Ystradgynlais & District

History and Heritage

Bethel Chapel, Cwmtwrch, Ystradgynlais

When Bethel Chapel was built it was within the parish of Llangiwg, before the creation of the separate parish for Ystalyfera, but only yards away from the parish boundary of Ystradgynlais. Geographically it was within the boundaries of Breconshire, and is now part of Powys, hence its being located within Ystradgynlais History, rather than Ystalyfera History. The parish boundary however, would later allow the creation of a separate graveyard located in Ystalyfera.

Bethel's history began around 1850, in a dwelling house called Middle Mill, the residence of William John Thomas, who was a deacon of the church in Cwmllynfell. It was established as a branch of the church in Cwmllynfell, and sometimes Mr Pryse of Cwmllynfell would preach there, and sometimes Mr B. Thomas of Gurnos Chapel, Ystalyfera, would do so.

In 1861, before Bethel Chapel was completely finished, it was established as a church independent of the mother church in Cwmllynfell when communion was held in a service officiated by Mr Pryse, assisted by several deacons of his church.

Mr Thomas Griffiths, a trader, and Mr H Rees, of Ystradgynlais both had a big hand in the building of Bethel Chapel. Mr Rees also cared for the chapel as Minister for a few months, but had to give it up due to the abundance of his other work.

Built in 1861, Bethel Independent Chapel was rebuilt in 1925. When offered for sale in 2010, its physical attributes were described as having 3 opaque windows on each side of the chapel, and two doors at the rear of the chapel which lead to the vestry. There is a large vestry and hall, as well as the chapel, along with boiler and tank rooms, and external outhouses. The Chapels grounds have pathways on both sides with a gate for access to the riverside and woodland.

When you enter the main door of the chapel, stairs on either side give access to the first (upper) floor where there are four windows along each side of the walls.

Photographs of the Interior, courtesy of the Vendor

In 1941, Bethel celebrated the opening of the NEW CEMETERY AT ALLTYGRUG. From the 'SOUTH WALES VOICE' of SATURDAY 31st MAY 1941:-

On Wednesday a new cemetery at Alltygrug, was formally opened with a service of religious dedication. The land which is freehold was acquired by the members of Bethel Apostolic Church and the site adjoins the St David's Churchyard.

The entrance to the new cemetery confronts the new council houses at Penywern Road. In the absence of Mr George Element, the oldest member of Bethel, Pastor Thomas Evans opened the gates leading to the cemetery. Despite the inclement weather a large congregation assembled, representing all the Nonconformist sections in the locality. Following the opening of the gates, Pastor Evans and local ministers led the way to the cemetery site, where a religious service was held, conducted by the Rev Ifor Jones Soar. After the singing of a hymn, the Rev E T Evans B.A., Wern read a portion of scripture and the Rev E D Lewis Caersalem, offered a prayer of dedication.

On behalf of the members of Bethel, Pastor Evans thanked the local ministers and those present for their support. He said that the cemetery had been visualised as long as 22 years ago. Difficulties had then arisen but now the cherished ideal had been realised. Mr Evans emphasised that the new cemetery regulations did not place any restrictions as to the rites and ceremonies of burial, but everyone was at liberty to follow their own personal creed and belief. The service terminated with the singing of a hymn and a concluding prayer by the Rev Iorwerth Jones Pantteg.

Although it is explained more fully on our full page about the New Cemetery at Ystalyfera, it is instructive to note the following article that supplements the above. From the 'SOUTH WALES VOICE' of 14th JUNE 1941:-

The funeral took place on Wednesday at the new Alltygrug Cemetery of Mr John Griffiths 34 Alltygrug Road Ystalyfera, who passed away at the age of 89 years.
This was the FIRST burial at the cemetery, which was opened recently.

As of 2010, Bethel Chapel has been up for sale as a Grade II Listed Building.

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

View More - Bethel Chapel views




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Stepping Out Into Showbusiness

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Simone dreamed of becoming a showbusiness star during her nights in the air raid shelter in the garden of her home in Southall, during World War Two. After joining the A.T.S. in the war, she became part of the concert party entertaining the troops, eventually joining the Windmill Theatre.


New Cemetery at Ystalyfera

Bethel's name stone

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