The market town of Denbigh is the former county town of historic Denbighshire, near the Clwydian Hills. The castle dates from 1282; the late-thirteenth century town was rebuilt in the late fifteenth century away from the castle and lower down the hill.

Capel Pendref in Denbigh was the first Welsh language Wesleyan chapel in North Wales. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Welsh was the main and for some inhabitants the only language spoken. When the Methodist missionaries preached in English they had limited effect on the local people.

It is believed that the orphaned John Rowlands, who in better remembered as Sir Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904), the explorer who found Dr David Livingstone (1813-1873) in central Africa, attended Capel Pendref Denbigh with his uncle.

Evan Roberts (1755/6-1833) was born in Oswestry to a Welsh family. In his late teens he heard John Wesley and Thomas Coke preach and was converted. He started to preach in Welsh and English in Liverpool. Probably to hear the gospel in Welsh he helped establish the Welsh Calvinist Methodist Society (now the Presbyterian Church of Wales) in Liverpool. In 1777 he rejected Calvinism and joined the Wesleyan Methodists. In 1784 he preached in Welsh in the open air in Denbigh. Around 1787 he formed the first North Wales mainly Welsh speaking Wesleyan Methodist Fellowship/Society which met in the home of Hugh Carter. Evan Roberts invited John Renshaw, Richard Davies a Welsh speaker from Dinas Mawddwy (Eryri / Snowdonia), Richard Harrison (1743-1830) a Chester Local Preacher from Halkyn, Flinthire to visit the Society. Denbigh became a Society in the Chester Round. The Chester Round preachers visited the Denbigh Society fortnightly from 1792 to 1794. Because they could not speak Welsh it was decided they should visit and preach in the English speaking Societies. A second series of Chester preachers started to visit the Denbigh Society in 1798 but this was also unsuccessful because of the language. The ineffectiveness of English language preaching in North Wales convinced Evan Roberts that Wesleyan Methodism would not get a hold in the area unless the Gospel was preached in Welsh. The Chester Round preachers alerted the 1798 Wesleyan Conference of the urgent deed of Welsh speaking preachers for North Wales. At the 1800 Wesleyan Conference, at the insistence of Thomas Coke, formerly of Brecon, the Conference appointed Owen Davies (1752-1830) formerly of Wrexham, who spoke limited Welsh as the Superintendent of the Welsh Mission. They also appointed John Hughes (1776-1843) of Brecon who also had limited fluency in Welsh to be a Missionary to Wales. The effectiveness of John Owen as the administrator and success of John Hughes’s preaching and missioning (howbeit not for very long) led to the formation of the Welsh speaking Wesleyan Methodist Church. Their mission vision along with that of Evan Roberts, Edward Jones (1778-1837) also known as Edward Jones Bathafarn, and others is seen by the building the first Welsh Wesleyan Chapel, Capel Pendref in Denbigh. The chapel was opened on New Year's Day 1802 by Rev Owen Davies and Rev John Hughes. Following the evening service a Love-feast was held with around 200 attending. The chapel was extended and renovated and reopened on 5th and 6th January 1862. The Rev Dr William Davies (1820-1875) and the Rev Ebenezer Morgan. (1843-1871) were the preachers at the opening services.

In 1804 Denbigh became the head of the new Denbigh Circuit with Owen Davies as the Superintendent. Stephen Games (1779-1814) and Robert Roberts were the other ministers.

The other Methodist denominations made little impact in North Wales.

  • David Young, The Origin And History Of Methodism In Wales And The Borders, (London: C. H. Kelly, 1893).
  • WHS Proceedings, Vol 28, page 80

Entry written by: DHR
Category: Place
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