Where can you see a chapel’s burial ground built on the rampart of an Iron Age hillfort?
The answer is Caersalem Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, Bryn-Y-Gaer in Pentre Broughton, Wrexham. Built in 1839 and rebuilt in 1878, in latest life it was converted to be a Presbyterian church before it was closed in the 1980s and demolished by 1992. While a private house has replaced the chapel itself, its burial ground remains, a sliver of higher ground adjacent to Bryn-Y-Gaer Lane and on the ridge-top overlooking Pentre Broughton Community Cemetery to its north-east.
The hillfort in question is Bryn-Y-Gaer. This has been largely destroyed, although you can see traces of its rampart surviving as the boundary of St Paul’s churchyard, as discussed here.
Yet the reason why the small burial ground, small and compact, is so prominent, rising above the surrounding landscape, is not only because of the accumulation of grave-upon-grave through multiple generations of the Noncomformist dead. It is because the site is planted upon the bank of the Iron Age hillfort. Looking from the west-south-west, one can appreciate the line of the bank running NNW-SSE.
The association is not ‘deliberate’in the sense that the Iron Age hillfort’s antiquity is not the primary reason for the choice of the burial ground. Yet equally it is not coincidental, since the ridge’s unstable ground would have rendered it unfit for other purposes and it affords a suitable prominence to the presence of the Nonconformist dead in the competitive religious topography of life and death in this Welsh industrial settlement.
Within, upon a recent visited, I appreciated the fine plaque by the gate explaining it and raised by the District History Group (notably itself a memorial).
Within are a rich range of slate and sandstone 19th- and early 20th-century memorials, some of standard forms, others quite unique, but many in Welsh. Enjoy browsing these photographs! Thanks to its choice of location, while tiny, the burial ground remains a significant landmark in Pentre Broughton long after its abandonment, towering over the Church in Wales’s churchyard at St Paul’s down the lane, and the adjacent cemetery.