History and Heritage

J.G. Hughes, Vicar of Ystalyfera

Rev. Jenkin G. Hughes was vicar of Ystalyfera from 1933 to 1953, overseeing Saint David's Church and Holy Trinity as well as Saint James' mission church in Godrergraig.

Start of his Ministry 1933 End of his Ministry 1953

Holy Trinity was the original church for Ystalyfera, being first completed in 1844 and viewed as part of the parish of Llanguick. With the construction of Saint David's Church in 1890-1891, Ystalyfera now had two Church of England churches, but remained part of Llanguick. In 1903, Ystalyfera became a parish in its own right, with one vicar covering both Saint David's and Holy Trinity.

It was decided that services at Saint David's would be in English, and those in Holy Trinity in Welsh only. After 1914, the living of Ystalyfera also included the mission church of Saint James in Godre'rgraig, which had been constructed at a cost of £615 and 12 shillings.

Thus by the time that J.G. Hughes became Vicar of Ystalyfera, Saint David's was regarded as the main church of the parish of Ystalyfera, with his ministry also covering the church of Holy Trinity, at Pantteg, and the mission chapel of Saint James' in Godre'graig.

From the South Wales Voice 8th April 1933 came news that a new vicar for Ystalyfera had been appointed, in the person of J.G. Hughes, up to then working in Pembrokeshire.

To fill the living rendered vacant by the departure of the Rev D Jones Arter MA for Hay Breconshire, the Provincial Patronage Board of the church in Wales has offered the benefice of Ystalyfera to the Rev Jenkin Griffiths Hughes, vicar of St Dogmaels Pembrokeshire who has accepted the offer.

The Rev J G Hughes is a graduate of St David's College Lampeter and was ordained in 1901 by the Bishop of St David's to St Matthew's Church Swansea.

In 1910 he was called to the parish of Ystradgynlais as curate at Abercrave. The church room there became too small and in 1912 a beautiful new church was opened and consecrated.

In 1917 he succeeded the late Rev J Nyfenydd Morgan as vicar of St Dogmaels Llantooed, St David's and Monington.

The Rev gentleman has for years been secretary of the Cardigan Church Choral Union, secretary of the Kemes Ruridecanal Conference, chapter secretary of the Sunday school Union and clerical representative of the deanery on the Diocesan Board of Finance.

He married in 1912 Miss L E Richards daughter of the late Rev T L Richards vicar of St Matthews Swansea.

From the South Wales Voice 10th June 1933 came details of his inauguration ceremony at Saint David's Church, Ystalyfera.


The institution and induction of the Rev Jenkin Griffiths Hughes B A as Vicar of the Parish of Ystalyfera, took place on Wednesday at St David's Church, in the presence of a very large congregation. The ordinary seating capacity of the building was inadequate to cope with the gathering and extra chairs replaced along the aisles. Among the congregation were several of Mr Hughes's former parishioners at St Dogmaels Pembrokeshire, who had travelled by car and motor coaches. A feature of the service was the final address on the duty of Christians by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese.

The service, as shortened evening song, was taken by the Rev William Evans BA, curate of Holy Trinity and the lesson was read by the Rural Dean, the Rev Thomas Morris BA vicar of Clydach. The institution was carried out by the Lord Bishop of Swansea and Brecon.


In the course of his address, the Bishop said the new vicar was not a stranger in the district as he had laboured for eight years, rendering faithful services at Abercrave. Mr Hughes knew the district and the manner of the people in the parish. A great deal depended upon an understanding between the priest and the people. The act of institution placed the priest in authority to carry on the spiritual work of the parish. The spiritual work came first, although that was often forgotten. The vicar by induction was placed in possession of the means of carrying on the spiritual work. He was given the right to live in the vicarage house and the stipend that was assigned to the parish by the Representative Body of the Church in Wales. The parishioners could do work of immense importance, as the coming of the new vicar opened a new chapter in the history of the parish. The life of a clergyman was not an easy one. It was full of responsibility and difficulty and he was in constant need of prayer and guidance. That was where the prayers of the parishioners were of immense help to. The call of the service of the church was being responded to in a splendid manner. Parishioners and clergy were partners and fellow workers in the Kingdom of God. The Oxford Movement, the centenary of which was being celebrated this year, had done great work towards making church life especially of young people, more interesting than it was 50 or 60 years ago. Then there were very few positions at the layman could fill and few claims are made upon him service to the church. The most effective way in which the church could be helped was by earnest prayer.

The Bishop then read the letters of institution. The Archdeacon of Gower, the Rev Harold Williams mumbles, together with the vicar's warden Mr John Griffith and the people's warden Mr T R Arnold escorted the new vicar to the church door. Mr Hughes locked and unlocked the door and the Mandate of Induction was read by the Archdeacon. The new vicar also ran the church bell to signify is taking possession.

Mr Gethin Owen presided at the organ. After the service, the visitors were entertained to tea at the Church Hall. The new vicar thanked all those who had helped in the preparation of the tea.


The clergy present were the Lord Bishop of Swansea and Brecon the venerable Archdeacon of Gower, the Rev Harold Williams; the Rev's Thomas Morris Rural Dean, vicar of Clydach; W J Thomas Gorseinon; E Jenkins-Davies Swansea; J J Hughes Pontardawe; J Secundus Jones Swansea; D Hughes Callwen, uncle of the new vicar; David Evans Cray; Watkin Davies Swansea; Jonathan Davies Colbren; W Arthur Jones Cwmamman; D Jones Devynock; Canon D M Jones Llanelly; John Rees Llandovery; Griffith Jones Llandebie; David J Jones Aberporth; E Lee Hamer Cardigan; Randall Lloyd Pontardawe; D Lewis William BA D Bonstall Edwards Ystradgynlais; A Leslie Norman Swansea; T R Walters James Glais; E Tawe Jones Cwmllynfell; B W Edwards Kilvey; D R Davies Llansamlet; J J A Thomas Pontardawe; W Illtyd Jenkins Oystermouth; D G Phillips; R D Newport Pem., D Davies Nevern; J L Davies Moylgrove; E G Jones Capel Colman; J J Lewis Llanddygwydd; J Francis Kenfig Hill; W Roberts Crynant; R G James Pontyates; Llewelyn Idris Roberts Gowerton and W Francis Llansamlet.

Among those present were: Mr and Mrs M W Morgan and the Misses Morgan Bryntawe Abercrave; Mrs E B Morgan Abercrave; Captain and Mrs Howell A Morgan Maesycoed; Mr H N Marshall Abercrave; Mr William Edwards Abercrave; Mr John Griffiths Morriston; Mr Roger E L Thomas solicitor Ystradgynlais; Mr D W Davies Ty Coch Ystalyfera; Mr Griffith Hughes father, Mrs Hughes; Master T G Richard Hughes Llandovery College and Mrs A Lewis sister.

The South Wales Voice also recorded the farewell service for Rev J.G. Hughes at his old ministry of Saint Dodmael's in Pembrokeshire.


The Rev J G Hughes B A., Who commenced duties as vicar of Ystalyfera on Wednesday, was presented with a valuable gift by members of his congregation at St Dogmael's. Mr Hughes has been secretary of the Pembrokeshire Choral Union for seven years.

The Rev E Lee Hamer BA vicar of Cardigan presided and said the Rev J G Hughes as secretary of the Choral Union, had worked very hard to make the annual festival a success.


The presentation consisted of a set of beautiful coloured stoles and the vicar called upon the rural dean, the Rev D J Evans BA Rector of Aberporth, to make the presentation.

Mr Evans said they all wished Mrs Hughes God-speed in his new sphere of labour. He had been a wonderful secretary, never downcast in difficulties. The speaker also referred to the good work done by Mrs Hughes in connection with the festival.

Mr Llewellyn Davies, Ashleigh, speaking on behalf of the laity of the Choral Union, said Mr Hughes had taken up the secretaryship at a very critical time in the history of the festival. They would always miss his cheery face and he wished both Mr and Mrs Hughes God-speed and good look at Ystalyfera.

The Rev J J Lewis LTSC vicar of Llandygwydd spoke on behalf of the clergy and said that from personal experience, after being in close touch with the Rev J G Hughes for 11 years, he could testify that Mr Hughes had done his work splendidly and in a practical way. The financial position of the Union today was a tribute to his practical work. The Union would have a great loss after both Mr and Mrs Hughes, for Mrs Hughes had been a true helpmate to a husband in his work for the festival.

The Rev J G Hughes responding said he very much appreciated the beautiful gift which the Choral Union was making to him. It was with a sense of deep regret that he was leaving the district and it would not be possible for him to be happier at Ystalyfera then he had been at St Dogmael's. It has given him the greatest possible pleasure to carry out the little work he had been able to do for the Church Choral Union. Although he was no musician he could say that they had never sung better at the festival than they had that day. The work of secretary was not easy but if they got all to work hand-in-hand it made it very much easier. He had always had that support and he wished to specially mention the late Vicar of Cardigan Cannon D M Jones and the present vicar the Rev E Lee Hamer in this respect and also the rural dean the Rev D J Evans. He had also had the best of relations with the conductors of the festival. He thanked them from his heart for their beautiful gift.

The chairman said he was sure Mr Hughes would do well at Ystalyfera where he would find very nice people. It was the parish in which he, Mr Hamer, had commenced his ministry. The chairman paid high tribute to Rev J G Hughes and his family. He had always found them honourable and they had done excellent work at St Dogmael's.

The meeting closed with the benediction pronounced by the vicar.


At a meeting of clergy at the Church House Newport Pembrokeshire, the Rev J G Hughes BA who has acted as honourable secretary of the deanery for some years was on Monday presented by his brother clergy with a beautiful caster upon his departure to take up the living of Ystalyfera.

The farewell do for Rev. J.G. Hughes was held in February 1954, as this article from the South Wales Voice newspaper of Friday 12th February of that year explains:-

'Good Luck and God Bless Ystalyfera'
A Fine Man Says Goodbye

In the gaily decorated Church Hall with vases of daffodils to mark the occasion, the Rev. Jenkin Hughes said goodbye last Thursday to all the many people he has come to know and love during his 20 years as Vicar of St. David's, Ystalyfera.

He could not have complained about the size of his congregation thiis night for the large hall was crowded with his parishioners and friends, all of whom had come to say their farewell.

One by one, his friends in the Mininstry in the valleys and others stood and paid tribute for a few brief minutes.

Mr Aneurin Edwards, his warden at St. David's, recalled that every year the vicar had handed back to the church funds his Easter collections, and that for seven years his wife acted as organist without any renumeration.

His co-warden, Mr Griff Hopkin, recalled the great work that Mr Hughes had done in the Sunday School. Then came the following tributes:


Mr Willy Rees, vicar's warden at St. James's - "He is a person unique because of the great work he has done as a clergyman"
Mr S Gunter, People's warden at St. James's - "He was well respected and highly esteemed"
Mr Arthur Milden, member of St. David's Parochial Church Council - "He was a good man of religion"
Mrs Broome, on behalf of the Ladies' Guild - "We will miss a very loving man"
Mr Jenkin Evans, his friend - "His greatest work is that he united other churches and chapels in this area."
Rev. Gwyn Lewis, of Clydach - "He is a strong personality, and I'm not sure we are producing his type of person today"
Rev. D.E. Clement of Morriston - "We are losing a personality, a man who made his mark wherever he went"
Rev. T.R.W. James, of Pontardawe - "Being an incumbent in the Swansea Valley is one of the hardest jobs imaginable but he hs struck it for 20 years"


Rev. Iorwerth Jones, minister of Pantteg Chapel - "I don't think there is a parish in the whole of Wales where the Church and the Non-Conformists have got on on such wonderful terms. He is a real gentleman."

There were many other speakers, among them Mr Daniel Lewis, of Holy Trinity; Mr W.S. Jones, organist at St. David's (who said it was a pity that Mr. Hughes was going to England, where they wouldn't appreciate that he was such a fluent Welsh speaker); Rev. R.M. Thomas, Fforestfach; Rev. Brynmor Williams, Llansamlet; Rev R.W. Jones, Abercrave; Rev G. Edwards, Callwen; Rev. E.T. Evans, Wern Chapel; Rev. Vincent Evans, Caersalem; Rev R.C. Davies, Gurnos; Rev G.H. Jones, English Congregational Chapel; Mr Wynne Samuel, Soar; Rev. G. Lewis, the vicar's nephew of Clydach; and Rev. D.L. Williams of Ystradgynlais, the Rural Dean.

Then, with the tributes over, it was the turn of the vicar. The packed hall was stilled as it listened to his last words.


"It was my intention to resign four years ago", he said, "and during the last four years I have felt myself not equal to the task. Therefore, I feel I am quite right in giving up now."
"Whatever good is in man has come from the Christian faith and I hope Ystalyfera will increase in that faith", he told his people, "I feel that there is so much I have left undone, but I am glad if my ministry has been of some service to you."
"I shall take away with me great thoughts of you"
"I've been very happy here, and kinder-hearted people than are here in Ystalyfera you could not find. I can only say the very best of this Parish, and I hope the Vicar of Cray, who is your new vicar, will be of great spiritual benefit to you."
"St. David's has given me storng support. Since I came here, we have spent over £4000 on the church."


The vicar paid tribute to the great amount of voluntary help he had had not only at St. David's but at his two other churches in Ystalyfera, and said that the last 18 months when he had been in the pasrish alone without a curate had been a very difficult time. It was only due to lay helpthat the three chuirches had been kept alive.

"I wish the parish all the best and I shall always have a place for it in my prayers", he promised, "I am not going to say goodbye, but goodnight, and God bless you."

Rev. Jenkin Hughes took his last service at St. David's on Sunday, when he administered the Holy Communion. He is going to live with his son, Rev. Richard Hughes, in East Anglia.

The vicar was presented with a cheque for £200 by Mr. Griff Hopkin on behalf of all the parishioners and other people in the locality.

Mr. Dan Williams, secretary of the Parochial Church Council, thanked all who subscribed to the testimonial fund.

The vicar was also presented with a walking stick from the Tawe Temperance Lodge of the R.A.O.B. and another presentation was made on behalf of the St. David's Lad's Brigade.

In a separate box, within the article, the Rural Dean whilst saying a tribute to the departing vicar also used the occasion to give voice to one of his personal bugbears:-

Why Not?

"There is not a single dinitary in this deanery", complained the Rural Dean, Rev. D.L. Williams of Ystradgynlais, speaking at the farewell and presentation meeting to Rev. J.G. Hughes, who is leaving Ystalyfera after 20 years at St. David's Church.

"This is the only deanery in the diocese of Brecon where the Welsh language is alive and kicking, and if this deanery is not to be taken notice of, then something is wrong."

Mr. Williams said he had hoped that Rev. J.G. Hughes would have received greater honour then he had done at the hands of the Church. He should have been made a canon, he said.

"But he asked for nothing nd instead just carried out his work to the best of his ability."

No-one who lived beyond Pontardawe was known for the higher offices of the Church, added the Rural Dean, and this was a bad thing.

The South Wales Voice for Friday 29th November 1957 contained the news of the Rev JG Hughes' death in Sunderland.

The death occurred on Friday 15th November of the Rev J G Hughes, at the home of his only son the Rev Richard Hughes Chaplain of the Mission to Seamen Sunderland, with whom he had been living since his retirement in January 1954. He had served as Vicar of Ystalyfera Parish for more than 20 years. Mr Hughes was 80 years of age.

A fluent and forceful preacher in both English and Welsh his eloquence in the latter idiom had left an impression that will not be forgotten for a long time.

Cremation took place at Sunderland and his ashes are to be buried with the remains of his wife at Llandyssul, early in December.

Last Sunday evening prayers were said in the Churches of Ystalyfera Parish and the vicar Rev T W Davies informed the congregation of St David's Church that he had been in communication with the Rev Richard Hughes and had expressed the sympathy of the Ystalyfera Parish to him and had received a very appreciative reply.


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