St Mellons Baptist Church

button-theme-slavesSt Mellons Baptist Church

This building was completed in 1884, replacing a chapel on a different site. Baptism has a long history in St Mellons. In the early 18th century local Baptists met for worship in farmhouses. Sometimes they heard preachers from the Baptist church in Llanwenarth, near Abergavenny, who travelled around Monmouthshire, with regular services in Bassaleg and Castleton.

Regular meetings in St Mellons began in 1794 in a house set aside for poor people, later to become the parish schoolhouse. In 1830 the local Baptists, 22 in total, built a modest chapel, named Caersalem, in a corner of their recently purchased burial ground. The graveyard still exists.

Portrait of Moses RoperFugitive American slave Moses Roper (1815-1891), pictured right, visited the new chapel to talk about his experiences. He was born in North Carolina after his slave mother was raped by her owner. He was persecuted and tortured before fleeing to freedom in 1834, after more than 15 failed attempts. An account of his “adventures and escape” was published in Britain in 1839. By 1844, 4,000 copies had been sold of the book’s Welsh translation.

Caersalem chapel was enlarged in 1842 but eventually outgrown by the congregation. Richard Allen of Tŷ To Maen (“Stone-roofed House”) – later the site of St John’s College – donated this plot of land. Construction of Caersalem Newydd (“New Jerusalem”) chapel began in 1883.

At around the same time, services were increasingly provided in English. This reflected the decreasing proportion of the local residents who spoke Welsh.

A Roll of Honour in the church lists 25 congregation members who served in the First World War. They included Edward Mitchell, killed on the Western Front in Belgium aged 20, and William Henry Ireland, 30, who died of pneumonia in Belgium three weeks after the war ended.

The congregation dwindled in the mid-20th century to about 20 or fewer regular worshippers but revived in the late 20th and early 21st century. The church had 114 members in 2014.

With thanks to Lis Rowe and Dr Hannah-Rose Murray

Postcode: CF3 5US    View Location Map

Website of St Mellons Baptist Church – service times, detailed history and more