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Swansea

The town developed following the introduction of copper smelting in 1717. John Wesley preached there several times, the first occasion being in August 1758. But the earliest societies were on the Gower, of which Wesley wrote, 'Here all the people talk English and are, in general, the most plain, loving people in Wales.' (Chapels were built at Oxwich in 1808, Horton in 1813 and Pitton in 1833.) At the Conference of 1760 Thomas Taylor was sent to establish the work in Swansea, which became head of a circuit in 1795. The first chapel opened in 1789 in Goat Street (rebuilt in 1825). The site was extended in 1844, when a new chapel, 'Wesley', was begun; but escalating costs and the builder's failure in business caused delay and it was completed, thanks to two leading Methodists, William Morgan and Thomas Evans, only in 1847. Glantawe Street, Moriston opened in 1840. Among later developments, 'Brunswick' in St. Helens Road, west Swansea opened in 1871 and St. Albans Road in 1904.

As Swansea felt the impact of the industrial revolution, many migrants from Devon and Cornwall settled in the town. The Bible Christians opened Oxford Street chapel in 1844 and built at Hafod in 1873. But a mission in Delhi Street on the east side of the Tawe had little success and closed after 40 years. In 1833-34 the PM itinerant Henry Higginson came from Blaenavon to mission the town and quickly established societies in Swansea and the Mumbles. Pell Street chapel became the head of a circuit, which remained a separate circuit until 1951.

At the time of Methodist Union, the local Wesleyans and Bible Christians came together to form the 'Swansea and Gower Circuit', but a separate Gower Circuit emerged in 1940.'Wesley' (WM), Oxford Street (UM) and 'Jubilee', Pell Street (PM) were all destroyed by bombing in World War II. They were eventually replaced by Wesley Memorial at Townhill, the original dual-purpose building of 1957 being joined in 1960 by a chapel in 1960. Declining membership and the growing problem of vandalism led to the decision to close. The premises were sold to the City Council in 1980 and became a gymnasium centre.

Quotations

John Wesley's Journal:

August 1758: 'We reached Swansea at seven, and were met by one who conducted us to his house, and thence to a kind of castle, in which was a green court, surrounded by high old walls. A large congregation assembled soon, and behaved with the utmost decency. A very uncommon blessing was among them, as uses to be among them that are simple of heart. 'The congregation was considerably more than doubled at five in the afternoon. Many gay and well-dressed persons were among them; but they were as serious as the poorest. Peter Jaco, who was driven to us by contrary winds, was agreeably surprised at them.'

August 1763: 'I preached at seven to one or two hundred people, many of whom seemed full of good desires; but as there is no society, I expect no deep or lasting work.'

September 1767: 'At noon I preached to, I suppose, all the inhabitants of the town…'

August 1769: 'I preached at eleven in Oxwich, and thence hastened to Swansea, where an effectual door is opened once more. The rain drove us into the room, which was as hot as an oven, being much crowded both within and without.'

August 1771: 'I reached the town in time; and at six preached in the yard, as our room would contain hardly a third of the people.'

August 1788: 'I preached … in the evening to a multitude of people at Swansea. [Next day] 'Far more than the room would contain attended at five in the morning.'

Sources

  • Methodist Recorder,Winter number, 1900, pp.17-25
  • Methodist Times, 14 January 1909
  • Gren P. Neilson, Swansea's Wesley Chapel: The story from John Wesley's visits to its destruction(Ilford, 1989)
  • Gren P. Neilson, Swansea and Gower Methodist Circuit: Gleanings from the Archives(Swansea, 1994)
  • Gren Neilson (comp.), Called to Preach: Past and Present Local Preachers in Swansea and Gower (1997)
  • Encyclopedia of World Methodism (Nashville, 1974)

Entry written by: GN
Category: Place

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