History and Heritage

The construction of Saint David's Church, Ystalyfera

From The Cambrian newspaper of the 9th August 1889 comes the following description of the construction of Saint David's Church, Ystalyfera.


Ystalyfera, on Thursday (yesterday), presented a more stirring scene than has been witnessed in that mountainous region for some time, the occasion being the laying of the foundation stone of St. David's Church by Mrs Gough, of Yniscedwyn House. The site, which was given by Mr Gough, is in the hollow of a picturesque spot on the banks of the river near the Railway Station. The weather being most favourable, there was a large and influential assemblage, whilst the roads leading to the place, as well as the site itself, were spanned with flags presenting quite a gay appearance.

The plan of this church consists of a nave, transept organ chamber and vestry, and chancel, and will be built of native stone, with Bath stone dressings, with a small tower and spire. The style of building will be of the early English period, and every care has been taken to make a picturesque and convenient church for this mountainous district. The church has been designed by Mr J Buckley Wilson, F.R.I.B.A., and the builder is Mr David Rees, of Ystalyfera. There will be accommodation for 350 seats, and the cost will be about £5 per sitting.

At 12 30, a procession was formed, headed by the choir, consisting of the clergy, robed, the building committee, architect and the leading residents, all joining in the processional hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers, &c."

The order of service was read by the Rev. Canon Walters, assisted by the Vicar, the Rev. D Jones, and the Rev. Mr Davies, the Archdeacon pronouncing the usual blessing of the stone, which was gracefully laid by Mrs Gough in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The ebony mallet and the silver trowel used for the occasion were presented to Mrs Gough by Mr James B Wilson, the architect, bearing a suitable inscription, and supplied by Mr Williams, jeweller, Castle Street, Swansea.

The sealed bottle, placed in the cavity of the stone, contained several silver coins, a copy of The Cambrian, Western Mail and the Llan newspapers.

At the close of the service, Archdeacon James, of Carmarthen said he felt it a great privilege to take a humble part in the proceedings of the day. It was an occasion the district, not merely to the inhabitants of the district, but to all who desired to see the work of extension going on. He desired, in his official character, to thank Mrs Gough for the part she had taken in connection with the church, and the graceful and workmanlike manner in which she had laid its foundation. He could not pass on without acknowledging the debt of gratitude they owed to Dr Thomas of Ystalyfera, as chairman of the committee. Since his (the Archdeacon's) first visit to Ystalyfera in 1868, the first instalment of the work of church extension had been carried out, and this was now the second church built there under the new extension scheme; four permanent buildings had been already erected in the Archdeaconry, but that was the first foundation stone laid in this immediate neighbourhood. He trusted that it was by no means the last. There had never been a period of such activity within the Church's history as the present, and the activity was the honest sign of Church progress. They were making formidable impressions, not only on those who had been neutral in matters of religion, but even amongst those who had been in the hostile camp. The Archdeacon concluded by referring to the late choral festival at Swansea, which was attended by hundreds; and wherever he turned, the Church was exhibiting marked progress.

The Archdeacon of Llandaff said that among those who had been driven away (for that was the proper word) from the Church, a hankering after the old institution was asserting itself. He considered that there were three essentials to true Christianity, and they were true faith, the fear of God, and true brotherly love. On those essentials, the Rev gentleman enlarged, and enforced with his usual fervour and eloquence.

The Rev. Canon Walters next addressed them in English and Welsh, with much spirit. He said that some years ago, there were no churches in the Swansea Valley, and now there were three at Pontardawe and one at Clydach, one at Ystalyfera, and one now being built in the first named place. Of the five churches which had been recommended by the Commission Committee, of which he was one of the secretaries, four were already erected, and this would be the fifth, whilst they were commencing a sixth at Morriston. Having enlarged on the good work that was going on, the service concluded, by singing a Welsh hymn.

Amongst the clergy present were: The Archdeacon of ................................


The luncheon, after the service, was attended by above 150 ladies and gentlemen. It was given by Mr Gough, who presided, and was supplied by Mr Morgan, of the New Swan, and was on a sumptuous scale. The various toasts were given and responded to by the Archdeacons of Carmarthen and Llandaff, Mr, H N Miers, Dr Walters, Mr Hodgson, Rev. D Jones, and Mr Daniel Williams, the Curate in charge, who deserves every praise for the admirable arrangements of the day. In response to a toast of his health, which was very warmly responded to, Mr Gough acknowledged, in graceful terms, the gift of the committee to Mrs Gough, and, after wishing God speed to the work so auspiciously begun that day, the proceedings terminated with a large tea in the evening.

From The Cambrian newspaper of 26th June 1891 :-


Yesterday (Thursday) morning the new church of St. David's, Ystalyfera, was consecrated for divine service by the Lord Bishop of St. David's. The new church has been used for service by special license since the beginning of last November. It is pleasantly situated near the Midland Station. The architects have taken into consideration the surrounding rugged, mountainous scenery, and have been most successful in designing a church which is of a simple, and at the same time artistic character. It is one of the most handsome and massive in the district, and the general effect, inside and out, is extremely pretty.

The nave is 60ft. long by 30ft. wide. The chancel, with choir stalls, is 23ft. with a transept on the south side, and a vestry and organ chamber on the north side; on the north there is a tower, circular at the bottom, running into an octagon and terminating with a sharp pitched roof. The exterior walling is of native stone, with Bath stone dressings, and Bath stone windows: the roofs are covered with Carnarvon slates. Accommodation is provided for 350 sittings, and the cost for erecting the whole church complete has been a little more than £5 per sitting, or a total of £2,100. The work throughout has been carried out in a good and substantial manner. Mr David Rees, of Ystalyfera, was the contractor, and the work has been done under the superintendence, and from the design of Messrs J Buckley Wilson, F.R.I.B.A., and Glendenning Moxham, M.S.A., architects, of Swansea. The carvings were chastely done by M. Wall, of Newport. The ground for the church was given by Mr Fleming Gough, of Yniscedwyn. The altar cloth was given by Mrs Gough, and the church bell by Mr Gilbertson. The church was filled with an attentive congregation, and the interesting ceremony of consecration having been gone through, His Lordship preached the sermon. He took his text from St. Luke, 13 chapter, 18 to 21 verses:.............


A sumptuous luncheon, provided by Mr Fleming Gough, had been prepared in a large marquee on the field adjoing the church. A large number sat down, Mr Fleming Gough presiding. There were present the Lord Bishop, Archdeacon James (Carmarthen), Rev Canon Smith (Swansea), Mrs Gough (Yniscedwyn House), Mr and Mrs and Mr R. Lloyd Kilybebill: Mr H N Miers, Ynispenllwch Captain Williams, Talgarth; Mr and Mrs C H Peel, Yisdarw House; Mr and Mrs F Player, Ystalyfera Mr and Mrs E Benshall, J P., Glantwrch Mr and Mrs D Thomas. J.P., M.D., Ystalyfera; Mr and Mrs T Evans, Ystalyfera; Mrs Charles, Pembroke; Mr Buckley Wilson, F.R.I.B.A, Mrs Capt. Evans, Mrs F C and the Misses Hoare, Mr and Mrs Williams, Woodlands, Mr Thomas, Bank; Mrs D H and the Misses Lewis, Mr and Mrs Branfell, Maes-y-ddrew; Mrs David Evans, Mr and Mrs H Arnold, Mr and Mrs Gower, Mr and Mrs Hutchinson, Mr and Mrs Reynolds, Mr H P Davies, &c., including the following ministers; -Rev. D L Williams, B.A. (curate of Ystalyfera) Rev. T E Davies, M.A. (curate of Pontardawe) Rev. John Thomas, B.A. (curate of Ystalyfera) Rev. Watcyn Morgan (vicar of Llangyfelach) Rev. Lewis Jones (Cadoxton), Rev. Owen Jones, M.A., (curate, Cadoxton) Rev. Albert Jordon, M.A. (Gowerton); Rev. - Hughes (Calltwen) Rev. J M Jones (Brynamman) Rev. Wm. Evans (St. Thomas, Swansea) Rev. J Davies (Cwmamman) Rev. Stephen Davys (St. John's, Swansea) Rev. John Evans (Clydach) Rev. G Roberts (Morriston) Rev. Thomas Jones (Clydach).

Full justice having been done to the many good things provided. The Chairman submitted the toast of the Bishop. He said he hoped his lordship was satisfied with what had been done in Ystalyfera, and that the new church would be a memorial of the good times that had caused it to be built. Although it was begun in bad times they could never have finished it but for the good times they had experienced. (Applause)

The Bishop, in responding, said he thanked them very heartily for their welcome that day. It had been a great satisfaction to him to come into this beautiful valley-for he would call it beautiful in spite of the veils of smoke which occasionally hid its beauty -to see and to celebrate the completion of the church and the good work which had been brought to a close. He would not say brought to a close, because he hoped and trusted that the visible work that had been done would lead, at no very distant date, to another work -the formation of an ecclesiastical parish of Ystalyfera. (Applause). In the good old times when their parishes were divided, few people lived in them, otherwise they could hardly think it desirable that the whole of this valley from the borders of Clydach which was then, he believed, part of Llangyfelach -to the borders of Breconshire, should be in the spiritual charge of the Vicar of Llanguicke. Times had very much changed m some respects since then, when the district was little better than a waste, howling wilderness. It was now important and populous, and they thought it essential for the spiritual welfare and civilization of the people that there should be an independent resident clergyman in Ystalyfera. The church was an extremely effective building, solid and substantial. He proposed the health of the Building Committee, coupled with the names of the Rev David Jones (Vicar of Llanguicke), chairman of the committee, and the Rev Dl. Williams, secretary.

Rev Dl. Williams briefly and suitably responded. Mr H N Miers submitted, "The clergy and ministers of all denominations," coupled with the names of the Archdeacon of Carmarthen and the Rev Canon Smith (Swansea), who was a noble example of church work.

Mr Player proposed the health of "Mr and Mrs Gough," to whom he referred in eulogistic terms for their generosity.

The Chairman, in responding, said the erection of the church had been a sincere pleasure to both him and Mrs Gough. It had been built in a place in which they took the most interest, and in which their interest lay. He hoped it would prove a very great convenience to the church-going people of Ystalyfera. They had still the Churchyard to provide, which he hoped to see brought about within the next two years. The catering was placed in the hands of Mr J Evans, of the Yniscedwyn Arms Hotel, Ystradgynlais, but the waiting was entrusted to Messrs Davies and Fitt, of the Grand Hotel, &c., whose efficient staff of waiters gave every satisfaction. A matter of much regret was the illness of the Rev Mr Jones, the popular Vicar of Llanguicke, who, though present at the consecration ceremony, could not attend the luncheon. The Church Building Committee is deserving of great praise for its zealous efforts. It was composed of the following gentlemen:- The Rev. Mr Jones (Vicar of Llanguicke), Mr Gough, Dr. Thomas, Rev. D Williams and Mr T W Evans (secretaries), Mr Gowen, Mr T C Arnold, Mr Newton, Mr W Williams, Mr R S Hodgson, and Rev. J Thomas.


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