The History of Christ Church, Rhyl

In 1954, Christ Church, Rhyl (English Congregational) celebrated its Centenary.  Mr A. Henstock compiled and edited “The Story of a Hundred Years of Worship and Service” which formed part of the Souvenir booklet.

Click on image to enlarge.

Here is an extract:

It was a very small company of friends who founded the English Congregational Cause in Rhyl and the courage and faith they had is all the more remarkable considering Rhyl of those earlier days.  The Chester and Holyhead Railway connecting England with the North Wales Coast had only just been opened – May 1st, 1849 (sic), and Rhyl at that time might be described as a somewhat dreary, marshy area of some 600-700 acres in extent.  The population was made up largely of farmers, agricultural workers and fishermen.

To trace the history of Christ Church we should really go further into the past than a hundred years ago to 1839.  In that year a Welsh Congregational Church was founded in Rhyl largely as a result of the efforts of the Rev. S.S. Davies.  The services were held at first in a house called Pen-y-gyrten, situated on the corner of Crescent Road and Water street.  Very shortly, the rapidly increasing number of members made it clear that a new chapel must soon be built.

A site for this building was found in Windsor Street, and Mr William Williams, Caemarch, a highly respected tradesman was commissioned to erect it.  The opening took place on the 3rd and 4th of February 1841, and the services were conducted by a number of eminent Welsh Ministers.  But even at that early date it was considered necessary to conduct one service in English.

The next milestone was the opening in 1851 of a new chapel on the site of where the Carmel Welsh Congregational Chapel now stands.  For a short time the Rev. T.B. Morris continued as Minister and held English Services periodically, especially in the Summer months, when famous English preachers were invited to conduct the services.

Early in 1854 the Rev. Aaron Francis, of Wrexham, accepted a call to Queen Street, and with his coming there was a great increase in the size of the congregation, particularly of English members.  Unfortunately disagreement developed between the Welsh and English elements.  The former felt that Church arrangements were being monopolised by the English section, and this had engendered dissatisfaction amongst the Welsh folk.  This eventually led to the withdrawal of the English section, with the pastor with the immediate aim of founding a Church, where the Services would be conducted entirely in English.  Thus the English Congregational Church was started.

During the next two years services were held in various places, and eventually a building site was purchased in Water Street.

The land secured included the site of an adjoining office, at the cost of 2/6 per square yard.  As this was not necessary for the plans under consideration, it was sold to Mr R. E. Williams, solicitor, for 5/- per square yard.  This meant that the area upon which Christ Church stands was acquired virtually free of cost, a fortunate financial beginning to a new enterprise.

The building was to cost £1,300.  There was a phenomenal response to the appeal for funds.  £600 was obtained in donations and £200 from the Congregational Chapel Building Society.  The edifice, built by Mr William Morris, was in Lombardic style, of dark colour brick, with free stone dressings.  A graceful feature was a spire about seventy feet high.  It had accommodation for about 650 worshipers, a vestry, organ chamber and a choir gallery.  The basement was completely occupied by the schoolroom.

The opening of the new church took place in July 1858.  Shortly afterwards, the balance of the debt was completely cleared.  This fact bears lasting testimony to the foresight and energy of these founders of the first English Nonconformist church in Rhyl.

To see a  modern colour photograph of the church, please follow the link:

http://www.peoplescollectionwales.co.uk/Item/4504-christchurch-water-street-rhyl

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3 Comments

Filed under Buildings/Location, Church/Chapel/Religion

3 responses to “The History of Christ Church, Rhyl

  1. Carole Smythe

    My great-great grandfather, Robert Hughes, built the Carmel Chapel in 1850.

    According to the History of Carmel (Welsh Congregational) Chapel, Rhyl 1839 – 1927, Robert Hughes built the Welsh Chapel on Queen St. in Rhyl, Wales in 1850 for 450 pounds.. Jane Hughes, wife of Robert Hughes, was one of the most prominent women in the chapel and was a quiet, gentle woman.

    According to the History of Carmel (Welsh Congregational) Chapel, Rhyl, 1839 – 1927, his son Robert Foulkes Hughes had a small harmonium in his home, and one Saturday night, he got someone to help him carry it to the Welsh Chapel on Queen St. It would not be appropriate to mention what the Puritans of those early days had to say about this, but the harmonium remained, and eventually the congregation came to value its contribution to the singing. He was in the cathedral choir as a young man and then became the organist and choirmaster at the Welsh Chapel

    Glorious Rhyl
    A Peep at its Past by Philip Lloyd
    Early Places of Worship
    Gosen (Rhuddlan) was the first local Congregational chapel, opened in 1835. Four years later, its Rhyl members started to hold services at a house in what is now Bedford Street. Their first chapel was in Windsor Street, followed in 1850 by a move to a new building -Carmel – in Queen Street.

    Services were held in both languages at Carmel (Welsh Congregational Chapel) at the start. But, after disagreement about sharing the building, the two congregations separated, and Christ Church (English Congregational Church) was opened in 1858.

    The Hughes family home was next door to the chapel at 2 Queen St.

    I would be interested in any further history on this chapel, and if pictures are available of the family, I would greatly appreciate a copy.

    Would anyone know where birth, marriage and death records for this church were kept during this time frame? I am trying to find Robert and Jane’s marriage records, as well as their sons Robert and Richard’s births in 1840 and 1850.

    After Robert Foulkes Hughes married in 1869, he became a member of Christ Church. He was choir master of Christ Church (later called English Congregational) in Rhyl from 1885 – 1903. As of his death in 1904, he was the oldest member of Christ Church (Congregational), Water Street, and had been a respected member of the diaconate and superintendent of the Sunday School.

    Carole Smythe
    Vancouver, B. C.

  2. Many thanks Carole for a great contribution to the history of the English and Welsh Congregational Chapels in Rhyl.

  3. Peter Brew

    I attended Christ Church during the 1940s. I remember a Mr. Rhodes and a Rose Cunningham. I was in the play “Song in the Wind” which the Dramatic Society entered in the County Drama Festival. Other names are Edith Ricketts and Jean Derbyshire. Very happy days! Peter Brew St. Day Cornwall.

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