History and Heritage

John Thomas, Minister of Gurnos Chapel

The Reverend John Thomas was the second minister of Gurnos Chapel, taking up his duties in 1886 and serving 35 years until his retirement in 1921.

The Labour Voice newspaper, Saturday 6th January 1923 covered a service honouring Reverend John Thomas:-


A happy function was held at Gurnos Welsh Chapel Ystalyfera on Monday evening, for the old Pastor, the Rev John Thomas who was honoured after many years of faithful service.

The gathering was a thoroughly representative one, all of the local churches sending members on their behalf and the chair was occupied by the Rev Ben Davies. There were supporting him, the Rev E T Evans BA Wern; the Rev H Seiriol Williams Pontardawe and the deacons of the church.

In the course of a reference to the work of the Rev John Thomas, the chairman laid special stress upon his faithful devotion to his work. He came there in 1886 and during the 35 1/2 years he had endeared himself to the people of the locality, amongst whom he was held in the highest esteem. He, the chairman, was proud to think that Mr Thomas, in his retirement was not leaving the district and that the church had thought fit to confer upon him the honour of being made a Deacon. His influence was to be seen in the steady growth of the church.

Mr William Thomas, Gurnos Post Office, the oldest Deacon said he was proud indeed of the honour of presenting to the Rev John Thomas, a cheque for £114, the gift of the congregation and friends in the neighbourhood. He wished the recipient every happiness and prosperity in his retirement.

Mr Joseph Davies, another Deacon, made a much appreciated reference to Rev John Thomas' unfailing courtesy and enthusiastic service in the cause at Gurnos and Mr D R Williams M E also made eulogistic reference to the work of the Rev gentleman.

A lengthy history of the church and record of its achievements during Mr Thomas's ministry was given by Mr William John Griffiths who stated that when Mr Thomas took charge, the number of members was 133, whereas they now amounted to 245 and the Sunday school numbered 221 members.

Further speeches upon the good work and influence of the Rev gentleman were made by the Rev E T Evans, the Rev H Seiriol Williams and Mr Joseph Williams.

In a feeling reply the recipient said he sincerely thanked all those who had subscribed their kindness. His stay at Ystalyfera had been a truly happy one and he had experienced nothing but kindness from everybody.

An excellent program was contributed to by Miss Nancy Jones Ystradgynlais; Mr Elias Emlyn Williams, organist; Miss Nano Thomas elocutionist and Mr David Nicholas Jones, and a most enjoyable function closed with the singing of the hymn.

The article from the Labour Voice newspaper, Saturday 7th July 1923 covering the induction service of Rev. D J Moses also covered the history of the Gurnos Chapel and the tenure of his predecessor, Reverend John Thomas:-


On 6th January 1886, when the industrial outlook throughout the district was dark and gloomy on account of the stoppage a few weeks previously of the Ystalyfera Works, the Rev John Thomas started his ministry here. He has encountered many difficulties, but by quiet and faithful service and a spotless character, he managed during 35 and half years to keep the church in a fairly flourishing condition until he resigned in 1921.

The front of the chapel was rebuilt and a vestry raised some years ago at a cost of £700, while the present chapel, which is almost a new one, was built in 1915 at a cost of £1,800. Now at the commencement of the Rev D J Moses' ministry the membership is about 260 and the debt about £1000.


From the Labour Voice August 14th 1926:-


Wide sympathy was shown at the funeral of the late Rev. John Thomas (Gurnos), whose death was recorded in our last issue, and which took place at Holy Trinity Churchyard on Monday. The respect in which the rev. gentleman was held, was evidenced by the large gathering which congregated to pay their last tribute, to the oldest local pastor, for although he resigned about five years ago, he was occasionally called upon to fill various pulpits, and on the Sunday previous to his death he conducted the Sunday school branch, which has been opened by the church at Gurnos, at Ynysydarren. Prior to interment, his mortal remains were taken to Pantteg Chapel where a service was said, and touching references were made to the departed.

The Rev D J Moses, Gurnos, officiated, and he was assisted by the Revs E D Lewis, Caersalem; E T Evans, Wern, W R Bowen, BA, Glais; S Williams. Landore, H J Davies, Mynyddbach; D Jenkins, Rhos; W J Rees, Alltwen; W D Roderick, Rhiwfawr; Ifor Jones, Soar; Melville Phillips, English Congregational, and T J Peregrine, Cwmtwrch. Mr Elias Williams, organist, presided at the organ, and played the "Dead March". The chapel was represented by the following deacons, who acted as bearers. Messrs W J Griffiths (secretary), David N Jones, David Williams, Abraham Morgan, D R Williams, M E and Benjamin Evans

The chief mourners were: Mrs M Jones. Mr and Mrs J Lewis Thomas, Mr and Mrs C Potter (Dowlais); Mr and Mrs G Phillips, Mrs E Thomas (Ystradgynlais), Mr and Mrs Hy R Thomas (Merthyr); Mr John Evans, Mrs L Martin (Dowlais), Miss L Jones; Mr P H Phillips, all nephews and nieces. Mrs E Evans, Dowlais (sister-in-law), Mr William Rees, Glais; Mrs J Thomas, Swansea.

Wreaths were from Gurnos Chapel, from his niece Maggie and Lizzie; nephews and nieces.

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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