History of Tabernacle

Revd Shem Morgan writes:

In 2014 Tabernacle is celebrating the 375th anniversary of not only the founding of the church, but also as the birth of Nonconformity in Wales.  In 1611, William Wroth was inducted as Rector of St.Dubritius and also Llanfihangel, Rogiet.  In the early years of his ministry he was addicted to levity, casual mirth and music; he was reprimanded by the Bishop long before his conversion.

In 1620 the head of the family where he lodged, (a relative of his) had gone to London to defend himself in a law suit and was acquitted.    William Wroth and the family arranged a grand home coming party, Wroth even bought a new violin for the occasion.  But the day he was expected home, they heard that he had died, this had a tremendous impact on Wroth and the Family. Soon after receiving the news, he had a dream that he had fallen into a swollen river and was drowning.  On the bank of the river he saw a beautiful young man with a sky coloured cap or a crown on his head.  The man asked him “What will you do to save your life?”  Wroth replied “I will do anything to save my life”. The man replied “Make restitution, go preach the Gospel”. On awaking he vowed that he would not adhere to the doctrine or the edicts of the Established Church if they interfered with his Christian conviction.

There were many confrontations between him and the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1633 he refused to read the ‘Book of Sports’ in morning Worship, this and his  refusal to accept the ‘Act of Declaration’ (1628) . Due to Wroth’s refusal to accept the command he appeared before the High Commission in London in 1635, but no final judgement was reached concerning his refusal. 

Soon after his conversion, William Wroth attracted large congregations to the Parish Church; they were so large that the services were held in the graveyard people came from all parts of South and mid Wales, from Herefordshire, Somerset and Bristol.  The minutes of the Church of Christ. Meeting at Broadmead, Bristol refers to William Wroth “In those parts was one Mr. Wroth, in Monmouthshire, not far from this city of Bristol, who for powerfulness and efficaciousness of his preaching with the exemplary holiness of his life, was called, the Apostle of Wales, for papists, and as all sorts almost honoured him for a holy man.”   By 1639 such was the  strength of the gathering that it was decided to form an official  recognised gathering to be known as the “Llanvaches  Gathering” based on the words of  Jesus Christ, “Where two or three are gathered in my name , there am I in the midst of them”, a truly independent  Church.  The service of formation and  recognition of the “Llanvaches Gathering” was held in November 1639.  Such was the importance of this service of recognition, that a large contingent came from Broadmead, Bristol to the service.  The fame of Llanvaches had reached the well established  church of ‘All Hallows,’ London, that they sent their minister,the Reverend Henry Jessey and some of their elders to support the ‘ageing Mr. Wroth’.  For the next fifty years they worshipped in each other’s home or in the out buildings of farms in the area.  In 1689 the first chapel was built in Carrow Hill as no landowner in the Parish of Llanvaches would lease them a plot to build a church.

A hundred years later the gathering was reduced to one lady and nearly ceased to exist.  The reason was that by now many of the original members had built churches nearer their homes and a branch of Carrow Hill had been built in Mill Street, Newport in 1715.  One Sunday the minister from Newport, told the remaining member (a lady) that there was no purpose in coming out for just one communicant.  She pleaded with him to come once again and if there was no increase in attendance she would accept his decision.  During the following few weeks she approached the villagers and farmers in the area, the response was encouraging.   From then on the membership increased so much, that in 1798 they purchased the leasehold  of a plot in the Parish of Llanvaches and the present Tabernacle was erected and opened in 1802.  The hall was added in 1924 as a lasting memorial the founder, The Reverend William Wroth.