Coflein tells us that Gideon Independent Chapel was built in 1830, restored in 1930 and again in 1960. The present chapel…. is built in the Vernacular style with a long-wall entry plan. The facade dates from 1830 with improvements made in 1843. Gideon is now Grade 2 Listed.
I love Gedeon chapel and from this minister’s eye view we see the congregation, as in a classroom, ready to learn new things, to be inspired by Christian ideals of social justice and to be motivated to lead a better life. The text above the clock exhorts members to make good use of their time. The floor is slightly raked so that the people at the back can see to the front and the only advantage given to the minister is height. There’s no decoration or religious furnishings to separate the person at the front from the rest of us. Should anyone arrive late for the service they enter the chapel from one of the doors on either side of the pulpit and have to brave the welcoming eyes of the many rather than the disapproving gaze of the teacher at the front.
Anyone choosing to sit in the gallery could slip up the side stairs, avoid passing the collection box and (I believe) not be expected to offer a donation. This is a modest, friendly and welcoming interior designed to serve its congregation.
The chapel’s virtues are not so easily discerned from the road. You have to look up to see Gedeon as you leave Dinas for Newport – it’s easy to miss. Although Gedeon sits high above the road, it’s not got much to dominate and all that is visible as you go past are the vestry and other bits that have been added on since 1830. But once over the steps or through the blacksmith’s gate and round the sharp end of the building
you get to the long wall entrance that, according to Coflein, defines the building’s style as vernacular.
When Gedeon was built some chapels were already being altered to re-position the entrance in the gable end; the majority of those built after the middle of the century were organised that way. Did this old fashioned orientation seem too lowly, too barn-like, inspite of the beautiful large windows that allow the light to stream in?*
The two doors in this long facade offer the worshippers the possibility of having a favourite entrance. Eirian Edwards, a long standing chapel member who also holds the key and was kind enough to show me round, remembered that my father and aunts used the left hand door. I was touched that she remembered them.