Ystalyfera

History and Heritage

History of Godrergraig Chapel, Ystalyfera

Local newspapers are often found to be the historians of all manner of local organisations, writing them up in reports such as those from talks, lectures, and sermons. In 1936, the Headmistress of Godre'rgraig Infant School, herself tied into the chapel heirarchies of the area, gave a talk that fills in many of the gaps of the chapel's history.

From the South Wales Voice newspaper, 20th May 1936:-

History of Godre'rgraig Chapel
Cause Started 80 Years
Meetings Held in Farmhouse

The history of Godre'rgraig Chapel, an account of which was given at the quarterly meetings of the West Glamorgan Congregational Union a fortnight ago, by Miss Edith Morgan, Headmistress of the Godre'rgraig Infant School, makes very interesting reading.
Miss Morgan dealt with the founding of the cause and its progress from the time the first meetings were held in Pentwyn Farm up to present.
She was warmly congratulated on her excellent address.

HOW THE CAUSE STARTED
Miss Morgan said in order to prepare the history she had sought a great deal of information and was very much indebted to all who had helped her, particularly Mr David Morgan, Clydach, the first secretary of the church. She had been able to trace the history of the chapel as far back as the beginning of the cause at Pantteg Chapel - over 80 years ago. At that time Godre'rgraig was regarded as a branch of Pantteg Sunday School

The first prayer meeting and Sunday School were held at the Pentwyn Farm. Afterwards these were held in various houses and in due time a desire was expressed by the older residents for the erection of a building where religious servives could be held, as well as a day school. A number of the residents got together and the first chapel was built in 1864.
By some means or other the building went out of their hands and became the property of Pantteg Chapel. It was rented for the purposes of a school, first of all to the British School and then to the Old School Board. During all this however, prayer meetings and Sunday School were held in the building.
The residents then felt the need for the founding of a cause in the village but the project was postponed in view of the failure of the Baptists to start a cause. The time was not right to carry out the proposition.

DESIRE FOR CHAPEL
When Pantteg Chapel became too small to accommodate the congregation, there was considerable discussion whether the church be divided or a larger chapel be erected. It was urged that if the church was divided there would be need for a new chapel at Godre'rgraig
The result was that the Pantteg building was enlarged and the idea of a chapel at Godre'rgraig was dropped for the time being.
While building operations were being carried on at Pantteg, Sunday services and celebrations of the Holy Communion were held at Godre'rgraig in charge of the pastor the Reverend Ben Davies.

The building was of a very crude nature at the time, comprising two rooms, one of them having a gallery, and a small lobby. The floor consisted of planks which caused considerable noise when trodden on as they were hollow.
One preacher in particular, who was of a big build, used to ask the deacons if it was safe for him to enter in a "hwyl" on top of the tall and narrow old desk that was used as a pulpit.
Although the building was of a crude nature, it was very sacred to the members as it had been erected by their forefathers through sacrifice and hard labour.

There were 120 members in the Godre'rgraig class at the time, who belonged to Pantteg Chapel, and she (Miss Morgan) was told recently by one of Pantteg's oldest deacons that the best members of Pantteg at that time came from Godre'rgraig. The majority of them were public and zealous men.

The desire for the founding of a cause in the village, again became apparent in 1905 and it was not long before a decision was reached to hold prayer meetings on Sunday evenings in the Winter months at Godre'rgraig. This decision was confirmed by the mother church at Pantteg, with the proviso that Holy Communion was to be celebrated at Pantteg.

THE FIRST SERMON
In March 1905, in the heat of the Revival, the first services were held. Efforts were made to hold preaching services and a church meeting was convened at Pantteg with a view to securing the consent of the mother church. This was obtained on certain conditions and the Reverend Ben Davies expressed the wish that he should preach the first sermon.
Mr Davies preached for the first time on the first Sunday in April 1905, to a large congregation in the Old School House.
Unfortunately, the unity should have existed and was desirable was not evident. Some of the residents felt that they could not break away from Pantteg. That was the position then and at the present time; a great many still went to Pantteg. In spite of the division, the majority decided to proceed with their intention, although the congregation was not so large as they had wished it to be.

The members elected to seek guidance from the pastor and officials of Pantteg Chapel on the mode of procedure and were given every help. Godre'rgraig district was divided into 3 areas and the opinion of all the members of Pantteg Chapel on the question of founding a cause in the place. There was a very great disappointment, after all the preparations, when it was found that out of the 120 members barely 60 were prepared to make the required sacrifice.

In spite of this setback, the prime movers, being in the majority went ahead with the scheme. They sought permission from the mother church to form a church and this was given on the understanding that they acted upon the decision of a committee comprised of the pastor of Pantteg, 8 Godre'rgraig members, and 3 members from Pantteg, that resolution written by the Reverend Ben Davies was available today.

FORMING THE CHURCH
The church was formed on the first Sunday in 1906, that being one of the greatest days in the history of the people who had brought about the movement.
The Reverend Ben Davies and Messrs John Davies and D R Lewis, two of the oldest deacons at Pantteg, took the introductory portions of the service and the Reverend Ben Davies preached on the text: "The Church of the New Testament"
When Mr Davies asked the congregation to signify how many intended joining the new church at Godre'rgraig, 58 held up their hands. The names of these original members were to be seen on the Church Book. Holy Communion was celebrated at the church for the first time and conducted by Mr Davies.
The first deacons of Godre'rgraig Church were Messrs David Morgan, Gomer Davies, and Joseph Lewis; Mr David Morgan being appointed secretary. He held the office until he removed to Clydach. The first treasurer was the late Mr Edward Jones and on his death he was succeeded by his daughter, Miss Ann Jones, who still held the office. The late Mr William Asaph Williams appointed precentor, he being followed by Councillor Joseph Thomas, JP, the present holder of the post. In a short while, an organ was secured, with Councillor Phillip Rees as organist.

Shortly afterwards a building fund was opened in order to build a new chapel in place of the old schoolhouse. In two years' time the schoolroom was presented to Godre'rgraig by Pantteg Church.

THE OPENING SERVICES
The next step was to decide on a chapel and it was resolved to build one at a cost of £800. During rebuilding and rennovating operations services were held at the elementary school until October 1909, when the opening services were held.
The Reverend Ben Davies preached and delivered the first of a series of sermons. Other ministers who took part were the Reverends H J Jacob, Peniel, Enoch Huws, Glantwrch, E D Lewis, Caersalem: - Thomas, Gurnos: - Thomas, Landore: Richards, Gosen: Nicholas, Glais: H Seriol Williams, Pontardawe and -Rees, Alltwen.
The church succeeded and the time came when it was decided to appoint a pastor. A resolution was passed on October 5th 1913 to give an invitation to Mr Ellis Parry, a student at Carmarthen College to the pastorate. The call was accepted and Mr Parry was ordained in December 1913. Mr Parry's pastorate was a very successful one, and by the end of the first year, the debt of the church amounting to £500 was cleared. Ever since that time the church had been free of debt.

When the war broke out, Mr Parry felt the desire to serve his country and in April 1917 he was released by the church and he enlisted as a chaplain.
To the great disappointment of the members, Mr Parry resigned in order to give his service to the YMCA, and in February 1918 he preached his farewell sermon.
The blow was a severe one to the church and although there was a desire to have another pastor at once, the members were not unanimous and the matter was dropped.

A XXXXXX CHURCH
The church was without a minister until August 1924, when a call was given to Mr David Rees, a native of Godre'rgraig, who had been at Carmarthen College. Mr Rees was pastor for only 15 months before he died in December 1925
Six years went by before the church had its third pastor and during that period it experienced difficult times. In that time three of the deacons resigned and several members were lost through death. The church had many supporters, not the least of whom being the Reverend Ben Davies. Another grerat friend of the church was Mr D W Davies, Ty Coch, who was happily still with us. Mr Davies presented the communion vessels to the church when it was formed in 1906 and gave an individual Communion Set in January 1909.
The church was very much indebted to all the ministers in the place for their residence and kindness at helping at all times.

In August 1931, Mr James Davies, Caerew, accepted an invitation to become pastor of the church and he was ordained in September 1931. The membership was now nearly 120, the majority being young people. There were 5 deacons, Messrs Joseph Thomas, John Jones, Frank Griffiths, David Landry, and Miss Edith Morgan.
The church was going ahead under the care of the Reverend James Davies who was an untiring worker. He had been endowed with generous optimism. It was through his efforts that the church had decided to invite the Union to hold its quarterly meetings at Godre'rgraig.

These newspaper reports are taken from the microfiche copy of the Llais held at Ystradgynlais Library. Sometimes the print copy that was filmed for the archive was deficient, perhaps through faded ink, or a faulty printing process. Due to this, "A XXXXXX CHURCH" is the result of our not being able to read the word in this subtitle, as most of the ink required was not deposited on the page.