There were four chapels in Bwlchgwyn: Nebo, Salem, Bethesda and Peniel. They are all closed now. Nebo was converted into living accommodation many years ago, Salem and Bethesda have both been demolished. Peniel chapel still stands, abandoned, away from the modern centre of the village, on the Old Road towards the four crosses.
Gwenda’s grandfather had been a minister at Nebo Chapel and so there is no better place to start than from her own memoirs.
“There was no argument about it. Every Sunday morning without fail, illness excepted, we all put on our ‘Sunday Best’ clothes (including hats for the ladies) and set off for the five minute walk to the chapel service at 11 0’clock…””Nebo Chapel stood, grey, solid and dependable, on the main Ruthin Road at the junction with Nebo Lane. It was a simple building, as befitted its non-conformist roots. High on the front wall, carved on a large block of North Wales stone, was an inscription:
Addoldy yr Annibynwyr 1852
AIL ADEILADWYD 1865
(Nebo Independent Place of Worship 1852. Second Building 1865)”
“And it was to this place that, in 1888, there came a shy, young 23 year-old, part-way through his theological training, to be its minister. He was my grandfather.
“On arrival at Nebo we would be greeted by the reedy tones of the harmonium, played with quiet enthusiasm by my aunt, who had got there early. Having selected a pew we sat quietly, my mother with bowed head, praying no doubt in Welsh. Then the vestry door opened and out, one by one, came the elderly deacons, in their tired dark suits and sober ties, followed by the preacher for that day. As the minister arranged his books on the ledge of the pulpit the deacons took their place on the Set Fawr, surveying the congregation with stern and solemn faces, probably noting who was there – and who was missing.
“Now preaching was something of an art form in Wales in those days. The Welsh speak of ‘hwyl’, meaning something like Holy Spirit fervour, and as hwyl gripped the preacher his voice would rise in pitch and volume and take on a characteristic sing-song tone. The deacons would add verbal encouragement and any particularly good point would be greeted by cries of “Ie! Ie!” (Yes! Yes!), “Amen!” or occasionally “Hallelujah!” This would carry the adults along wonderfully but was sometimes a source of amusement to us children, who were unable to appreciate the finer points of the sermon.”
Nebo Chapel is situated on Ruthin Road at the junction with Nebo Hill. Now converted into living accommodation. This was the second Congregationalist Chapel, presumably replacing a smaller building.
I have vague memories of an old tin chapel on Bryn Nebo, the lane that crosses from Wesley Road to Fronheulog Hill, and I think that this was the site of the very first chapel (followed by a chapel on the corner of Ruthin Road and Nebo Hill and then a rebuilding of that chapel).
Salem Chapel is on Brymbo Road, between the drive and Cefn Road
Salem Chapel was demolished some years ago but the graveyard, with its fine memorials, is tended from time to time. The pictures above show the standing for the chapel together with a stone inscribed “Salem 1879”
A relatively recent picture of Bethesda Chapel. The gate to the chapel can be seen at the left of the picture. I used to go to Sunday School at Bethesda Chapel with my cousin Mary (who lived next door in Wesley Road), but I was too small to remember anything other than sunshine, being dressed in a pretty dress and a bonnet with ribbon roses, and walking down Wesley Road. My one vivid memory is from when I was about 16, I can only date it because I had a very fashionable camel Reefer coat at the time (something else I should have kept, now in vogue again…). I accompanied Mrs Pierce who lived across the road from us at Brooklyn Stores to the great Good Friday concert. I had never been to any of the Chapel functions before and it was an eye-opener because I never knew that Chapels, as a collective body, were anything other than dull! The chapel was full to overflowing, choirs, solos, recitals, sketches, participants, all young people as far as I can remember, had come considerable distances to take part and entertain us. Yes, it was all in Welsh; no, I didn’t understand it all, but I understood enough and it was excellent and often very funny!
This was the second Wesleyan chapel and was built because the first simply was not big enough. The first Wesleyan Chapel – known as the Old Chapel, or simply Bwlchgwyn Chapel, still exists on the left hand side of Ruthin Road, beyond the entrance to the quarry and before High View house.The Old Chapel was soon too small and a newer, larger chapel was built at the junction of what is now called Wesley Road and Ruthin Road. The newer building was demolished a few years ago. The first building can still be seen, buried in the hedgerow between the site of the newer chapel and High View; for a while it was used as an egg packing station by Mr Morris who lived at The Crest on the top of Wesley Road.
This is a view of the most recent Bethesda Chapel taken from higher on the Score (the high ground above the chapel where all the whimberries grew), I guess that the smaller building behind would have housed the offices, maybe a Sunday school and the boiler room. The original chapel is off the left of this picture. Is it any wonder that Bwlchgwyn used to be so famous for its views? From this standpoint you can see the Penllyn (that’s what we called the mountain, despite what the maps say) and all the way across to Liverpool at the left, and Cheshire and beyond on the right.
The picture above, of Capel Peniel, the disused chapel on the Old Road, Bwlchgwyn, was taken by Eirian Evans and is available on Geograph at http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/148732 The photograph is used under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence,
A Calvanistic Methodist Chapel, still standing on the Old Road, not far from the Four Crosses. As a result of a “split”, some of the congregation moved to the new chapel in Bwlchgwyn – Nebo. Gwenda retells the story:
“In 1848 there had been a problem with large numbers of people committing damage to the local hazel-nut woods, particularly on Sundays, and the local constable, Edward Kendrick, saw a solution in starting a Sunday School for adults and children, connected to Peniel, a local Methodist chapel. A house was obtained at a rent of ninepence per week and the School rapidly became very popular.Unfortunately a deacon in Peniel, described as ‘high handed and with harsh discipline’, was not pleased with the Sunday School’s success for some reason and caused a split. Left with no staff, Edward Kendrick appealed to a few ‘Dissenters’ (people who disagreed with Anglican Church practices) who lived in the area, to take over. They agreed and the work grew to the point that they needed a proper building. Whether it began in 1852 as a wooden hut or a ‘tin tabernacle’ is not recorded but clearly enough money became available to erect a permanent stone building in 1865”
I have a few more stories to tell about Peniel! Let’s just finish this update first.