Risca Primitive Methodist chapel

a sequence of disasters - mining and flood.

Risca Ebenezer Primitive Methodist chapel

The 1847 Primitive Methodist magazine tells us that the society at Risca had made progress towards building a chapel, including renting a plot of land from John Russell for a shilling a year,. However, before the roof could be put on, “four of the trustees and several members were, by a sudden accident,  removed into eternity”. That clearly slowed things down, but due to the efforts of Messrs Rees and Hill they completed and took possession of the chapel.

Timothy Thomas (Baptist) and George Bartholomew (Wesleyan) were prominent as preachers. The building cost just over £162 towards which they had raised £103. Significant collectors included Mrs Russell, Mr Hill, Mr Rees, Mr Green the coal agent and the colliers. Joseph Preston tells us about it.

In the 1864 Primitive Methodist magazine we are told of the re-opening of Risca chapel after improvements, implemented two years after an explosion in the local pit when 270 men and boys “were hurried suddenly into the presence of the righteous judge”.

The 1883 Ordnance Survey map shows Ebenezer Primitive Methodist chapel at the southern end of a footbridge over the Ebbw River by the Risca Fire Station.  On the 1901-2 the building has disappeared.  The footbridge no longer exists.  Was this chapel? What happened to it?

This is the account:

“Risca, Pontypool Circuit. —Risca is one of the many beautiful vales of Monmouthshire, situated about six miles from Newport, and of great interest to the geologist, from its large and rich coal fields, and the peculiar formation of its mountains. &c, but whilst nature has smiled upon it above, death plays beneath, it is now about two years and four months since by an explosion no less than 270 men and boys, were hurried suddenly in to the presence of the righteous Judge.

Here we have a chapel, built eighteen years ago, and in November last certain alterations were decided to be made, viz., to put up four new pews, lower the old ones, and in the place of the forms to put rail back seats, also to remove the pulpit and put up a platform, which alterations were to cost £20. And towards the end of February the tradesman was set to work.

 On Sunday, March 27th, the chapel was re opened, when three powerful sermons were preached, in the morning and evening by the Rev. J. Harding, and in the afternoon by Miss Caffel. A gracious influence rested on the services, and the collections amounted to the sum of £5 9s. 3d., making with donations, &c., £21 9s. 3d. The expenditure being £20 5s., there is a balance in the Treasurer’s hands of £1 4s. 3d. We tender our thanks to all the friends who have in any way helped us, and thanking God we take courage. W. I.. Harris.”

Another article in the 1867 magazine gives further insight into the prosperity and the dangers of mining.

“Chapel Enlargement at Risca, Pontypool Circuit. — Primitive Methodism at Risca has had its risings and sinkings, its ” ups and downs.” It has suffered several sad reverses by the loss of many of its members and friends, who have, from time to time, been cut down by the deadly fire damp. This was the case in 1846, when the chapel was building. Thirty-five poor fellows were then burnt, or suffocated to death, among whom were four of the trustees of the chapel, and several members of the society. The progress of the building was, in consequence, arrested for a while, and doubts were entertained respecting the propriety of proceeding with it. It was, however, at length resumed, and eventually a small chapel was opened for divine worship.

The cause again prospered till another explosion, far more dreadful and destructive than the preceding, took place in the Black Vein Pit. As most of the male members worked in that pit, and as many were killed, the cause went down distressingly low. But a brighter day has arisen on Risca : extensive improvements having been made in the ventilation of the pit, and the coals being most excellent for steam purposes, and are in great demand, many men are there employed, and are as well paid for their labour as any in South Wales.

During the winter of 1866—7, a most blessed revival took place, by which the Church and Sabbath school have been much increased. This necessitated the enlargement of the chapel, which has been done, at the cost of £250, besides a few extras. The chapel has been lengthened fifteen feet, and a roomy end gallery put in. The heaped roof has been altered, and the weather end slated. The six small windows have been taken out, and eight large circular headed ones inserted. The front is made of stone and patent bricks, and is tastefully finished. The windows are bordered with richly stained glass.

It was re-opened for divine worship on Sunday, September 1st, 1867. The Rev. E. Powell, of Tredegar, preached in the morning and evening ; and the Rev. W. Jenkins (Welsh Baptist) in the afternoon. On Monday, the 2nd, a most excellent tea meeting was held, to which about 500 persons sat down. This was followed by a stirring public service, addressed by the Revs. E. Powell, Thomas Davies (Calvinistic Methodist), and J. Best. . On Sunday, September 8th, the writer of this article preached morning and evening ; and the Rev. T. Reeves (English Baptist) in the afternoon.

The collections, donations, &c., received, amount to £79, which we hope soon to make up to £l00, as the profit of the tea meeting is not here included, and several promises are not paid in. It is a matter of thankfulness to state that the cause in Risca is in a prosperous condition : it is a working society, with a good staff of officials. Joseph Best.

Reading about Risca chapel must have worried those who live there – the 1892 October magazine reports that the Risca society had laid the foundation stones for a new chapel because the previous one had been destroyed by flood. The author was positive that what could be built would be greater than the disaster.


Primitive Methodist magazine 1847 page 184

Primitive Methodist magazine 1864 pages 441-442

Primitive Methodist magazine 1867 pages 690-691

Primitive Methodist magazine 1892 pages 635-636

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