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The historic Welsh chapel in the heart of London

A brief history of Jewin

Jewin, the oldest Welsh church in London, was formed ‘around 1774’ according to the best sources. This is based on anecdotal accounts gathered by Dr Owen Thomas when he was minister of Jewin in the mid-nineteenth century.


Some of the Welsh in London would gather in the 1770s in a meeting room in Cock Lane, Smithfield, to attend services in the Welsh language organised by Edward Jones and Griffith Jones. The former was an ex-soldier and ‘rum and brandy merchant’ while the latter was a ‘ginger-beer manufacturer’: they were, to put it mildly, an unlikely pair of founding fathers.


It is likely that Edward Jones had also been active in Welsh meetings in south London. The great revivalist Howel Harris had preached in Lambeth on his first visit to London in 1739 and returned many times over the years that followed. This is the tradition on which the Cock Lane meetings were built. By 1785 the congregation had outgrown its home in Smithfield and moved to a small chapel in Wilderness Row, near the junction of today’s St John Street and Clerkenwell Road.


There were turbulent times at Wilderness Row. Edward Jones was a tyrant who meted out his own brand of punishment to ‘wayward’ chapel members. The damage to the cause took a long time to be repaired. It took a rather special man, James Hughes, to steady the ship. The congregation moved to grander premises in Jewin Crescent in 1823 with James Hughes (‘Iago Trichrug’) as minister. He led the cause until his death in 1844.


A succession of gifted men, including Dr Owen Thomas, David Charles Davies, and J E Davies (‘Rhuddwawr’), took charge of the church during the second half of the nineteenth century. Membership boomed and Jewin became widely known as one of the most powerful and influential churches in the Calvinistic Methodist domain.


The congregation moved to an even more impressive home in 1879. The new chapel was built on the corner of Fann Street at a cost of £10,000. This building was destroyed in the Blitz in 1940, and the building we see today was opened in 1960. This ambitious rebuilding project was the vision of one man, the Revd D S Owen, who served as minister from 1915 to 1959.


Today, Jewin is part of a much smaller family of London Welsh churches, but its loyal members are determined to secure its future. It remains a prime symbol of Welsh culture in London.

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