History and Heritage

Melville Phillips

Melville Phllips took up the pastorate of the English Congregational Church in 1924, and he and his wife were presented in the July with gifts upon for their recent marriage. He served for 28 years, during which time the second church, in Ystradgynlais, was brought into a joint pastorate with that in Ystalyfera, having previously had its own pastors. He retired in February 1952, and died a year later in January 1953, being buried in Alltygrug Cemetery, Ystalyfera.

The Labour Voice newspaper for 26th July 1924 records the presentation to the new pastor Melville Phillips and his wife of gifts upon taking up the occasion of their recent marriage.


At the English Congregational Church on Tuesday evening a social tea was held followed by a meeting at which the Rev Melville Phillips, the new pastor, and Mrs Phillips were the recipients of gifts given by the church on the occasion of their recent marriage. Later, Mr A Peters presiding, a programme of music and recitations was contributed to by the following: Miss Mair Thomas Cwmtwrch; Mr Willie Jones, Mr T David, Master Philip Thomas, Messrs G Ernest Davies and Clarence David.

The pleasant duty of making the presentation was entrusted to Mrs E Chappell, who, on behalf of the church, presented the new pastor with a chiming clock and Mrs Phillips with a salad bowl. Mrs Phillips responded with a brief speech expressing her keen gratitude. Mr Phillips said he was glad to see such a large and enthusiastic audience. He was exceedingly grateful for the gifts as a sign of their esteem and good feelings towards him and he hoped and trusted that he might count on their co-operation in work and prayer in building up a strong church.

Mr William Thomas, secretary of the church; Mrs D J Rees JP, Glan yr Onen; Messrs John Hunt, George Feltham and Ronald Williams also addressed the meeting each expressing his own and the church's best wishes for a long and successful career for Mr and Mrs Phillips. The meeting ended with the singing of the doxology. Miss Phyllis Jones acted as accompanist. The inscription on the present was as follows:
"Presented to Rev and Mrs Phillips by the English Congregational Church on the occasion of their marriage 22nd of July 1924".

From the Labour Voice Saturday 6th September 1924 we read of the induction service for the Rev Melville Phillips:-


There were large congregations at the English Congregational Church on Monday afternoon, on the occasion of the induction services of the Rev Melville Phillips as pastor. The service was opened by the meeting of the Scripture and the singing of the hymn followed by prayer by the Rev D E Harris Gendros. Rev T Mardy Rees Neath, who presided, said he was pleased to see so many present. By induction - was meant the seeking of the sanction of the spirit of God for what was being done.
Mr William Thomas secretary of the church in giving a history of the call said he had received letters from many notable ministers expressing their regret at being unable to be present. The English cause at Ystalyfera, said Mr Thomas, was established 55 years ago and during those years the church had witnessed some glorious times many great preachers having ministered amongst the people. He was unable to deal with the past as he should like to because he suffered the disadvantage of not having resided in the district long enough. The church had been hoping for a pastor for a considerable time but it was not before last Easter that the dawn began to break and from that time onwards there was the greatest confidence that the church would be provided with a pastor. Proceeding, Mr Thomas said that Mr Phillips had preached in the pulpit on three occasions previous to the call but he was not notice very much on his first visit which was quite natural. However, the two succeeding visits had so impressed the church that a unanimous invitation resulted. Mr Thomas referred briefly to Mr Phillips qualifications as a preacher and pastor and also to the fact that he was the son of a great man, the Rev John Phillips, late of Carmarthen Road Swansea. Mr Thomas concluded with an appeal to the church to rally round their pastor and especially to young people.

In his address the chairman commenting on the sacrifice made for religion referred to a young lad who lived in the Vale of Neath a century ago and who on account of the poverty of his parents was unable to obtain candles in order to read his Bible. The speaker described how this young lad managed to commit the Scriptures to memory. Afterwards he used to travel through the Neath and Swansea Valleys and preach the gospel. He was the Rev Daniel Griffiths Neath, the founder of Congregationalism in the Valley. But for his efforts there might well have been no Pantteg, Wern, Gurnos or the English Congregational at Ystalyfera. The cry in the past had been Back to Christianity, what Paul had said, Forward to Christ and he hoped that the Church would accept this as their motto.
He welcomed the Rev Melville Phillips to the church on behalf of the West Glamorgan and East Carmarthen Association.
In reply Mr Phillips said he felt quite at home in that pulpit and that he thought it was on account of the homely atmosphere that prevailed there always. He had spent his 12th Sunday in the church and therefore he knew something about it. He had spent a happy time at Pentrechwyth, having laboured therefore 7 1/2 years. He had been with the people in times of joy and sorrow and he had held the hands of those who passed away into the Kingdom of Light. He was very sorry to leave the place and the only reason he could give was that he had suffered from a nervous breakdown. The people of Pentrechwyth were extremely kind to him. Sometimes the members were glad to get rid of the pastor and vice versa -laughter- but he was sure it was not so in the case of the Pentrechwyth church members. He could not possibly speak too highly of the church at Swansea. He hoped the Ystalyfera church would rally round him in the good work.

In delivering the charge, the Rev David Walters Bristol, moderator for Wales and Monmouthshire said the last time he had preached at Ystalyfera was 42 years ago and he had come into touch with some of their past ministers. He desired to address their ministers on his and entering what he hoped would be a very happy and pleasant experience as minister of that church. Mr Phillips reception had started well and he hoped he and the church would be able to keep it up. The church had its hopes and ideals and he hoped these would be realised. There was a section of people whom he cluster she, who scrambled through the hedges to other farmers pastures - these people ran from one church to another to follow the preachers and did not belong to one particular church. He wanted those present to remember that the church was a shrine, the place of worship. There was no instinct so universal as worship. There was no sacrifice in worship - it was a great privilege to worship God. Wales was a land of mountains and rivers, hills and dales and also a land of song. Preaching had made Wales what it was today. There was perhaps not enough dignity and reverence about the conduct of our public worship. In England punctuality was much more evident and everyone was in his or her place by the time of commencing the service but in Wales it was common to see people walking in about 15 or 20 minutes late. Much depended on this as it indicated the dignity and reverence with which the service was carried on. Though the churches in Wales lacked this dignity there was on the other hand an atmosphere of home about the Welsh Church. This was felt by a man who was lonely. He often felt lonelier in a crowd and in the fields, where God's work was seen to the best advantage.
Dealing with the church as a school Mr Walters said there was a good deal of topical preaching going on nowadays and there was need for more instructive and educational sermons. The church is a hospital was also a point emphasised by the speaker. He said that years ago when he first visited Llandrindod Wells there were trainloads of sick people who benefited by the waters but now it was called the Spa and people went there to play golf, tennis and also for the attractions - it was the same with the church.
The service was ended by the offering of prayer by the Rev E T Evans B A., Wern.

From the South Wales Voice Saturday 9th March 1929 came the tragic news of the death of Melville Phillips' daughter:-

Deep sympathy is felt with the Rev Melville Phillips pastor of the English Congregational Church and Mrs Phillips, in the death of their nine months old daughter, Dorothy. The little one died on Saturday last with tragic suddenness.
The funeral took place on Thursday, burial being at Alltygrug cemetery.

From the South Wales Voice 15th April 1933 came the news of the death of Melville Phillips' father:-


The death occurred on Friday of the Rev John Phillips, father of the Rev Melville Phillips, pastor of the English Congregational Churches of Ystalyfera and Ystradgynlais.
The deceased gentleman was 76 years of age and retired nine years ago after a successful ministry. He had resided with his son and daughter in law since his retirement.
A native of Pembrokeshire, Mr Phillips was educated at Brecon Memorial College and his first pastorate was at Zion Hill Pembrokeshire. Forty three years ago he took charge of the Carmarthen Road Congregational Church, Swansea, where he laboured with much success for 34 years.
His wife predeceased him 16 years ago and he is survived by one son.
The Rev John Phillips was a well known figure in the denomination and was held in high esteem in Ystalyfera, where he had made a large circle of friends.

THE FUNERAL: There was a large gathering at the funeral which took place on Monday, the burial being at Alltygrug Cemetery, the Reverends E D Lewis Caersalem, E Amman Jones, BA Gurnos and E T Evans BA, took part in the short service at the house. The service at the graveside was conducted by the Rev William Evans BA curate and the Rev Frank Surman, who followed the Rev John Phillips in the pastorate of Carmarthen Road Chapel, referred to the wonderful ministry of the deceased gentleman and how the church had grown in numbers and usefulness under his magnetic personality and loving care. Mr Surman referred regretfully to the unavoidable absence in London, of Councillor Percy Morris, a prominent member of the church, who was peculiarly fitted to speak of the work and the character of Mr Phillips. In a dramatic manner Councillor Morris arrived at the graveside just as this moment having come especially from London to pay tribute to one whom he described as a beloved counsellor and friend. In a simple but movingly eloquent address Councillor Morris paid a warm tribute to the great human qualities, the lovable nature and Christ-like character of his old Pastor - who for 34 years had been as the hand of God amongst his flock at Carmarthen Road Church.
A large number of members of Carmarthen Road Church both men and women attended the funeral.
The only mourner was the Rev Melville Phillips, son, and he was accompanied by the Rev Ivor Jones, Soar. Among those present was Principal John Morgan Jones, MA Bangor.
Wreaths were sent by: Melville Mary and Monica; all at Little Haven; Mrs William Evans Brynogwen; Eluned; the English Congregational church Ystalyfera and the English Congregational church Ystradgynlais; Carmarthen Road English Congregational church Swansea; Miss Gladys Phillips Alltygrug; Myrtle and Moira; the Bible class Ystalyfera.

From the South Wales Voice Saturday 14th June 1947 came the record of the marriage of Melville Phillips' daughter:-

A pretty wedding took place on Saturday last at the English Congregational Church Ystalyfera, the parties being Miss Monica Elizabeth Phillips daughter of the Rev Melville and Mrs Phillips, Clyngwyn Road and Mr Richard Wyn Joseph, son of Mr J H Joseph and the late Mrs Joseph of Glynmeirch Road Trebanos. The officiating minister was the bride's father, Rev Melville Phillips assisted by the Rev D G Jones Pontardawe. The bride was given away by the Rev W E Llewelyn Ystalyfera and old friend of the bride's family.
The bride, who was unattended, was dressed in a charming ensemble consisting of a delphinium blue two-piece costume with navy accessories and she carried a spray of red roses.
The best man was Mr D I Joseph BA brother of bridegroom and the groomsman was Mr C Evans, brother-in-law of the bridegroom. The service was fully choral the bride being the member of the English Congregational Church.

The South Wales Voice Saturday 16th February 1952 recorded the retirement of Melville Phillips:-

After 28 years successful and devoted ministry, the Rev Melville Phillips has tendered his resignation as pastor of Ystalyfera and Ystradgynlais English Congregational Churches.
Although Mr Phillips has never enjoyed robust health, he has been a tireless and conscientious minister and is held in very high regard throughout the area. His kindly personality, dry wit and courteous manner have made him a welcome visitor in countless homes and his loyalty and assiduous care for the members of his churches found their reward in the affectionate friendship of the members. He appealed very much too, to the younger generation and by his sincerity and understanding of their problems he has won their friendship and esteem.
Mr Phillips has a pleasing pulpit manner and his forthright and personal approach to his subject, no less than the fact that he has never been known to consult notes, have made him a popular preacher.
He has been greatly helped in his task by his wife, who is equally popular with the chapel members and others in the locality and since failing health made it impossible for Mr Phillips to cover the large area which comes under his charge, Mrs Phillips has given even greater support than formerly.
Mr and Mrs Phillips will not be leaving the district and it is hoped that Mr Phillips will benefit from his rest and enjoy many years of happy retirement.

The South Wales Voice 30th January 1953 recorded the death of Melville Phillips:-

Ystalyfera and district lost one of its most beloved personalities by the death on Wednesday at his home, Beechwood Clyngwyn Road, of the Rev Melville Phillips, for 28 years minister of the English Congregational Church. Mr Phillips was 70 and a native of Pembrokeshire. He came to Swansea when very young, when his father the late Rev John Phillips, took over the ministry of the English Congregational Church on Carmarthen Road. Before coming to Ystalyfera his previous ministries were at Little Haven Pembrokeshire and at Pentrechwyth Swansea.
The funeral which is private is on Monday, burial taking place at St David's Cemetery Alltygrug.

The South Wales Voice 30th January 1953 recorded the funeral of Melville Phillips:-

The funeral of the Rev Melville Phillips of Beechwood Clyngwyn Road Ystalyfera, who died aged 70 on 28th January, took place at St David's Cemetery Alltygrug on 2nd February.
Mr Phillips, who was born in Pembrokeshire and came to Swansea when he was very young, held his first pastorate at Little Haven Pembrokeshire. Later he was called to Pentrechwyth and then the joint pastorate of Ystalyfera and Ystradgynlais English Congregational Churches.
Mourners: R Wyn Joseph son-in-law; William Griffiths Cale brother-in-law; J H Joseph.
Mourners at the house: Mrs Melville Phillips wife; Mrs Monica Joseph daughter; Mrs E Cale mother-in-law; Miss P Cale sister-in-law; Mrs Jack Perry sister-in-law.
Floral tributes: wife; Monica, Wyn and Richard; Mother and all in Little Haven; J H Joseph, Gladys and Ray; Congregational Church Ystalyfera; Sunday School; League of Young Worshippers; Knitting Class; Congregational Church Ystradgynlais; Sunday School; Mair, Jack, Beatrice and Barrie;...


The Phillips' family grave in Alltygrug Cemetery, Ystalyfera. John Phillips was the father of Melville, and also a pastor, and died in 1933. Dorothy Mary was the baby daughter of Melville who had died in 1929. Melville, of course, was the pastor and Mary Elizabeth was his wife, born Cale, whom he had married in Swansea in 1924. Monica Elizabeth is their daughter who married Richard Wyn Joseph in 1947, and was born in 1926.



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