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Aberystwyth Tabernacl Chapel

tabernacle chapel aberystwythThe first ever Aberystwyth Tabarnacl Chapel was built in 1785 on Mill Street.

Known as ‘Capel Y Groes’, it served as an official meeting place for the first methodists in Aberystwyth.

Translated in to English, it was also known as the ‘Chapel Of The Cross’.

Although the Welsh Methodists revival was well under way from 1735, when Howell Harris performed his conversion on Palm Sunday, the revival as such did not gain any real momentum in the Aberystwyth area until the 1780′s, hence the first Chapel being built in 1785. Before this time, the local Methodists used to meet in local pubs and inns.

To cope with the increasing numbers of Calvinistic Methodists in Aberystwyth, the last Tabernacl Chapel to stand on Mill Street in Aberystwyth (pictured) was built with a seating capacity of around 1200. The four floor Chapel was built in 1879, and opened its doors on August 3rd 1880 to its growing congregation.

It was the 4th Tabernacl Chapel to be built on the same spot in Mill Street, since the first chapel was built in 1785.

The chapel was built using local stone, unlike many chapels which were able to afford the importation of stone from further afield. In the later years the large blocks of local sandstone were visibly eroding away, and as such you could remove fine layers of stone just by running your finger along it.

The 4th Chapel had two entrances, one from Mill Street and one from Powell Street. In later years, the Powell Street frontage was in much better condition that the Mill Street side. One of the main reasons for this was the reduced exposure to the elements which is provided by the narrow streets and volume of housing on the Powell Street side of the building.

The Tabernacl Chapel finally closed its doors to congregations in Aberystwyth in 2002, after seeing dwindling numbers of church goers. The church was at one time said to be the biggest in Aberystwyth, and this sad demise saw it become redundant within the community. The small pool of around 70 remaining church goers were taken in by the other churches in the area.

After closing, plans were submitted by a local developer to convert the 4 storey Grade II listed building into residential flats. However, the plans were never approved and on Friday 4th July 2008 fire crews were called out to Mill Street att 23:39 where an unexplained fire had started in the building. The fire gutted all four floors of the chapel, and the building was declared unstable soon after the fire was put out. The Tabernacl Chapel which had stood for over 125 years was demolised the following Friday, on the 11th of July 2008. However the 7 foot bronze war memorial which survived the fire has now been moved along with its stone plinth, to the Ceredigion Museum.

The few remains of the building, including the walls which backed onto the ground below Powell Street are slowly being taken apart behind the wooden panels which currently sit on Mill Street surrounding the area when the chapel once stood. Plans for the site are unknown as of yet, but it is sad that an important piece of Aberystwyth’s Victorian history has been lost forever.

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