History and Heritage

The First World War

Like every community, the congregation of the English Con, Ystalyfera, lost several young men to the fighting of the First World War. Most of these communities were moved to create memorials to their fallen fellows who had made the ultimate sacrifice. The items below record how the English Con reached the decision to purchase a memorial, and the ceremony to unveil it once it was in place. Also, below, is a sketch of the English Con's pastor, Rev. R.G. James and the part he played in a different role during the Great War.

The surviving Minute Book of the English Congregational Chuch, Ystalyfera was begun on 1st July 1917. On page 20 it is recorded:-

Chairman gave 2 estimates (obtained from Swansea) of memorial tablets

On page 22 was recorded the decision to purchase a marble memorial to the fallen of the First World War:-

Discuss ways and means of raising funds towards erecting a memorial to the boys who have fallen during the war. 6 ladies and 6 gentlemen, reduced to 3 and 3 to arrange, ie _
Mrs Harry
Mrs G Edwards
Mrs Green
Mr Bell
Mr J Martin
Mr W Thomas
Proposed: A Marble Tablet, by James Martin Junior

The Labour Voice from 23rd November 1918 records a memorial service in thanksgiving for the end of the war.

An impressive thanksgiving and memorial service took place at the English Congregational Church, when the building was filled to overflowing. The local troops of Boy Scouts, soldiers and sailors on leave or discharged, and the relatives of the men who had fallen, all attended together with the Ystalyfera choir under the conductorship of Mr. Jack James. Mr. Hedges presided at the organ. The pulpit was draped with the Union Jack. The service was opened by the singing of the hymn "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," after which Mr. Rd. C. Williams (pastor) offered a short prayer. The congregation afterwards united in singing the hymn "All people that on earth do dwell," and the lesson was subsequently read. The choir at this stage gave an effective rendering of "How lovely are the messengers." Mr. Richard Williams announced before his address that six lads from the church had paid the supreme sacrifice, and read the names out as follows, the congregation standing:

Private T Henwood; Private Harold King; Corporal George Faulkner; Private Lewis Baker; Gunner Albert Lloyd and Driver Harold Martin.

Scout Will Coleman sounded the "Last Post" Mr. Williams preached an inspiring sermon and referred to the great work done and the great ideals aimed for in the war. The hymns "Our God, our help in ages past," and "Peace, perfect peace," were afterwards sung, and the singing of the National Anthem concluded an impressive service.

The Labour Voice from Saturday February 14th 1920 records what happened at the service.

On Sunday afternoon next at 2:30, an unveiling ceremony will be held at the English Congregational Church, when the tablet erected to the memory of fallen heroes from the church will be unveiled by Mrs Caleb Thomas. Rev. R.G. James, late pastor of the church, will deliver an address, and the 'Last Post' will be sounded by buglers of the local troop of Boy Scouts. Relatives and friends and discharged men are cordially invited to attend. At the evening service at 6.30 the Rev R.G. James will preach the memorial sermon.

The Labour Voice from 7th February 1920 records the unveiling of the memorial to the members of the congregation killed in the Great War

To the Glorious Dead
Memorial Tablet Unveiled at the English Congregational Church, Ystalyfera

A very impressive service took place at the English Congregational Church Ystalyfera, on Sunday last, when a fine white marble memorial tablet, erected to the memory of six young men of the Church who had laid down their lives for their country during the war, was unveiled. The afternoon service was given to the unveiling and in the evening the Rev. R.G. James, of Swansea, former pastor of the church, preached the memorial sermon.

A large number of discharged men attended to pay tribute to the memory of their dead comrades, and the members of the 1st, 6th and 8th Swansea Valley Troop of Boy Scouts paraded under Scoutmasters John Davies, J. Phillips, and Reggie Thomas.

Appropriate hymns were sung at the afternoon meeting, and after the reading of a chapter, and a fervent prayer, the Rev. R.G. James called upon Mrs Caleb Thomas., one of the oldest members of the church, and one of its founders, to unveil the tablet. The congregation stood in silence when the 'Last Post' was sounded by Staff-Sergt F.G. Channing, Corpl. Jimmy Martin, and Scouts Harold Coleman, Eddie Evans to the muffled roll of the drums. When the last bugle had died away, the 'Hallelujah Chorus' was played on the organ by Miss Phyllis Jones. Mr James then spoke of each of the dead young men who had gone willingly in a great cause, and who had sacrificed their all.

The Tablet was as follows:-

Erected to the memory of the Glorious Dead of this Church, who fell in the European War, 1914-1919.

Corpl. Walter George Faulkner
Corpl Albert Victory Lloyd
Driver Lewis Westcott Baker
Driver Harold Martin
Pte. William Thomas Henwood
Pte Harold Idris King

'Greater Love hath no man than this.'

At the memorial service in the evening, Mr James took as his text a portion of the 26th verse in the 1st chapter of Genesis :- 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.' He interpreted the verse as being the message of the men who had died, they been able to speak in the flesh.

The last five years, he said, the period of war, could be likened to the darkness that was on the face of the earth at the beginning of all things. It was like the darkness that prevailed before the spirit of God 'moved' or 'brooded' over the earth. The spirit of their dad lads 'brooded' over them that night, and was with them even in that edifice, and if they could speak they would call upon...

View the newspaper article scan of the article about the unveiling ceremony in February 1920.

The Labour Voice from 18th September 1920 recorded the actions of Pastor R.G. James of the English Congregational Church, Ystalyfera, during the First World War:-

The 'South Wales News' of Wednesday contains the following character sketch of the Rev. RG James, late pastor of the English Congregational Church :-

A gifted preacher, of broad sympathies and wide interests, with a decided bent for organisation, the committee of the Swansea YMCA made no rash experiment when they appointed the Rev. RG James as their secretary. Mr James' first and only pastorate was at the English Congregational Church, Ystalyfera, where, after eight years' ministry he raised a practically derelict church with a congregation of less than 50 to a membership of 450. He took an active part in sport, and was a member of the Ystalyfera Association Football Club Committee.

In May 1916, his abilities were tested when he undertook the duties of organising secretary for Wales for the British and Foreign Sailors' Society in difficult times, but he 'filled the bill' in providing for the comfort of torpedoed and ship-wrecked crews and the national well-being of the families of sailors who lost their lives at sea. It was he who succoured the survivors of the torpedoed hospital ship Rewa when they were brought into the port of Swansea, having lost everything, even their clothing. For his Samaritan services Mr James received letters of gratitude from the commander of the naval base at Swansea and from the Fleet Surgeon of the Rewa, while the Docksmen of Swansea presented him with a well-filled wallet of Treasury notes, an illuminated address and a gold watch on taking up his present post.

The Llais of 30th September 1916 recorded a visit that Rev RG James made to the church, after his departure:-

The Rev R G James, late pastor of the English Congregational Church, paid a visit to Ystalyfera during the week end, and his many friends were pleased to see him. He has quite settled down to his new work. It will be remembered that Mr James relinquished the pulpit at the English Congregational to carry on work in connection with the Sailors' Association. Mr James will officiate at the special services to be held in connection with his old church in October.

The Fallen of the English Congregational Church in World War One was a speech given in 1935 by John Bell, for 28 years Treasurer of the English Congregational Church.

After the demolition of the English Congregational Church, the marble memorial to the fallen of the First World War is now housed in the Royal British Legion, Ystalyfera.

The fallen of the English Congregational Church at Ystradgynlais Wargraves.

The South Wales Voice newspaper for 28th April 1951 includes an obituary of the Rev. James' wife, Annie, and in so doing outlines the minister's later career which saw him enter the Anglican church, instead of the English Congregational.


We deeply regret to record the death which occurred at her home on Easter Monday of Mrs Annie James, wife of Rev R G James vicar of Pontyates. She was 73. Mr James was Minister at the English Congregational Church Ystalyfera from 1908-1915, he then took a position as secretary of the Swansea Sailors Society, later becoming secretary of the YMCA.
After some years he entered the church and was given the curacy of Llanbadarn Fawr Aberystwyth eventually becoming Vicar of Pontyates.
Both Mr and Mrs James were very popular throughout the district during the years they spent at Ystalyfera and both enjoyed the friendships of a large circle, we join with these friends in expressing deep sympathy with Mr James in his great bereavement.
Mrs James had always taken an active part in religious and social work and was closely associated with many charitable causes.
The funeral took place on 30th of April at St Mary's Church Pontyates. A large number of sympathisers from a wide area attended; the Archdeacon of Carmarthen, Venerable J Prichard Pugh took the committal and other clergy who officiated were the Rural Dean Cannon D J Harries Felinfoel and Rev John Williams Vicar of Llangendeirne and John Williams Vicar of Brynamman. There were a number of mourners and a detachment of police attended, in charge of Inspector Price Tumble.
Rev R G James is a member of the Carmarthenshire County Council and votes of condolence were passed at meetings of the administrative bodies in the county.

Contact Ystalyfera History
Telephone : Available on Request

Email Yeargroup:
Email Wolfian Design:
How To Write Alternate History

Click the cover to purchase the paperback

How To Write Alternate History is a series of articles by Grey Wolf, examining subjects such as the identity of man, whether man makes the weather, how the everyday in an alternate world is going to be changed and what names for music, vehicles, weapons etc would be different.

  Penybont Sports Bar and Lounge

Penybont Sports Bar and Lounge