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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 14:57 GMT
Vandals 'destroy' historic chapel
The vandalised interior of Gellionnen Chapel
The vandals destroyed pews and threw paint around the chapel
Vandals left worshippers in tears after wrecking an historic chapel on a Swansea Valley mountainside.

Lewis Rees, the pastor at Gellionnen Chapel, near Pontardawe, had to turn his congregation away when they arrived for the morning service on Sunday.

The vandals threw paint at the walls, destroyed pews, pushed out a 12ft tall window and smashed the pulpit which is more than 200 years old.

Police are appealing for information about the damage caused.

Mr Rees said: "You often hear about footballers being 'gutted' and that's how it felt.

"To see the sheer wanton destruction of such a historic old building is not something you expect to see," he added.

To come in and spend a long time here actually wantonly destroying things is beyond me
Pastor Lewis Rees

The vandals are thought to have smashed their way in after forcing security gates from their hinges.

Mr Rees realised there had been a break-in when he found flowers strewn around the parking area when he arrived to open for Sunday's service.

In addition to breaking the pews and throwing paint around, the vandals also pushed out one of four 12ft tall feature windows.

He said: "A window that size would take some effort to dislodge. I was just shocked at the sheer destruction.

"This building dates from 1802 and a lot of the woodwork is from that period.

Gellionnen Chapel
The chapel is in a remote location on Mynydd Gellionnen

"The pulpit in particular is a very important architectural piece of joinery work and that has been absolutely destroyed.

"I hope that we can repair it and reinstate it as it should be but I fear it may be beyond economic repair.

"The systematic destruction is something that has shocked me greatly - we've had break-ins in the past where people have come in and knocked things about a bit and then left it - but to come in and spend a long time here actually wantonly destroying things is beyond me."

A chapel has stood on the site for hundreds of years and parts of the building date back to 1692.

Mr Rees said the chapel was popular despite its remote location on Mynydd Gellionnen.

The Christmas Eve service was particularly popular, often attracting 250 worshippers, some from as far away as New Zealand.

South Wales Police Inspector Jeff Handley said: "This is an appalling crime which has shocked the local community. There has been systematic destruction of the chapel.

"Not only is it a crime against the church but also against the community who have used this facility as a place of worship for 300 years.

"Gellionnen is a strong community and I have been heartened by the amount of support which has been shown towards the community with offers of help from businesses who are as appalled at this incident as we are."

Anyone with any information about the attack can contact South Wales Police on 01792 456999 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111



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See the destruction caused by the vandals



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