History and Heritage

Rev. William Jones, Soar (Zoar)

The Rev William Jones: He came from Blaenllechau and he completed his theological training at Llangollen. Was ordained as minister to Soar Church on 1st January 1890 but after 33 years as a faithful minister, he passed away after a protracted illness on 3rd October 1923. A memorial tablet in memory of the late Rev William Jones was unveiled in 1935. At the service his son and two daughters as well as a grandson attended.

Reverend William Jones ministered at Soar (Zoar) from 1890 to 1923.

His period of ministry included the First World War. He had a son in the forces, Private W.A. Jones, who wrote letters home in 1914 and 1915 that were featured in the Llais newspaper.

The Rev William Jones gave out Bibles to those young men from his congregation who left to join the armed forces. He also presided at the meeting of the Ystalyfera Free Church Council in October 1916 where funds were raised to endow a bed at the Netley Hospital.

The Great War at Soar Chapel, Ystalyfera.

The Labour Voice newspaper, 8th July 1922 records that the Rev W Jones had been unwell:-


On Sunday last the pulpit at Soar Welsh Baptist Chapel was occupied by the pastor, the Rev W Jones, who at the evening service, delivered a particularly able sermon. We are pleased to learn that the health of the rev gentleman continues to improve. The pulpit at Soar will on Sunday next be occupied by a student from Cardiff College.

The death of Rev William Jones was recorded in the Labour Voice Saturday 6th October 1923:-

Death of Reverend Pastor
Rev William Jones, Soar, Ystalyfera

We regret to announce the death of the Rev William Jones, Pastor of Soar Baptist Church, Ystalyfera, which took place on Tuesday night last, at the age of 59. For the last two years he had suffered severely and had attended Swansea hospital for a cure, but it became evident to his relatives and friends that a recovery could not be expected and for nearly a year he had been confined to his bed. Although suffering greatly, he bore it all with patience and fortitude and had a kind, welcome smile for all his visitors.
Since his arrival in the Swansea valley 33 years ago, Mr Jones had been one of the best known and most highly respected leaders in the religious life of West Wales. Although frail physically, he was a great worker and all good causes had in him a strong supporter. The church at Soar prospered under his wise guidance and vigorous leadership and he was also greatly interested in all aspect of the social and religious life of the community. Although his long illness had prepared his friends and admirers for the end, it is still true that his loss will be seriously felt not only in Ystalyfera and district, but in a much wider circle, and especially in the churches and councils of the West Glamorgan Baptists.
Mr Jones was a native of Gwernogie, Carmarthen, and was educated at Carmarthen and at Llangollen Baptist College. On the 1st January 1890 he was ordained minister at Soar, Ystalyfera, which was his first and, as events have proved, his only pastorate. The relations between Mr Jones and the church have been singularly happy. On the completion of 21 years as pastor, the church showed their regard and appreciation by presenting him with a gold watch and chain and a purse of gold, along with other gifts. It is also well-known that the church have acted very kindly and honourably towards their pastor in his long illness. Although able to preach but a few times during the last two years, his salary was paid fully and regularly to the end.
His brethren throughout the denomination showed their high regard for Mr Jones by appointing him to many honourable positions. He read a paper on "The Church and its Young People" in the Baptist Union meetings held at Treorci in 1909 under the presidency of the Rt Hon D Lloyd George. This paper proves that Mr Jones was a wide reader and a deep student of psychology. He was one of the prime movers in forming the Ystalyfera District Quarterly Meeting and one of its first officers. He was also appointed president of the Welsh Young Baptists Union and was secretary of the Home Mission for many years. The latter position having the welfare of weak churches in its charge, involved work in which he took the greatest interest and no one laboured more and felt more for these churches.
In 1922, he was president of the West Glamorgan Baptist Association and his address on that occasion, when the meetings were held at Soar, on "The Special Mission of the Church" was a notable one.
He was a leading member and for some time president of the local Free Church Council. In this capacity he proved a fearless fighter, having the courage of his convictions, regardless of consequences, which were not always pleasant. He also served on the Pontardawe Group of Managers.

He leaves a widow and 3 children. The funeral will be on Monday at 3 o'clock, the burial being at Soar churchyard.

His burial was recorded in the Labour Voice newspaper, 13th October 1923:-

At the burial service of the late Rev William Jones on Monday the tablet erected to the memory of Mr Jones' predecessor reminded us that Soar is a church of long pastorate. The Rev Charles Williams was pastorate for 35 years and his successor for 23.


The funeral of the late Rev William Jones Soar, took place on Monday. The regard in which he was held throughout the district not only amongst his own denomination but by the whole community was made evident by the large and representative character of the cortege which accompanied his remains to Soar Chapel Graveyard. Especially notable was the large number of ministers present, some of whom came from long distances.
A short service was held at the house in which Revs D J Davies Ainon Ystradgynlais and B James Tumble took part.
The service at Soar Chapel was presided over by the Rev E D Lewis Caersalem Ystalyfera. The introductory parts of the service were conducted by the Rev D W Stephens Jerusalem Ystalyfera and Ben Lewis Llangyfelach.
The Rev David Price Bethesda Swansea [formerly of Beulah Cwmtwrch] said that he had known Mr Jones when a lad at Carmarthenshire. It was at Ferndale that he was urged to enter the Ministry when he joined the Baptist cause there. The speaker and Mr Jones had been together at college and their relations through life had been close and intimate. Jones had always been a true religious man and his religion was natural and sane.
The Rev Arthur Maddocks Caersalem paid a warm tribute to the influence which the deceased had exerted upon him at the Band of Hope and Sunday school at Soar when he was a lad and young man. It was the inspiration which he had received from the sermons and the saintly character of his pastor, which were responsible for his entering the ministry. He had a way of presenting the truth that was both attractive and stimulating and the speaker would always be grateful for his guidance and the paternal interest which he had always taken in his career.
The Rev W R Watkins MA Llanelly paid tribute to the many sided activities of Mr Jones. He was a great worker and the church at Soar under his leadership had prospered. He also complemented Soar Chapel for its great kindness towards their pastor in his long illness.

South Wales Voice newspaper for Saturday 15th October 1932 carried the full details:-


Although nine years have passed since the death of Rev William Jones, who was for 33 years pastor of Soar Church, Ystalyfera, his memory is being cherished by the church and district. This was amply testified by the large gathering which assembled at the unveiling of a memorial tablet at Soar Church last Thursday. The service, which was an impressive one, was attended by representatives of local churches and movements connected with them. All speakers referred to the sterling character of the deceased reverend gentleman and to the untiring efforts he made to improve the social amenities of Ystalyfera. The Reverend Ivor Jones, Soar, presided over the service and said it should be regarded as something more than the unveiling of a memorial - it was a service of remembrance of a great man. It was an expression of thanks for the services of a man of God.
The chairman then called upon Mrs (Rev) William Jones to unveil the tablet and said he could not say why it was that the erection of the memorial had been delayed for nearly ten years. He took advantage of the opportunity to thank the members of the church for their active co-operation in the matter.
Mrs Jones then unveiled the tablet.
The inscription on the tablet is as follows:
"Cofodael serch i'r Parch William Jones, gweinidog ffyddlon yr eglwys hon am doros 33 o flynyddoedd. Ganed, Hyd. 31ain 1863. Ordeiniwyd Ion. 1af, 1890. Bu farw Hyd. 2ail, 1923.
Cyfraith gwirionedd oedd yn ei enau, a llawer a drodd efe oddiwrth anwiredd. "

Mr Maurice Davies, secretary of the church, gave a brief account of the reverend gentleman and said he could say a great deal about him from what he knew during their close friendship. As a young man Mr Jones was a great reader and his hobby was the collecting of books to improve himself. His intention of entering the ministry was evident early in life. Mr Jones always preached from memory and sketched his sermons in a very attractive manner.

When Mr Jones became pastor of Soar, the membership was 98 and this had been increased to 220 before he died. During his pastorate he baptised 313 people, besides accepting many others into membership. Mr Davies paid a tribute to Mrs Jones for her good work during Mr Jones' illness and said she had done a great deal towards alleviating his sufferings.
Mr Martin Edwards, Llanelly, who erected the tablet, thanked the members and officers of the church for their help to him. He said that the co-operation he had been accorded had helped considerably in his work.

Mr Fred Rees gave a very interesting account of how he first met the Rev. William Jones. He said that Mr Jones was engaged to preach at Soar while a student at Llangollen. He arrived at Brynamman at about 6:30pm and found that the last train to Ystalyfera had left. He made enquiries and found that there was a bootmaker from Ystalyfera working at Brynamman who traveled to and fro in a pony and trap. Mr Jones approached the bootmaker (who happened to be Mr Rees) and was given a lift to Ystalyfera. Mr Jones was apprehensive of entering his lodgings so late at night, but everything passed off smoothly. Before the end of the year, Mr Jones was invited to become the pastor and was ordained. While Mr Jones did not neglect his church work in any way, he took a great interest in public affairs. He was the secretary of the first movement to provide a hall at Ystalyfera 32 years ago. Mr Rees read out a notice of the meeting of the committee which was held at Wern Vestry on Tuesday 4th December 1900, when the question of a site was discussed.
Speaking as a pupil of Mr Jones, the Reverend A T Maddocks, Aberdare said he owed a debt of gratitude to him. Mr Jones had helped him to realise to urge to enter a ministry. The late reverend gentleman was progressive in his ideas and was very keen on the provision of a larger vestry. Mr Jones' hobby was the reading of good literature and he passed on the benefits to his flock.

References were made to the strong fighting qualities of Mr Jones by Mr D W Davies, Ty Coch. Mr Davies said there was keen agitation against the closing hours of the local public houses. At that time the houses closed at 11pm and the Free Church Council petitioned for an earlier hour. The case was heard by a Commission at Cardiff at which Mr Jones and he (the speaker) were witnesses, and they were cross-examined by Mr (now Sir) Marlay Samson. It was held that the Free Church Council had established a case but an appeal was made. The Council was again successful.
Mr Tom Davies, Derwen Dairy, spoke on behalf of the Free Church Council and referred to Mr Jones' activities as a strong temperance advocate. He said that through his efforts four public houses were closed. Mr Davies said he summed up Mr Jones' life in the following words:
"Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust"
The Reverend T Valentine Evans of Clydach, recalled the day that the Reverend William Jones was ordained as pastor of Soar 42 years ago. Mr Evans said he attended the service for the reason that he wanted to hear the renowned Reverend John Jones, Blaenllechau, preaching. It was the Reverend John Jones that baptised Mr William Jones and to him fell the honour of delivering the charge to the church. There was no real need for a memorial for Mr Jones, as his life has been sufficient to cause him to be remembered for years.

The Reverend E Edmonds, Swansea, secretary of the Baptist Union of Wales and Monmouthshire, and president elect of that body, paid a tribute to what he described as the chief characteristic of the late Reverend William Jones - his unselfishness.
Speaking as personal friends, the Reverends Ben Lewis, Salem, Llangyfylach, and E D Lewis, Caersalem, Ystalyfera, recounted the story of their college days. They said that the friendship created in their youth had remained unbroken to the end of Mr Jones' days.
Several of Mr Jones' favourite hymns were sung, including "Rhoddaist imi lawer arwydd", the singing being under the conductorship of Mr E J Evans. Mr Emlyn Evans presided at the organ.
Among those present were the son and daughter of the late Reverend William Jones, Mr W A Jones, Great Western Railway, Merthyr, and Nurse Samuel, Penrhiewtyn, Neath.

One week previously, presumably in a build-up to the event, the South Wales Voice had carried a biographical article on the Rev. William Jones, this being in the 8th October 1932 edition of the newspaper:-


It was on 2nd October 1923, that the Rev William Jones, for 33 years pastor of Soar Baptist Chapel Ystalyfera, passed away. On Thursday evening, nine years to the day, a memorial was unveiled at the church where he had laboured for so long.
At the unveiling service on Thursday, the secretary of the church, Mr Maurice Davies AFI gave a history of the rev gentleman.

It was at Blaenwaun, Rhosycorn Carmarthenshire that Mr Jones was born and his mother died at his birth. The youngest of 5 children, he was fortunate in being looked after with the tender love of a mother by his sister. As was the custom in the country, the future servant of Christ worked as a farm labourer for some years, afterwards going to Blaenllechau. The training he had received in his home in religion had the effect of whetting his appetite for the work of the church. His people were staunch Methodists but Mr Jones became a Baptist and was baptised by immersion by the Rev John Jones Blaenllechau. As time went on he displayed exceptional talent and a delight for preaching.
On 16th October 1885, he entered the Old College School Carmarthen and succeeded so well that he won a scholarship to Llangollen College, where he had a brilliant career. On the day he first travelled to college he struck up an acquaintance with another student, Mr D Price, who later became pastor of Beulah Lower Cwmtwrch and Bethesda Swansea. The firm friendship thus formed, lasted until the end of Mr Jones' life. At the end of their studies both students were called to pastorates. Mr Price went to Beulah and Mr Jones to Soar Chapel as successor to the Rev Charles Williams. Two other students at the same college who received "calls" and remained at the same charges were the Revs Ben Lewis, Salem Llangyfelach and E D Lewis Caersalem Ystalyfera. The former was ordained in September 1899, Mr Jones on 1st January 1890; and Mr Price at Beulah on 2nd January 1890 and 15 years later, Mr E D Lewis became pastor of Caersalem Ystalyfera.
The Rev William Jones possessed a retentive memory and never used notes for his sermons.
In 1904, Mr Jones formed the Young People's Society to which he lectured every year. An able and entertaining speaker, he was highly praised for his address at the Union meetings at Treorchy on, "The Church and the Young People".
Mr Jones was secretary of the Home Mission of the Welsh Glamorgan Baptist for many years and his labours to help churches in distress was so successful that in 12 years the sum of £1,407 4s 5d was collected and distributed; it was about that period that the Sustentation Fund was formed. Mr Jones was also the first Secretary of the District Meeting, Ystalyfera area, which was formed in 1902 and he became chairman. He was nominated on three occasions as president of the Gymanfa and twice he refused to allow his name to go forward saying that there were more able candidates. On the third occasion he accepted the honour, despite a serious illness. He was installed to the office at Soar in 1922 at one of the most successful conferences ever held. He delivered a powerful address on "Eglwys Crist a'i Chenadaeth Arbennig".
Mr Jones also took an interest in public life and was the years a member of the Pontardawe Group of School Managers and the Governors of the Ystalyfera Secondary school.
To mark the close of 21 years of successful ministry, the members of Soar Mr Jones with a gold watch, the gift being handed to him by Mr John Jones, Gough Road Ystalyfera.
Mr Jones suffered a severe blow in the year 1898, when he lost his wife who was his biggest helpmate.
The plot of land at Soar graveyard, where his remains rest, was given by Mr Charles Jones JP Aberavon.

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