Plas Bennion Mission Church, Penycae/Ruabon.

Plas Bennion was once a mining community that stood between Wynn Hall and Plas Madoc on the newly established boundary of the parishes of Penycae and Ruabon.

To make a religious provision for the fifty odd dwellings there in the 1880s, cottage lectures were held during the winter on Thursdays. This was the strategy that the vicar, Canon E. Wood Edwards, had used in Penycae twenty years earlier.

It was described in H.C. Ridley’s 1829 handbook Parochial Duties:

The clergyman rings the bell … and on entering the room a short prayer is offered up. The portion of scripture is then begun in continuance with the last reading. From ten to thirty verses are gone through, almost word for word, with the distinct meaning of every passage and its reference to others, and explained as simply as possible. The whole passage is then repeated in a sort of paraphrase, and lastly the practical duties arising from its consideration are summed up under three particular heads. This, with the Lord’s Prayer and another … occupied one hour.’

A mission room, probably in the same building was held on Friday, at 7pm and a children’s meeting at 6pm.” There was no lack of support for this missionary enterprise and a permanent site for a church was found in 1893. A new Iron Mission Room supplied by R.C. Harris, iron church builder of Coleman Street, London, was purchased at a cost of £117.

The site of this ‘Tin Tabernacle’ was just south of the railway line on land owned by Mr Llewellyn Jones of Penycae. ” The building was 45 feet by 20 feet with four windows on each side, two in the front end and one window in each gable with a porch fronting the road. In the 1950s, this building was encased with Ruabon red brick and was used until the church, then in a dangerous condition, was closed at a service of thanksgiving on 13 November 1982 in the presence of the Bishop of St Asaph, Alwyn Rice Jones. Some of the money realised from the sale of the site funded the building of the church hall at the parish church of St Mary’s, Ruabon.

By this time the row of houses built for the mining community had been demolished and their residents dispersed. Members of the community were proud of their little church and recruited a surpliced choir with music from a harmonium. The services were generally in charge of the assistant curate of Ruabon, a lay reader and sometimes the vicar.

Mr William Parker was faithful in the first part of the 20th century as lay reader, and in the second half, Mr H.L. Brown, Mr R. Breeze and, on occasions, the last squire of Erddig, Philip Yorke, officiated.

Some of the organists from 1960 onwards were Betty Miller (née Davenport) and Mrs Kenrick. The Brellisford family, Mrs Annie Roberts, Betty Ellis (née Humphries) and Brenda Ellis (née Tunnah) and many others were faithful and active members of the church and community. Near the church was a building known as ‘the Room’ used for the social events.

In February 1913, Miss Agnes Bowen and her concert party from Ruabon consisting of Misses Sallie and Nan Bowen, Gwen Crewe and Lily Sharpe, performed. In September 1919, the church choir, through the kindness of Mrs Pugh, Tai Clawdd, and Mr Watkin Rogers the lay reader was invited to a picnic tea at Belan and went on to Belan Tower and ‘indulged in games’.

By 1922 the choir was reorganised when it was reported that it ‘now consists of about forty members, including a number of well-known singers. The practices are held weekly, under the conductorship of the curate in charge, Mr A. Hervey, assisted by the Rev H. J. Croasdale.’

Across the railway tracks in the parish of Penycae was a Wesleyan Methodist chapel and both congregations used to support each other’s services on special occasions.

In the 20th Century it had been sad to chronicle the decline and closure of places of worship but on the other hand, there have been signs of growth. Christians openly came together in the last twenty years of the twentieth century. Circumstances on more than one occasion gave the opportunity.

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