A Canadian Historic Place
The Welsh Chapel, located in Cardigan, New Brunswick, is a designated Provincial Historic Site and can be found on the Canadian Register of Historic Places. The community of Cardigan was established by immigrants from Wales who arrived in 1819 with the hope of making a better life for themselves and their families. Most of the settlers were members of the non-conformist churches – Methodist, Independents (Congregationalist) and Baptist. It was the Baptist congregation that built the Welsh Chapel.
In the early years of the settlement, the Baptist families worshipped in their homes or traveled to Fredericton to attend services. In 1825 a formal church was established in the community, serving 45 souls, with services conducted in Welsh. The church and graveyard were situated on a one-acre lot located on the grant originally owned by David Lewis. The earliest official record is of a transfer of one-acre of land from David Lewis to the Baptist Society in 1831. This early building was eventually moved to the nearby community of Woodlands to serve as a farm building. It was replaced by the current chapel circa 1856 which served Baptist families in the area for many decades.
In the late 1980’s a group of interested families with roots in the Cardigan area began investigating the possibility of preserving and restoring the chapel and graveyard. At the same time efforts were underway to establish a Welsh Society in the Fredericton area. The aims of the two groups overlapped, resulting in the establishment of the Central New Brunswick Welsh Society and the creation of the New Brunswick Welsh Heritage Trust, to be managed by the Society.
Discussion with the United Baptist Convention, which owned the Chapel and graveyard, culminated in a transfer of ownership of the property to the Welsh Heritage Trust in June 1989. During the next few years extensive work was carried-out, including the addition of a heated basement, painting of the interior and exterior of the chapel, improvement of the grounds and restoration of the gravestones. In October 1997 a plaque designating the Chapel and graveyard as a provincial historic site was unveiled by the local MLAs of the day, one of whom was a descendent of the original Cardigan settlers.
Many improvements have subsequently been made to the Chapel and graveyard. Two ecumenical church services are held there annually, one on the Sunday closest to the June 11th arrival date of the Welsh settlers and the second on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Other special events are held at the Chapel from time to time, including a number of weddings and baptisms. The graveyard continues to attract visitors from across the continent, most of whom are descendants of the original families.
Donations made to the NB Welsh Heritage Trust are used to maintain the Welsh Chapel and the cemetery, and to increase the investment portfolio to a level where the interest earned each year will be sufficient to meet the maintenance needs of the chapel and graveyard. You may receive a tax receipt for all donations of $10 or more if you provide your name and mailing address. Cheques made out to the New Brunswick Welsh Heritage Trust can be mailed c/o Janet Thomas, 100 Epworth Circle, Fredericton, NB E3A 2M6