Aberystwyth

John Wesley never visited Aberystwyth and paid only brief visits to Cardiganshire. Since Welsh was overwhelmingly the language of the inhabitants he made virtually no impact and Welsh Calvinistic Methodism became the dominant religious presence in the town and county. Aberystwyth’s first encounters with Wesleyan teaching came through visits by early Welsh preachers. In 1804 Edward Jones ‘Bathafarn’ and William Parry of Llandegai preached in the town. They were joined by Owen Davies and John Bryan. Edward Jones came again in 1805 and a society was formed. This was the first WM society in Cardiganshire. The first chapel (Salem) opened in 1807 and was enlarged in 1842.

Apart from the difficult years between 1814 and 1820, when Conference withdrew key ministers from the Welsh-language work, the Welsh WM society increased throughout the 19th century. The work received a slight check during the 1830s when the Wesle Bach (‘Minor Wesleyans’) had some success in Aberystwyth and a chapel was built in 1839. The congregation became part of the WMA and subsequently the UMFC and UM. It continued until 1911.

In 1869 a second Welsh WM chapel, Siloam, was opened, initially as a branch of Salem. In 1880 a large new chapel, St Paul’s, to seat 700 replaced Salem as the main WM building in the town. A substantial schoolroom was added in 1904. Siloam continued until 1954 when it closed and the remaining members joined the St Paul’s congregation.

During the early 19th century the very small number of English-language WMs were cared for by the Welsh society. In 1845 a separate building was opened to serve as a day school and English chapel. The English society then had 10 members. A new chapel, built with the assistance from the Watering Places Chapel Fund, was opened in 1870. It had seating for 450 although membership at the time was only 60. This served the English society until 1989 when it was demolished to make way for a new building to house both the English and Welsh congregations. This opened in 1992 as the St Paul Methodist Centre and was the only purpose-built church to be erected in Aberystwyth during the 20th century. The St Paul’s Welsh chapel was subsequently sold.

The English society held its own throughout the 20th century with occasional modest gains. At the time of the demolition of the old building and the erection of the new Methodist Centre in 1992 it had a membership of over 150. By contrast the Welsh work decreased steadily from 1910 onwards. In 1910 St Paul’s and Siloam recorded a total of 313 members. By 1991 this had shrunk to 54 and the decline has continued. An additional small English chapel was built in 1954 to serve the residents of the growing Penparcau housing estate. The chapel was sold in 1994 and the society came to an end in 2013.

Throughout most of their history the Welsh and English churches were the head of separate circuits. In 1994 the two circuits united to form the Cylchdaith Ceredigion Circuit, the first bilingual circuit in Methodism. In 2009 this was overtaken by developments within the Welsh District. The Welsh society and the other Welsh-language societies in the county became part of Cylchdaith Cymru (Wales Circuit) while the English society and the other English-language societies in the county formed the Ceredigion Circuit.

Sources
  • Llewelyn Morgan, Hanes Wesleyaeth yn Aberystwyth (Aberystwyth, 1911)
  • Hugh Jones, Hanes Wesleyaeth Gymreig, cyfrol 3 (Bangor, 1912)
  • A.H.Williams, Welsh Wesleyan Methodism 1800-1858: Its Origins, Growth and Secessions (Bangor, 1935)
  • Mary Brown, English Methodism in Aberystwyth (Aberystwyth, 1969)
  • Tudor Davies, ‘Trem ar hanes yr Eglwys Wesleaidd Gymraeg yn Aberystwyth 1807-1992’ yn Capel Sant Paul, Aberystwyth: Llawlyfr yr Oedfa Olaf (Aberystwyth, 1992)
  • Lionel Madden, ‘Methodism in Ceredigion’ in Bulletin of WHS in Wales 2 (2012) pp. 56-77

Entry written by: LM
Category: Place
Comment on this entry