Bangor is the oldest city in Wales and historically part of Caernarfonshire. The cathedral Eglwys Gadeiriol Bangor began as a monastery founded by the Celtic St Deiniol (died 572) c. 525. The Acts of Union which unified Britain and Ireland in 1800 stimulated the extension and improved the A5 road between London and Holyhead which made Bangor an important stopping place for politicians and travellers between London and Dublin.

On 18 October 1884 Prifysgol Bangor University opened its doors in the coaching inn called the Penrhyn Arms. It had 58 students and 10 staff and was known as the University College of North Wales. The degrees were conferred by the University of London until 1893, when Bangor became one of the three original constituent colleges of the University of Wales. In 1884 Samuel Davies (1818-1891) the Welsh Wesleyan Minister was a founder member of the Council of the University College, Bangor. One of the early students to graduate from the University College was John Roger Jones (1879-1974). He graduated with a Class 1 honours in philosophy and then went to Didsbury Wesleyan College. Most of his ministry was in the Welsh Wesleyan North Wales Districts. In 1895 David Tecwyn Evans (1876-1957) entered the University College, Bangor before training for the Welsh Wesleyan Ministry, In 1951 he was given an honorary D D by the University. Thomas Hughes (1854-1928) Welsh Wesleyan minister, whilst serving on the University College Council, established a fund to enable ministerial candidates from the Welsh Wesleyan Districts to study for University of Wales degrees. Maldwyn Lloyd Edwards (1903-1974) read History at University College, Bangor and won the Gladstone Prize for his study of John Wesley's influence on social and political life. In 1969 Owen Ellis Evans (1920-2018) was appointed the Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at the University College. Bangor.

John Wesley passed through Bangor on Friday 13 August 1756. He was returning from Ireland and had hired horses to take him to Chester. On this first visit to the area Wesley wrote "The situation of which [Bangor] is delightful beyond expression. Here we saw a large and handsome Cathedral.” Wesley goes on to mention the “old monks of Bangor so many hundreds of whom fell to cruelty and revenge.” He was correct about the sacrifice of the monks but their monastery was at Bangor-is-y-coed 5 miles from Wrexham. Apart from making notes about his journey Wesley did not stop to preach because he did not speak Welsh. Wesley was hosted in the evening at Glan Conwy at Plas bach with the Calvinistic Methodist William Roberts and his family who spoke no English. They had fellowship, sang, and prayed together. Wesley stayed the night and the next morning continued his journey towards Chester. Although Wesley crossed the Menai Straits 16 times either going or coming from Ireland he never preached in Bangor probably because most of the inhabitants did not speak or understand English.

Thomas Coke (1747-1814) from Brecon urged the 1800 Wesleyan Conference to establish a Welsh speaking (Arminian) Wesleyan mission. The Welsh speaking Calvinistic Methodists were by this time making strong progress throughout Wales. The result was that the conference established the North Wales Mission (Welsh Speaking). On the insistence of Thomas Coke the Conference appointed the Welsh speaking Owen Davies (1752-1830) of Wrexham and John Hughes (1776-1842) of Brecon as missionaries to Wales. They visited Bangor on the 12 September 1800 on their way to Anglesey but they do not seemed to have preached on this occasion. In 1803 John Maurice of the ‘new sect’ preached in Welsh to a large crowd in the open air. The next time John Maurice preached in Bangor was by the house of Richard Griffith the shoemaker. When the owner of the house, Mr Williams of Pentir, heard that John Maurice had preached by his property he threatened to evict the shoe maker if he allowed the Wesleyans to desecrate his property. When Maurice returned with Robert Jones of Carnarvon he was told by the shoemaker he could not preach from his doorstep. Maurice asked the crowd if anyone could let him preach on their door step. Mrs Grace Griffith, a Congregationalist, offered her house near the Friars. The crowd followed Maurice to the house. The next occasion Maurice preached was at The Virgin public house. John Hughes in 1804 also preached there from the open window by the upstairs landing. Following the preaching Mrs Margaret Davies the owner of the house gave permission for the Wesleyans to preach at The Virgin. Soon it became the meeting place for the Welsh Wesleyans until they rented a property near Townhead (Pendre). The Bangor Welsh Wesleyan Society was formed in 1805 by Edward Jones] (1778-1837) of Bathafarn. In 1808 the property and the adjoining cottages were bought by the Society and became the first Wesleyan chapel to be built in Bangor. The preachers at the opening services were Owen Davies, John Jones (Corwen), John Foulkes (Pant-Ifan). William Roberts of the Talybont Society came to live in Bangor and became the first class leader. Around 1818 the Society bought the larger Calvinistic Methodist chapel. This was not ideal because it was not in the centre of Bangor. In 1821 / 1823 the minister [[Entry:1416 Rev. Hugh Hughes (1778-1855) reported that the Bangor Society was growing. In 1827 the Bangor Welsh Society built a chapel in the centre of the city which they opened on Easter Sunday and called it Horeb. In a few years the growing congregation meant that they had to build a larger chapel. Horeb 2 was opened on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday when crowded congregations celebrated the opening of their new chapel and the centenary of the Wesleyan Connexion. Bangor became the major centre for the Welsh Wesleyans when in 1859 they moved the Book Room (y Llyfrfa) from Llanidloes to Bangor. It produced over 400 books and leaflets.

Bangor being mainly Welsh speaking area there was no English speaking Wesleyan Society in the 18th century. When John Hughes was appointed the Superintendent of the Carnarvon Circuit in 1803 he discovered the remarkable Lancastrian Samuel Ogden (1769-1839), who walked from Carnarvon to Bangor on Sundays to hold house fellowships in English. Born in Oldham, Ogden moved to Carnarvon around 1802 where he opened a hatters shop in Eastgate Street. His son William (1794-1858) was also a hatter living and trading with his family in Waterloo Place, Bangor

In 1830 the Conference sent the probationer John Gordon (1807-1880) for one year to administer the newly created Bangor English Circuit which was in the Welsh Wesleyan North Wales District. Gordon resigned from the Wesleyan Conference in 1835 and ceased to be a preacher or member, later becoming a Unitarian Minister. With the support of the friends at Horeb Welsh Wesleyan chapel the English Society was able to raise funds for their own chapel. On the 8 June 1831 the English Society opened their modest chapel in James Street when the preacher was Rev Dr Robert Newton (1780-1854). In 1838 the Rev Thomas Burrows reported that there were 113 members in the Bangor English Society. In 1875 the English Wesleyan Church was built and dedicated by Rev. William Morley Punshon (1824-1881).

  • David Young, The Origin and History of Methodism in Wales and the Borders, London, Charles Kelly, 1893.
  • Pigot’s National Directory, North England, and North Wales, 1928
  • Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, 1938.
  • John H Davies, St John’s Methodist Church Bangor, 1975.

Entry written by: DHR
Category: Place
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