Has anyone ever walked or travelled along Welsh Walls and wondered what that abandoned red-brick church and graveyard were?

Well, that church was St David’s Church/Eglwys Dewi Sant – one of Oswestry’s many Welsh chapels.

According to Watkin’s book on Oswestry, the story begins as early as 1749, when Welsh language sermons were held at St Oswald’s Church, every second Sunday, by Reverend Goronwy Owen. These sermons continued until 1814 when they were transferred to the Guildhall while Trefonen Chapel was being constructed; the chapel at Trefonen was finally completed in 1821 and was consecrated to meet the spiritual needs of the parishioners, in Welsh, on a full-time basis. This left the town without any Welsh language provisions.

In 1872, Welsh language services were finally returned to Oswestry when a service run in association with St Oswald’s Church was established in the Victoria Rooms. The first service was given to 18 parishioners, with the first Welsh wedding being held on October 24.

A building was eventually constructed behind St Oswald’s Church, in Welsh Walls, just afterwards. The building was made out of corrugated iron and the front is described in the book as ‘hexagonal’, with material transferred from the Holy Trinity Church in Salop Road. Sadly, no pictures are available.

Plans for a new building were finally drawn in 1912 due to the demand for more space to fit an increasing fellowship. The design was based on the early period of English Gothic architecture, with a vestry to the north side of the chancel, built from red brick with a slate roof. The design could fit up to 200 people and was constructed at the cost of nearly £1,000.

The preacher, the architect, Mr WH Spaull, and the builders were all freemasons, which explains why the cornerstone was laid in a ceremony with full masonic honours by the Right Worthy Brother of the Craft, Sir Offley Wakeman, Bart and Grand Master of the Province of Shropshire, on July 25. The ceremony was attended by many, including parishioners and Burgesses, both freemason and non-freemason.

The inscription is in Welsh, and reads as: ‘Gosodwyd y Garreg hon gan y Marchog Offley Wakeman, Barwnig, RWGM Seiri Rhyddion Amwythig, Gorphenal 25ain 1912.

WMB Lutener, Ficer,WH Spaull, FRIBA Pensaer,

W Felton, Adeiladydd.’

The crude English translation, with divine assistance from Google Translate (so please excuse any inaccuracies which may arise), reads as: ‘This stone was laid by Sir Offley Wakeman, Baronet, RWPGM Shrewsbury Freemasons, 25th July 1912.’. Please note: ‘pensaer’ roughly means ‘architect’ and ‘adeiladydd’ means ‘builder’.

Many years ago, the congregation stopped attending and the church fell into disuse. The image shows the gates open in 1964, which suggests the church was in use as late as then. Should any readers have any further information on this matter, we would love to hear from you.

In 2008, the church had its status changed from being a redundant church to be used as office accommodation, with its then tenants being a local arts group. Plans for a car park to be built on part of the old graveyard were approved in 2009, which would see dozens of graves become the site for 11 vehicles.

As of 2015, the church was converted into holiday accommodation. Sadly, the stone capping on the iron gates, which once bore the names of the church wardens from as far back as 1817, disappeared.

Although most of the graveyard to the east side and towards the gates has since been converted into car parking spaces, many of the graves to the far-west side remain, with many Welsh inscriptions being viewable from the street, including that chalk white headstone surrounded by chains.