Capel Heol Dŵr, now Canolfan Heol Dŵr, Water Street, Carmarthen

Link to Welsh translation

This chapel was built in 1831 on the site where the visionary teacher Peter Williams had opened his house to Nonconformist worshippers in the 18th century.

The spread of Griffith Jones’ Circulating Charity Schools (taking education to rural children) from the 1730s onwards created a demand for Welsh Bibles that was difficult to meet. In the 1760s Peter Williams wrote commentaries on each chapter of the Bible. By this, he created a different publication which meant he was no longer bound by the right of Oxford and Cambridge Universities to be the sole printers of Bibles. His version could therefore be printed here in Carmarthen.

Photo of a Peter Williams BibleCarmarthen was fast becoming the pre-eminent town in Wales for printing, especially of religious materials. John Ross, a printer in Lammas Street, printed the new version of the Bible. To help people afford the cost, ‘Beibl Peter Williams’ was first issued in 15 instalments at intervals of two months, from January 1768. They sold at a shilling each.

Usually enough subscribers – typically hundreds – had to be gained before books were published. By 1770 there were 7,000 subscribers for the new Bible version (in a single book). The first print run of 8,600 soon sold out. John Ross printed three editions to try to meet growing demand.

Woodcut drawing of interior of Capel Heol Dwr in 1813Peter’s home here became a gathering place for worship in Welsh. The numbers attending grew rapidly. He built a chapel in his garden but within a few decades even that was too small. It was repeatedly enlarged. The woodcut image by Hugh Hughes, son-in-law of Rev David Charles, shows the chapel following its 1813 rebuilding.

David, a deacon at the chapel, was brother of the famous Methodist leader Thomas Charles. They both promoted Sunday Schools as a way to continue the work of the circulating schools. As demand grew, a building was erected behind Heol Dŵr chapel to house Sunday Schools.

In 1905 the chapel’s pastor, Rev MH Jones, urged the formation of a society to investigate and publicise Carmarthenshire’s history. The Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society and Field Club was formed. Almost 120 years later, its successor developed Carmarthenshire Enlightenment Project, including a self-guided tour of key sites, to highlight the county’s role in transforming education and literacy in Wales.

With thanks to Peter Stopp, of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society

Postcode: SA31 1RG    View Location Map

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