Zion Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, Begelly

This was taken shortly before closure

Zion Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, Begelly (abt 2005)

Fifteen months later than promised, here’s the second in an irregular series of descriptions of  some of the local chapels together with transcriptions of family history records related to the relevant chapel.

This one concerns the small Calvinistic Methodist (CM) chapel which sat next to the main Tenby to Narberth turnpike road in the ‘Begelly’ part of Begelly parish. (Cold Inn Baptist Chapel is in the ‘Williamston’ part). It was built on land leased to the trustees by James Mark Child of Begelly House at what appears to have been a peppercorn rent.

Zion’s early history is reasonably well-documented. In 1853 the then minister, Thomas Ashford, wrote about the chapel’s founding in 1828 and its continuing struggles. He noted that its sister chapel, Bethesda, was established two years earlier three miles to the south along the same road. What is particularly interesting is his commentary about the effect of the 1849 cholera outbreak. He reports a rush of locals to join the chapel, this increase in the congregation perhaps requiring a gallery to be added in 1851. As we perhaps would expect, we know from other sources that an injured miner, Philip Gunter, was around this time running a small school in the chapel, using “one square table…and ten benches”.

The building you see in the photo is not the original chapel. Instead this was rebuilt in the mid-1860s possibly as a response to the great religious revival of the earlier part of the decade. In April 1866 a special train was laid on from Tenby to bring worshippers to the re-opening event at which seven sermons were preached.

The chapel’s principal competitor was St Mary’s parish church a few hundred yards down the road towards Tenby. The Rev. Richard Buckby, the rector at the church between 1839 and 1884, had a strong reputation for keeping his church full. Analysis of baptism data bears this out. In neighbouring St Issells parish church, there is a gradual drop in the numbers of colliers getting their children baptised in the local church from 1830 onwards. In Begelly the figure remains high suggesting that the colliers at least had their children baptised and remained loyal to Buckby’s church, instead of turning to the chapel.

It would be useful to have some idea of the growth in membership of the chapel. Such data survive for other denominations in annual publications such as the Baptist Union Handbook and the Congregational Yearbook but I have yet to find a similar series covering the CM chapels. We know that, in the early 1900s, the congregation ‘was filling the chapel’ but by the 1930s it was in decline. Zion shut a few years ago and the building has now been converted into housing.

As for any records, little appears to have survived. Unlike Kingsmoor PM Chapel, I have not found any accurate lists of deacons or trustees. There is a baptism register covering the 1820-37 period. Although the title states it to be for Zion CM chapel, I surmise that it also covers Bethesda as there are several baptisms from the Wooden area. I have included a transcription of this register on the following attachment together with details taken from some of the gravestones (in the yard to the left of the chapel building in the above photograph) and also marriages reported in the gossipy Narberth Weekly newspaper.

Click on the following to download the Genealogical Data for Zion CM Chapel

Do let me know if you spot any errors by emailing me at snorbensblog@aol.com

Note:

Above photo copyright of Humphrey Bolton under the Creative Commons licence.

Sources:

Religious Census, 1851

Calvinistic Methodist Record, (March 1853)

History of South Pembrokeshire Calvinistic Methodist Churches, William Evans (1913)

The Story of Begelly, W R Morgan, Gomer Press (1980)