New information has come to light on the Victoria Road Church and a forgotten Methodist chapel that once stood in Seaside.
Whilst members of Llanelli Community Heritage were carrying out research for the Seaside /Glanmor Interpretive Panel they came across old papers, plans and maps at the Llanelli and Swansea Reference Libraries which revealed that the present Victoria Road Wesleyan Church was opened for public worship at 3pm on the 27th January 1874, to a sermon given by Rev. E.J. Robinson. It was built by the local contractor Thomas Hughes of Prospect Place and designed by the architect John Wills (Willis) of Kingsbridge, South Devon.
It was described in 1874 as of the ….
“Italian style and built of local stone and is to be pointed in cement. The front is relieved by an external porch, four semicircular windows, and when completed will have pilasters at the quoins, and a cornice at the gable with medallions, &c., the side windows are also semicircular and will be finished with cement . The building is made secure against damp by the insertion of a damp proof course”. At the close of the day’s opening service the collections amounted to £2- 16s- 10d. The chapel is called ‘Victoria Road Church’ because its address was that, until part of Victoria Road was renamed Cambrian St. But this was not the first Methodist place of worship in the once busy dockland and Port of Llanelli.
In 1838 it was reported that on the 8th July of that year a new Wesleyan Chapel was opened at Seaside to sermons given by The Rev. James Buckley and the Rev. Dr. Jabez Bunting. Rev. Buckley was the well known Methodist preacher and owner of Llanelli’s brewery, Rev Bunting was an eminent Methodist minister who had played a leading role in the establishment of the Wesleyan Missionary Society. He was also a good friend of the Rev. Buckley. This early chapel was described in a contemporary report as “Comfortably and neatly fitted up” and that it “presented a good front to the sea”. Provision had been made for an addition of a schoolroom and a ‘Bethel Flag’ had been placed on the top of the edifice to announce its services. (Some references refer to a ‘Bethel’ as being a seaman’s chapel).
Information gathered from the reminiscences of an old ‘Seasider’ written in the 1930s indicates that the chapel probably stood at the eastern end of Marine Street, as he writes describing the street and the building near the Royal Exchange public house, “At this spot was a small Wesleyan Chapel and it was wonderful how this place of worship existed in the middle of about a dozen public houses”. The 1838 report stated that this chapel had been built to accommodate the increasing population of Seaside and the number of seafarers that frequented its port.
It appears that this early chapel in Marine Street had itself replaced a ‘former building appropriated for preaching that had become too small’ probably a ‘Meeting House' . The research work continues!