The chapel was erected in 1763, or possibly the first Calvinistic Methodist congregation in Cilgerran was formed that year. Thomas Morris, Stephen John and Thomas John were the early leading lights of the Cilgerran cause. John Edwards of Llanddewi Brefi came here to preach in 1794. The chapel was built or rebuilt in 1795 (under the name “Tabernacle”), following a revival. It was rebuilt again in 1822. In 1837 David Peter was a chapel elder. In 1839 Rev. Thomas John (born in Cwmplysgog 29/089/1816) became the Minister. On 27th December 1850 the following appeared in the ‘Pembrokeshire Herald‘:
“…KILGERRAN CHAPEL. SIR,—Having seen a letter in your valuable columns of the 13th instant, containing a reference to my name, as connected with the notorious affair of Kilgerran chapel. I think it my duty, though reluctantly, to lay before the public a fair statement of facts, concerning the affair, that the truth and the whole truth might be known. About the year 1795, a small spot of ground was obtained from Captain Jones, the proprietor, on which a chapel was erected at Kilgerran. The parties interested neglected at that time to have the lease which Capt. Jones gave, executed. The chapel was erected for the use of the Calvinistic Methodists. Collections were made for that purpose by the ministers of that denomination, in Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire. Soon after, the property came into the possession of Captain Jones’s sister, Mary Harries, and Thomas Harries, her husband. In the year 1803, they executed a lease on the said chapel to James Bowen, Esq., of Llwyngwair, for three lives, at the annual rent of £ 2, and at the expiration of the said lives, a new lease was to be granted for three more lives, at the annual rent of £3. Application was to be made for the renewal of it within six months. The lease expired in April last, and in the course of a week afterwards Mr. Mathias, solicitor, Fishguard, applied to me, on behalf of Mrs. Harries, to know what we intended doing about Kilgerran chapel. I told him that it was our intention to have the lease renewed, and that no doubt Mr. Bowen would give a regular notice. Mr. Mathias said, would you not prefer giving a premium and have a new lease for Mrs. Harries’s life only? I replied in the negative, and said that three lives without a premium would be preferable to one with a premium; and that we had sufficient confidence in the Llwyngwair family to hold the lease. Edmond Lloyd, Esq., solicitor, Fishguard, made a demand for a new lease on behalf of George Bowen, Esq., and Mrs. Harries refused granting one. I tendered Mrs. Harries the Lady-day rent on behalf of Mr. Bowen, but she declined to receive it. I know not what her reasons might be she had perhaps some doubt whether she was the rightful owner of the property or not, or did she fear to do any thing which would imply a recognition of the existing tenancy? Mrs. Harries being well versed in law, she might discover a flaw in the law when the keen eye of a barrister would fail to detect it. She started several objections, to the renewing of the lease; one was, that the former lessors had no power to grant the lease. At her request, we met Mr. Trail, one of her legal advisers, who corroborated her statement. He would give no opinion about the power we had to recover damages. We never saw the deed. Another objection, which is one of conscience, is this—that the Calvinistic Methodists have separated in principle and practice from the established Church of England, when the lease demanded that the preaching of the gospel in the chapel should be according to the doctrinal articles and homilies of the Established Church. I find it difficult to know what the doctrinal articles and homilies are, as there are so many different opinions about them within the pale of the Church itself; and, moreover, those different opinions about vital doctrines, though they are of the most opposite character, are to coexist by the authority of the law within the Established Church of England —(See Gorham’s Controversy, via., the Bishop of Exeter.) What wonder is it that modern Methodists act in a different way from their fathers towards a church that it is difficult to know what the real doctrines of that institution are. Mrs. Harries, from other reasons than the conflict of opinions, does not know what doctrines have been preached in Kilgerran chapel. However, Mrs. Harries would be able to surmount that difficulty: with regard to our doctrines, though it were so high as the Himalaya or Mount Blanc; yea, all other difficulties whatsoever could be easily overleaped, if we were to give her fifty pounds premium, and take a new lease for her own life only. Her tender conscience towards the doctrinal articles and homilies, in that case, would become remarkably friendly towards the modern race of Methodists so long as her life would last! But this race have declined accepting her terms. We proposed to accept a lease for her own life only, if she had no power to grant us the terms of the original lease in full, and that we would pay her the advanced rent of three pounds, but not the fifty pounds premium. This was refused. We then resolved on taking our master’s advice—” If ye are persecuted in one city, flee into another,” as it was evident that the cause of Christ amongst the poor Methodists of Kilgerran could not have a night’s lodging on Mrs. H’s property without paying an exorbitant price for it. On the 11th of November we waited on Mrs. Harries, and, because she persisted in her former demands we engaged to quit the premises that week. That was done on the 13th ult., and the property was delivered into the charge of the policeman. On the following day, Mrs. Harries’ attorney served an ejectment from the Queen’s Bench, on the late tenant of the chapel house, and also on George Bowen, Esq., the lessee. Such a proceeding towards an inoffensive tenant, and towards such a highly respectable gentleman, one of the first in the county, was so bold and unusual, in these days of civil and religious freedom, that the smack of persecution involved in it, roused the sympathies of our hearts as if our friends were martyrs. I trust that Mr. Bowen and the tenant, as well as all the congregation, together with every right hearted Christian, cognisant of the facts, and suffering with those who suffer, will regard it an honour thus to endure persecution for the cause of Christ. On the 15th ult., we delivered up the keys to Mrs. Harries, and left the case in the hands of a Righteous Judge, who has declared that “who so shall offend one of these little ones, which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea Had Mrs. H. studied more of her Bible, she would have found that passage powerful enough to deter her from doing what she has done—that golden passage, which saith “Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you.” As the poor people at Kilgerran, assembling in the chapel under consideration, have within the last twenty-eight years, rebuilt a commodious chapel, with a chapel house, at a considerable expense, and are now deprived of the place where they often have had sweet counsel together. They appeal to every charitable heart that can sympathize with the persecuted followers of Emmanuel, for assistance to erect another place of worship. Two gentlemen have already offered ground, rent free. The great Head of the Church preached on the mountain and on the ship, we consider the whole earth consecrated by Him— the house of prayer will be in its place on any covenient spot. HUGH HARRIES. Cefn-y-dre, Dec. 23rd, 13.50. P.S.—Mrs. Harries, or “Mirror,” is at liberty to contradict any of this letter if they can…”
On 3rd January 1851 the following appeared in the ‘Pembrokeshire Herald‘:
“…KILGERRAN CHAPEL. SIR,—I have read the correspondence which has been in your paper on the subject of the Kilgerran Cbapel which I infer that the writers on both sides insinuate that the late Mrs. Margaret Harris, of Fishguard, in 1803, executed the lease to my respected father, with a goodly knowledge of its rottenness. This I can not believe. That lady was an exemplary Christian, and a member all her days of the Welsh Methodist connexion, I am, Sir, yours respectfully GEORGE BOWEN, Llwyngwair, January 1st, I851.
SIR,—Will you again allow me a small space in your paper to state to the public, that the Rev. David Meyler, the Calvinistic Methodist minister at Fishguard, is the acknowledged author, and the Rev. Edward Davies, the Calvinistic Methodist Minister of Haverfordwest is the English translator of the letter headed “Tyranny and Sacrilege in Pembrokeshire”, which appeared in your paper of the sixth of December. To anonymous scribblers detection and exposure are the most severe punishment. In my reply to that attack I called on two persons who were cognizant of all the facts then brought forward, to deny my statement if they dared. From a letter signed “Hugh Harris,” in your paper, it will be seen that they have failed to do so, for misrepresentation and abuse are not denial. I have repeatedly stated that I am willing to let the chapel dwelling house, and premises, at Kilgerran, to the Methodists, as Dissenters, for £ 3 annual rent. If they persist in rejecting this offer, it must be with the view of levying contributions on the public under the plea of persecution. My assailants well know that, but for their interference, the Methodists of Kilgerran and myself should have come to a peaceful settlement, without their…?vacating?…the chapel for one Sabbath: but the author of the anonymous letter follows the trade of a carpenter and building a new chapel at Kilgerran…[?will bring him a?]…pleasant and profitable summer employment. I can in no way account for the rele[ntless manner in?] which this person has long manifested..?…Which now prompts him to excite public [opinion against?] me for asserting my right to a property…?…before vainly attempted to wrest from me an…?… by means of the Will to which he alludes in his anonymous letter. I would conclude this disagreeable correspondence, expressing my earnest hope in the words of the Litany of our Church, —” “That it may please…give all my enemies, persecutors, and slanderers…turn their hearts.” I remain. Sir, yours, LETITIA MARIA HARRIES, Castle Hill, Fishguard, Dec. 30th 1851…”
In 1851 “Tabernacle” had 106 attendees and 85 scholars in the mornings and 180 in the evening, overseen by the steward, Ebenezer Bowen. In 1862 Rev. Thomas John died.
In 1864 alterations were carried out, including the addition of a forecourt. In 1873 Rev. John Griffiths became the Minister until 1899, though he was unpaid and officially retired. On 4th February 1878 a daughter was born to the wife of Rev. John Griffiths, Minister. The chapel was rebuilt in 1891 to designs by architect Mr. Evan of Solva. The new chapel opened on New Year’s Day 1892. On 9th January 1892 the following appeared in the ‘Cardigan Observer‘:
“…OPENING OF A NEW CHAPEL.—On New Year’s Day and the previous evening, the new and pretty chapel of the Calvinistic Methodists at Cilgerran, erected on the foundation of the old one, was opened. The ministers who officiated on the occasion were the Rev. John Griffiths (pastor, in the first service), Principal Pryse, M.A., Trevecca; Revs. George Williams, LIysyfran W. M. Lewis, Tyllwyd and Evan Phillips, Newcastle-Emlyn. The sermons were exceedingly good and powerful, and the meetings well attended. The cost of building has nearly all been defrayed by voluntary subscriptions…”
In 1893 Rev. John Griffiths stood as a candidate in the election of Guardians of the Poor. Rev. John Griffiths died on June 11th 1899. On 16th June 1899 the following appeared in the ‘Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser‘:
“…DEATH OF THE REV. JOHN GRIFFITHS (C. M.), CILGERRAN. We very much regret to have to chronicle the death of the above estimable rev. gentleman, which took place after an illness of about three months, on Sunday morning last. The Rev. John Griffiths was a native of Cilgerran, and commenced his career as a tailor, ultimately opened business as such in that town, having a large connection with the gentry of the district. Afterwards he felt his calling to a better sphere of labour, and studied hard for the ministry in the Calvinistic denomination, and at the Synodical examinations in 1872, he came out in a very high position, beating his more favoured colleagues who possessed better advantages for higher training. In 1873 Mr. Griffiths was ordained, and took up the cause of Calvinistic Methodism in the neighbourhood of Solva, where he remained for a short period, and was then transferred to Cilgerran, where he remained to the time of his death, nearly 25 years; and during his ministry the chapel was rebuilt, mainly due to his untiring energy in season and out of season. Mr. Griffiths was a man of much natural ability and foresight, and was generally respected by all who knew him. He was a keen and constant friend of the fishermen of Cilgerran, and as a member of the Teify Board of Conservators for some years, championed their cause with much sincerity and success. His death was generally felt as a loss, not only as a minister, but as a well wisher of all in the district. Deceased was only 53 years of age…”
By 5th February 1904 a vestry was being added. In 1906 Rev. William Evans became the Minister, fresh from college. In 1907 Rev. William Evans was married. In January 1908 the wife of Rev. William Evans gave birth to a child. In March 1908 Rev. William Evans died aged 33. On 20th March 1908 the following appeared in the ‘Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser‘:
“…DEATH OF THE REV. WILLIAM EVANS, CILGERRAN. Scarcely has an event occurred in this district in recent years that has cast more gloom than has the death of the young Methodist minister, the Rev. William Evans. Coming fresh from college some 18 months ago to take the oversight of Cilgerran and Capel Newydd Churches, he entered upon his work with every prospect favourable. But alas, after but a very brief illness his career has been cut off, to the great grief of all who knew him, at the early age of 33 years. Mr. Evans, who was a native of Penuwch, Cardiganshire, commenced preaching at Ynyshir, Glamorganshire, and proceeded in due course to Trevecca College, after leaving which he was in the usual way ordained to the full work of the ministry. He was a very earnest and acceptable preacher, and his services were in much demand. His last sermon was preached at Tanygroes a fortnight ago. The day was bitterly cold, and it is generally believed that a chill which he then took laid the foundation of the illness which, notwithstanding the assiduous attentions and skill of Dr. Stephens, ended so fatally. Soon after settling at Cilgerran, Mr. Evans was married, but the happy bride of 12 months ago is now a grief-stricken widow, with a young child some seven weeks old. The sympathy of the whole community goes out to her, and earnest prayers are offered on her behalf that she may be supported in this hour of great trial…”
In March 1912 Rev. Arthur Henry Rogers of Aberystwyth, a native of Llangefni, Anglesey, accepted the call to Cilgerran. On 26th & 27th August 1912 his induction took place. In 1912-21 Rev. Arthur Henry Rogers (b. 1880) was the Pastor. On 5th March 1913 Rev. Arthur Henry Rogers, Minister, married Miss Annie Griffiths of Tyllwyd, Cilgerran, the daughter of his predecessor – the late Rev. John Griffiths. The chapel’s 1913 outing was to Poppit, St. Dogmaels. In September 1915 the following new Deacons were elected: Stephen George, Penuel Cottage; Thomas Michael, Castle View; David Davies, Dolbadau; J. Oliver Jones, Tymelyn; Mr. Lodwig, Glanpwllafon, St. Dogmaels; and Mr. Griffiths, Glasfryn. On 23rd May 1920 a new organ was installed. In February 1921 Rev. A. H. Rogers announced his intention to leave for Elim, Tirydail, Ammanford.
Rev. Arthur Henry Rogers returned in February 1926 and was Minister again until 1951. In September 1927 Thomas Michael, plasterer, died. He had been the secretary of the chapel for 26 years. In August 1932 and July 1933 the chapel house was advertised to let – the tenant to act as chapel caretaker. At the end of December 1950 Rev. Arthur Henry Rogers retired as the Minister after more than 33 years, giving his last regular service in May 1951.
In September 1952 Rev. Huw Llewelyn Jones became the Minister, having succeeded Rev. A. H. Rogers. His induction took place on 16th & 17th September 1952. The Deacons that year were J. T. Griffiths, W. Bowen, T. Morris George, Joseph Cooke, John Michael and Moses Griffiths. There were 112 members that year. In April 1957 Deacon Johnny Michael died. In 1957 Rev. Huw Llewelyn Jones left for Ystalafere. On 2nd & 3rd September 1958 Rev. J. Rees Hughes was inducted as the new Minister. In 1961 Rev. J. Rees Hughes left for Blaengarw. On 25th September 1965 Rev. Gomer M. Roberts (1904-93) – Minister of Glanrhyd Chapel, Llantood, was inducted as the new Minister. He retired in 1969. In 1969-78 Rev. D. Leslie Jones was the Minister, after the retirement of Rev. Gomer M. Roberts. In 1978 Rev. Leslie Jones moved to Pontardulais. In 1978-2005 Rev. Richard Williams was the Minister. In February 1996 the vestry was offered for sale. On 14th December 1997 a concert was held here to celebrate the bicentenary of the cause at Cilgerran. In 1999 Mrs. Megan Davies was acknowledged for her seventy years as chapel organist with a special service in her honour. On Tuesday 8th February 2011 the chapel closed.
The following observations were made in 2000:
Gable-fronted Calvinistic Methodist Chapel of 1891 in rock-faced stone with angle quoins. Pitched slate roof with decorative terracotta ridge tiles. Façade has 2 storeys. Central paired timber doors with arched overlight containing quatrefoil tracery, within sandstone surround and raised hood. Outer bays have paired 3-pane lights, tall with sandstone dressings and dividing piers, paired sandstone hoods. Gable has central 5-light window of similar narrow lights, graded to higher centre, all with linked hoods and with sandstone dressings and dividing piers. To apex of gable is raised sandstone band broken by small arched headed ventilation opening. Small finial to coped gable.
Interior (2011) has 3-sided gallery on cast iron columns (made in Cardigan) with diagonal slatted timber panels. Pitch pine pews, gallery and pulpit. 3-sided pulpit ornately carved. Arched pulpit back in raised stucco.
The Religious Census of 1851
The History of Cilgerran, John Roland Phillips 1867
Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser 1878; 1899; 1904; 1908; 1912-13; 1915; 1920-21;
1926-27; 1932-33; 1942; 1950; 1952; 1957; 1965; 1996-97; 2011
Cardigan Observer 1892
Election of Cardigan Union Guardians, 1893
Galareb am y diweddar Barch John Griffiths, Cilgerran, James D Symmons 1899
Poster – Prayer Meeting, Babell, Cilgerran 30/08/1939
Poster – Quarterly Meeting of Methodists, Babell, Cilgerran September 1949
Babell, Cilgerran – Annual Report 1952
Cilgerran Bible Society Annual Report 1952
Tom Mathias, John Williams-Davies 1995.
Cilgerran News, January 1998
Y Corwg No. 4, 1999.
Information from an exhibition on Babell Chapel held at Cilgerran Village Hall
© Glen K Johnson 25/07/2013