Our Welsh Chapel Dream: Extraordinary reaction in North Wales as Keith Brymer Jones told 'you will be surprised'

Capel Salem is imposing from the outside but decaying on the inside
Capel Salem is imposing from the outside but decaying on the inside -Credit:Channel 4/screengrab

Scores of volunteers have offered to help Keith Brymer Jones with his mammoth task of restorating a derelict North Wales chapel. Residents in Pwllheli, Gwynedd, were quick to volunteer their services after watching the first episode of the Great Pottery Throw Down star’s new Channel 4 property show.

Our Welsh Chapel Dream follows Keith and wife Marjory Hogarth as they embark on the restoration of a 160-year-old building into their forever home. On Sunday (May 5), Keith, 58, and Marj, 56, introduced viewers to Capel Salem, the Grade II-listed former chapel in Pwllheli, Gwynedd, which was snapped up by the couple for £200,000.

They face a Herculean task, with missing slates, broken tiles, water running down walls and mould growing everywhere. Built in 1862 and once owned by the Presbyterian Church of Wales, the chapel had been abandoned for 12 years.

READ MORE: The freezing, rat-infested seafront in Welsh town residents claim has been a nightmare

READ MORE: TV chef Bryn Williams to open a second restaurant in North Wales

On the programme, it was revealed the couple had a renovation budget but nothing for unexpected works. So they were shocked to get a £38,000 quote to have piles of pigeon guano (dried droppings) removed from the chapel. Fearing the worst, they were relieved to get a later quote for a more manageable £17,000.

Ultimately, the couple aim to convert the chapel and Sunday School annexe into a living space with a large pottery studio. There will also be a large space for the local community. But it quickly became clear the project was going to take longer – and cost more – than expected.

Within hours of the first programme airing, offers of help began flooding in from local people. “Count me in!” said one woman online. Another said: “I’m only over road, and plenty of free time, would love to help in any way.”

Others offered to clean and paint and to help tackle the unholy mess of brambles outside the chapel. “Pwllheli is a great community,” said one resident. “Shout out when ready and you will be surprised at the response.” The North Wales Live Whatsapp community for top stories and breaking news is live now - here’s how to sign up

Keith Brymer Jones and wife Marjorie Hogarth in Capel Salem, Pwllheli
Keith Brymer Jones and wife Marjorie Hogarth in Capel Salem, Pwllheli -Credit:Keith Brymer Jones

There were also offers of recommendations for local tradespeople, while several volunteers pledged to make tea for everyone helping out. This was gratefully received by Marj, who said: “We can put the kettle on now…….we have 4 plug sockets!” Addressing all the offers of help, she added: “How marvellous, this means a lot. We will definitely keep you posted…we need all the help we can get!”

It’s thought some original internal features were destroyed in a fire in 1913. However the building, on the corner of Allt Salem Terrace and Lleiniau Uchaf, still has a large raked gallery, ornate cast iron columns and a spectacular plaster ceiling with elaborate friezes and a vast central ceiling rose.

Photos of the chapel’s ornate interior show it was still in decent condition as recently as 2017. Since then, the building has deteriorated significantly. “It’s heartbreaking,” said Marj, seen in episode one cleaning a men’s urinal and marvelling over its design. “Marj cleaning loos in a fur coat!” said one viewer. “That’s class!”

Keith surveys walls and windows at the chapel and considers how best to save them
Keith surveys walls and windows at the chapel and considers how best to save them -Credit:Channel 4/screengrab

Already there are signs the show will be a huge hit and fill the gap left by Escape From the Chateau. Many people are loving the couple's dream and wish them the best. "There are so many Welsh chapels being demolished," said a woman on social media. "Thank you for rescuing this one.”

To which Keith replied: “We haven’t finished yet, but thank you for the support.” Get all the latest Gwynedd news by signing up to our newsletter - sent every Tuesday

The chapel and its renovators are not the show’s only stars: so too is the Gwynedd coastline and countryside. Keith and Marj were filmed visiting places like Criccieth and Portmeirion. Smiling as he choked back tears, Keith turned to Marj and said: “How the hell did we get here? Just seeing the mountains... it is magical.”

  • Our Welsh Chapel Dream continues next Sunday at 9pm on Channel 4. Episodes one and two are also available to watch on Channel 4 on demand.