History and Heritage

Ystalyfera Chapels and Churches

The first account we have of any religious activity in the village is about 1800. The few people who lived here then gathered every Sunday at Ystalyfera Icha Farm, occupied by William Williams, situated near where St. David's Church now stands.

The Rev Morgan Lewis Glyn Neath, who was then the preacher at Godre'rhos Crynant, came once a month to preach at the farm. The nearest other place of worship then were at Cwmllynfell, Alltwen and Godre'rhos. As there was no bridge crossing the Tawe between Ystalyfera and Godre'rhos it was easier to walk to Cwmllynfell or Alltwen.

At this period a small wooden building was erected at Pantteg by the people for the purpose of a day school. In 1818 a Sunday school was started. When the canal was built and collieries opened, people came from every part of Wales to seek employment. It was soon felt that a building was necessary for the growing population to worship.

The Rev John Davies, the Cwmllynfell preacher, came occasionally to preach at the small wooden building and he was against building a chapel. The people could easily walk to Cwmllynfell or Alltwen, he said.

Against stiff opposition, a small group of people took the responsibility and went about building a chapel. This was Pantteg and it was opened in 1821.

Go to Pantteg

Pantteg members living at Gurnos then felt that they should have a place to worship of their own. They formed a branch and worshipped at their respective homes. They held their Sunday school in a shed, the property of the Yniscedwyn Iron Works.

With the opening of the Ystalyfera Iron Works the population grew rapidly. Among the population the Wesleyans felt that their denominations were not catered for, and soon they banded together and built the Gurnos Chapel in 1839. The Wesleyans and the Gurnos Congregationalists worshipped together for seventeen years.

The Congregationalist members then increased rapidly - a situation the Wesleyans did not like - and eventually the Wesleyans sold Gurnos Chapel for £194 pounds to the Congregationalists, Pantteg being guarantors for £154.

After selling their chapel to the Congregationalists, the Wesleyans built another chapel in 1862 and named it Sion. During alterations to the Gurnos Chapel in 1863, members worshipped at Sion. The Congregationalists, having a chapel at each end of the district, felt that another chapel should be built at the centre. Services for the purpose were held at the home of Thomas Walton, grocer, Wern. Two deacons from Pantteg, Mr. John Dafydd Evans and Mr. James Clee, were appointed to assist the Wern people to achieve their object and in 1864 the chapel had been built and was opened on 4th September.

Go to Gurnos Chapel

With four places of worship in the village, the Church of England felt that they should be represented and in 1844 Holy Trinity Godre'rgraig was built.

Go to Holy Trinity

It was now the turn of the Baptists to show that they were in Ystalyfera too, and in 1846, after the fourth application for a piece of land, a chapel was built and opened in 1848. It was known as Soar (or Capel pen steps) because there were 80 steps leading from the main road at Clifton Hill to the main entrance at the chapel. There were 80 members.

The Methodists now had permission to build from their organization and in 1857 Jerusalem was opened.

However, there was no English place of worship in Ystalyfera until the English Congregational Chapel was built in 1869.

Go to English Congregational

Then, after an interval of 21 years, the Church of England built St. David's Church in 1890.

Go to Saint David's, Ystalyfera

Two Chapels have been built in Ystalyfera since 1890 - Godre'rgraig in 1909 and Bethel Pentecostal in 1924.

What troubled the religious leaders in the old days was the accommodation of its members. Then came the question: what can be done to fill the empty seats of our chapels. Today I believe it's a question of trying to write down the history of the remaining seats of worship before they too return to dust and are buried along with the men who worked so hard to build them in the first instance.

Article by Val Trevallion

The History and Heritage of Ystalyfera is put online by Swansea Valley researcher Val Trevallion and Wolfian Design. All copyright remains with the original copyright holder, and all original research is copyright Val Trevallion, YEARGroup.

You can contact Ystalyfera History by emailing: contact@ystradgynlais-history.co.uk or Val Trevallion by emailing yeargroup@hotmail.co.uk.

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