On entering Tenby you can’t miss the fine Gothic style Church with a clock tower on the corner of Warren Street and South Parade. If you arrive by train it’s on the road you walk up heading towards the town centre. If you arrive by car you go under the railway viaduct and will pass the church on your way to the car park. What you may not know is that this church is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. As well as functioning as a thriving church St. Johns is also one of the two main cultural centres in Tenby, housing a wide range of concerts and events.
August sees the celebration of 150 years of worship at St. Johns Church, South Parade, Tenby. The Church, then known as the Congregational Church, opened on the 6th August 1868 exactly a year after the laying of the foundation stone. The Church was built in the Gothic Style by local builder James Rogers to designs by Paull and Robinson, architects of Manchester. The corner on which the church stands quickly became known to locals as ‘Cong Corner’, a term still in use today. The original plan to include a spire was not completed until 1908 when the clock tower was added. The work was carried out by Messrs. Beynon Brothers.
The church has witnessed many changes over the years. In 1968 it celebrated its Centenary with the publication of a 46 page souvenir booklet detailing the history of the church. In 1972 a union between the Congregational and Presbyterian denominations led to the founding of the United Reformed Church. Then in 1986 as a result of a partnership with Tenby Methodist Church the church was renamed St. Johns after the reformer John Calvin, the martyr John Penry, the theologian John Wesley and Saint John the Apostle.
Services are held every Sunday at 11.00am with Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the month. The Church holds a regular coffee morning and freshly baked Welsh cakes every Wednesday from 10.00am to noon. Art Exhibitions, concerts and numerous special events are organized throughout the year.
This year St. Johns has a full programme of special events to celebrate 150 years. On the 7th April Tenby Male Choir and Belle Voce will be performing. The choir is back again on May 1st performing to raise funds for scouts and guides. May 8th will see a concert by Jim Walker and John Harrison and on the 22nd May the Griffon Choir will be in concert. In June a number of choirs will be performing including Tenby and Chesterfield Male Choir (2nd), Pembroke Male Voice Choir (12th) and the Quay Notes Choir (26th). Concerts continue throughout the summer months.
Those interested in history should note the dates 25th to 30th May as the Church is mounting a special Church History exhibition. Later in the year the Church is running an arts project workshop for young people and December will see the Christmas Tree Festival.
Every Friday night (except during the summer months) the church houses the Tenby and District Arts Club meetings featuring a wide range of activities and events varying from a water colour painting demonstration to local choirs and jazz musicians. The club welcomes everyone, members or not, to come along and enjoy themselves with other like minded individuals.
St. Johns is one of two main cultural centres in Tenby. The other one is Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, located on the Castle Hill above the harbour. As a trustee of the museum you may be tempted to say that I would say that wouldn’t I. This year is special however as the museum celebrates its 140 birthday with a full programme of events and art exhibitions throughout the year including the first ever public exhibition of Paintings and Polaroids by Nicholas Jones, also known as Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers, from the 14th September to 21st October. Look forward to seeing you there.