Former Capel Tabernacl, Pwllheli

button-theme-slavesFormer Capel Tabernacl, Pwllheli

This building was erected in 1861 to replace an earlier Baptist chapel. It features a tall spire, reputedly built by a Dublin stonemason named Michael King. The sculpted stones, around window and door openings for example, came from Penmon, Anglesey. The other stonework you can see on the façade may have come to Pwllheli as ballast – stones loaded into ships for stability on empty voyages.

Baptists first met locally in the late 18th century, in Abererch. One of their leading lights was Marged Jones, who moved to Pwllheli in 1812 to live with her son, ship’s carpenter Robert Williams. They held Baptist services in their home. As the congregation grew, the services moved to a carpenter’s workshop. That too was outgrown and so a chapel, Capel Bethel, was opened in 1816 in the Pentre Poeth area of Pwllheli.

Portrait of fugitive slave Moses RoperFugitive slave Moses Roper (1815-1891), pictured right, gave a talk at the chapel on 3 December 1841. He was born in North Carolina, USA, after his slave mother was raped by her owner. Moses was persecuted and tortured before fleeing to freedom in 1834, after more than 15 failed attempts. He published an account of his “adventures and escape” in Britain in 1839 and spoke about his experiences in chapels and other venues. By 1844, 4,000 copies had been sold of the Welsh translation of his book.

When Moses spoke at the chapel, the minister was Rev Joel Jones. He was a talented preacher, and his large congregation included some of Pwllheli’s wealthiest people. He died of tuberculosis in 1844 and Rev Morris Williams, who had recently arrived from the USA, attended his funeral. Morris stayed as the chapel’s minister until 1850, when he returned to the USA.

Capel Bethel fell into disrepair and was sold in 1985. In 1989 the Home Office gave permission for bodies to be exhumed from the chapel grounds and reburied at Deneio. Many of them had been buried at Bethel after 1861 (the Tabernacl had no burial ground).

Capel Tabernacl closed in 2006 and the building was repurposed for commercial uses.

With thanks to Rev Ioan W Gruffydd, and to Dr Hannah-Rose Murray for Moses Roper information

Postcode: LL53 5DE    View Location Map