The Welsh Baptist congregation in the area first met in Old Colwyn, originally in Church Walks, where they later agreed to share the building with the English Baptists.
Tabernacl Chapel on the north side of Abergele Road (opposite Douglas Road) was built in 1888 and was used by both the Welsh and the English Baptist congregations.
The cost of the church, schoolroom and additional rooms was £1800. The chapel house was added in 1890 at a cost of £126.
In 1891 the English congregation began fundraising for their own building, moving first to a site on Abergele Road (near Erw Wen Road) and then in 1913 to their present location on Princes Drive. The Welsh congregation then had sole use of Tabernacl.
The Welsh Church Commission Statistics of the Non Conformist Churches for 1905 lists Tabernacl as having 223 adherents.
On October 10th, 1920 the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable David Lloyd George visited Tabernacl and following a sermon by Rev. J. S. Jones commented “I felt the power of the Welsh pulpit touching my heart”.
Tabernacl has held three civic services. The first was in 1965 when Mrs. D. B. Jones was Mayor for Colwyn Council, and the second and third in 1985 and 1987, when John Hughes of Llangernyw, and John Jones of Llanfairtalhairn respectively were Mayors for Colwyn Borough Council.
The church celebrated its centenary on October 1st, 1988.
Ministers of the chapel have been:
Rev. William Hughes
He was the first minister and had been a missionary in the Congo between 1882 and 1885. Llanelian and Old Colwyn were also in his care along with Colwyn Bay’s English Baptist congregation.
William Hughes had returned to Wales with two boys, Nkanza and Kinkasa, with plans to open a training institute in Nant y Glyn Road for students from the Congo and elsewhere in Africa to enable them to learn a trade and return home with these newly acquired skills. In the early days it was knows as Congo House, later becoming the Congo House Training Institute and then the African Training Institute. By 1894 there were 15 students at the Congo Institute. The Congo Training Institute continued until 1912 and provided education for almost 90 African students.
Whilst by 1910 the Institute’s finances were in a poor state, worse was to come in late in 1911 when the news magazine “John Bull” began to publish articles about Hughes and the Institute, with such headlines as “A Baptist Mission Scandal” and “Black Baptist’s Brown Baby”. Hughes sued “John Bull” for libel but lost the case leaving him bankrupt. The Institute was sold and he thought of returning to Africa.
The Rev. Hughes died in the workhouse in Conwy in 1924 and, following a service at Tabernacl, where Lewis Valentine was one of the ministers who conducted the service, was buried in Old Colwyn Cemetery where members of his family and students of the Congo Institute are also buried.
Rev. Edward Colwyn Evans
In 1892, Rev. Hughes was succeeded by Rev. Edward Colwyn Evans who had been born in Old Colwyn. He died suddenly on the beach in Colwyn Bay in 1894 at 49 years of age.
Rev. David Henry Rees
The Rev. David Henry Rees was ordained at Tabernacl in 1897 where he was minister for only two years, but during that short time he doubled the membership and cleared the £900 debt on the building.
Rev. Peter Jones
The Rev. Peter Jones, who was ordained in Bousfield Street Chapel, Liverpool in 1893, and became Tabernacl’s minister in 1902, remaining for 14 years.
Rev. John Samuel Jones
The Rev. Peter Jones was succeeded by the Rev. John Samuel Jones in 1919. The Rev. Jones was minister for 30 years.
Rev. Caradog Owen
The Rev. Caradog Owen became minister in 1951, staying for 5 years.
Rev. Idris Treharne Davies
Rev. Idris Treharne Davies, who was minister from 1957 to 1961, is remembered for establishing a club for the children of the church and “Urdd y Seren Fore”. Membership of the Sunday School increased during his time at the chapel.
Rev. William Williams
In 1964 the Rev. William Williams became minister, moving to Colwyn Bay from Upper Brook Street Chapel in Manchester. He died in 1982 and his memorial service was held at Tabernacl in the care of the Rev. Lewis Valentine.
Rev. Gwilym Hughes
Following the death of the Rev. Williams, Tabernacl was without a minister for nearly 10 years. On November 1st, 1991 the Rev. Gwilym Hughes was welcomed to Tabernacl alongside his care of Abergele’s congregation.
The 1924 organ, made by Rushworth & Draper, was installed in 1937.
Mr. J. Eryl Owen-Jones discovered the organ for the chapel. Employed as a clerk for local solicitors, he was working on the estate of the late Edward Blackburn, a former cotton manufacturer from Manchester, latterly of Bryn Eisteddfod, Glan Conwy. Mr. Blackburn died in 1936 and it was discovered that in 1924 a Rushworth & Draper organ had been built in the music room of his home in Glan Conwy. Following a visit to the house by members of the church to see and hear the organ it was obtained for the church. The first presentation was on June 9th, 1937 by the organist of Bangor Cathedral, Leslie D. Paul.
The chapel’s front gable facing the road is built of sandstone. The main features of the front elevation include the flanking buttresses, the two sets of windows, each with two arched windows, the trefoils above and the round cinquefoil window in the gable with its arched hoodmould.
An unusual feature is the slate lean to roof on the front. The bold porch has simple boarded doors with the name “Tabernacl” painted on the fanlight. To the sides are three small windows.
Note on the front elevation the eight memorial stones, all dated March 6th 1888 naming chapel dignitaries and the various places from which they came – Llandudno, Seacombe, Pwllheli, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay along with the MP for Anglesey,.
The side elevations are fairly plain.
The slate roof, with its red ridge tiles, is of some interest with its vents on the ridge and the louvred vents within small gables lower down.
The chapel lies behind a sandstone wall, with ornate gates.
Undeb Bedyddwyr Cymru: Cylch Cantref y Rhos: Thema: Pobl y Ffordd: Gorffennaf 25-29, 1999.
Hughes, William: Dark Africa and the Way Out: 1892.