Abertillery Wesleyan Church.
The Wesleyan Methodist Society, Abertillery was first started in the district in about 1849. The first meetings were held at temporary premises in Six Bells. The church building was proposed in 1851 and built in 1854 on the site which was given by the Messrs T. P. Price family of Brecon, who owned the Penybont, Tillery Colliery, with a nominal charge of £2. 2s. 0d. to comply with certain conditions on which the land was held. The construction of the church began shortly afterwards.
The Official Opening of the Wesleyan Church Building.
In November 1854 the Abertillery Wesleyan Church (as seen above in the featured image) was officially opened. It was reported the original church cost £400. The original members of the society were Mr George West of Penybont who was the first choir leader. Mrs Frances Jones of Carmel Street, Abertillery and Mr Daniel Daniels of Abertillery later Newport.
Over the years the church had been extended and in the 1860’s a house was built on the site to accommodate the preachers and at this time the roof of the church was lifted of in a hurricane, debris was found in the River Tilery and window blinds were carried away as far as the Blaenau Gwent Cemetery.
In 1873 a gallery was added at the end of the church costing £75 and in 1880 a schoolroom was built at the back at a cost of £200 and at the same time the church was re-seated. In 1895-96 the whole church was renovated at a cost of £500, a large portion of that cost raised by a bazaar held in the town. It held the sixth position in seniority of the free churches in the district, being preceded by the Blaenau Gwent Baptist, Carmel Welsh Calvinistic Methodist, Tabernacle Congregational and King Street Baptist Church.
In January 1896 extensive alterations to the church took place. A new front was added and a further extension. The reverend in place was Rev J. R. Jacobs of Risca.
The Contractor and Architect.
The contractors in charge of the alterations were Messrs Gaen Bros of Abertillery.
The Trustees of the Church.
In 1903 the trustees of the church were as follows – Messrs H. Ward Williams; Mr D. Smith; Mr E. Dykins; Mr W. Silverthorne; Mr J. Handy; Mr G. H. Handy; Mr W. Selway; Mr Thomas Gaen; Mr J. Baker; Mr L. Silverthorne; Mr D. Collier; Mr J. Phillps; Mr G. D. Cattee and Mr H. Morgan: Mr J. Handy was the trust steward. Membership was 136 while the Sunday School had an average attendance of 291 children with the names of 310 scholars on the books.
The New Church.
In 1903 it was decided to have a completely new church constructed on a site just south of the old one, adjacent to Tillery Street, with the old church being used as a school room. Plans were prepared by Messrs Habershon, Fawckner and Co, architects of Newport. The new church was estimated at a cost of approximately £3,500 and would accommodated 750 people. Before the new scheme could get underway a new committee had to be arranged, Mr H. Ward Williams became the secretary with Mr G. D. Cattee as the treasurer of the Building Committee.
In April 1906 tenders were invited for the building of the New Wesleyan Methodist Church, Abertillery. Tenders to be sent to Mr G. D. Cattee, 1 Commercial Street, Abertillery.
The Contractor and Architect.
The contractor was Mr Shopland of Newport, his tender was accepted at a cost of £5,000. The architect was Messrs Habershon, Fawckner and Co of Newport.
In August 1906 the construction of the new church began.
The Ceremony of the Laying of the Foundation Stones.
On Monday 3rd September 1906 the Stone Laying ceremony took place. The first stone was laid by Mr Henry Morgan on behalf of the society and was presented with a silver trowel by the architect in memory of the occasion and bound volumes of the new Wesleyan Hymn Book suitable inscribed was presented to each of the stone-layers. The next stones was laid by Mrs R. R. Tregunna; Mr William Silverthorne; Alderman W. Roberts of Brynmawr; Mr A. Plummer; Dr Rocyn Jones; Mr James Harrison of Ebbw Vale; Mr J. Mead of Abertillery; Mr W. Weeks of Brynmawr; Mr L. Silverthorne and Mr F. H. Davies:
After the ceremony tea was held for many at the Powell’s Gymnasium Hall. Tables were presided over by the following Mesdames – Mrs Hailstone; Mrs J. Handy; Mrs G. Horler; Mrs Selway; Mrs G. King; Mrs Williams; Mrs Griffiths; Mrs Lewis; Mrs West; Mrs Silverthorne; Mrs Wilcox and Mrs Brewer, assisted by many staff and helpers.
In October 1906 it was reported that the trustees of the Wesleyan Church fund had approached Mr Andrew Carnegie the well known philanthropist with a view of obtaining a donation towards a new organ for the church. It was stated that Mr Carnegie had replied and that he was willing to bear the second half towards paying for a new organ costing £500. The trustees were elated and made arrangements for fulfilling the conditions, Mr Carnegie offered £250 as long as the committee matched the donation amount to purchase an organ. The organ was purchased from Messrs Hall & Sons of London, who were the Royal Organ Makers for the King.
The Official Opening of the New Church.
On Wednesday 22nd May 1907 the Wesleyan Church Tillery Street Abertillery was officially opened. Mrs C. F. Sanders of Cardiff and Mr Handy of Abertillery opened the doors with silver plated keys presented to them by the architect Mr Fawckner. After the service tea was held in the Wesleyan School Room connected to the church.
Description of the Building
The building was of perpendicular style of Gothic architecture and was built with Forest of Dean stone facing and dressings. The principal feature was the tower which was over 76′ feet in height. There was an organ chamber. The roof was an open timber one supported on columns and lined with match board. The floor was a rising one after the style of an amphitheatre. The seating was pitch-pine and covered in red felt matting. The rostrum was fitted with a patent rising and falling desk. The whole building was heated by hot water on the pressure system. Electric light was provided throughout the building by Mr T. H. Bossett and was obtained by the means of a Suction Gas Plant with an installation of 180 lights.
Mr Alfred Tennyson Dickens.
On Saturday 26th November 1910 Mr Alfred Tennyson Dickens gave a lecture titled “My Fathers Life and Work” at the Wesleyan Church, Abertillery. Mr Alfred Tennyson Dickens 1845-1912 was the eldest son of Mr Charles Dickens.
The visit to Abertillery by Mr Dickens was arranged by the Abertillery Technical Instruction Committee, held at the Wesleyan Church on Tillery Street, with Mr P. Wilson Raffan. Mr A. C. Willis was in the chair. After the lecture Messrs Henry Ward Williams and W. D. Lewis Evans M.A., gave a vote of thanks to Mr Dickens.
At this time Mr Alfred Tennyson Dickens toured Australia, the United States and Europe with his lectures based on his fathers work.
In the 1980’s the Church caught fire and was completely destroyed, it was later demolished and the site cleared. A Public Toilets is now occupying the site of the new church. The old church was retained and used as the Methodist Church up to the present day.
Points of Interest – As with many churches and chapels they had there own sports teams, cricket and football etc and would enter into the leagues. Below is the Wesleyan Cricket Team in the 1890’s.
The Abertillery Wesleyan’s Cricket Team.
The Abertillery Wesleyan movement had a cricket team in the Monmouthshire Cricket League in the mid 1890’s, some of the players were as follows – Mr W. Hutton; Mr W. England; Mr Walter Powell; Mr J. Love; Mr A. Whatley; Mr T. Gillingham; Mr L. Silverthorne; Mr W. Silverthorne; Mr W. Williams; Mr H. Morgan; Mr T. Baker; Mr J. Mayberry; Mr C. H. Carter; Mr E. J. Purnell Mr A. Silverthorne and Mr S. E. Brittain: