Our regular feature on the chapels in Merthyr continues with one of the oldest chapels in Dowlais – Caersalem Welsh Baptist Chapel.
At the beginning of the 19th Century, the Baptists of Dowlais had to travel to Zion and Ebenezer Chapels in Merthyr to worship.
In 1817 a Baptist Cause was founded and met in the old Bethel Chapel in the Lower High Street in Dowlais. In 1820 it was decided to build a new chapel, so a plot of land in Well Street, just under 300 square yards was leased from the Dowlais Iron Company for 99 years, at an annual rent of £1.14s.11d, and the chapel was built at a cost of £500. Within three years of opening, the congregation had increased and a gallery had to be built at a cost of £150. Caersalem was still considered as a branch of Zion until 1829 when it gained its independence.
As the congregation grew, a larger building was required and a new chapel designed by Mr William Lewis, foreman carpenter at the Dowlais Ironworks was built in 1833 at a cost of £509.9s.3d.
The congregation grew to such an extent that three new churches were established, originally as branches of Caersalem:- Elim in Penydarren, Hebron and Moriah in Dowlais, and Caersalem was itself refurbished in 1852 at a cost of £650. In 1863 a cottage situated underneath the chapel was converted into a vestry, and in 1873 a baptistery was installed.
By 1883 it became obvious that extensive repairs were needed to the chapel. The exterior of the chapel was redesigned and the interior refurbished and a new pipe organ installed in the gallery. Whilst the renovations were carried out, the congregation met at Tabernacle Chapel in Ivor Street (later Elim Chapel).
In 1906, as a result of the 1904 revival, the vestry beneath the chapel was extended by converting the chapel keeper’s cottage which was next to the original vestry. This work was done by members of the congregation at a cost of £245.
On 30 June 1924, the freehold of the chapel and the three cottages beneath the chapel were purchased from Messrs Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds. The chapel freehold was purchased for one shilling as it was a religious building, but the three cottages were bought for £30 each.
Caersalem Chapel was forced to close and was finally demolished in 1977 due to the redevelopment of Dowlais. A new chapel was built in 1977 in Pant and is still in use.