The chapel, built as a chapel-of-ease to Blaenywaun Baptist Chapel, with the same Deacons and Minister, was built to replace that of “Ty’r Bont” across the street in 1837-38. Enoch Davies was the architect. The chapel appears to be indicated on the 1838 Tithe Map. It opened on 28th & 29th March 1838. The land had cost £50 and the building of the chapel cost £309. 13s. 3d.. Rev. William Thomas was the first Minister here, succeeded in 1848 by Rev. J. P. Williams. In 1851 the average Sunday attendance was said to be 281 in the mornings and 690 in the evenings. The chapel was extended and the gallery enlarged in 1856-57. According to a plaque the remodelling was conducted by Dafydd James, and probably cost about £900. In December 1861 Rev. J. P. Williams died aged 44. He had announced his intention to retire on 17th February 1861. J. George of Ffynnoncoronau, Bridell, assisted with the services. On 7th October 1862 Rev. T. T. Jones became the Minister until 1866.
On 16th October 1868 reference was made to the new Minister, Rev. Isaac Thomas. On Christmas Day 1869 an Eisteddfod was held here. In 1875-82 Rev. Seth Jones was the Pastor. He left disgraced in 1882. In 1883 Rev. E. Talfryn Jones became the Pastor. The chapel was redecorated in 1890. Rev. E. Talfryn Jones left in 1892. On 21st August 1894 Rev. Hugh Jones became the Pastor until 1902. In June 1896 the regional Cymanfa Ganu was held here. By 14th July 1905 Rev. John David Hughes was the new Pastor. On 27th May 1909 tenders were sought for renovating the building, cementing the façade etc. David James of Tyrhedyn, High Street, was the Chapel Secretary. The work was conducted by John Thomas, St. Mary Street, Cardigan (painting); David Davies of St. Dogmaels (carpentry); and Messrs. James & Michael, Cardigan and Cilgerran (plastering). On 12th July 1912 tenders were sought for building a new vestry and again in June 1913 – to designs by J. Teifion J. Williams of Bryngogarth, Napier Street, Cardigan. On 21st March 1915 Bethsaida became the first local chapel to have gas lighting, which was installed by Syd Thomas of Cardigan. On 12th June 1925 tenders were again sought for building a vestry. Rev. J. D. Hughes retired in 1925. In 1926 Rev. John Thomas became the new Pastor.
In 1926 the vestry was built on the site of the old ‘Rose & Crown’ Inn and it opened on 30th June 1926. It contained an entrance porch, large main hall, partitioned classroom and kitchen, and was built by contractor Mr. Thomas Griffiths, Rushfield, St. Dogmaels. Mr. John Jones of Lawrence Villa performed the opening with a golden key. On 29th June 1927 Rev. John David Hughes, the former Pastor since 1905, died aged 68. On 27th January 1933 the chapel was undergoing renovations to plans by John Owen Parry, architect of A. H. Bond & Company, Ammanford, including the installation of a new organ. It re-opened on 5th March 1933. The ‘Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser‘ described the new look:
“…In the renovation of Bethsaida, the whole of the interior, including the ceiling work, was dismantled, and made quite bare. The pine end behind the pulpit was opened out for the provision of an organ chamber, which has been built as an extension to the chapel, having a semi-arch opening and fluted pilasters formed each side, with open grills formed in the upper portions each side. Beneath the organ chamber provision has been made for the installation of a power motor when the electric power and lighting supply becomes an accomplished fact in St. Dogmaels. A deacons’ room has also been built in addition to, and adjoining, the organ chamber.
The new ceiling comprises of centre plastered panels with ribs and pitch pine panelling each side, and coved plaster work brought down to the springing of the window arches. The whole of the joinery work, comprising the organ front, pulpit, big pew, gallery front and seating has been constructed of pitch pine, selected curly grain in certain parts of the work, with inlaid mouldings in polished mahogany. The main floor has been laid with wood block flooring, and it has a fall in its length of 6 ½ ins. From the vestibule screen to the big pew. The windows throughout are of leaded lights, and having suitable coloured inscriptions, such as “GWEDDIWCH,” “GWILIWCH,” “MAWL,” “CARIAD,” etc., embodied in each one of the twelve side windows, which shew up with a very pleasing effect. The vestibule screen is also framed out of curly pitch pine timber with inscribed colour leaded lights, and the two vestibule entrances are paved with terrazzo, with a centre piece design in each. The internal design and appearance, which also has neatly formed cornice moulding of fibrous plaster work, makes the chapel of a light appearance, and the acoustics are considered to be excellent.
Externally the whole of the front elevation and main entrances have been entirely remodelled, with two entrances instead of the original single entrance, having teak doors, with designed leaded lights in the upper panels. The parapet forming the top of the main gable has been constructed of moulded terracotta work, with fluted apron on the lower face, and this feature presents a solid capping over the whole front exterior. Sunk pilasters have also been formed each side, with a heavy moulding formed over the main entrance, and corbelled wings in the receding width entering towards the main doors. Bronze lettering has been set just below the old semi-arch below the parapet, filling in this space in an admirable manner, with “Bethsaida” also set in bronze letters on the moulding over the entrances. The whole of the front has been finished in coloured cement work, picked out in an artistic manner, with the cemented pathways, side access railings, and front dwarf wall with ornamental railings, pillars and gates to match; the whole appearance giving quite a modern “touch” to the edifice…”
The new organ, which had cost £800, was dedicated by the Pastor, Rev. John Thomas, on 29th March 1933. Rev. John Thomas ceased to be the Minister in 1957. On 17th February 1960 Rev. W. H. Rowlands was inducted as the new Minister. Rev. W. H. Rowlands ceased to be the Minister in 1981. In 1983 Rev. Dafydd H. Edwards became the Minister. The chapel was re-opened that year, presumably following redecoration. In 2001, there were plans to sell the chapel. Rev. Dafydd H. Edwards was still the Minister in 2006. The chapel closed in October 2006. On 22nd January 2007 the organ was removed and sent to St. Thomas’ Church in Neath. The former chapel was advertised for sale soon afterwards. It was sold in Spring 2010.
An open day was held here on 30th April 2011. In March 2012 work began on converting the vestry into a house and the chapel and vestry were both re-roofed that month. The chapel exterior and the whole of the vestry were renovated in 2012-13.
For more information on the chapel and its’ ministers, see Blaenwaun Baptist Chapel.
The following observations were made in 1998:
Baptist Chapel built 1837-8, enlarged 1855-6, renovated 1909 and 1933. Gable fronted 2-storey façade in painted stucco with coped gables and slate roof. Façade has 1933 entrance with flat head, wide, with stepped-ended door recess containing 2 entrances with timber doors and blank wall between. Recessed stucco surround with ‘Bethsaida’ above entrance in raised letters. Full-height paired end pilasters with arched joint to heads. First floor has three arched headed windows – taller centre light with lower flanks. Stone sills, raised stucco surrounds with stucco capitals to arch springs, marginal glazed lights with coloured glass. Plaque beneath each window – slate sill to centre. Left plaque ‘Adailadwyd 1837 gan Enoch Davies’. The right plaque reads ‘Helaethwyd 1857 gan Dafydd James’. Gable has arch with raised stucco above, then fluted stucco bargeboard. Side walls are squared rubble stone banded in blue lias with red crested ridge to roof and boxed eaves. 2-storey, 3 window, with fine recessed voussoirs to window heads – arched headed to first floor, cambered headed to ground floor, slate sills. Coloured glass and leaded glazing. Similar banded rear wall with lean-to added in stucco render with imitation slate roof.
An old photograph shows 12-pane sashes with arched glazed heads to the first floor, rusticated raised stucco arch to gable with raised inscription beneath. Ground floor left had opening – possibly sash, with raised stucco head and keystone.
Mainly 1930’s interior. Lobby has coloured glass panels and originally cast date-plaque from earlier chapel. Opens into chapel interior with 3-sided gallery supported on plain cast iron columns with classical heads, having canted angles and long rectangular panels. Panelled pews and large square-panelled pulpit with curved stairs having large newel posts. Organ recess has large raised stucco arch within square-headed recess, the arch flanked by decorative vents.
Tithe Map for St. Dogmaels parish 1838
Slater’s Directory 1850
The Religious Census of 1851
Ticket – Traddodir Darlith, Bethsaida, St. Dogmaels 24/11/1885
Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser 1885; 1894; 1897; 1905-07; 1909; 1912-13; 1915; 1919; 1925; 1927; 1932-33; 1935; 1953; 1960; 1969-70; 1994; 2000; 2006-07
Hanes Blaenywaun, Benjamin Rees 1899
Programme – Gymanfa Cerddorol, Bethsaida 21/05/1913
Poster – Annual Meeting at Bethsaida Chapel 20/10/1915
Poster – Concert at Bethsaida 09/08/1922
Kelly’s Directory of South Wales 1926
The West Wales Guardian 10/03/1933
The Pembrokeshire Telegraph 09/03/1933; 31/03/1933
Poster – Lecture by Rev. O E Roberts, Bethsaida Chapel 26/02/1953
Programme – Special Hymns of Praise service, Bethsaida Chapel, April 1957
Ticket – Sacred Concert, Bethsaida 25/04/1976
St. Dogmaels Uncovered, Glen K Johnson 2007
Sale/Auction Particulars – Bethsaida Chapel, J J Morris, 2008
Proposals for Bethsaida, Jo & Tony Dyer November 2010
Flyer – Open Day, Bethsaida Chapel, Jo & Tony Dyer, 30/04/2011
© Glen K Johnson 19/07/2013.