A Sort History of Woody

The church was founded in 1881 as Woodville Road Baptist Church, but its history goes back a few years previously to 1877 when a committee, appointed by Tabernacle Baptist Church, the Hayes, met “to take steps for supplying accommodation for public worship in Cathays”. At that time Cathays was in the process of being transformed from an area of farmland into the residential area of terraced houses that we know today.

The Committee met in an upperroom, reached by stairs outside a small house (since demolished) at the town end of Cathays Terrace. This meeting-place was known as “The Steps”, and there is no reference to any different meeting-place in Cathays for Baptists until 1881 when our School Room was opened.

Soon after the first Committee Meeting, the former Bethany Baptist Church (part of which can still be seen within Howells Department Store on St. Mary Street in the city centre) agreed to co-operate with Tabernacle in “devising ways and means of forwarding the Cathays cause”, and from then on the Committee consisted of representatives of both churches. Tabernacle and Bethany are therefore our “Mother Churches”.

Woodville Road Baptist Church School Room - about 1895

Cathays was growing rapidly at this time, and suitable sites were scarce. The committee met frequently, and eventually were successful in securing the present site. Tenders were invited for the erection of “a School-room, Class-rooms, boundary wall and offices” and in 1880 the building was commenced, the cost being under £700. Woodville Road Baptist Church was established as a separate entity on 1st July 1881 consisting of some thirty members. By the first Annual General Meeting the membership had doubled and there were some 260 scholars in the Sunday School. At the Second Annual Meeting, there membership had reached 98, and a “call” was given to Caradoc Griffiths, then a student of Haverfordwest Bible College, to become our first minister – a position he held for thirty-four years.

Woodville Road Baptist Church Chapel building (in about 1989)

It was now considered time to proceed with the erection of the main chapel building, though without the first floor balconies at first (because of the cost). Tenders were invited and varied greatly – that of a local contractor, Leonard Purnell, was accepted, the cost being just over £3,000. The church was opened in 1887, and the balconies added in 1892.

Interior of Woodville Road Baptist Church Chapel building (in about 1990)

In 1904, the church building was altered to make suitable room for a Pipe Organ.

The 1920’s were days of large congregations and on special occasions all seats were filled; sometimes chairs had to be brought in and placed in the aisles. The Sunday School was at its zenith at the beginning of the century with 611 scholars and forty-five teachers.

At the end of the First World War a Recreation Room, known as “The Institute” was erected for the use of young men of the Church and congregation. The institute was opened in 1920 with a registered membership of eighty-eight. The activities provided filled a real need for recreation upon Church premises for many years, but gradually the premises were used less and less, and were eventually demolished after vandals had tried to set fire to the building on at least two occasions. The Institute was replaced with the “Fellowship Hall” building during the 1970’s.

Unlike some buildings in the surrounding area, the church was spared significant damage during the Second World War bombings of Cardiff, although the chapel was hit by one incendiary device which failed to ignite properly, and the School Room was requisitioned for military purposes for almost two years. Once the army had been removed, a very good Canteen Service commenced for the rest of the war, where each week-night evening hundreds of men found rest and refreshment provided at very moderate charges by a band of church members.

A service in progress in the old chapel building
Demolition of Woodville Road Baptist Church Chapel Building in November 1993.

Over a period of several years the physical condition of the chapel building deteriorated and, in January 1990, gale force winds removed a significant portion of the main roof. The roof was repaired, but in the following months, as church meetings discussed and considered the work that was required to the building, it was discerned that God’s will was that the existing buildings should be demolished and a new church building, more suitable for the needs of the church in the 21st century be built. Services continued in the chapel until 1993, when concerns was raised about the chapels safety as a result of the structural damage being caused by dry rot. The final services were held in the chapel on Sunday 14th February 1993 – and the building was demolished during the autumn.

The church continued to hold it’s services, as well as most of its other activities, in the School Room up until July 2001. During this time plans were made, and finances raised, to build a new church building on the site.

Between July 2001 and September 2002 the church was very grateful to Cathays Methodist Church for allowing us to hold services in their building on Sunday afternoons whilst the School Room and Fellowship Hall were demolished, and the new building constructed.

Our new building, Woodville Christian Centre, opened in September 2002, with our main hall, toilets, kitchen and meeting rooms on the part of the ground floor, and with the church offices and further meeting rooms on the first floor. The ground floor area by the corner of Woodville Road and Crwys Road is a retail unit (originally occupied by Spar, but now by Coco Gelato Ice Cream Parlour) which raised a significant proportion of the finance required for the redevelopment.