On the south side of
College Street it
is easy to miss a head-high plaque between two shops which states: ‘To the
glory of God this tablet indicates the site on which the Wesley Chapel, College Street, was
situated. Opened February 1847,
destroyed by enemy action February 1941’.
The building stood at the corner with
(roughly the top part of present-day Princess
Way), opposite the old Synagogue and Sidney
Heath’s original draper’s shop, believed to be the site of the birthplace of
In the eighteenth century Church of England minister John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, made nine visits to Swansea, preaching on occasions in the courtyard of The Plas (as illustrated by a Dunvant Junior School pupil on Castle Square plaque number 4). The Plas, then owned by the first Calvert Richard Jones, was Swansea’s finest mediaeval house, and stood on the site later occupied by the Ben Evans Store, then by Castle Gardens and now Castle Square.
A Methodist Society was established in
in 1769, and subsequently a chapel was built on the corner site of College Street and Goat Street. Wesleyan Methodist chapels were also being
erected in anglicised parts of Gower, in villages like Oxwich, Horton,
Reynoldston and Port Eynon. Following
Wesley’s death in 1791, Methodists separated from the Church of England to
become a distinct Christian denomination.
It could accommodate 1,000 people, and was filled in June 1925 for the visit of the evangelist and singer Gipsy Smith, then aged in his seventies.
But in the Second World War the building, like much of central
was destroyed by aerial bombardment during the ‘Three Nights Blitz’ of February
1941. Its large schoolroom was being
used as an air-raid shelter, and the rumour persists to this day that when
incendiary bombs fell on 21st February over a hundred people inside
were killed: in fact this did not happen.
In times of stress and danger events can get exaggerated and distorted,
and of course such disasters occurred, though not at Swansea ’s Wesley Chapel. As the bombardment increased, all those
sheltering in the schoolroom were evacuated and guided initially to the Swansea Welcome Lane
shelter, and from there to the arches under the Strand,
as borne out in the wartime memoirs of Elaine Kidwell. She was then ’s youngest air raid warden,
having lied about her age to join up, hoping as a Girl Guide that her first aid
skills would be of use. Elaine joined in
February 1941, during Britain ’s
most intense time of bombing with those three solid nights of bombardment on
the 19th, 20th and 21st. Swansea
For a while the Wesleyan congregation met in theWith post-war rebuilding of the town centre both Goat Street and Waterloo Street (which was roughly parallel to it) were replaced by a new dual carriageway, named by the then Princess Elizabeth as
School Pleasant Street,
but members gradually dispersed to chapels in the suburbs. The Wesley Chapel was not rebuilt, so
Brunswick Chapel in St Helen’s Road became ’s main Wesleyan place of
worship. The £54,000 of war damage
compensation was used to build Wesley Memorial Chapel on the Townhill estate in
1953, though it was later sold to the Council to become a gymnastic