Methodism is established in Reynoldston
Richard Thomas, leader
The Society at Reynoldston was evidently in good shape at this period, for by 1801 it is recorded that there were about 25 members.
Leadership of the Society had passed to Messrs William and John Jones by 1801, and it was in their cottage that services were held.
This cottage, then known as Applemead (a name preserved as Applegrove – an estate built on land behind) has been altered or rebuilt and is now called Field House.
According to the account by Thomas Coghlan written in 1926 and preserved in the Chapel, the Jones’ house was still in use for services in 1847.
During this time, and for most of the first half of the 19th Century, George Beynon of Buny Green conducted services at Reynoldston together with George Tucker of Horton, David Beynon of Overton, W Owen of Horton and Thomas Richards of Pitton.
Later on William Tucker of Berry Hall met the Society for many years and his name appears on a plan of 1869.
After William Jones died, cottage meetings continued at the home of John Ace in the village until the Chapel was built in 1869.
Although Chapels had been built in Oxwich in 1808, Horton in 1813 and Pitton in 1833 (later replaced by the present building on another site) Reynoldston had to wait until 1869 for its building.
Thus the cottage meetings were sustained for over 70 years during which time preachers walked from Swansea and Neath to visit the Gower villages about once a fortnight.
In 1869 there was only one Sunday service at Reynoldston, held at 6pm with the Monday Service being held at 7pm.
But in 1863 Rev Jabez Iredale was appointed to the new Gower Circuit, and no doubt the presence of a local Minister, based in Horton, encouraged the Society to think about building.
The Chapel Building
Their choice of land fell on some highway waste, or road verge. At that time these were very wide as the maps of the village show and people were beginning to enclose some for their own houses. The Society decided to do likewise.
They selected a piece of ground, opposite where the Post Office was to be built some years later, and obtained informal permission from the land owners.
Ownership was claimed by Colonel Wood of Stouthall, but there was evidently some doubt as permission was also obtained from Penrice Estate and from the Duke of Beaufort.
A stone wall was built around the plot and the original Chapel was built and opened for worship on 3rd June 1869. This building, still embodied in the present structure, was a simple rectangle about 5.6m x 8.1m internally with a porch at the east end.
Figures for services in 1872 in Reynoldston were as follows
Sunday 10.am 30
Sunday 2 pm 120
Sunday 6-30pm 130
Services were also held on alternate Mondays at 7pm
Between 1879, when a map of the village was surveyed, and 1882 further land was enclosed and a stable erected to house the preacher’s horse. This was done, according to the deeds, with the ‘passive consent of CRM Talbot (Penrice estate) and the Duke of Beaufort’. Not until 1898 was a deed drawn up to regularise the holding.
Evidently the Society had grown and was exerting pressure on the limited space that the old building provided.
Dr Horatio Rawlings whose family was prominent in Swansea Methodism at that time was evidently a leading figure in the Society.
Thomas Coghlan records that, by his efforts the Chapel was eventually enlarged in 19 14/15 to take the form we see now, but for some recent alterations.
The extensions enlarged the Chapel northwards by about 5.7m to create an ‘L’ shaped room, and the stable was connected to the main building by a new vestry. In addition the whole building was rennovated and altered in appearance.
Mansel J Bevan, a Heating Engineer who lived in the area at the time, writing in 1958, recalls some interesting snippets of information about the building operations of 1914.
I am very proud of the past, we all took part in its (the chapel’s) enlargement in 1914/1 5 and it is the most cheaply built Chapel in Methodism. The slates (off the roof of a Catholic Priory) cost 2d each, the panes of glass a similar amount the traveller and I worked it all out and all were from scrap.
Mr Bevan had been taking out heating pipes he had put in during the enlargement ‘and never sent in the account’ and also says that the builder was Mr Bidder who lived next to the King Arthur Hotel in the village.
By 1990 the society had grown again and the need for extra space was felt.
It was decided to create a new room by filling in a corner and it was also decided to carry out much needed repairs including re-roofing, new windows and doors and new electric heating. The whole cost was raised by the time work was complete. Subsequently audio facilities were installed to enable the hard of hearing to participate more fully, and to enable services to be recorded.
The article that you have just read is an edited version of the book ‘Reynoldston Methodist Chapel 1797 to 1997’ by Ian Campbell.