Ystradgynlais & District

History and Heritage

Bethania Chapel, Cwmtwrch, Ystradgynlais

Bethania Chapel, Cwmtwrch, was built in 1851 and celebrated its centenary in 1951. It was associated with Yorath Chapel in Cwmgiedd, and came to share a joint pastor. The newspaper articles below, from the Llais give further details both about the chapel's origins, and celebrations for its 100th anniversary.

From the South Wales Voice of 16th June 1951 comes the centenary report:-

Members of Bethania Church Cwmtwrch celebrated the church's centenary last week when special preaching meetings were held on Wednesday night and on Thursday. The officiating minister was the Rev T Nefyn Williams, one of the foremost Welsh preachers of today. The celebrations commenced on Tuesday afternoon when a tea was provided for the children. Large congregations attended the services when powerful and arresting sermons were delivered. At the close of the service on Thursday afternoon an interesting nut simple ceremony was performed when a plaque in memory of the late pastor Rev W P Jones, was unveiled. Before the unveiling, the pastor, Rev R J Hughes referred to his predecessor's long pastorate, his loyalty and fidelity to the church in all aspects, also to his public services in the locality. The unveiling was performed by Miss Megan Morgan, step daughter of the late Rev W P Jones.

Except for a sparse record, the beginnings of the cause at Bethania are shrouded in anonymity. There is evidence that the few communicants who journeyed to Yorath Chapel, Cwmgiedd were joined there by an equally enthusiastic party from Seven Sisters, who habitually walked the 10 miles to worship week by week. The Cwmtwrch members used to meet also at a house in Gurnos known as Ty Sion Harri and later at the home of the late Mr and Mrs David Phillips, near the Phoenix Tin Plate Works. Gradually, these few increased in number and the desire for a place of worship in Cwmtwrch grew stronger.

Deliberations, with this object in view, began between them and the members at Cwmgiedd, with the result that Cwmgiedd in 1851, promised full support for the formation of a church at Cwmtwrch. Possessed of strong faith, the worshippers at Cwmtwrch obtained a plot of lane where the present chapel stands, a place of worship of worship was erected, and their faith was abundantly rewarded. The church flourished and many were added to their number.

In 1872, the Rev T C Phillips was their first minister, but his tenure was a short one, because three years later a 'call' was extended to the Rev Phillip J Walters, who also left after a short time.

Afterwards, Cwmgiedd and Cwmtwrch Churches became a joint pastorate under the charge of the late Rev William Griffiths.

In 1897, the church extended a 'call' to the Rev W P Jones, Morfa Church Kidwelly, and the membership then was at 75.

In 1933, the old chapel was demolished and the present one, situated in a delightful spot on high ground, facing the valley, was opened in January 1935, the late Mr D W Davies Ystalyfera, performing the opening ceremony.

The late Rev W P Jones ministered at Bethania Church with marked success for 50 years; and on attaining his 90th birthday in November 1947, he relinquished the pastorate. The present pastor: Rev R J Hughes B.A., before coming to Cwmtwrch in the summer of 1949 held pastorates at Hendy Pontardulais and Borth Cardiganshire.

The church now has 130 members and a flourishing Sunday school at which the attendance often exceeds 100. Mr Victor Morgan is the secretary and organist; Mr Harry Phillips is treasurer; and the oldest deacon, Mr Philip W Phillips, aged 82, is the precentor.

The cemetery of Bethania Chapel, Cwmtwrch, contains within it one war grave from the Second World War, and two wargraves, and one remembrance grave, from the First World War.

Read More - Bethania Chapel cemetery

Views of Bethania Chapel, Cwmtwrch, taken in March 2016 show the chapel and cemetery in greater detail.

View More - Bethania Chapel views

In the 4th November 1950 edition of the South Wales Voice there is an article on the 94th birthday of Rev W.P. Jones who was pastor of Bethania from 1896 to 1946:-

Rev W P Jones' (Bethania) 94th Birthday

The Rev WP Jones, former minister of Bethania Church, Cwmtwrch, celebrates his 94th birthday on Saturday (tomorrow). He was born under the shadows of the Black Mountains at a small farm naed 'The Cwrt' at Llanddeusant, Carmarthenshire. He was the only surviving child out of ten children. HIs father reached the age of 102, and his grandfather 95.

His first pastorate was at Morfa Church, Kidwelly. He came to Cwmtwrch in 1896, and having held the pastorate for 50 years, he retired on attaining his 90th birthday. He is the oldest Presbyterian minister in the West Glamorgan Presbytery, oldest not only in years at 94 but oldest on the list of ordained ministers.

He still looks well, comes down into the kitchen daily, and enjoys a chat. All his faculties are unimpaired. Though he no longer preaches, his heart is in Bethania and often members have to turn in after the service and give a report.

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