On 1st July 1877 it was resolved at a meeting held at Bethania Baptist Chapel, William Street, to build a chapel here, the land having been donated free by Rev. Robert Henry W. Miles of the Priory. Plans were being discussed on 3rd May 1878. On 31st August 1878 the following appeared in the ‘Cardigan Observer‘:
“…THE NEW ENGLISH BAPTIST CHAPEL.-During the present week, the grounds for this Chapel have been cut in Priory-street, the contract for which has been taken by Mr. Woodward. According to present arrangements, the ceremony of laying the foundation stone will take place on Wednesday, the 11th of September, when it is anticipated that the distinguished honour of laying the stone will devolve on Mr. D. Davies, M.P., and Mr. William Davies, of Haverfordwest, who have both consented to be present on the occasion. In the evening, a gathering of a different nature will be held, of which farther particulars will again appear. The above day will therefore be a red letter day in the history of the Baptist denomination in Cardigan, who hive for nearly close on a century occupied a pre-eminent position in the town. Their prospects are most encouraging, as the contributions already vouchsafed by members of the denomination in the town alone amount to a splendid total, while the promises which continue to flow in from other sources, together with the heartiness with which its promoters have engaged in the work, cannot fail to inspire all around them with the triumphant success of their Cause…”
The Memorial Stone was laid by David Davies, M. P., on 11th September 1878. The chapel was designed by George Morgan of Carmarthen and built by William Woodward, using the products of the Cardigan Brickworks. It cost £1000 to build, including railings made at the Mwldan Foundry and seats by William Williams, cabinet-maker of Pendre. Joseph Rees, chemist, High Street, donated a harmonium. On 14th September 1878 the following appeared in the ‘Cardigan Observer‘:
“…AN ENGLISH BAPTIST CHAPEL AT CARDIGAN. LAYING MEMORIAL STONES. ADDRESS BY MR. WILLIAM DAVIES, HAVERFORDWEST. A CHEQUE FOR £ 100 FROM MR. DAVID DAVIES, M.P. An event, which has commenced a fresh epoch in the history of the Baptist denomination in Cardigan, was celebrated with due demonstration and ceremony on Wednesday last. The occasion we refer to was that of laying the memorial stones of the handsome structure for the English Baptist Cause, now in course of erection in Priory-street. In a recent number of this paper, it was stated that the Baptist Cause had been established in the town for nearly close on a century. On referring to the paper read at the ceremony, it will be found that it was established in 1775, upwards of a century ago. The mother church was Ebenezer, near this town—a Cause still existing-then under the ministry of Mr. William Williams, J. P. (grand- father of the present Mr. J. W. Bowen, Q. C.) The first chapel which they worshipped in still remains, and which in 1847 gave room to the more spacious and stately chapel in William-street Ever since its formation, this church has been most flourishing, and during that period its pulpit has been gifted with the most eminent and talented ministers, which, coupled with the generous and zealous character of the church towards its respective institutions, has won it a name and reputation among the foremost in the Baptist Churches of Wales. From the church in this town again and through the exertions of Mr. Williams, a Cause was established at Verwig, which has continued flourishing ever since. Later, partly from Cilfowyr and Cardigan, the church at Cilgerran was formed, which, as most of our readers are aware, has by this time established itself in the place. Of late years, the church has been considering the wants of home, and from time to time have been advocating the establishment of an English Cause in their midst, as the number of their members in the town and district fully justified their making such a provision. Added to this was the continual recurrence of cases in which Baptists, owing to there being no English place of worship within a radius of at least 20 miles, were prevented from joining in religious worship with their own denomination. The outcome of these circumstances was the determination to build the present chapel, and we may here state that ever since it was decided upon, the utmost unity and enthusiasm has prevailed among the committee, as the success of the work hitherto plainly indicates. The chapel is erected in a very convenient and pleasant spot in Priory-street, and judging from the plans it promises to be a very neat and handsome structure. The ceremony of laying the memorial stones was performed on Wednesday afternoon. The committee had secured the presence of two eminently influential gentlemen to perform the auspicious duties of laying the stones, viz., Mr. Davies, M.P. for the Cardigan Boroughs, and Mr. W. Davies, Haverfordwest. Mr. Davies, M.P., was unavoidably prevented from being present, but a letter was received from the hon. member late on Wednesday night stating that through illness he was unable to attend, having been confined to his bed since the previous Saturday. Mr. Davies also enclosed in the letter a cheque for £ 100 towards the chapel. Unfortunately, the letter arrived too late on Wednesday to have an opportunity of publicly explaining for his absence, but we are sure everyone will regret the cause that prevented him to carry out his intention, which was so eagerly anticipated. In the regretted absence of Mr. Davies, the ceremony of laying the other stone was graciously per- formed by Mrs. Davies, Haverfordwest. The fine weather much favoured the proceedings, and a vast number of people assembled to witness the interesting ceremony. As the time of commencing was delayed owing to the non-arrival of Mr. Davies, M.P., the proceedings on the ground “were necessarily shorter than was at first contemplated. At 2.30, a prayer meeting was held at Bethania Chapel, from whence the congregation proceeded to the ground, accompanied by the local and other ministers. A convenient platform had been arranged on the ground for the accommodation of the speakers and ministers, on which we observed the following:—Mr., Mrs., and Miss Davies, Haverfordwest; Messrs. Asa J. Evans, solicitor; J. Lewis, William-street; Stephen Davies, grocer; D. O. Jones, Bridge Parade; Joseph Rees, High- street; D. Morris, Secretary; J. Lewis, Royal Arms; Revs. W. Owen, Haverfordwest; H. C. Williams, Corwen; Seth Jones, Blaenywaun; and T. Phillips, Ferwig. The Revs. R. Price, Cilfowyr; T. J. Morris, Capel Mair; L. Beynon, Hope Chapel, and W. Jones, Bridge-End. The proceedings were commenced by singing a hymn, and the Rev. W. Owen, Haverfordwest, reading a reading a portion of the 2nd Book of Chronicles, and offering prayer in English, after which a hymn was again sung. Mr. Stephen Davies then called upon Mr. S. Young to deliver the following address, which contains a little of the history of the denomination in the past, and was afterwards deposited in one of the leaden boxes inside the memorial stones:- ERECTION OF THE FIRST ENGLISH BAPTIST CHAPEL IN CARDIGAN. We, as Baptists, have existed in the ancient town of Cardigan for the last 102 years. A Welsh Cause was started in the town in 1775, under the fostering care and guidance of William Williams, Esq., J.P., then pastor of Ebenezer Church, near this town, a gentleman whose name to this day is fragrant in the annals of society. A chapel was at that time built in Pendre, called Bethania, and which was completed on the 19th April 1776. The church assembling therein was blessed in such a manner with so many of those divine elements so essential to the development of Christian influence that even her name became sacred, and her habitation consecrated to the hearts of thousands. Du- ring the long term of 71 years, this church multi- plied in number, increased in power, and grew in favour with God and man. Blessed with the gems of the pulpit-the seraphic Evan Jones, the tal- ented John Herring, and the evangelical William Jones and Morris Edwards, all of whom proved to be the messengers of God to the church. Seeing their labours crowned with such success, they cried with the prophet of old—”Enlarge the place of thy tent, and stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.” The result” of this was that a new and larger Bethania was erected in William-street, and opened in 1847. The ministers at this Chapel up to this day have been the Revs. David Rees, Evan Thomas, Daniel Davies, D.D., Evan Thomas, of Regent’s Park College, and D. Davies (Dewi Dyfan), now of Merthyr. For the last 15 years, this church has been seriously contemplating the advisability of establishing an English Baptist Cause in Cardigan. The keen eye of the intelligent gazed with surprise at the rapid march of the English language throughout our land, and the church, being gradually impressed with the necessity of the proposed Cause, resolved on Sunday evening, the 1st July, 1877, to form an English Cause in connection with the denomination in the town. This day, we witness the result of that Sunday night’s resolution. The memorial stones are laid by Mr. and Mrs. Davies, Haverfordwest (and shall be had in everlasting remembrance.) Let our hands be strung, ye that hear in these days these words, which are in the day the foundation of the house of the Lord of Hosts was laid that the temple might be built. For the end shall be prosperous, the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heaven’s shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people all these things.” Grace and peace the temple of the Lord. The Rev. W. Owen, who next addressed the assembly, said they could not foresee events. He much regretted the absence of Mr. Davies, the borough member,-a name of probity and honour amongst them-and he was folly persuaded there was some justifiable cause to prevent him from attending. They were highly honoured in having the names of such two good men for that occasion —names which were proverbial throughout Wales. It was through no small trouble and inconvenience that his friend, Mr. Davies, Haverfordwest, had come to serve the people of God and religion on former occasions. Pembrokeshire, standing as it does on the borders of this county, was properly represented there that day. He had come up to rejoice with the people of Cardigan at the success of the Kingdom. He did not care whether he spoke Welsh, English, or French, as long as they under- stood him, for much as they loved the old vernacular it was their duty to provide for the rapid progress of the English language. That building was not erected to preach English in, but to preach the Gospel of Christ in the English language. It was not their wish to put sect against sect, and he wished those present not to look with a jealous eye upon the doings of the Baptist friends on that occasion, but rather to consider them as helpers of the good. He then called upon Mr. Davies, of Haverfordwest, to proceed with the ceremony. Mr. Davies, on rising, said:—Ladies and gentlemen,—It is very painful for me to know that Mr. Davies, your Member, is not present. I feel assured there is some sufficient reason for his absence, for he is the very essence of punctuality. I regret that he is absent, for I had anticipated we should have a good English speech from him. My duties, therefore, will be more onerous, for I sup- pose I shall have to lay the two stones unless my friend, Mr. Asa J. Evans, who I may say is an ornament to the Baptist denomination, will consent to lay the other. The number of stones which I am called upon to lay will make me in a short time an excellent mason. I cannot help thinking of the number of Nonconformist Chapels there are in the counties of Carmarthen, Pembroke, and Cardigan. The style of the buildings is also a credit. In days gone by, our forefathers used to worship in barns, but the advanced age in which we live in has rendered it obligatory upon us to provide better buildings. As Education advances, the culture and taste of the rising generation should be met with. Take Pembroke Dock for instance, which place I consider takes the lead in the county of Pembroke for chapel buildings. In a few years four handsome chapels have been erected there, and one at a cost of £6,000. In Pembroke also, four new Nonconformist chapels had been erected within the past few years. In Haverfordwest the Independents had built a very handsome chapel; and was pleased to say that he had just been asked to lay the foundation stone of a new Baptist chapel there.. He was glad to find that the same spirit had come to Cardigan, and that a handsome place of worship was about to be built here. I see that the Welsh have a very large one, but provision must also be made for the English language. I am always pleased to hear a Welsh preacher-I like the Welsh fire. To my mind, a Welsh preacher was the perfection of a preacher, but they should not confine themselves to the Welsh, but should preach English with the same power. Well, I suppose the main object of this gathering is to provide funds to pay for the chapel. Chapels were built by voluntary contributions, while the reverse principle was set down never to rise. Looking around me at the large number of persons present, and seeing the interest taken in these proceedings, I have no doubt that the cost will be defrayed. At this stage of the proceedings, the ceremony took place, a beautiful walnut mallet, and a hand- some silver trowel, with ivory handle, which were enclosed in a suitable case, being presented to Mr. Davies by the Rev. W. Owen. The trowel bore the following inscription:—Presented by the Bulling Committee to William Davies, Esq., to lay the Memorial Stone of the English Chapel, Cardigan. Sept. 11th, 1878.” Mr. Davies having accomplished his task, Mrs. Davies proceeded to lay the other stone, the spectators during this time pushing forward to every point of vantage to gain a view of the ceremony. Resuming his speech, Mr. Davies said: I sup- pose the next thing is to lay something on them, and you will now have an opportunity of doing so. (Mr. Davies here handed a cheque for £20, which was laid on the stone.) Mr. Owen referred just now to jealousies. Jealousies ought not to exist in matters of religion. I believe that the Episcopalians, as well as Baptists, Wesleyans, and Independents are doing an enormous amount of religious work in the country. If there was no diversity of opinion, how sleek this world would be. I hope you will have a minister worthy of Cardigan to fill the pulpit. The standard of the minis- try was raised year after year. I am glad to see how Nonconformity spreads its wings through the land. In conclusion, Mr. Davies thanked them for the honour they had done him in selecting him as one to lay the memorial stones. He regretted that Mr. Davies, M.P., was not present, but hoped he would be present at the lecture that night, to give a rattling good speech. In addition to Mr. W. Davies’ cheque for £20, the following were also received:- A. cheque for £ 10 10s. from Mr. John Lewis, William-street; a cheque for £ 10 from Mr. John Lewis, Royal Arms; and £5 from Capt. D. Davies, William-street; and Is. from a poor fish woman from St. Dogmells. A Welsh hymn having been sung, the proceedings were closed with prayer by the Rev. Seth Jones, Blaenywaun. The committee wish to return their thanks to Mr. Woodward, the contractor, for the very convenient arrangements he had made for carrying out the ceremony, to whom, undoubtedly, great praise is due for his efforts in this respect. At 7 o’clock a lecture was delivered at Bethania Chapel, by the Rev. H. C. Williams, Corwen, the subject being “The religions of Russia & Turkey,” Mr. James Williams (mayor) in the chair. The attendance was good, the proceeds being towards the funds of the English Chapel. The committee, on Thursday, forwarded a telegram to Mr. D. Davies, M.P., expressing their condolence with him in his affliction, and thanking him for his very handsome donation of JS100 to- wards the building fund. We understand that the mallet and trowel, which had been ordered for the use of Mr. Davies, will again be forwarded him, though, unfortunately, not present personally to use them…”
The new chapel opened on 25th May 1880 and initially had 27 members. On 29th May 1880 the following report appeared in the ‘Cardigan Observer‘:
“…OPENING OF THE NEW ENGLISH BAPTIST CHAPEL. This Chapel was formally opened for Divine service on Monday and Tuesday last. It will be remembered that the foundation stone was laid by Mr. William Davies (now M.P. for Pembrokeshire), of Haverfordwest, on the 11th September, 1878, and everything has been brought to a successful termination. Service was held in Bethania Chapel on Monday evening, when the Rev. Seth Jones, St. Dogmells, preached in Welsh, and the Rev. James Owen, Swansea, in English. On Tuesday morning, at 10 o’clock, service was held in the new chapel, when the Revs. James Owen, Swansea, and T. Williams, Aberystwyth, officiated. At 2 p.m., the Rev. W. Haddock, Blaenffos, preached in Welsh, and the Rev. T. Williams, in English. At 6 p. m., at Bethania Chapel, the Rev. T. Williams preached in Welsh, and the Rev. J. Owen in English. The congregations were excellent throughout, and the sermons were eloquent and powerful. The following description of the Chapel may be of interest to our readers :— THE BUILDING, which is of the composite style of architecture, is constructed of the best made pressed bricks from the Cardigan Brick Works. The front is massive, but withal elegant, the effect of the plain brick- work being relieved by courses of tiles, ornamented in relief. The entrance is of richly carved Bath stone, supported in the centre by a column with ornamental capital. There are narrow, circular- headed windows with Bath stone sills and copings, on either side the entrance, which is surmounted by a double window with ornamental coping and carved arch, in Bath stone. The front is terminated at the top by a neat iron finial. On entering, there is a capacious lobby, upon which the approaches to the gallery abut. Admission to the chapel is gained through two double doors of clear varnished pitch pine, with ornamental bronze pulls, at either extremity of the lobby. Inside, the pews are of pitch pine, clear varnished, open and commodious, with book ledges and foot boards. The rostrum is of a similar material, ornamented with iron lattice work between the pillars in dark blue. The interior will be lighted by a chandelier in blue and gold, suspended from the centre of the ceiling, and by two ornamental treble jet uprights, in blue and gold, on either side of the rostrum. The reading desk is elevated above the rail of the rostrum on iron supports. The roof is close ceiled, with varnished pitch pine beams in sight, which are supported by richly carved Bath stone trusses. The gallery rail is of varnished pitch pine, supported by an ornamental lattice work of iron painted dark blue. The gallery is supported by two iron pillars, in blue and gold, with ornamental capitals. Light is obtained through narrow circular-headed windows at each side, of milled glass. The centre window in the front has a border of stained glass, and underneath the gallery is a richly stained antique window. The aisles are paved with neat part-coloured tiles manufactured at the Cardigan Brick Works. The plot of ground on which the building stands is neatly planted with shrubs, and is surrounded by a dwarf wall and ornamental iron railing, with handsome gates. All the iron work about the building is from Mr. Woodward’s foundry, Mwldan. The building, which will seat 350 persons, has cost about £ 1200, of which £850 has already been subscribed. The architect was Mr. George Morgan, of Carmarthen and Mr. W. Woodward, of this town, was the contractor. We have to thank Mr. Woodward for his kindness in volunteering us any information we might require, and we would state as an evidence of the faithfulness of the workmanship, that not a single hitch has occurred, from commencement to finish, between any of the parties concerned. As a whole, the building is highly creditable as a specimen of Cardigan workmanship, and we feel safe in asserting that the chapel cannot be surpassed by anything of its kind in South Wales…”
On 5th June 1880 the ‘Cardigan Observer‘ added:
“…THE NEW ENGLISH BAPTIST CHAPEL.—In our account of the opening of this building, in our last issue, we omitted mentioning that Mr. Joseph Rees, chemist, had presented the Church with a very handsome harmonium, valued at £630, and that Mrs. Thomas Thomas, 32, High-street, presented a richly ornamented purple velvet cushion for the reading desk…”
In September 1881 Rev. George Hughes became the first Minister and his induction was held that November. On 26th November 1881 the following appeared in the ‘Aberystwyth Observer‘:
“…CARDIGAN ENGLISH BAPTIST CHAPEL.-The recognition meetings of the Rev Mr Hughes, as pastor of the above chapel, were held on Wednesday and Thursday, November 16th and 17th, when the following ministers officiated:-The Rev John Thomas, Carmarthen A.J. Parry, Swansea; and R. Roberts, Llwynhendy. At two p. m., on Thursday, a public meeting to welcome Mr Hughes to the pastorate was held at Bethania chapel. Dr Phillips (mayor) was in the chair. The ministers of the town and neighbourhood took part in it. It is to be hoped that the unity will bring forth good fruit…”
Rev. George Hughes was the minister in 1881-1924. A surprise religious census in 1884 showed 76 attending in the morning and 71 in the evening. In 1887 average Sunday attendance was estimated to be 102 persons. The Minister Rev. George Hughes and his congregation celebrated the centenary of the Baptist Mission in 1892. In 1897 Rev. George Hughes marched at the head of a procession celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the opening of Bethania Baptist Chapel on William Street. In 1898 the congregation had an outing to Gwbert. Plans to build a vestry were revealed on 24th April 1903. Tenders for the work were sought on 15th May 1903 and again on 15th April 1904. It was built in 1905 at a cost of £390, to plans by Richard Thomas of Cardigan. On 11th May 1911 painters and decorators were invited to submit tenders for painting and refurbishing the chapel.
On 17th May 1913 Mrs. Hughes, wife of Rev. George Hughes, died aged 52. Circa 1920 Henry D. James, New Manchester House, became the Secretary. In March 1920 Rev. George Hughes celebrated 50 years as a Minister – the last 38 of them at Mount Zion. Richard Thomas was then the senior Deacon. Rev. George Hughes, the Minister since 1880, retired in August 1924 due to ill health. He died on 31st March 1925.
In January 1927 Mount Zion made the call to Rev. J. Arthur Jones of Colwyn Bay. On 8th May 1927 Rev. J. Arthur Jones became the Minister until 1939. In September 1928 the chapel celebrated its’ golden jubilee. On 19th June 1936 Richard Thomas of Fernleigh, Pendre, died aged 84, having been the senior Deacon. On 30th September 1939 Rev. J. Arthur Jones resigned as Pastor due to ill health. In 1939 the Deacons were: Edwin Davies, High Street, St. Dogmaels; Mr. T. T. Mathias, Brynalan (Treasurer); Mr. H. D. James, New Manchester House (Secretary); and Mr. John Evans, Mainstone, North Road.
On 16th October 1949 Rev. Alwyn Griffiths, B. A., former Pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church, Manselton, Swansea, became the Pastor, after an 11 year period with no minister. In January 1953 Rev. Alwyn Griffiths accepted another calling to Castleton Baptist Church in Cardiff and left in March. On 25th March 1955 Rev. W. H. Jones, formerly Minister of Calfaria Baptist Chapel, Morriston, became the Pastor. On 25th June 1955 secretary Henry D. James of New Manchester House, Bridge Street, died aged 76. On 27th November 1955 the chapel celebrated 75 years. In February 1962 Rev. W. H. Jones, B. A., announced his intention to leave for Bangor.
From November 1962-67 Rev. Dr. Leighton James was the Minister. In August 1967 he left for Swansea. On 1st November 1967 Rev. Roland Ll. Bevan, formerly of Sardis Baptist Church, Resolven, became the Minister. On 16th December 1977 Rev. Roland Ll. Bevan, Minister, resigned. In October 1978-86 Rev. David Kingdom was the Minister. He had previously been the Minister of the Lynwood Baptist Church, Pretoria, South Africa. On 6th September 1980 the chapel celebrated its centenary. In 1986 Rev. David Kingdom was succeeded as minister by Rev. Ifan Mason Davies of Goginan near Aberystwyth. The chapel was ‘listed’ in 1992. In 1995 Rev. Ifan Mason Davies was the Minister. On 5th April 1997 Rev. Gareth W. Edwards was inducted as the new Pastor. On 29th January 2005 Rev. Stephen Evans of Resolven, Neath, was inducted as the new Pastor and served as such in 2005-11. In October 2010 there were just over 100 members.
The chapel was described by CADW in 1992:
“…1878-80 English Baptist chapel by George Morgan of Carmarthen. Red brick with moulded and pressed brick decorative details and some Bath stone dressings, since painted. Banded slate roofs. Four-window chapel with end façade in simplified Romanesque style, the façade made tripartite with narrow projecting centrepiece and flanks gabled to sides. Coped gables and iron finials. Crested ridge tiles.
Centrepiece has big arched window with stilted arched head over paired doors in projecting gabled Bath stone doorcase. Band of moulded or pressed bricks below sill and at impost level of main window. Pierced roundel in coped gable. Doorcase has 3 piers with shouldered caps, the centre pier cut back for attached column shaft, carved vine-leaf lunette in tympanum with arch voussoirs decorated with fleur-de-lys. Window over is painted ashlar with attached shaft between two arched lights, carved roundel in arched head with fleur-de-lys voussoirs. Ashlar plinth and band of black brick above continued around chapel.
Each side of centre, long arched windows with similar voussoirs and moulded brick impost bands. Decorative brickwork at eaves. Side-facing gables have stepped corbelling. Sides have 4 similar long arched windows, between wall piers and under decorative brick eaves.
Forecourt has low brick wall with slate coping and Gothic cast-iron railings. Blue lias stone gatepiers with cross-gabled caps.
INTERIOR – End wall gallery and panelled roof.
Built by W Woodward of Cardigan brickworks, of local brick, for £1200…”
Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser 1877-78; 1880; 1887; 1897; 1903-05; 1913; 1924-25; 1927-29
1933-34; 1936-37; 1939-40; 1953; 1955; 1962; 1967; 1977
Kelly’s Directory of South Wales 1884
Cardigan Observer 1887.
A Guide to Cardigan & District, William Edward Yerward James 1899
Planning Application – Mount Zion, 13/06/1983; 21/09/1983
The Gateway to Wales, W J Lewis 1990
Buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest – Cardigan, CADW 1992
© Glen K Johnson 14/06/2013