Origins & FoundationsThe origins of the church building can be traced back to the development of Methodism by George Whitefield and Charles & John Wesley in the early 1700’s. John Wesley first visited Wales in October 1739 and his first sermon on Welsh soil, after crossing the Severn was at Devauden. Later on the same visit he preached at Newport to “the most insensible and ill-behaved people” he had met with in Wales!
Wesley visited Wales on many occasions subsequently, but Newport proved barren soil for the growth of Methodism, probably because of his earlier experiences. Nevertheless, a Methodist “room” was opened by Wesley, probably on the site that was to become in 1863 the old Baptist Chapel in Stow Hill (now a disused nightclub), adjacent to the site of Bethel Community Church.
The first Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Newport was built in 1808 in Commercial Street, but growth remained slow, there being only 156 members in 1809 in the whole of the Glamorgan Methodist Circuit (which included Cardiff). In 1810, Newport was given its own circuit and membership must have increased, because by 1850 this chapel had been demolished and a new one was opened on the same site.
The subsequent growth of Wesleyan Methodism in Newport was such that in a report dated May 1883, the Minister (W. Gibson) wrote “For some years the progress of Methodism in Newport has been seriously hindered through the unsuitableness and inadequacy of the present Chapel and the utterly insufficient accommodation accorded to the Sunday School.”
For some time, the church been looking at sites for a new chapel. As a result of circumstances described by the Minister as “providential”, they were able to purchase the current site of the church.
The foundation stone for the new chapel was laid on 9th August 1883 with due ceremony, subsequent to a procession from the old chapel - something that was mirrored almost 90 years later when members of Bethel Community Church (then known as Bethel Temple) - processed from their old church to the new one. Full details of the ceremony can be found in that week’s copy of the Monmouthshire Merlin and South Wales Advertiser.