A Church at the Heart of the Community

Newbridge Tabernacle Baptist Church is a familiar landmark in Newbridge with its High Street location right in the centre of the community and it has a history spanning 160 years. More importantly, the church as an organisation is also alive with a range of activities for children, young people and adults being pursued throughout the week.

The English Baptist Church, later to be called “Tabernacle”, was founded in 1859 as an offshoot work from the mother Beulah Welsh Baptist Church to cater for the influx of English-only speakers from Hereford, Gloucester, Somerset and Wiltshire who arrived in the district to work in the newly-opened collieries.

Medical student Mr Charles Davies, brother of the local general practitioner Dr. W.J. Davies, was the driving force behind this successful initiative and he received great support from local preachers from Pontypool, Blaenavon, Rhymney, Risca and Trinant. However, members of the English cause continued to attend the monthly Communion Service in Welsh at Beulah.

After meeting in a number of properties in Newbridge, work on a new chapel began in 1861 and the first services were held there on Sunday, 2nd March, 1862.

The chapel, which cost £500 – much of which was raised through a “ penny-a-week” savings scheme – could hold a congregation of 300.

The 1904-05 Welsh Revival marked a period of great spiritual growth and many new converts of the late teenage and early 20s groups began to attend services and meetings regularly, prompting the need for more suitable accommodation.

The foundation stones of the current building – still quaintly referred to by some as the “new chapel” – were laid on the 10th October 1912. Then came a major setback because, to the dismay of everyone involved, the whole front of the new building collapsed into the High Street! However, this was soon rebuilt and the chapel was officially opened on 6th July 1913.

A milestone in our history

Another “milestone” date in the history of the church was 15th March 1986 when special Rededication services were held to mark the completion of a major programme of renovation costing more than £50,000. This involved the construction of a new upper sanctuary at the first floor level and the creation of a new schoolroom, offices and kitchen facilities on the ground floor. A new gas central heating system was also installed.

But while the building is important, the people or “living stones” are the real Church of God – a belief held as strongly today by the Fellowship as it was right back in the early years when Mr. William Prosser of Pontypool Baptist College was ordained as the church’s first pastor in May 1864. Tabernacle has been blessed with some great servants of God since that time – not least among them, the Revs. J.M. Jones, Edward Roberts, Howell Morgan, and E.P. Thomas.

Geoff Champion