in nearby Penmorfa. Illustration 7, Pulpit

The present East Window was given in memory of John Whitehead Greaves1807 - 1880, and his wife Ellen nee Steadman 1806 - 1887, by their children and was installed in 1899. Illustration 8, East Window The original window opening had a lower cill, as did all of the windows. It is possible that the raising of the cills occurred at the same time as the insertion of the sandstone surrounds that we see today. The Greaves family in 1881 commissioned a memorial window by Burliston & Grylls in Saint John the evangelist in Porthmadog. It has not yet been possible to determine the authorship of the Tremadog window.

Records show that an altar frontal (1898), an oak reredos (1903) and a Burse and Rail (1903) were donated to the church.

The present altar and reredos at Tremadog are to designs “arranged and supplemented” by C R Ashbee, made and carved by Emile de Vynck, a Belgian carver living in Pentrefelin near Porthmadog. They were commissioned in memory of Randall Casson, (uncle of a both Sir Lewis and Sir Hugh Casson). Randall Casson was a solicitor in Porthmadog, to whom David Lloyd George, later Prime Minister, was articled. He held numerous official appointments locally, amongst them being Agent to the Tremadoc Estate from 1896 to 1911. Randall Casson died on holiday in Taormina, Sicily, in 1914. The altar was installed in June1917. We have not yet been able to establish a connection between C R Ashbee and the Casson family in Britain. Ashbee was teaching in Cairo University in 1915 and Director of Planning and Archaeology in Jerusalem from 1917. He designed a private house “The Old Manor” for a Colonel Shaw-Hellier in Taormina, so the link may be via the ex-patriot community in Sicily. Illustration 9, Altar & reredos

The pre-1900 photographs show that the spire was originally more elaborately decorated with applied mouldings than we see today. The verges of the transepts projected in the characteristic style of all the earlier buildings in Tremadog. We know that these were not removed until Padmore, the Diocesan architect, removed them to reduce ongoing maintenance when the roof was replaced in 1958. It was at this date that the boarded ceiling was lost. “As a point of interest, I noticed that all the old rafters and purlins which have been removed were of ‘green’ oak and all had a very high proportion of sapwood. This in itself would account for the intensive attack by woodworm. The trusses are of seasoned timber”. (Padmore 9th November 1958). At this time he removed the chimney stacks from the vestry fire and from the heating chamber. He also completely stripped and replastered the walls inside the church, but kept the Williams family mural memorial, and the mid-late Victorian (and inaccurate) brass commemorating William Alexander Madocks, and the marriage of his niece Mary Madocks to Martin Williams in the church in October 1811. (Madocks’ brother was dead by this date).

There are two simple brass plaques commemorating two parishioners who were very active in supporting the repairs to the church in the 1960s.

In line with recommendations from two firms of consulting engineers, Padmore suggested taking down the spire and replacing it in glass fibre, and made a sketch for this in 1954, though he acknowledged that this would not be approved by conservationists. Instead, when funds were eventually raised, in 1970s he supervised the replacement of the timber floors within the tower and arranged an extensive programme of repairs to the rendering.

The Coadestone Gate

So far no marker’s name has been found on the gate although the material, the method of assembly from numbered precast parts using ceramic rods, and the style all point to the at the attribution to Coade being correct.

The gateway was certainly in place by 1811, as it was described by both Hyde Hall in his “Description of Carnarvonshire 1805-11” and by Richard Fenton “Tours 1804 - 1813”, who wrote “The Gateway of Coad is composition, most superb and elegant, the ornaments uncommonly rich…”. By 1826, Freeman (Sketches in Wales) reported that “The entrance into the consecrated ground is under an arch of composition made in London, and somewhat too fanciful in design, and perishable in material, for its present service.”

Robert Isaac Jones’ later account of it arriving in pieces from Italy is inaccurate. He must have put together reports of its arriving in kit form (almost certainly in 1810 or 1811 from the Coade works close to the south side of Westminster Bridge), and the later visit to Italy by Madocks shortly before his sudden death in 1828. Illustration 10, Coade gate general view

During 1811/1812, the Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent and then George IV, held lavish events in his newly completed Conservatory in Carlton House. He has been commissioning works at Carlton House from 1804 onwards, to designs by James Wyatt, some of them executed by various Wyatt relations. (The ubiquitous Wyatts were also working at this time at Penrhyn Castle). Between 1805 and 1811, the works at Carlton House expanded to include a new conservatory. The Prince’s advisor in these schemes was Walsh Porter. He was not himself an architect or craftsmen, but a “decorative consultant”, a picture dealer, a dandy, an impresario, a self-styled connoisseur. In 1797 he had mounted a comic opera entitled “In the Chimney Corner”. He advised the Prince to engage the young architect Thomas Hopper for the conservatory. Thomas Hopper had recently (1807) completed extensive works at Walsh Porter’s home Craven Cottage, which was rebuilt as a gothic-style cottage ornee. By the time Walsh Porter died in 1809 he was heavily in debt, having “had to borrow money of persons who insured his life”. Illustration 11, Carlton House conservatory

For the Prince of Wales, the Conservatory was also to be in the gothic style, made of cast iron with translucent coloured glass. It cost an astonishing £22,685. Some of Thomas Hoppers’ works there are known to have been in Coadestone. These were ten torcheres, freestanding octagonal structures to support candles or torches. At least one survives and is stamped “Coade and Sealy”. (Sealy was Eleanor Coades’ cousin and her business partner after 1799). In a recent exhibition, Sotheby’s attributed the design of the Torchere to Pugin. This attribution may be because Pugin and Britton drew a plan of Carlton House for the Buildings of London in 1825, but the history of the Kings Works, volume vi, shows clearly that the Conservatory was Thomas Hopper’s work. Alison Kelly who wrote the definitive work on Coadestone also attributes the torcheres to Hopper. After Walsh Porter’s death, James Wyatt and Lewis Wyatt continued at Carlton House, and after James Wyatt’s sudden death, Nash took over. The Carlton House torchere includes bat gargoyles according to Sotheby’s description. The torchere on display also included owls and also two-headed winged dragons crushing little men. Illustration 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 Torchere

The Tremadog Gateway is hard to interpret. The sculpted figures are extremely fine but the style is confused, with a mixture of the exotic  elephants’ heads and monkey faces- and the grotesque, with owls, distressed cherubs, grimacing faces and figures in hoods rearing out of the cornice. There was also at least one dragon, though apparently single-headed found in the undergrowth next to the arch and now inside the church. This strange mixture is similar to that in the torchere. Illustration 19, 20, 21, 22 Coade gateway details

Madocks himself was part of the London set, involved in theatricals. He may have ordered a Coadestone piece simply because it was the height of fashion, or he may have obtained it at a knockdown price, an over-run or a reject from either Craven Cottage or the Carlton House Conservatory.

The cast-iron gates are a pair of simple, heavy, elegant gates running on bronze tracks set into the pavement. One was broken by would be-thieves, or vandals in the period between the church’s closure and the trust taking on the lease. Most of the parts were found and are stored in the building. It has been repaired in the past, and we are advised that the original casting may have been flawed, as each gate is large for the casting technology of the day. Illustration 10 cast iron gates

1898 is the last date found at which a direct descendant of Madocks was involved in the church. The balance sheet for the Appeal fund shows that £50 was donated by “The late Mr F W A Roche”. Francis William Alexander Roche was Madocks’ older grandson by his only child, Eliza Anne Ermine. Francis and his brother died without heirs and, under the terms of his will, the Tremadoc Estate passed not to his sister and her heirs if any, (who would have been genetic descendants of Madocks) but to the nearest surviving male Roche. This was his third cousin either once or twice removed, as it was necessary to go back to a common great (or great, great) grandfather, and down again.

In 1961 Mrs Williams-Ellis organised fund-raising for the repair of the gate. A Faculty was obtained for this provided the work was specified and supervised by Jonah Jones, the sculptor.

  1. Elisabeth Beazley “Madocks and the Wonder of Wales” Faber 1967),
  2. Robert Isaac Jones (“Gestiana” 1892) pen-name Alltud Eifion
  3. “Pigdwr Eglwys Tremadog” in Yr Haul a’r Gangell, Rhif 1 Cyfres 1978 Gaeaf 1978

1806 Act for Private Chapel of Ease for Tremadoc Estate
1806 - 1811 Church built by Griffiths family of stonemasons under the direction of John Williams - Coadestone gateway erected
1811 John E Williams BA licenced to Tremadog chapel by the Diocese of Bangor (“hereafter to be consecrated”)
Sept 1811 Church service as part of celebration to open the Cob
Oct 1811 Madocks family wedding
by 1811 Coadestone Gateway in place
1814. Edward Hughes MA licensed Curate to Llanfihangel y Pennant & Tremadoc Chapel (not yet consecrated)
1828. Madocks dies in Paris
1842. Bell installed by John Williams.
1848. Clock installed by David Griffith “Clwyd Fardd”.
1850. John Williams (Madocks’ Agent) dies
1854. Walter Thomas was curate living in Tremadoc when “Sgolar Mawr” stayed with him
1857. Church re-opened with new organ
1895. Appeal launched for major works
1898. Last Madocks’ descendant dies; Tremadoc Estate inherited by Edmund Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy
1898. East window, mosaic chancel and heating installed
1917. Altar and reredos installed
1951. Transferred from Edmund Maurice Roche, 5th Baron of Fermoy, to RB for £200 (raised by community)
1958. Completely re-roofed, new timbers, re-slated using 50% new, electricity installed
1962. Coadestone repaired under Jonah Jones’ supervision
1977. Upper tower and spire repaired
1983. Debt for repairs cleared
1993. Quinquennial highlights increasing problem with water penetration and render failure on spire
1995. Church closed


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