From "CHURCHES AND CHAPELS" by M.A.V.Gill
This chapter will be dealing with
local churches and chapels principally as buildings; but a church
or chapel is more than an empty shell – it is a congregation
of people who gather together in common worship, whether in prayer,
praise and thanksgiving or in listening to the Word of God preached
from the pulpit. At the beginning of the twenty-first century throughout
the country many are in decline with waning numbers and ageing congregations.
A hundred years ago the situation was very different: churches and
chapels were all well attended, and each played an important role
in the life of its community. J.W. Hobbs, reminiscing of his years
as station booking clerk at Three Cocks (1902-1905), wrote that
there were good congregations at St. Peter’s church, “chiefly
the gentry, retired people, visitors at the Hotel, and some of the
large farmers. Most of the working classes were chapel, except those
employed at Gwernyfed or Tregoed. The strongest chapel was the Baptist
at Glasbury, which was always full on Sunday nights, and often packed.
Baptisms used to take place about once a year in the River Wye,
which runs alongside the chapel. The chapel was the chief source
of social entertainment. During the winter months was held what
was called a Christian Union. The two Glasbury chapels and Felindre
combined and held two entertainments in each chapel every winter.
These always had to be arranged for the week of the full moon, so
as to have moonlight on the way home. Our Three Cocks choir and
band used to attend frequently. The chapel anniversaries were great
events, both children and adults would take part and there were
recitations and dialogues, solos, duets and quartettes. There were
also frequent tea parties, lectures, Christian Endeavour and Prayer
meetings, and concerts, but only on rare occasions were outside
artistes engaged; we made our own amusements. Sometimes we would
go farther afield, to Penrhoel or Maesyronen chapels or All Saints
church, always on foot. We were not afraid of walking in those days;”
ABERLLYNFI CHURCH: ST. EIGAN
to the ancient church of Aberllynfi are few. Even the dedication
is problematic. In the late 1690s, Edward Lhwyd (keeper of Oxford
museum) carried out a survey of Welsh parishes, making several extensive
expeditions on foot and sending out several hundred questionnaires.
According to this survey, the church was dedicated to a mysterious
Gorgonius otherwise St. Eigan. It has been suggested that after
the Norman Conquest, Bernard de Newmarch may have attempted to conciliate
the Welsh by restoring Aberllynfi to Bleddyn ap Maenarch’s
eldest son Gwrgan. If the latter were responsible for the building
of a church, it might have been named after him, in accordance with
Welsh custom. However, the reference to St. Eigan implies an earlier
Celtic foundation, associated perhaps with the patron saint of Llanigon
who according to one account was the brother of St. Cynidr. Whatever
the circumstances of its foundation, Aberllynfi was an independent
ecclesiastical parish. When Pope Nicholas IV granted a tithe of
the Church emoluments to Edward I in 1288 for six years towards
the financing of his crusade to the Holy Land, the chapelry was
mentioned in the taxation assessment, separately from and at a quarter
of the value of neighbouring Glasbury.
Occasional entries in the earliest Glasbury registers
record a marriage or burial at Aberllynfi, the latest being 18th
May 1717, when “Clement Williams of ye p(ar)ish of Aberllyfni
was bur(ie)d in yt. Church”. Charles Pritchard of Pipton,
described in Lhwyd’s survey as “an old serv(an)t yt
formerly belong’d to Gwernyfed”, was buried at Aberllynfi
on 11th February 1698/9 “aged 114, as common fame reports”.
Under the terms of Sir David Williams will dated 15th January 1612,
the tithes of Gwenddwr were to be employed for various charitable
purposes, among which he specified: “Item I will & demise
that theare shalbe a sermon preched every Trinity Sunday for ever
att Aberllyvny for the wch the preacher shall have for his paynes
Xs & that day there shall be ever disposed in breade amongst
the poore of thatt parish of Aberllyvny & Velyndre XXXs ”.
There is evidence that the sermon was preached at Aberllynfi by
the Vicar of Glasbury as late as 1739. After this the records are
silent, and the church seems to have fallen into disuse, a topographical
dictionary of 1811 noting that it had “been in ruins for the
last sixty years”. According to an oral tradition reported
at the beginning of last century, this came about because of a duel
that took place one Sunday between two claimants of a neighbouring
estate. One of the combatants being slain within the church, it
was never again used for divine service.
Overgrown with hawthorn and ash, the site of the
church is still visible. Amid the rubble, the stones of the lower
courses preserve the outline of the rectangular nave with its south
entrance and slightly narrower chancel (though at some date the
walls have been rebuilt to form a sheep pen). But nothing now remains
of the sepulchral monuments that once graced its interior. The most
impressive of these was probably that of Sir Henry Williams of Gwernyfed,
of which a sketch exists in one of Edward Lhwyd’s notebooks.
By the time Theophilus Jones was writing his History of Brecknock
at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the church was in ruins,
having fallen into decay around the middle of the previous century.
He noted that among the mutilated monuments of the Williams’
family was the “effigy of a person in judicial robes, but
lacking the head”. Nearby was an octagonal stone font, bearing
which was probably the gift of Sir Henry Williams
and his wife Eleanor. For many years it served as a flower container
near the entrance to Great House Farm before being moved to St.
Peter’s churchyard in the 1880s, where it stood on a pedestal
in the angle at the northwest corner of the church. Later it displaced
the nineteenth century font inside the building. A further relic
from the church now preserved in St.Peter’s comprises a fifteenth
century carved oak crown of thorns with the sacred monogram IHS.
An enigmatic inscription on the back of the roundel reads “FROM
ABERLLYNFI CHURCH VELINDRE CHAPEL”.
Source : -- "A
Chapter on the Churches and Chapels in the Parish of Glasbury "
by M.A.V. Gill