Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
The Borough Welsh Congregational Chapel is a harmonious Grade II listed building in Southwark Bridge Road. Built in 1872, it reflects the style of an earlier Chapel located on the site dating from 1806. Pevsner dismisses it as “debased classical” but English Heritage describe is as a “remarkably well preserved example, both inside and out, of a Welsh Chapel of the Valleys.” There are two doorways side by side on the front elevation, separate entrances for men and women, and on the rear of the building are two stone tablets inscribed with the stern message “Commit No Nuisance”.
A service held in the Welsh language was first held in Southwark at the end of the 18th century in Gravel Lane, a branch of a Welsh Chapel in Wildnerness Row in Clerkenwell. Soon afterwards there was a split between the two chapels when the one based in Clerkenwell became Methodist whilst the chapel in Gravel Lane became Congregational. In 1806 the Borough Welsh Congregational Chapel leased some land in Little Guildford Street (now the southern part of Great Guildford Street) and built a chapel that housed 500 people. After 50 years, the lease expired and the congregation had to move out. After a lot of fundraising and many donations, they were able to buy the freehold of the land and the new chapel opened in 1872. In the intervening years since the original chapel had been built, Southwark Bridge Road had been formed and whereas the old chapel entrance and front elevation had faced onto Great Guildford Street, the new chapel's entrance now faced onto the new road.
Services are still held in Welsh three times a month. The Chapel engages actively with the wider community, both locally and internationally, and has a varied programme of events.