The Glandwr Baptist Chapel – Aberbeeg.
The History of the Church.
The following information on the history of the reverends at Glandwr, Aberbeeg between the 1660’s and 1897 was extracted from the M.S. of the Rev W. Jones and published in the South Wales Gazette in September 1906.
Glan-y-dwr to the Baptists is a sacred and historic name. Before Blaenau Gwent was formed in 1696 there were services held at Glan-y-dwr Farm as early as 1662, here Mr Morgan William resided and was later preaching services held in his house. Mr Joshua Thomas, the Baptist historian wrote – By the house of Morgan William they used to baptise, it was said that there, the first person in the district was baptised, so the name of Glan-y-dwr is associated with the earliest history of the Baptists in this part of the country.
Mr Morgan William.
One important brother of the name of Morgan Williams resided at Glandwr, Llanhiddel, in whose house services were often held and he himself later frequently preached in the district.
Mr Harry John or Harry Shon.
In 1729 Penygarn Chapel, Pontypool was built and some of the early members of that chapel resided in Llanhiddel parish, one of whom was the eminent Harry John or Harry Shon as he was generally called, he was an able linguist, poet and a noble christian. Harry Shon died in 1754 at 91 years of age and his remains were interred in Penygarn burial ground.
Mr David Phillips Snr.
It was stated in the record books of Blaenau Gwent Church that its ministers preached monthly at Llanhiddel. The house of Mr David Phillips Snr became an important meeting place. In the time of Mr David Phillips Jnr, who was a member of the church at Penygarn, Pontypool it was altered and fitted up for a temporary meeting house which measured 31′ feet by 18′ feet.
Mr David Phillips Snr Meeting House.
On 14th March 1821 the house was opened and Revs J. P. Davies of Tredegar; Thos Phillips of Caerleon; John Jenkins of Hengoed; John James of Pontrhydyrun and Francis Hiley of Llanwenarth officiated.
Mr William Thomas.
On October 30th 1822 it was decided by the church at Blaenau Gwent that preaching services at Llanhiddel should be held on every other Sunday and that three candidates from Aberbeeg be baptised the following Sunday at four-o’clock in the afternoon. They were baptised in the pond which Mr D. Phillips had made for his tan-house by Mr William Thomas, the then reverend minister of Blaenau Gwent and that was the first time for him to administer the ordinance. Long after this, preaching services were held every Sunday evening and candidates were baptised at Aberbeeg and received into membership at Blaenau Gwent. This continued until 1837.
The Formation of a Separate Church.
On September 1st 1837 at the request of the members the mother church agreed that they should be formed into a separate church. On the 5th and 6th of September of the same year the formation took place, the members in all totalled 29 and being as follows – Twenty-three from Blaenau Gwent, two from Penygarn, two from Argoed, one from Ebbw Vale and one from Nantyglo.
Rev John Davies.
In 1838 the young church was received into the Monmouthshire Association and its annual meeting was held at Argoed on Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th May 1838. At the same time of its annual meeting Rev John Davies of Penybont, Llandyssul, Cardiganshire accepted the invitation of the young church and settled at Aberbeeg as its pastor. Rev J. Davies was married to Mrs Mary Davies and they later had a son Master Evan Davies born in 1840. Mr John Davies had previously been pastor at Llanyngwril, Merionethshire before moving to Llandyssul and then Aberbeeg.
The First Chapel.
Soon after the settlement of Rev Davies as pastor, the church arranged to erect a commodious chapel and name it Ebenezer. The site for the new chapel and burial ground was freely given by Mr D. Phillips. Mrs Phillips was a generous woman and gave £1. per month towards the ministry and £5. annually to Mr Morgan Morgan of Trinant who was a faithful preacher in the neighbourhood. The new chapel measured 36′ feet by 30′ feet without the wall and vestry behind. The cost of the erection including the walls around the burial ground etc amounted to £510.
The Official Opening of the Ebenezer Chapel at Glandwr.
On Tuesday 30th April and Wednesday 1st May 1839 the new chapel was officially opened. Rev F. Hiley of Llanwenarth; Rev T. Thomas of Pontypool College; Rev J. Jones of Blaenavon; Rev John Williams of Trosnant; Rev Owen Michael of Bassaleg; Rev William Thomas of Newport; Rev Edward Oliver of the Nebo, Ebbw Vale; Rev D. Edwards of Risca; Rev William Roberts of Twyngwyn and Rev John Lewis of Blaenau Gwent attended. The pastor worked hard with fair success during his first years, though finding his ministry was becoming less acceptable he deemed it wise to resign his charge.
In 1848 Rev John Davies resigned and emigrated to Australia. He became a minister at Forest Creek, Australia though passed away on the 21st April 1860.
Rev John Lloyd.
On January 27th and 28th 1852 Rev John Lloyd of Pontypool College was ordained and took over the pastorate at Aberbeeg. Rev John Loyd was a native of Ffynon Henry, Carmarthen. He held the pastorate for nine years and saw the membership at the chapel rise to 102. Rev Lloyd resigned in 1861 owing to ill health and moved back to Carmarthen to take charge of a little church at White Mill and passed away on 13th March 1883.
Rev Stephen Jones.
In August 1862 Rev Stephen Jones of Llantwit Major, Glamorgan became the pastor at Aberbeeg. Rev Jones was a native of Maesteg, Glamorgan and began preaching at Bethania, Glamorgan. He later trained at Pontypool College and was ordained in 1860 at Llantwit Major. Rev Stephen Jones resigned his pastorate in 1871 and moved to the Tabernacle at Pontypool, he later resigned from that post moved to Cardiff and took a new role as an agent to the Prudential Assurance Company.
Mr James Spencer.
In December 1872 Mr James Spence of Morriston, Glamorgan became the new pastor at Aberbeeg. Rev Spence was 63 years of age and did very good work but owing to his age resigned in 1876, he moved to Mountain Ash and in 1879 passed away at 70 years of age.
Rev John Lloyd.
In the spring of 1880 Rev J. Lloyd of Pontypool College accepted the invitation of the church. He left the college in the May and was ordained on Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th July 1880. Mr Lloyd was a native of Merthyr, his father was a minister there from 1848 to 1879 and there under his ministry was baptised and received into the church. He was admitted into the college in August 1877 where he studied for three years. On the 1881 census Mr Lloyd lived at the St Illtyd’s area of Llanhilleth, he held the pastorate for sixteen years during which period 174 were added to the church, 70 by baptism and 104 by restoration and letter. Under the pastorate of Rev Lloyd the Glandwr Baptist Chapel was renovated.
On Sunday 5th April 1896 Rev Lloyd resigned to take charge of the church at Saundersfoot. When he left Aberbeeg the membership was 101 at the Sunday School with 12 teachers.
Rev T. C. Davies.
In 1897 Rev T. C. Davies took the pastorate at the chapel, Aberbeeg. Through the hard work of Rev Davies the membership increased three-fold and the chapel also seen a vast increase in the number of pupils at the Sunday School. The then present membership had reached 250 with a Sunday School of 340 pupils.
The Need for a New Chapel.
The need for a new chapel at Aberbeeg had been talked about for many years and in about 1903 a scheme was started and efforts were made to secure enough money to build a new more up-to-date building. The new place of worship would also include an institute as a special feature. The institute would be included as a place for recreation for the younger portion of the congregation, while being connected to the chapel it could be separated off by partitioning and accessed by a side door.
The Demolition of the Old Chapel.
In July 1905 it was reported that the old Baptist chapel at Aberbeeg was being demolished. During the work of rebuilding the chapel the members of the church secured the newly built hall at the Llanhilleth Workmen’s Institute.
The New Glandwr Baptist Chapel.
On Tuesday 14th November 1905 the ceremony of the laying of the Foundation Memorial Stones took place. The ceremony was presided over by Rev T. C. Davies and amongst those present were – Revs Abel J. Parry D.D. of Rhyl; D. Collier of Abertillery; D. Hussey of Sirhowy; T. A. Evans of Ebbw Vale; Howell Jones and S. D. Williams of Llanhilleth: Mr J. Stansfield J.P.; Mr T. Phillips; Mr J. H. Jones; Mr T. F. Salt of Abertillery; Mr Dan Lloyd; Mr Brunt; Mr T. Day; Mr J. Rowlands; Mr T. Phillips; Mr T. Nicholas and Mr Buchan:
The assembly sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” after which Rev D. Collier read portions of scripture and after another song “All Hail the Power of Jesu’s name” Rev T. A. Evans offered prayer. While laying the stones the chairman remarked that the old chapel was one of the first Baptist chapels in the district, it had been known as the Ebenezer but when the new building was completed the name Ebenezer would be dropped in favour of the Glandwr Baptist Chapel.
The Foundation Stones.
The foundation stones were laid by the Sunday School scholars as follows – Ivor Harris; Willie Harris; Evelyn Harris; Eva Harris; Mabel Harris; Annie Harris; Rachel Jayne; Minnie Challenger; Jonathan Tovey; Maggie Meredith; Cissie Meredith; Olwen Day; Gertie Day; Evelyn Ann Harris; Cissie Gough; Blodwen Walker; Harry Edwards; Arianwen Edwards; Edwin Challenger; Madge Andrews; Thomas T. Phillips; Bessie Jones; Harry Mason; Gladys Evans; Rachel A. Roberts; Gertie Smith; Lewis T. Thomas; M. Mead and Bronwen Brunt: Stones were also laid in memory of Brinley Edwards, Idris, Ieuan and Melvie Harris:
The next batch of stones were laid by Dan Lloyd; Mrs S. Evans; Mrs Ed Jones; Mrs C. F. Morgan of Newbridge; Mrs J. Smith of Aberbeeg; Miss Davies of Gilfach; Miss S. J. Thomas of Aberbeeg; Miss Annie Thomas of The Farm; Mrs Lewis of The Terrace; Mr Edward Challenger; Mrs Matthews of Tyllwyd; Mr J. Phillips of Cwm Farm, Abertillery; Mr Seth Phillips of Pontllanfraith; Misses Annie Phillips; Poly Phillips; and Bessie Phillips of Maescynew; Mr T. Nicholas of Arael Farm; Mr D. Thomas and Mr D. Walker: The Rev T. C. Davies laid stones on behalf of the church and subscribers including – Mr R. McKenzie; Mr R. Cory and Colonel Ivor Herbert:
Other stones were laid by – Mr J. Stanfield; Mr J. Rowlands the schoolmaster on behalf of Mr J. H. Jones of Abertillery; Mr T. Phillips of Maescynew; Mrs S. Davies of Victoria; Master John David Lewis and Mrs David Lewis of Brynawel and Mrs Carpenter of Llanyncelyn Farm:
The Memorial Stones.
The memorial stones were laid by the following – Mrs Mason in memory of her mother; Mrs Mason in memory of her brother; Mrs Wynn; Mrs S. J. Lewis in memory of her sister; Miss Pollie Lewis; Mrs Collins in memory of her husband; Master Edward Nicholas in memory of his father and grandfather; Mr Samuel Nicholas; Mr Thomas Williams; Mr Thomas Phillips in memory of Mr William Williams and Mr Edward Jones, late deacons; Mr James Morgan in memory of his mother: Stones were laid on behalf of – Mr Walby; Mr T. Griffiths; Mr James Weale; Mrs Henry Phillips of Abertillery; Mrs J. Tovey; Mrs Henry Jones; Mrs Yendoll of Waunllyd and a stone was laid by Mr E. Jones, superintendent of the Sunday School:
Later tea was provided at the Commercial Road Baptist Chapel with the tables attended by – Mrs and Miss Lewis of The Terrace; Mrs Thomas of Graig View and Mrs Rowlands the Ironmonger and other helpers:
The Official Opening of the Glandwr Baptist Chapel.
On Sunday 9th September 1906 the new chapel was opened. The preacher was Rev T. E. Williams of Newtown Montgomeryshire. Services were conducted on the Sunday and the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with the preachers Rev T. G. James of Tydu and Rev H. W. Jones of Llanhilleth.
Prior to the services on the Monday a tea was held in the chapel, Mr T. Day being the caterer with the following ladies attending to the tables – Mrs D. Lewis of Brynawel; Mrs Lewis of the Terrace; Mrs Jenkins; Mrs Weale: Miss Mason of Warm Turn; Miss Phillips of Rose Cottage; Miss E. J. Thomas; Miss Roderick; Miss Thomas; Mrs Watkins and Miss K. Lewis:
Rev T. C. Davies.
At the time of the official opening of the new chapel Rev Davies was still pastor.
Description of the Building.
The Glandwr Chapel was built in the Gothic style of local stone relieved with Bath stone dressings. It boasted several fine classrooms and had accommodation for 700 worshippers. It had a large vestry underneath and a smaller one behind which provided accommodation for 350 and 100 people respectively. The edifice was lighted by electricity and warmed by the hot water low pressure system. The chapel also had another feature, it accommodated an institute.
The Contractor and Architect.
Mr David Lewis of Aberbeeg was the contractor and Mr W. Beddoe Rees of Cardiff was the architect. The chapel was built at the cost of £3,500. (More on Mr Lewis below).
The Young People’s Social Union.
In November 1907 a branch of the Young People’s Social Union was formed at the Glandwr Baptist Chapel, Aberbeeg. The following were elected to office – Mr David Edwards (President); Mr Thomas Harris and Mr W. J. James (Vice-Presidents); Mr David Williams (Financial Secretary); Miss Alice Lloyd (Role-Secretary) and Mr Albert Stocks of 10 Bryn Gear Terrace, Aberbeeg (Organising Secretary):
The Women’s Liberal Federation.
In October 1909 a meeting was held at the school room of the Glandwr Baptist Chapel, Aberbeeg to consider the advisability of forming a branch of the Women’s Liberal Federation. Mr William Thomas of the Gold Tops presided over a fair attendance of ladies. Miss McLaren Ramsay of London, the secretary of the Women’s Liberal Federation was present in which she gave an account of the work of the federation. She said that although the federation believed in the women’s suffrage, they were not in sympathy with the tactics pursued by the suffragettes. Therefore no woman need be afraid to join their ranks on that account. Everyone present were in favour of a branch being formed and it was decided that the branch should include Llanhilleth, Aberbeeg and Crumlin.
Following are the names of those elected to office – Mr William Thomas (President); Mrs J. H. Bussell of Crumlin (Vice-President); Mrs Harry of Graig View Terrace, Aberbeeg (Secretary) and Mrs John Rowlands (Treasurer): They were formed into a committee and decided to meet once per month.
The Departure of Rev T. C. Davies.
In December 1912 Rev T. C. Davies the pastor at Glandwr Baptist Chapel, Aberbeeg left the district to preach in the English Baptist Chapel at Treorchy. Mr Smart of Cwm was at the pulpit until a successor was found.
Rev W. H. Jones.
On Sunday 23rd July 1916 Rev W. H. Jones of Tongwynlais became the pastor at Glandwr Baptist Chapel, Aberbeeg.
The Departure of Rev W. H. Jones.
In December 1923 Rev W. H. Jones left the district to preach at Mill Street Baptist Church, Middleton.
Rev H. Jones.
In 1927 Rev R. B. Jones, Principal of the South Wales Bible School was the pastor at Glandwr Baptist Chapel, Aberbeeg, he did not stay in the area for very long and left a few years later.
Rev Thomas Davies.
After the short tenure of Rev Jones, Rev T. Davies of Caio, Carmarthenshire became the pastor at Glandwr Baptist Chapel, Aberbeeg.
Miss Gladys Evans.
In March 1930 Miss Gladys Evans sadly passed away at 32 years of age. Reports stated Miss Evans was the daughter of Mr and Mrs Evan Evans of Chapel House, Aberbeeg and that she had been the organist at the church and school since 1913.
The Presentation of Long Service Medallions.
On Sunday 9th November 1930 Rev Thomas Davies awarded five of the church officers with long service medallions. The recipients were – Mr Thomas Harris; Mr James Mead; Mr Arthur Parry; Mr Thomas Phillips and Mr George Jones:
Mrs Susannah Jones.
In December 1931 Mrs Susannah Jones, licensee of the Castle Inn, St Illtyds Village passed away at 85 years of age. Mrs Jones was said to have been born in Glandwr Row, long extinct and baptised in the River Ebbw close to Glandwr Bridge and was number 1 on the Glandwr Baptist Chapel register. Mrs Susannah Jones was the widow of Mr Jenkin Jones, she had been the licensee of the Castle Inn since 1885 and had seen the bereavements of her husband Mr Jenkin Jones, three of her sons, Mr Ebb Jones, Mr Tom Jones and Mr John Jones, a daughter Miss Minnie Jones a school teacher. Mrs Jones was the mother of eleven children, twenty-one grand children and four great grand children.
The Departure of Rev Thomas Davies.
In the early 1930’s Rev Thomas Davies left the district to preach at Crickhowell, Rev Davies retired in 1933.
Miss Nellie Griffiths.
In the 1930’s Miss Nellie Griffiths of St Illtyd’s was appointed co-pastor with Rev T. Davies at Glandwr Chapel, Aberbeeg. Miss Nellie Griffiths became a well known preacher in the district.
Rev John Pugh.
After the departure of Rev T. Davies the pastorate was filled by Rev John Pugh.
Rev C. O. Price.
On 5th January 1936 Rev C. O. Price of Dolan, Radnorshire commenced his ministry and he came to the Glandwr Baptist Chapel, Aberbeeg on the 9th June 1936 taking over from Rev John Pugh.
The Death of Rev Thomas Davies.
On Friday 4th March 1937 Rev Thomas Davies passed away in hospital at Llandough, Cardiff.
Miss Gladys May Aylward – Christian Missionary.
In the South Wales Gazette dated 17th April 1959 it stated that Miss Gladys May Aylward did a lecture at the Glandwr Baptist Chapel, Aberbeeg and spoke on her past experiences as a Christian Missionary.
Miss Gladys May Aylward was born in 1902 at Edmonton, North London and later became a Christian Missionary.
In the early 1930’s she journeyed across Russia to China on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Whilst based in China Miss Aylward worked with an older missionary Miss Jennie Lawson to found the Inn of the Eight Happinesses, the name was based on the eight virtues – Love, Virtue, Gentleness, Tolerance, Loyalty, Truth, Beauty and Devotion. Miss Gladys Aylward and Miss Lawson provided hospitality to travellers and spread the word of Christianity.
In 1936 she became a national of the Republic of China and was a revered figure among the people.
In 1938 the region was invaded by the Japanese forces and Miss Aylward led more than 100 orphans to safety over the mountains. In 1949 she found that her life was in danger from the Communists in China who were actively seeking out missionaries and came back to Britain. She settled in Basingstoke and started on a series of lectures around the country. She later moved back to China, and Hong Kong but settled in Taiwan.
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.
In the late 1950’s a feature film was made, called “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”, it was based on the experiences of Miss Gladys May Aylward and starred Ingrid Bergman, Curt Jurgens and Robert Donat, it was directed by Mark Robson and was based on the book by Alan Burgess. The film which used a different title name of that of the original Inn of the Eight Happinesses was released in 1958 and coincided with Miss Aylward’s reported appearance at the Glandwr Baptist Chapel.
Miss Gladys May Aylward died in January 1970 and was buried at Christ’s College, Guandu, New Taipei, Taiwan.
The Later Years.
The later pastors included –
Rev Denis Applebee.
Rev F. Winstanley.
Rev Susan Bray.
(More information needed on the other reverends)
The Closure of the Glandwr Baptist Chapel.
The Glandwr Baptist Chapel was later closed and was demolished in July 2007. The church moved to the Brynithel Community Centre where services are still being held.
Notes of Interest – Mr David Lewis – The Building Contractor.
Mr David Lewis was born 14th May 1871 at Llanhilleth. His father was Mr Lewis Lewis of Rose Cottage, Llanhilleth, one time Landlord of the Hanbury Arms, Aberbeeg, Union Inn, Llanhilleth and the Ivorites Arms Aberbeeg, his mother was Mrs Mary Lewis. Mrs Lewis second marriage was to Mr Thomas Phillips of Maescynew Farm, Llanhilleth.
Mr David Lewis was educated at the Aberbeeg Schools and was later apprenticed to the building trade at Newbridge under the supervision of Mr Charles F. Morgan and later at Newport to receive further training in the building trade. He commenced business in his own right in 1891, his first workshop was erected at Hafodarthan Road and as his business expanded he acquired the site of the old Mill near Glandwr. He was called the “Builder of Llanhilleth and Aberbeeg” as he erected the Llanhilleth Hotel, Llanhilleth Workmens Institute, the new Hanbury Hotel, the Glandwr and Commercial Road Baptist Chapels, the Zion Congregational Church, the Wesleyan Chapel, the Lower Council Schools and the Brynhyfryd Schools, Llanhilleth.
Mr David Lewis married Miss Lewis, the daughter of John and Margaret Lewis of Gilfach Farm near the Travellers Rest Inn. In 1913 Mr Lewis had been granted the contract to erect the Llanhilleth Playhouse Theatre Cinema, it had just been completed when in January 1914 Mr Lewis sadly died, he was coming home from Newport in his motor car and caught a chill, double pneumonia set in and he sadly passed away a week later at 43 years of age. Mr David Lewis left a wife and two children Jack and Harry Lewis. They had an elder daughter Ethel though sadly deceased.
Aberbeeg or Llanhilleth.
In most reports in connection with the Glandwr Baptist Chapel they refer to it as being in Aberbeeg, and others as Llanhilleth. In the South Wales Gazette, it is mentioned in the “Aberbeeg and Llanhilleth” columns of that paper so it’s hard to say what is right or what is wrong when referring to its exact location.