John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, visited Swansea nine times from 1758 to 1790. Methodist ‘Societies’ grew up in Swansea town and a number of Gower villages. The first Swansea Wesleyan Chapel was built in 1789 in Goat Street and rebuilt 1824 and again in the 1840s.
From about 1832 a small Wesleyan society met in Sketty to worship in English, first at cottages on Gower Road, later on Vivian Road and then from 1858 leased ‘The old chapel on the hill’ on Gower Road towards Sketty Top Cross. A minister came for weeknight meetings once a fortnight, and once a month on Sundays.
‘The old chapel on the hill’ 1858-1876
The leaders of the first chapel were John Jones, a blacksmith born in Llangyfelach, James Matthews, a gardener born in Wiltshire, who led the singing, and later John Rogers a market gardener born in Pembrokeshire, who set up the Sunday School.
They are remembered in the chapel.
They were joined by Charles Blewitt Jenkins, a Pembrokeshire tailor.
Henry Thomas, a market gardener from Gower, converted in the old chapel in 1870, took over leadership from John Jones.
George Blundell, a blacksmith, was Sunday School Superintendent and a leading temperance campaigner.
The members all lived locally and many had moved into the village from away.
In the 1860’s two widows of Wesleyan Ministers, Mrs Rees and Mrs Rawlings, settled in Swansea with their children. Mrs Rees lived at Bryn-y-groes, Sketty and took a prominent role supporting the chapel. Two of the Rawlings sons became Ministers. A third, John Adams Rawlings married a daughter of Mrs Rees, and stayed in Swansea as a doctor, Local Preacher, J.P., Councillor, member of the Board of Guardians and a tireless temperance campaigner.
The Memorial (left above) says to our dear parents Robert Rees Wesleyan minister who died Aberdovey April 23rd 1867 in 51st year of age and Mary Anne, his wife, who for 40 years was a faithful member of this church died July 3rd 1909 in her 84th year.
The Memorial (right above) is to Christine Davies Rees, Mrs Rees’s daughter.
Charles RAWLINGS (right) was Superintendent Minister when he died in Swansea.
The Present Chapel 1876
From the original artists impression 1876
The chapel opening
- In 1875 the foundation stone of the present chapel was laid by Henry Hussey Vivian, M.P. of the copper works family, who had built St Paul’s Church.
- On 11th December 1876 the chapel was opened, with a procession down from the old chapel on the hill in Gower Road. Cost of £2,500.
- The 1870’s was a decade of chapel building in Swansea. Brunswick Wesleyan opened in 1874 and a new Mumbles Wesleyan chapel in 1877.
Sketty was not very built-up when the chapel was built.
- The chapel membership was about 70 in the 1900s, while there were 900 Wesleyan members in the Swansea Circuit.
- 1905 the chapel received a gift of a new organ.
- 1908 The Freehold of grounds were acquired.
- 1910 Installation of new lights to the entrance of the Chapel-leading to the declaration that “It is now the best lighted entrance of any place of worship in the district”.
By 1910 the numbers in the Sunday School had increased so much that it was decided to build an extension to the schoolroom. It appears that one of the Church members, Mr R H Oughton, acted both as architect and clerk of works for the red-brick extension in 1911.
- July 6th 1911 the foundation stones for the extension was laid.
- 1914-1918 the schoolroom was opened for soldiers.
- 1921 The War Memorial was dedicated.
- 1925 The Chapel was ‘electrified’and the circuit bought a new manse and appointed a minister for Sketty and St. Alban’s Road.
- 1928 the interior was redesigned with new windows in the apse, a new pulpit placed in the apse and the gallery was enlarged.
- 1932 Methodist Union. Wesleyans joined United Methodists and Primitive Methodists.
- 1938 The manse in Sketty Park Road purchased.
- 1939-1945 In order to conform to the blackout regulations the Sunday services were altered to 10.30a.m. and 3.00p.m.
- During 1939-45 the windows experienced some blast damage. A Forces canteen was provided and premises were made available to the emergency services.
- 1954 Extensive renovations were carried out.
- 1976 The Chapel celebrated its Centenary. ‘A Short History of Sketty Methodism 1832-1976’ by Ernie Scriven published.
- 1980 Townhill Methodist Church closed its premises and its organ was installed in Sketty.
- 1987 The oil fired central heating system was replaced by a new gas central heating system.
- 1988-1989 Major remedial work to stonework and roofs was carried out.
- 1990 The morning service was altered from 11.00a.m. to 10.30.a.m.
- 1991 The Internal area at the front of the Chapel were altered and the choir pews were removed.
- 1998 stone paths were laid outside the chapel.
- 2001 125th anniversary. ‘Memories Down the Years’ ‘Sketty Methodist Church’ compiled and edited by Janet M Neilson published.
- 2009 Redevelopment appeal launched.
- 2011 Building work started on redevelopment in February.
2011 Building work completed September
2011 16th October Reopening service led by Revd Dr Stephen Wigley, Chair of the Wales Synod
Some of the information is from ‘Memories Down the Years’ ‘Sketty Methodist Church’ compiled and edited by Janet M Neilson and some from ‘A Short History of Sketty Methodism 1832-1976’ by Ernie Scriven and from ‘Swansea’s Wesley Chapel’ by G.P. Neilson, 1989.