History and Heritage

The Centenary of Gurnos Chapel 1957

This article on the Centenary of Gurnos Chapel, Ystalyfera, comes from the Llais local newspaper, of February 1st 1957:-

By Illtyd REES

Though Gurnos Chapel Ystalyfera celebrates its centenary this week, the cause has actually been in existence much longer.
Gurnos, was one of three local Hamlets, the others being Cyfyng and Graigarw, which were later incorporated and named Ystalyfera. The latter two hamlets are seldom referred to these days but Gurnos still keeps its individuality. Local residents in the latter end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, worshipped at Godre'Rhos, Alltwen and Cwmllynfell but when Pantteg Chapel was built in 1821, a great number became members there. By 1826, the Gurnos population had increased to such an extent that it was found necessary to form a branch of Pantteg Chapel. This was readily agreed to by Pantteg and a large room at Messrs Crane Ironworks, Yniscedwyn, was kindly loaned by Mr Crane.


During this time the Wesleyans had also been active here and in 1840 they built a small chapel on the site of the present Gurnos building. In 1856 they decided to build a bigger one higher up the village, now known as Seion. It was then that the leaders of the Gurnos Independent cord decided to buy the little Chapel. They were given every assistance by the Mother Church Pantteg.
The chapel was bought for £180 plus £14 - for legal fees, a total of £194; Pantteg paid £154 leaving the Gurnos members to find the remainder.
Gurnos Chapel as such was officially established in 1857 hence the present celebrations.
The first Minister was Benjamin Thomas who was born in 1814 at Cefnllwynhir, Llancrwys. A shoemaker, he came to live in 1836 at Graigarw, now known as Godre'rgraig and became a member of Pantteg Chapel.
He studied at the Normal College Swansea and for a time kept a school and became a lay preacher. In 1855 he accepted a call to a Welsh Church at Newcastle upon Tyne; he was compelled to return home because his wife could not accompany him to the North.
He became Minister of Gurnos in 1858 and retired in 1884 through ill-health.
The following statistics indicate the success of his ministry. When he began, the membership was 60. During the next 6 years, 175 new members were accepted: from 1873 to his resignation, 195.
The next minister was the Rev John Thomas, a native of Pencraigfach, Llamcrinio Carmarthenshire and before coming to Gurnos was Minister at Penygroes and Llansinin, where he was also ordained.
He began a successful ministry at Gurnos in 1886 and retired after the 1914 - 1918 war; he continued as a member of the church and died in 1926.
Mr Thomas was succeeded by the Rev D J Moses in 1923. Born at Trecastle, he was brought up in Brynamman and studied at Cardiff University and Brecon Memorial College. He remained at Gurnos until December 1926 when he took up the Ministry of Sardis Chapel Ystradgynlais.
The next minister was the Rev E Amman Jones B. A., who in October 1927 began a successful 23 years ministry here.


Born at Glanamman, he began his studies at the famous Gwynfryn School, Ammanford and after graduating at Bangor University entered Bala Theological College.
Before coming to Gurnos E had ministries at Rivertown Flintshire; Bethania Merthyr Vale; Towyn Chapel Newquay Cardiganshire and Llanwrtyd and Abergwesin.
During his ministry at Gurnos he was responsible for the entry of two young members into the Ministry; one was Mr J Morlais Evans, who in 1933 entered Brecon College and is now minister over some chapels in the district of Plwmp, near Llandyssul.
The other was Mr Jones's own son Basil, who went from Ystalyfera Grammar School to Aberystwyth College and from there to Cambridge where he gained his MA.
The sun however, did not following the father's footsteps. He is now Vicar of St John the Evangelist Church Altringham.


These two young men were not the only members of Gurnos Chapel to become preachers. The first was a young man who eventually became famous throughout Wales as a preacher, bard and Eisteddfod conductor.
He was the Rev Evan Gurnos Jones who was born at Hendrelywarch Gwernogle Carmarthenshire in 1840 and came to Ystalyfera in 1848.
The other was the Rev T Penry Evans, also well known all over Wales during the latter end of the 19th century. He was born at Pantteg Carmarthenshire in 1839 and that the young man came to work at the local Ironworks. During this 100 years period Gurnos Chapel, as a building underwent many changes.


The functions and services which began last Sunday and continued until Thursday, were presided over by the present minister, the Rev Edwin J Davies who came to Gurnos from Coedpoeth, near Wrexham and very quickly won the affection not only of the members of Gurnos but also of other denominations.
In April of last year he was taken seriously ill and was at Swansea Hospital for a long time. He did not resume his duties until the following August. His ministry so far has been very successful and as a Church, Gurnos is now enjoying a period of prosperity, which augurs well for the future.


The next project, already in hand, is the expansion of the Vestry which is deemed inadequate to meet present needs.
A plot of land at the back of the Chapel has been given by Miss Annie Williams and her brothers, Griffith and Daniel John, of Pantglas St David's Road. They are members of Gurnos and children of a former treasurer, the late David Griffith Williams. Tradition makes it certain that this costly project will not be a failure.

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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