Ystradgynlais & District

History and Heritage

Callwen Church, Upper Tawe Valley

Established as a vicariate in its own right in 1894, Callwen Church in the Upper Tawe valley had three vicars of its own, before being joined in a joint benefice with Abercrave in 1957.

These were:-

Rev Edwards
Rev Hughes
Rev Bonsall Edwards

In 1957 the Vicar of Abercrave, Rev W Edward Jones became vicar of Callwen, holding it in plurality with the befice of Abercrave.

This article from The Voice newspaper, 30th December 1955 looks at Callwen Church under the Rev Bonsall Edwards:-

Have you ever tried preaching wholeheartedly to a congregation of six? Have you ever tried playing billiards and bowls with the use of only your left arm? Have you ever tried making stars of infant toddlers in plays which grown-ups would have difficulty to perform well? Have you ever tried - entirely on your own - making beautiful costumes for a cast of 25 out of old materials without spending a penny?
Most people would consider a challenge of this sort and impossibility but not the Rev D Bonsell Edwards, 57-year-old vicar of St Callwen Church Glyntawe near Craig y Nos and his schoolteacher wife, Mrs Edwards. For many years these tasks have become everyday habits for them.
Mr Edwards vicar of Callwen for 21 years, lost his left arm on active service with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in France in the first World War, not long before Armistice Day.
But that in itself was a challenge to him. He felt that the loss of an arm had been for a worthwhile cause - peace. He set out determined to benefit the valley with his 10 Fusiliers and fighting spirit to help an equally important cause as a Minister, restoring peace and goodwill among fellow men.

He was ordained curate at Sennybridge and later served in the same capacity at Ystradgynlais. Then he got his full test - his appointment as vicar at Callwen, the only place of worship in the cold wind swept mountains of the upper reaches of the Swansea Valley.
Crowds flock to the ancient church, the record of which date back to the 15th century, but in bad winter periods it is no respite to see only six people comprise the congregation because there is no means of transport for people living in remote farms and houses in the mountains and villages of Penwyllt.
One would think Mr Edwards might cut his service short when confronted by only six people. But he doesn't. He appreciates the circumstances which prevent his numbers from attending and spares no effort in his sermons to those able to attend.

And while Mr Edwards perhaps takes most of the limelight during services, his wife is playing the quaint little organ, her crystal-clear voice blends harmoniously with others.
Outside Callwen Church, which services the smallest and most sparsely populated area in the Valley, Mr Edwards excels as a fine and reputed horsemen. At the Ystradgynlais Welfare Hall, he has a tremendous repertoire for his skilful and sometimes crafty play in billiards and snooker. He has a special "rest" to perform his feats. He has now been appointed a member of the selection committee at the hall, and Ystradgynlais top both the West Wales billiards and snooker league.
In the summer, Mr Edwards spends a lot of his spare time on the Ystradgynlais bowling green. Captain of the Ystradgynlais bowls team he has won many championships and has countless friends in this sphere.
Both Mr Edwards and his wife are well-known for their bright outlook on life. There is never a dull moment for their associate, for Mr and Mrs Edwards are pleasant and cheerful at all times.
Mrs Edwards has been a teacher in the local schools since 1922 years ago she was appointed first headmistress of Glyntawe Infants and Juniors CP School Craig y Nos.
In the Second World War she was the chief lay a is an officer of the Red Cross in Ystradgynlais. She did tremendous work in this direction.

She has always taken an interest in drama and won a prize in the drama competition in the Ammanford National Eisteddfod in the 1920s. This is obviously the reason the youngsters at Glyntawe School are such star-studded attractions when they perform nativity plays at Callwen Church.
Mrs Edwards as well as being the tutor who gets the youngsters to perform to near perfection, makes all the costumes for the plays at her home in Ystradgynlais. She says it's no trouble really but one can imagine the amount of work and patience that goes into creating costumes for a nativity play. It takes months to prepare them.
On Sunday, endeavours were in evidence when the whole school took part in a nativity play, "The Stain Glass Window". The church was filled to capacity.

Average age of the cast was eight. It was plain to see that they have had the right upbringing by Mrs Edwards. There was no sign of nervousness and they spoke fluently and clearly. I heard every single word from the back of the church.
One girl, in my opinion, was the star in the mountains.
She was 10-year-old Ifron Morgan, Farmer's daughter who lives at Pentre Cribarth Farm Craig y Nos. dressed in rags as Make, a little girl selling matchsticks in the streets to stave off hunger from her and her mongrel dog, she had an unusual air of confidence. She whimpered, cried and lost her temper when people refuse to buy her matches. When kind lady came along and bought all matches and gave her through she had the audience spell bound with her words and expressions in gratitude.
Other members of the school taking part were: Vera Davies, Patty Hibbert, Elaine Hales, Elaine Williams, Elizabeth Evans, Mary Williams, Ann Watkins, Gladys and Valerie Morgan, Sheila Doyle, Gillian Thompson, and Maureen Smith.

This article from The Voice newspaper 24th Februry 1966, records the death of the wife of the Rev Bonsall Edwards:-


The funeral of Mrs D Bonsall Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards, of Cartref Brecon Road Ystradgynlais, who died aged 66, took place at Morriston Crematorium, the officiating minister being the Rev H M Hughes Rector of Ystradgynlais. Also present were: Canon T R Walter Jones Pontardawe; The Rev Hubert Davies Ainon; The Rev D Davies Tynycoed and the Rev H O John Llanafan.
Mrs Edwards, who until her retirement in July of last year was Headmistress of Glyntawe C P School and previously Headmistress of Trailwng C P School, gave valuable service in many spheres of activity to the Parish Church of Callwen and the community of Glyntawe.
Mourners at the funeral: Rev D Bonsall Edwards husband; Mr Oswald Thomas, Mr and Mrs Arthur Lewis brothers in law and sister in law; Mr and Mrs Dennis Lewis, Phillip D Thomas nephews and nieces.
Mourners at the house were: Mrs Oswald Thomas sister; Mrs M Phillips sister in law; Mrs A J Thomas, Mrs W B Morgan, Mrs B V Coleman, Mrs J P Thomas, Mrs J Anthony, Mrs E Lewis and Miss E M Davies.

This article from The Voice newspaper, Friday 26th July 1957 records the induction of the Vicar of Abercrave as the new Vicar of Callwen, in a joining of the two parishes into one benefice:-

Induction of New Vicar at Callwen Church

The institution and induction of the new vicar of Callwen (Rev W Edward Jones) took place at Callwen Church on Monday 22nd July.
The Institution was performed by the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, the Right Reverend Dr Glyn Simon, who preached to a packed congregation in both English and Welsh.
During the course of his address he mentioned that during the middle ages Callwen was a Chapel of Ease to the parish of Defynog and it was not until 1868 that it became a curacy-in-charge.
In 1894 it was elevated to the status of a benifice as a Vicariate, since when it had been served successively by the incumbents - the Rev Edwards - the Rev Hughes - and the Rev Bonsall Edwards.
Upon the resignation of the last incumbent, the grouping of the parish with that of Abercrave, in accordance with the Reconstruction Scheme of the Church in Wales, had come into effect, and in future the Benifice of Callwen would be held in the plurality with the Benefice of Abercrave - both parishes being served by a Vicar and assistant curate.
The induction of the new vicar was conducted by the Archdeacon of Gower (Rev J J A Thomas), the Vicar of Swansea, and the two Churchwardens, Mr John Jones and Mr T Morgans.
Mrs Lewis, Ty Mawr, Penwrallt, was the organist.
Among the robed clergy were the Reverend Brynmor Williams, Vicar of Llansamlet, Reverend J Howard Roderick, Vicar of Morriston, Reverend T R W James, Vicar of Pontardawe, Reverend T W Davies, Vicar of Ystalyfera, Reverend T Kelly, curate of Ystalyfera, and Rev D L Williams, Rector of Ystradgynlais and Rural Dean of East Gower.
The Reverend DM Davies, Minister of Ty'nycoed, was also present.
The legal part of the Institution was conducted by the Diocesan Registrar, Mr John de Winton.
The Rev W Edward Jones has held the Benefice of Abercrave for the past 21 years.

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