In the late 1790’s Chepstow Baptist was one of a number of church plants set up by Caerleon Baptist Chapel. By 1816, when the current chapel was built, shipbuilding and related industry filled the busy port of Chepstow, and the new iron bridge built over the River Wye improved connections to the English side of the river.
Chepstow Baptist Chapel was built in plain stone, and included “a meeting house room, 34 feet long, 30 feet wide and 20 feet high” and is still used today.
The first minister, Joshua Lewis, (from 1819 to 1828), began his ministry training at Abergavenny Baptist College and due to its closure, completed it at Bristol Baptist College.
Rev Thomas Jones pastored the church for 37 years from 1833. During his time in Chepstow, he ran a school for children of middle-class families. Later when the education act of 1870 came in, he was keen to work with others to ensure that children were educated in a school setting. A memorial stone was put above the pulpit but is now outside the church.
With Rev Thomas Jones still at the helm, in 1868 the church had a membership of 49. It was extended to giving us the frontage, gallery, and school room we have today.
In 1880, a cleaners’ ‘cottage’ was built on to the side of the church to accommodate the cleaner/caretaker and family and were responsible for security, cleaning and any preparation duties that were needed. Caretaker Mr Mills terminated his employment in April 1938 after 32 years’ service and probably holds the record for the longest serving caretaker.
Significant improvements were carried out in 1910 not long after the arrival of Rev Brett. The chapel was closed for several weeks as electric lights replaced the gas lights and radiators were added to the heating system. Two side galleries disappeared and left space for the new platform on which to reposition the organ. Both isles were re-laid with block flooring, while three pews were removed from the back. On the frontage, two side doors were transformed into two side windows, and a new central double door and window was put in. Immediately inside there was a long wooden glass screen fitted with lead lights, with a door on either side while the entrance to the outer gate was laid with red tiles.
During the First World War, the church opened its facilities to the Royal Engineers who were building the National Shipyards. They were offered regular meals and a place to relax. Supper cost 3d and, for 14 months, about £1600 was spent in the popular church canteen.
By September 1939, the country was at war again. The church building was in poor state of repair. Too much light and not enough heat led to a decision to join with the Congregation Church on Welsh Street for the duration of the war.
Many alterations and repairs took place in the following decades, but the most recent round of structural alterations took place around 2002-2003. This included removing the pews and updating the toilets and kitchen.
Worship styles are now less formal than previously. No longer does anyone live on site, resulting in the space being used differently.
The people, like the building, are full of faults and failings, but we still seek to faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christ to the best of our ability.