Bible Christian Chapel, New Road, Skewen, Glamorgan
Name: Bible Christian Chapel
Denomination: Bible Christian
Photography: John Ball (except where indicated)
Date: 1 October 2009
Camera: Nikon D50 digital SLR
Note 1: The Bible Christians were founded by William O'Bryan on the Devon/Cornwall border in 1815 and remained mainly a movement in southwest England, though they had a small presence in London and Kent.
In Wales the Bible Christian witness established itself among English speakers in the south, including Cardiff, Barry, Skewen and Swansea. William O'Bryan had been a Wesleyan Methodist minister and his movement was Wesleyan in spirit and theology. Significantly the Bible Christians had a higher proportion of female local preachers than the other Methodist denominations. At their Annual Conference of 1831 they agreed to evangelise overseas.
For the next 30 years a steady stream of Bible Christian emigrants left the West Country for destinations as far afield as China, Bermuda and New Zealand. The largest numbers went to Canada, with many settling on Prince Edward Island and in what is now Ontario. By the 1860s, levels of emigration were affecting the numbers of adherents at home and the policy of encouraging emigration was less aggressively pursued.
In 1907, when the Bible Christian Connexion had 32,000 members in England and Wales, the movement joined with the Methodist New Connexion and the United Methodist Free Churches to form the United Methodist Church which in 1932 became part of the Methodist Church. For further information see the GENUKI website.
[Sources: Chapels: A Guide to Denominations in Wales (2nd ed) edited by Lionel Madden, Capel: The Chapel Heritage Society, 2010; and Methodist Records for Family Historians, by Richard Ratcliffe, The Family History Partnership, Oxford, 2014]
Photography by Google StreetView, May 2012
Note 2: An influx of Cornish workers to South Wales area, as a result of the industrial revolution, led to the establishment of Bible Christian missions at Neath and Aberavon in 1840. They then helped start a mission at Skewen in 1865; a dozen people meeting at the home of Mr William Roberts at Pentreffynon. As the group grew, they moved to the home of Mrs Bailey, also from Cornwall, at 110, New Road Skewen, opposite the present [Methodist] chapel, over the Easter period of 1868. The circuit ministers, Revs Hocking, James and Oates, nurtured the group as they expanded. It wasn't long before they were faced with the prospect of building a place of worship. The site chosen at the bottom of New Road is now known as Skewen Press. On May 30th 1872 the foundation stones were laid. The church was opened by the Rev J. John on the 27th October 1872. By 1905, continued expansion of the membership had rendered it too small.
This was also a time of major change for the Bible Christians as amalgamation with the United Methodist Free Churches and the Methodist New Connexion took place in 1907, forming the United Methodist Church. [Source: Neath Port Talbot Methodist Circuit website, accessed November 2014]
Note 3: A chapel built in 1860 in the simple Gothic style [on the corner of New Road and Brook Street]. The entry type is unknown as the facade has been altered by later conversion into a press, but presumably was gable entry type. [Source: Coflein database, accessed November 2014]