Revealing the Hidden Church, The Unexpected History of Cardiff’s Howells Building

Revealing the Hidden Church, The Unexpected History of Cardiff’s Howells Building

The Howells building, a shopping destination for Cardiff residents since 1865, has a hidden church nestled in the middle of it.

The Bethany Particular Baptist chapel was surrounded by houses on St Mary Street, but over the years, it became overshadowed by commercial buildings.

Aerial photos show the old chapel sandwiched in the middle of the surrounding Howells building

The Howells department store swallowed the church entirely in the 1960s, more than 100 years after it was first built.

History of the Chapel

The Bethany Particular Baptist chapel was built in 1807 and renovated several times until it was rebuilt in 1865.

By 1965, the congregation found the site too difficult to access and migrated to another church in Rhiwbina, leaving the Bethany Particular Baptist chapel empty.

Integration into Howells Building

Instead of demolishing the historic building, Howells kept it and even incorporated it into the shop itself.

Inside the chapel in the Howells building on the last day of House of Fraser trading in the building

The chapel still excites Cardiff history buffs, like Dominic and Kath Worsey, who spotted the top of the old church from the third floor of the Sandringham Hotel on St Mary Street.

The retired couple from Pontypridd came to Cardiff to see The Alarm in concert at St David’s Hall when they noticed the hidden building nestled in amongst the Cardiff landmark.

Dominic posted a photo on the Cardiff Days Gone By Facebook group and asked for confirmation that it was indeed the church.

Commentary

The integration of the Bethany Particular Baptist chapel into the Howells building is a testament to the value of preserving historic buildings.

The chapel has a long and unexpected history, and its incorporation into the shop is an example of how a building’s historical significance can be maintained even as its use changes.

The chapel is a reminder of the city’s past and its evolution over time.

The interest of the public in discovering the hidden church is a testament to the enduring fascination with local history and the value of preserving heritage buildings.

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