Engedi Chapel Caernarfon
This chapel played a part in Welsh history in 1856, when the founding of a Welsh colony in Patagonia was discussed here – for the first time in Wales.
The Calvinistic Methodists established a chapel here in 1842. The building we see today, with its grand Classical entrance, was erected in 1867. The architect was Richard Owen of Liverpool. The chapel closed c.1999.
The Literary Society of Caernarfon met at the original chapel. One of the society’s leading lights was local printer Lewis Jones, born in nearby Pool Lane in 1837. In 1856 the society discussed the possibility of setting up a colony across the Atlantic where the Welsh language and culture would thrive. The idea had first been mooted in the USA, where there was disappointment that the offspring of Welsh people who had settled in North America tended to ignore their Welsh heritage.
Lewis Jones went on to rally support for a colony in Patagonia, a sparsely populated region of South America, and in 1862 he sailed to Buenos Aires to open discussions with the government of Argentina. After Mr Jones wrote a glowing – perhaps over-optimistic – report on the Chubut area, the first settlers arrived from Wales in June 1865. They named Trelew in Mr Jones’ honour. The early decades of the colony were difficult, and it took all his powers of persuasion to prevent the settlers leaving. He died in Chubut in 1904, a few years after a flood wrecked the settlers’ work to improve the land. The colony survived, and Welsh is still spoken in Patagonia today.
On the pillar to the right of the entrance to Engedi chapel is a plaque commemorating the Rev Evan Richardson, who founded an influential Calvinistic Methodist school in Caernarfon in 1787.
Today the chapel lies empty with only a congregation of pigeons.