Some early history relating to Zion CM chapel, Begelly and Bethesda CM chapel, St Issells
Transcribed by Jon Mein from an article by Thomas Ashford (Minister, Begelly) in The Calvinistic Methodist Recorder of March 1853
The Home Mission, Begelly, Pembrokeshire
About thirty years ago, the late Mr W Lloyd having greatly admired the preaching of the Pembrokeshire ministers who occasionally itinerated through Montgomeryshire , his native county, in order that he might live in their midst and enjoy their ministry more regularly, petitioned the Board of Excise for an appointment to some part of the former county. His petition was granted, and he was appointed to Begelly.
When he came to his new station or ride, to his great surprise and disappointment he found himself many miles distant from the ministers and chapels to which he was so much attached. For a length of time he was obliged to content himself with the services of the Parish Church and Sardis Independent Chapel, the only dissenting place of worship at that time in the neighbourhood. In course of time Mr Lloyd went over to Wiston, a distance of ten miles where he sat under the efficient ministry of the Rev. T Harries, then of Haverfordwest. Mr Harries engaged to spend a subsequent Sabbath at Begelly. This was announced by Mr Lloyd to the inhabitants, and a congregation was collected to hear Mr Harries who attended according to his engagement. This was the beginning of the Calvinistic Methodist interest in the village and neighbourhood of Begelly.
Mr Harries, and other ministers capable of preaching in English, continued for several years afterwards to preach in the neighbourhood with a measure of regularity. As Mr Lloyd's duties in the Excise were not very heavy, with a true missionary spirit he laboured night and day for the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom. He established one Sabbath school in the village of Begelly and another between that village and Tenby where Bethesda Chapel was afterwards erected. A society was formed at Begelly and prayer meetings were held in different parts of the neighbourhood nearly every evening in the week, at which Mr Lloyd generally gave a word of exhortation to the people; and the Lord gave testimony to the word of his grace. Bethesda Chapel, in the parish of St Issells, was erected in the year 1826; and the ministers who officiated at the opening, examined Mr Lloyd and gave him permission to preach. Thus the neighbourhood was privileged with a place of worship and "an authorised teacher" on the same day. Begelly was erected in 1828, shortly after which Mr Lloyd removed to Llandyssil in Cardiganshire where, I believe, he attempted to make himself equally useful.
The little churches, schools and congregations which he had been instrumental in collecting together were now left like sheep without a shepherd. The monthly meetings did all that could be done towards supplying these chapels with preaching on the Sabbath; and at length succeeded in prevailing on Rev W Llewellyn of Wiston to live and labour in the neighbourhood. The cause was soon after connected with the South Wales Home Missionary Society. Mr Llewhellyn laboured with a measure of faithfulness and success until he was succeeded by the writer of this sketch in 1844.
Nothing particular occurred during the succeeding years, until the winter of 1849-50. At this time the neighbourhood was partially visited by that dreadful scourge, the cholera. The inhabitants were aroused out of their spiritual slumber, our places of worship were thronged, drunkards became sober, swearers began to pray, and many who had been halting between two opinions then gave themselves to the Lord and to his people. Thirty-five hopeful members were added to the church at Begelly and ten at Bethesda. Then the good seed that had been sown during the previous years was watered with the dew of heaven, and brought forth fruit. Since then a few have gone over to the Establishment, a few have turned back to the world, a few have left the neighbourhood, and a few have been removed by death. Yet it is a matter of heartfelt gratitude that of the 45 admitted into church fellowship during that memorable season, 32 still retain a name and place in the Lord's house. It must be admitted that during 1852, iniquity abounded, and the love of money waxed cold. During 1852 we had more backsliding, and lukewarmness to deplore, than during any of the preceding years, especially at Begelly. Never before was there such neglecting of assembling of ourselves together. Never before could it be said of our deacons that they did not attend either society or prayer meetings on week evenings ten times during the first ten months of the year. Never before did I have the painful duty at the Lord's table, month after month, reproving for this neglect of the means, and exhorting to repentance and reformation. I am happy now to announce a great alteration for the better; our leaders are bringing forth fruit in their old age; the people cheerfully follow; prayer meetings are reviving again; a spirit of love and a sprit of prayer are re-kindled in our midst; and a dawn of a brighter day has broken in upon us.