Situated on the river Towy about 13 km from the estuary, Carmarthen is considered to be the oldest town in Wales. The first castle was constructed c. 1094, and when it was rebuilt in 1223 a crenellated wall was also added to enclose the town.

Howell Harris (1714-1773) the Calvinistic Methodist evangelist preached in Carmarthen in 1738, and soon afterwards a Calvinistic Methodist society was formed. Peter Williams (1723-1796) was converted after hearing George Whitefield and Howell Harris preach near the Market Cross. Williams built a meeting-house in his garden in Water Street and invited John Wesley to preach there on 11 August 1769. Williams opened the Heol Dwr (Water Street) Calvinistic Methodist Chapel on 6 January 1771. When Williams died his widow sold the chapel to the Calvinistic Methodists who built a new chapel on the same site in 1813. David Charles (1762-1834), the younger brother of Thomas Charles (1755-1814) of Bala, arrived in Carmarthen around 1790 to set up his buiness as a flax-dresser and rope-maker. He joined the Calvinistic Methodist Society and was soon appointed an elder. He became an influential Calvinistic Methodist preacher, statesman and leader of the denomination and was ordained by them in 1811.

John Wesley’s first visit to Carmarthen was on Saturday 20 August 1763. Wesley visited and preached in the town around 18 times. The society grew to 100 members and held their meetings in a warehouse in John Street. By 1779 the society met in a building in the yard of the Red Lion which was the ‘new preaching-house’ where John Wesley preached on Sunday 15th August 1779. A chapel was built in 1804 in Chapel Place. It was enlarged in 1821 and altered in 1861. The chapel was demolished in 1978 and a new chapel was erected. In 1805 Carmarthen became a Circuit with William Thoresby (c.1757-1806) as Superintendent. When Thoresby became incapacitated the Swansea circuit missionary John Hughes (1776-1843) was sent to Carmarthen to minister to the English and Welsh speakers. Hughes preached in English in the chapel and in Welsh in the cottages. In 1807 Edward Jones (Bathafarn) (1778-1837 ) and William Davies (Africa) (1784-1851) visited,preached in the chapel and were asked to form a Welsh Wesleyan society.

In 1808 the Carmarthen Welsh Wesleyan society was formed and placed in the Llandilo Circuit where Edward Jones (Bathafarn) was the superintendent. The services were held in the Carmarthen English Wesleyan chapel. In 1809 the Carmarthen (Welsh) circuit was formed with Edward Jones (Bathafarn) as the superintendent. The Welsh Wesleyans conducted their services in the English Wesleyan chapel on Sunday afternoons which became inconvenient to the Welsh people and preachers. The Welsh society also needed more space. The Rev. Lot Hughes (1787-1873) announced he would preach in the open air by the cross where Bishop Robert Ferrar had been martyred in 1555. Throughout the winter open air services contined and eighty people joined the Welsh Wesleyan Society.To meet the requirements of the growing congregation a Welsh Church was planned. In 1824 the Welsh Wesleyans built their chapel on the corner of John Ebenezer and Chapel Street and called it Ebenezer Welsh Wesleyan chapel.

  • The Works of John Wesley Journal and Diaries (2003).
  • David Young, The Origin And History Of Methodism In Wales And The Borders (London, C H Kelly, 1893).
  • A.H. Williams, John Wesley in Wales 1739-1790, (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1971).
  • WHS Proceedings, Vol 10, pages 89/90.
  • Dictionary of Welsh Biography.

Entry written by: DHR
Category: Place
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