The Non Conformists Chapels in the Glasbury Area
This article was prepared by M. A. V. Gill in 2005 for the "Glasbury Book" (unpublished),
It was first published with annotations in Brycheiniog Vol XVIII 2012 . The excellent artwork is also by the same local author


In a period when so many Nonconformist chapels throughout Wales are being made redundant and demolished or converted to secular use, no fewer than three in the parish of Glasbury appear in Anthony Jones’ monograph Welsh Chapels (1984), listed as buildings which should be “saved at all costs”: Maesyronen, Capel-y-ffin and Treble Hill, each representative of a different period and style of chapel building. In J.W. Hobbs’ reminiscences, he describes the Chapel Sunday school Anniversaries as great events, when children and adults would give songs and recitations: “One year a grand ‘Dialogue’ was given by the men of the Chapel. It was called ‘Noah’s Ark’ and the part of the patriarch was taken by the white haired old stationmaster, Mr. Jones. There were about a dozen men and boys taking part, but the only two names I remember were a Mr. Holder and the jovial old Precentor, Mr. James Morgan, who added a touch of humour by rushing in, getting stage fright and instead of the grandiloquent speech he should have delivered, looking blankly around and then blurting out, ‘the river has ruz, and I’m feared as most of my ships have been washed away’. I was a sinner who repented and arrived after Noah had entered the Ark (the Chapel vestry), and heard the solemn words from inside ‘Too late, too late, the door is shut, you cannot enter now!’”.


Maesyronen is apparently the earliest surviving purpose-built chapel in Wales, and was probably constructed in 1696. The new meetinghouse was registered at the general quarter session held at Presteigne on 13th April 1697, and a certificate was issued stating, that the “new house in Maesyronnen upon the lande of Charles Lloyd Esqr. in the p(ar)ish of Glasbury in this County” was licensed, allowed and approved of “to be a place of publick meeting for Religious worship for any Protestant Teacher or Preacher Dissenting from ye Church of England to Teach or Preach in, being licenced and authorized so to do, according to the true Intent and meaning of a late Act of Parliam(en)t Entitled an Act for exempting their Ma(jes)tyes Protestant Subjects dissenting from the Church of England from the penaltyes of certain Laws”. In his will dated 27th March 1714, Lewis Lloyd of Maesllwch stated that “a Church or Meeting Place for the worship of God by Protestants Dissenters” had been erected on his lands at Maesyronen, and he gave and devised the same “to be made use of for that purpose so long as Liberty for Protestants Dissenters should continue”. Through his wife Theodosia (daughter and executrix of Lewis Lloyd, who died in 1717), Sir Humphrey Howarth became the legal owner of the meetinghouse and the land on which it stood, also of the “little house and garden near or thereto adjoining”, which was “made use of as Stable and otherwise for the benefitt and better accomodating the said Congregation”. By Indentures of lease and release dated 1st and 2nd April 1720 between Sir Humphrey and the trustees, the terms of the will were confirmed, the trustees of the meetinghouse paying a yearly rent of 20 shillings for the use of the little house and garden. Way leave of 13p (formerly 2/6d) is still paid annually to the Maesllwch Estate.

After the restoration of the monarchy and before the Act of Toleration of 1689 allowed freedom of worship, Dissenters had held clandestine meetings in the houses of sympathisers, in barns or in secluded hollows away from prying eyes, often at night. Following the founding of the Baptist church at the Hay around 1650, it is thought that Independents of the Llanigon congregation separated into three branches, one meeting in “Y-Beudy” (the cowshed) at Maesyronen, where Oliver Cromwell is said to have attended at least one service. Y-Beudy may have stood on the site of the later chapel, although some historians have suggested it was located in a nearby meadow. In Elizabethan times, a medieval wooden building had been replaced with a stone house (later substantially rebuilt); from this house a doorway led into the adjoining area (probably a barn or cowshed) now occupied by the chapel. This annexe was dismantled to make way for the chapel. As there was no precedent for chapel architecture, the local builders constructed a simple, barn-like room in which to listen to the Word of God read from the Scriptures or preached in sermons from the lofty pulpit.

In 1715 Dr. John Evans compiled a list of Nonconformist churches with the “Number of Hearers” for each. Maesyronen is credited with two hundred and fifty “hearers”. These would have congregated from several parishes; nevertheless the estimate seems overly optimistic! Thirty years later and referring only to Glasbury, the Rev. John Williams wrote: “I think there are near 100 small Families in this Parish and four of them are giddy-headed People which go sometimes to Church, sometimes to the Presbiterian meeting and sometimes... after ye Methodists... There is a Presbiterian Meeting-house in ye Parish which was built about 40 years ago by some people of fortune in this and the neighbouring Parishes and as they dyed their numbers decreased considerably and are now reduced to very few. Their Preacher which had been among them for above 30 years dyed about 3 years ago and they have not been able to agree among themselves for another ever since and are now some Sundays without a Preacher”. This was not the beginning of the end; temporary difficulties overcome, two and a half centuries later Maesyronen is still a meetinghouse. The intervening period was not without problems; some such were experienced by the Rev. David Jones. Pastor of Maesyronen for fifty years (1796-1846), he died on 26th September 1849 at the age of 83, and a tablet was placed on the north wall of the chapel in his memory. His epitaph leaves the reader curious as to what adversities he had faced and overcome: “HE BEGAN EARLY, CONTINUED LATE; AND / MET WITH STORMS AND ENEMIES OF THE / MOST MALIGNANT KIND. / HE STOOD FIRM HIS GROUND AND DID CRY / HALLELUJAH”!


Some historians have claimed a different origin for Maesyronen, as “an offshoot of an Independent chapel which once existed at Pipton (Mr. Price’s)”. It is said that around the year 1640 members of this chapel determined to separate, one part going to Brecon and the other to Maesyronen. In the 1930s the remains of the chapel could “still be traced on the banks of the Llynfi just below the house” (which seems to point to the same site as that claimed for Pipton’s medieval chapel!). Another local tradition asserts that the chapel was near Three Cocks Station.

Source : -- "A Chapter on the Churches and Chapels in the Parish of Glasbury " by M.A.V. Gill