Thursday, 18 May 2017

109 Pantygwydr Baptist Church

109 Pantygwydr Baptist Church
This year sees the 125th anniversary of Pantygwydr Baptist Church, which stands at the corner of Ernald Place and Gwydr Crescent in the Uplands.  The name means “stream of crystal”, taken from the book of Revelation in the Bible.
It was founded in 1892 as Gorse Lane Baptist Church, before the street was re-named King Edward Road following Edward VII’s 1904 visit.  Originally it was a daughter church of Mount Pleasant Baptist, 26 of whose members transferred to the new work.  The corrugated iron chapel was opened in May 1892 by Rev. James Owen, Mount Pleasant’s minister from 1870 to 1907, and a Sunday School was started, which enrolled 62 children on the opening Sunday.  Mount Pleasant Church met the £600 cost of the building, but subsequently Gorse Lane Chapel became self-supporting, building and furnishing a schoolroom the following year at a cost of £225. 
Though generally the Welsh Religious Revival of 1904-05 had less impact on English congregations than among Welsh-speakers, the Gorse Lane congregation soon outgrew their premises.  In September 1905 the name was changed to Pantygwydr Baptist Church, and the need for a new building was agreed.  Ship owner J.C. Richardson’s former mansion Pantygwydr on the corner of Beechwood Street and Pantygwydr Road had been demolished, so land was purchased from the estate.  Pantygwydr Church’s architect was Charles Tamlin Ruthen, who had lived in Gorse Lane when first married.  He also designed the Mond Buildings, the Carlton Cinema (now Waterstone’s bookshop) and the Exchange Buildings; he lived in the mansion Derwen Fawr, now the Bible College of Wales, and was later knighted.  Pantygwydr Church was built of Pennant sandstone and Bath stone, with a Gothic tower and spire.
Mrs William Walters of Ffynone, whose husband gave his name to Walters Road, opened the new building in 1907.  The “tin tabernacle” was dismantled from Gorse Lane and set up next to the church for use as a meeting hall.  This was eventually replaced by the church centre, which opened in April 1994 adjoining the main building. 
From 1901 to 1911 Rev. William Thomas of Gwydr Crescent was church pastor, and when the new building opened there were seven deacons (all men), three of whom had served since 1892.  Among special meetings to mark the opening, two were led by the prolific preacher and author Rev. F.B. Meyer, who at that time was President of the Baptist Union.  The new building cost around £4,750, of which nearly £1,000 was collected in 1906, though the debt was not finally cleared until 1946.
The new premises were soon in use throughout the week for various meetings – on Monday evenings there was Band of Hope (originally a temperance organisation for children under 16) for “training in the principles of sobriety and thrift”; the Women’s Pleasant Hour was on Wednesday afternoons, followed later by a meeting for prayer and praise, described as “An oasis in the desert of the week”.  On Thursdays there was first Junior Endeavour, described as religious instruction for the young, with later Boys’ Brigade - founded in 1883 to combine activities like physical drill, swimming, first aid, and rescue from fire and water, with Christian values.  Along with choir practices, Pantygwydr Church, like many chapels, was well-used in those pre- and inter-war days, before the distractions of television, and when there was less cynicism towards the Christian faith.   
The evangelical ministry of Rev. Phil Hill, who was pastor from 1988 to 1995, built up the congregation, demonstrating the reality and relevance of Christ.  This continues under the present minister, Rev. Pete Orphan, who is from Newport.  He began as Pantygwydr’s youth pastor, and now serves on the University chaplaincy team and as chaplain to Swansea Rugby Club. 
Pantygwydr Church’s 125th anniversary is being marked on Sunday 9th July by a service of celebration at 11am, followed by a barbeque to which all are welcome.    


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