Places of worship can be simultaneously heritage sites and sites of mourning and memory. This is true of all churches and chapels, but has a distinctively family-focused aristocratic dimension when dealing with private chapels. Rug Chapel is one such example I’ve already discussed on this blog in a rural setting – a 17th-century chapel with 19th-/20th-century tombs and memorials.

Another example sitting in a significant industrial heritage setting is St Mary’s Bersham, otherwise known as the St Mary’s Plas Power chapel.

The heritage dimension here is not only the late 19th-century fabric and the investment my Cadw to maintain its integrity, but also its location in relation the ironworks of Bersham.

Furthermore, Nant Mill Country Park upstream from the iron works contains traces of industrial activity from the Minera Lead Mines to mill-leats and corn mills. Furthermore, as well as ancient woodland, there is also the eighth-century linear earthwork crossing the Clywedog: Offa’s Dyke. From Minera, down past Offa’s Dyke to Bersham, there are trails and modern sculpture, including a tree-carving of Offa and his dyke.

Therefore, St Mary’s might remain private, but it is in a municipal, heritage and conservation landscape enjoyed by many for walks and other outdoor recreation activities.

Commissioned for 1875 and opened for service in 1876 by Thomas Lloyd FitzHugh, it is linked to the estate and mourning of that particular family. For instance, the bells were installed to commemorate Captain Godfrey FitzHugh who was killed on active service in Palestine in 1917. The available online records focus on describing its architectural form, yet the memorial dimensions of this chapel are given no attention.

Here are some photographs of its architectural details. Despite being a private chapel, it is a building of significant pretensions, with a tower and apsidal chapel.

The graveyard itself is worthy of discussion, as a carefully managed setting for the church, including exotic species (I’m no botanist but a monkey puzzle tree is a sure sign of aristocratic landscape pretensions), and its distinctive gates.


Like the church itself, these features mark out both neo-Gothic and elite allusions to power and wealth of the founding family.

The restricted presence of graves – only three in total – mark its short-lived and exclusive use. Situated in a row to the west of the chapel, they vary in style but respond to each other spatially to denote a family burial plot, complementing the burial crypt within the church itself.

Again, we identify relatively modern graves as integral elements of a heritage landscape, making them both foci of private mourning and commemoration, and public statements of identity: as much as the chapel building itself.IMG_3541