Chapel, Amroth, closes its doors for the last time. For the last couple of years, it has fallen on one family to keep the church going, with the support of the Rev. Nanette Lewis-Head, who retires the following week (January 25). The family involved, Mrs. Marilyn Davies, her mother Eileen and son Gary and family, have very long associations with Ebenezer Chapel. They are seen outside the chapel with Rev. Nanette Lewis-Head and fellow worshipper Peggy Lewis. A full report appears in this week's news stories.
The interior of Ebenezer Chapel, which closes on Sunday.
It will be a bittersweet day on Sunday, when Ebenezer Chapel, Amroth, closes its doors for the last time.l in 1867. Marilyn’s grandfather was treasurer from 1949 to 1960, Marilyn’s father was treasurer from 1960 to 1980 and Marilyn was treasurer from 1980 to date.
For the last couple of years, it has fallen to one family to keep the church going, with the support of the Rev. Nanette Lewis-Head, who retires the following week (January 25).
The family involved, Mrs. Marilyn Davies, her mother Eileen and son Gary and family, have very long associations with Ebenezer Chapel, going back to the very beginning, with Marilyn’s grandfather, Henry Thomas, of Amroth, being involved with the building of the chapel
But sadly, due to the passing of old members and the lack of new members, it has been recognised that the chapel can no longer function as members feel it ought. The building itself needs renovation and updating to fit 21st century standards and the members feel they cannot justify spending large sums of money, when there are so few members left in the congregation.
The history of the chapel is worth reading, and one is grateful to Gary Davies, carpenter and joiner and local historian and the youngest member of Ebenezer Chapel, for all the research he has done on the chapel.
It was built in 1867 by local builder, Mr. James Rogers (who also built St. Johns in Tenby).
In 1866, Mr. Benjamin Rees, who owned the Long Furze and Mead Estates in Amroth, gave a plot of land to the Independent Body for the erection of a permanent place of worship and a burial ground. An extract from the deeds, dated June 14, 1866, states ‘All that piece or parcel of land being part of a field called Cliff Park situate in the Parish of Amroth... to allow the same to be used for erecting a Chapel and Burial Ground for the use of the Protestant Dissenters called Independents’.
The October 11 edition of ‘The Pembrokeshire Herald and Advertiser’ carried detailed descriptions of the opening services on October 7 and 8 taken by several local ministers over the two days. It stated ‘The present chapel entirely owes its existence to the persistent efforts of Rev. David Mathias, Independent Minister, of Saundersfoot. We wish him such success as should enable him speedily to place the Chapel free of debt’. Collections taken over the two days raised a total of £28/8/0d. The debt remaining at the time was £150.
Prior to 1867, services were taking place in various cottages in the village by lay preachers who walked many miles on Sundays to preach at the Meeting Houses in Amroth and the surrounding villages. One of these was Mr. Henry Thomas, born in Amroth in 1827, who walked up to 25 miles often preaching at three different places on a Sunday. His last sermon preached at Ebenezer was on the November 10, 1901. The following Sunday, November 17, he had a sermon prepared for the service, but died that evening at the age of 74 years. This is the same Henry Thomas from whom Marilyn Davies is descended. Over a period of 50 years, it is estimated that he preached over 4,400 sermons at various local chapels, including Amroth.
Before building could begin, a five-metre step in the cliff had to be excavated by hand, probably carried out by local miners. The west and north walls were built against the cliff; steps on the east side leading to the graveyard were added at a later date.
Marilyn’s son Gary, following in his great-grandfather’s footsteps as a carpenter has, over the years, done many repairs on the chapel and made some interesting discoveries.
The stone for the foundations, dwarf walls under the floor, walls of the building, the retaining wall at the rear and the burial ground boundary walls were taken from the beach. The only dressed stone is around the door, windows and corner of the building. The interior walls were originally plastered with lime and sometime around 1900 the side walls and the wall behind the pulpit were covered with wood panelling.
The original lighting was from candles, and possibly portable oil lamps, then in August 1884, three oil lamps were bought at a cost of six shillings and 4/11d paid for their hanging carriages to suspend them from the ceiling. Electricity was installed in November 1953.
In January 1900, an organ was purchased at a cost of £10/10/0d together with music books costing £1/9/2. A total of £13/3/0 had been raised by subscription to cover this cost.
The original fixed pews were replaced in the 1950s, reducing seating capacity from 200 to approximately 90. Also during 1950/51, the Caernarfon slate roof was replaced with asbestos tiles and the lath and plaster ceiling was replaced with plasterboard.
In 1967, 100 years after the chapel was opened, plans were drawn up to build a porch on the front of the building. The work carried out by Ellis and Richards, of Wiseman’s Bridge, was completed the following year. For the first time the chapel was protected from the worst of the winter storms blowing in straight off the sea.
If you or anyone you know has had any connection with Amroth Chapel in the past, perhaps being married or baptised there, members would be delighted to see you on Sunday, January 18, for the service at 4 pm, which will be taken by Rev. Nanette Lewis-Head.
It is hoped that Rev. Peter Noble, Moderator of the United Reformed Church in Wales, will be present at the service, as well as members of St. Johns Church, Tenby, with which Amroth has close association.
Members and friends of all local churches will be welcome to join in the final service.