Mosque and Muslim school, Newport

Mosque and Muslim school, Newport              

The re-use of the Victoria Road chapel as a mosque is symbolic of religious change in Newport’s history. Nearby is a Muslim school, opened in 2010 in a former house on Stow Hill.

The Congregational Chapel, dated 1859, was the result of an energetic campaign by the Rev Frederick Pollard. It opened just two years after he first mooted it. It cost almost £4,000, including the organ installed a few years later. The grand classical architecture has a “flavour of the ancient Middle East”, according to the building’s listing schedule.

In 1864 special sermons were preached to raise funds for the chapel’s recently formed Sunday school. The Sunday school was so popular that in 1896 the chapel held a three-day bazaar to raise money to buy an adjoining house and convert it for the school. Money was also needed for roof repairs, heating and replacement of gas lighting with electric.

In 1898 the chapel’s pastor, the Rev Elwyn Thomas, spoke of the dangers of Christianity being contaminated by contact with the “sinful associations of the theatre”. In another sermon, in 1904, he voiced his concerns for Newport residents who still lived in hovels, or “dark corners”.

Also in 1904, worshippers complained of thefts from coats left in the lobby during services. Two chapel wardens hid in the shadows during the next service and soon saw a man removing objects from coat pockets. The thief tried to flee but without success – one of the wardens was former Wales and Newport international footballer Percy Phillips!

Later in the 20th century the chapel was used by the United Reformed Church. It stood empty before local Muslims acquired it in 2008 for use as a mosque. Non-Muslim visitors are welcome to go inside by prior arrangement.

The former house in Stow Hill is now the Newport Central Jame Masjid and Islamic Education Institute, providing facilities for prayers and study. Jame Masjid denotes that it is a venue for Friday prayers. The building has been adapted for Islamic funerals to be held there.

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Website of Newport Central Jame Masjid