Ystradgynlais & District

History and Heritage

Calfaria Chapel, Ystradgynlais

Calfaria was a Welsh baptist chapel in Station Road, Ystradgynlais, constructed in 1913 but closed in 2014 when the premises were purchased by Roger Castle & Daughter Funeral Directors. Calfaria is the Welsh word for 'Calvary'

Looking along Station Road, from the town, towards where the road turns and begins to go up the hill towards where the station used to be.

Calfaria Chapel is just off the right hand side of the road, not far from the shops in Station Road, and used to be adjacent to a large bakery behind it.

The front of Calfaria Chapel has an enclosing wall, with waist-high gates, and a forecourt beyond.

The ornamental trees and shrubs provide part of the garden along the right-hand side of the chapel.

A view from the side of Calfaria Chapel

This view from the rear is taken from the area where a large bakery used to be located.

From the public highway, it is possible to get views of Calfaria Chapel from 3 directions: front, right hand side, and rear.

Calfaria in The Llais

The Llais newspaper had always included a round-up of happenings at local churches and chapels, even when these were not part of any particular story. Sometimes they advertised forthcoming events, and at other times who was preaching, or had preached there recently.

The Labour Voice newspaper of 18th January 1919 reports on a visiting preacher at Calfaria:-

On Sunday last Mr Roland Thomas, M.A., Brecon, preached at special services at Calfaria Chapel. On Monday evening he gave a lecture on "Dr. Price", when Mr Charles Edwards presided.

The Labour Voice newspaper, April 1st 1922 reports on a blind preacher, named as Mr Davies preaching at Calfaria. It would seem that the - before his name was intended to be filled by an initial or first name, but that they never found out what it was. Also, "despite" is spelt in a curious way.

LOCAL PULPITS - Mr - Davies of Clydach Vale, a blind preacher, preached to large and appreciative audiences at Calfaria Chapel on Sunday. Dispite this handicap, Mr Davies is a powerful and effective preacher.

The Labour Voice newspaper, March 3rd 1923 reports on Calfaria's United Juvenile Choir:-

The Calfaria United Juvenile Choir under the baton of Mr Martin L. Cowling, are busily rehearsing the cantata "The Festival of the Flowers", performances of which will be given on the 28th, 29th and 30th of this month. A feast of song is promised.

From the Labour Voice newspaper, November 3rd 1923 includes three articles on Calfaria Chapel, Ystradgynlais:-

An enjoyable time was spent by the members of Calfaria Chapel Mutual Improvement Society on Monday evening. Mr David Griffiths (deacon) presided, and a fine programme was gone through, to which the following contributed:- Solos, Mr Stanley Davies, Misses Eeileen Thomas and Katie Wathan. A pianoforte solo, "Springtime" was given by Miss A. Lewis, Messrs. Davies and Jones and Mrs Lewis, "Coedeirion", recited. Excellent papers were read by Mr Tom Morris and Mr J.C. Davies on "The responsibilities of a Sunday School Superintendent" and "The Mole" respectively. "Isynis" also addressed the gathering.
Mr S. Davies sang verses composed for the occasion by Mr Thomas.
The next meeting will be held on Monday week, and another excellent programme has been arranged.

Mr Daniel Jones, Beulah, Cwmtwrch, will occupy the pulpit at Calfaria next Sunday

Mr Jones, Margam, preached at Calfaria Chapel on Sunday evening, and delivered a scholarly sermon, which was greatly appreciated.

The Labour Voice newspaper, November 17th 1923 reports on the guest preacher at Calfaria:-

The Rev Ivor Jones, Briton Ferry, will preach at Calfaria Chapel on Sunday last.

In 1925, the Rev Ifor Jones would leave Salem Baptist Chapel, Briton Ferry to begin his ministry at Soar (Zoar) in Ystalyfera. His page can be viewed here - Rev. Ifor Jones

The Labour Voice newspaper, January 19th 1924 reports on a meeting of the Calfaria Chapel Young People's Society:-


Mr J Gethin Evans presided over the meeting of the Calfaria Chapel Young People's Society on Wednesday evening, and an enjoyable time was spent by the large audience present. A fine programme was gone through, as follows:- Solos: Misses Bessie Davies, Mrs W J Lewis, and Miss Mary Lewis. Recitations: Misses Irene Lewis, Ella Thomas, and Mary Lewis. Reading unpunctuated matter, Miss Agnes Lewis; short paper, Miss Annie Jane Thomas.
During the evening Mr William Jones, "Garddfa" addressed the meeting.

The Labour Voice newspaper January 26th 1924 includes news of the start of practising for Baptist festival to be held in June at Coelbren:-


The preacher at Calfaria Chapel on Sunday next will be the Rev T Davies, Resolven.

The "ysgol ganu" at Calfaria Chapel in preparation for the gumanfa of the Baptists to be held at Colbren in June, has been started, and the first one held last Sunday was a distinct success, under the baton of Mr Theophilus Jones.

The Labour Voice newspaper Saturday April 3rd 1926 reported on a meeting of all the churches in the Ystradgynlais district, held at Calfaria:-

A fully representative meeting of all the churches in Ystradgynlais district, in connection with the Swansea Hospital bazaar, was held on Monday evening at Calfaria Chapel. Rev T.G. Rees, Bethany, presided and the meeting was addressed by Mr E.R. Brown, joint bazaar secretary. The movement has met with an encouraging response locally, and the district has settled down to earnest work.
It was decided to ask each chapel and church to appoint four ladies n the committee and which is to meet at Calfaria next Monday week.
Mr Tom Williams, London House, is the local secretary.

The Labour Voice newspaper Saturday Saturday April 10th 1926 reports on a "Wireless Concert" held at the chapel:-

A happy time was spent by the members of Calfaria Chapel on Good Friday when a social and wireless concert was held. The event, which was the first of its kind, was a success, financially and otherwise. Following a well prepapred team a wireless concert was held, being received on a set belonging to Mr W Davies, Brecon Road. Various stations were heard and those present expressed appreciation of Mr Davies' generosity in loaning the set. All the ladies worked hard to ensure the success of the event.

The Labour Voice newspaper Saturday August 28th 1926 reports on renovations to the chapel:-

The fraternity of Calfaria Chapel are busily engaged in renovating the interior and exterior of the edifice. Rev B Lewis, Salem, Llangyfelach, preached at Calfaria on Sunday. Special services are to be held there on Wednesday evening and Thursday, Sept 1 and 2, when the preacher will be the Reb Morgan Jones, M.A., Whitland

The South Wales Voice newspaper for 25th February 1933 reported on the audit of Calfaria's Sunday School


At Calfaria Sunday School on Sunday, Councillor Tom Wathan, auditor, reported on the audit of the accounts for last year. He complimented the secretary, Mr David Morris, and treasurer, Mr Harry P Evans on the manner in which they had kept the books and prepared the accounts. The balance sheet was adopted.

The South Wales Voice newspaper for 28th October 1933 reported on a meeting of the Calfaria Young People's Society:-


Councillor William Thomas, Isnynys, presided at the weekly meeting of Calfaria Young People's Society on Monday evening, when an interesting miscellaneous programme, arranged by the secretary, Mr David Morris, was presented.
The following took part: pianoforte solo, Miss Myra Jones; solo, Master Jackie Edwards; solo Mr David Rees Lewis; solo, Mr Harry P Evans; mouthorgan solo, Mr William Evan Morgan; recitation, Miss Mary P. Evans; solo, Mr J. Stanley Davies; duett, Councillor Tom Wathan and Mr J. Stanley Davies. A vote of thanks to all who had taken part was proposed by Mr William Terry (Gwilym Cynlais), seconded by Mr Johnny Morris. Miss Mary Morgan presided at the piano.
Next Monday, Mr Morgan Evans, of Lower Cwmtwrch, will give an address. Mr David LL. Francis chairman of the comittee will preside.

The South Wales Voice newspaper for 4th November 1933 reported on a meeting of the Calfaria Young People's Society:-


At the weekly meeting of Calfaria Young People's Society on Monday evening, a very interesting address was given by Mr Willie Evans, Lower Cwmtwrch, on "The Bible". Mr Evans is secretary of Beulah Baptist Church, and is in great demand as a speaker at local young people's societies.
The chairman was Mr David L Francis, chairman of the committee. Thanks were accorded the speaker on the motion of the Rev W.S. Rowe, president, seconded by Councillor William Thomas, Isynys, and supported by Mr J. Gethin Evans.
A violin solo was given by Mr J. Handel Lewis, and Mr David Rees Lewis gave a solo. Miss Mary Morgan presided at the piano.

The South Wales Voice 16th December 1939 included an article on the death of an ex-treasurer of Calfaria Chapel:-

Death of Mr John Morris

A painful sensation was caused at Ystradgynlais on Friday when it became known that Mr Johnny Morris, Arfryn, Station Road, had passed away at Swansea Hospital after a short illness. Mr Morris, taken to hospital less than a fortnight ago, previously suffered from a serious abdominal complaint. He was immediately operated upon, but passed away despite the best of medical skill and attention.
Sympathy is extended to the widow, daughter, aged mother and brothers in their tragic bereavement. Deceased was 46 years of age.
Mr Morris had been a member of Calfaria Chapel all his life, and was for many years treasurer. He was also secretary of the Ystradgynlais district of the Breconshire Association of Friendly Societies. Mr Morris was keenly interested in football and served for some years on the committee of the Ystradgynlais Rugby Football Club.
There was a very large and representative gathering at the funeral which took place on Wednesday, burial being in Ystradgynlais Cemetery.
Rev. Ifor Jones, Soar, officiated, assisted by Revs Issac Morris, B.A., B.D., Tabernacle, and Jenkin Wiliams, Aberystwyth, and Mr John Thomas, Cwmtwrch.

The South Wales Voice 3rd January 1942 reported that the Rev Ifor Jones of Soar, Ystalyfera had again preached at Calfaria:-

PULPIT NEWS - The Rev. Ifor Jones, Soar, Ystalyfera, preached at Calfaria Chapel last Sunday, and conducted a celebration of Holy Communion during the evening.
The preacher next Sunday will be Mr John Erasmus Jones, Neath, a student at a ministerial college. Mr Jones is the son of Mr and Mrs Jones, formerly of Oddfellows Street.

The South Wales Voice 17th November 1945 included a note about Calfaria Chapel:-

Calfaria Chapel - The evening service at the chapel last Sunday was of a miscellaneous nature. Miss Margaret Davies read the lesson and others who took part were Miss Lallie Puntan, Mrs Nancy Jones, Mr Willie Rogers, Mr W Walters. Elocutionist, Mrs Millier (Eithinferch), Mr Caradog Jones, Ken Jones and Jackie James, string trio. The accompanist was Mrs Trevor Jones-Davies. The meeting was presided over by Mr Rees G Richards, and thanks to the artises were proposed and seconded by Mr J C Davies and Johnny Jones.

Y Sul nesaf pregethir gan Miss May Williams, Llundain

The South Wales Voice of 30th October 1948 reports on who the preacher at Calfaria would be that coming Sunday. This was a usual feature of the Llais, mentioning guest preachers.

Pulpit News - The preacher at the Calfaria Chapel next Sunday will be the Rev. J.S. Williams, Tumble.

The South Wales Voice of 20th November 1948 similarly commented on a visiting preacher:-

Pulpit News - Rev Issac E Thomas, B.A., B.D., Glanamman, will officiate at Calfaria Baptist Chapel next Sunday, services at the usual times.

The South Wales Voice for 3rd February 1951 carried information on the Calfaria Young People's Guild:-

A very interesting lecture was given on Monday to the young people, by Mr A.R. Lloyd, secretary of the Swansea Institution for the Blind.
He gave demonstrations and showed samples of the work done at the Institution. The thanks of the meeting were expressed to Mr Lloyd by Mr Idris Jones, the local representative on the Institution committee and seconded by Mr Archie Morris. Miss A.W. Lewis presided.

Ministers of Calfaria

The South Wales Voice newspaper, Saturday 29th November 1930 includes an article on the pastor of the English Cong, Ystradgynlais leaving the area, during which service the Reverend William Saunders Rowe of Calfaria took a leading part.

William Saunders Rowe was the minister at Calfaria from 1930 to 1937, though he continued to be resident in Ystradgynlais until at least 1940 according to the Baptist Handbook - he was certainly supposed to have been preaching as a guest at Bethany Church, Ystradgynlais, in 1943 but had to pull out through illness.

Prior to coming to Calfaria, he had held various pastorates in both North and South Wales from 1916. He was educated at Bangor Baptist College. His home church on entering college was Fishguard. His ministries were:- Ruthin 1916-18; Carrod and Glyndyfrdwy 1918-22; Bethania, Porth 1922-25; Bwlchnewydd and Bethel, Laugharne (also refered to as Plashed) 1925-30.


There was a large audience at the farewell meeting of the Reverend and Mrs D T Evans, English Cong Church, Ystradgynlais, on their departure to Markham Holly Bush, Newport, Monmouthshire. The Reverend Melville Phillips, Ystalyfera, presided and the meeting was opened by the recicitation of the 120st Psalm by Miss Brenda Stephens. Recicitations were also given by Miss Laura Rees, and Mrs Nancy Evans.
The devotional part was taken by the Reverend W S Rowe, Calfaria.


Reverend D J Moses, BA, Sardis, said the departure of Mr Evans would be a loss to the place and also to the Welsh churches, for Mr Evans had always been ready to help them. Others who spoke were Reverends Aman Jones, Ystalyfera; Sol. W James, Ystradgynlais; E T Evans, BA, Ystalyfera; and W S Rowe, Calfaria.
Verses composed for the occasional were read by Mr Howell Powell, Cwmgiedd.
Mr Idris Morris presided at the organ.

The South Wales Voice newspaper for Saturday 13th July 1935 reported on the death of the sister of the Rev W S Rowe of Calfaria Chapel:-

Local Pastor's Bereavement

At the quarterly meeting of the Ystalyfera District Baptists at Nantyffin on Wednesday evening of last week, a vote of sympathy was passed for the Rev W S Rowe Calfaria in his bereavement, he having lost his sister.

The Voice newspaper, 14th April 1966 reported on the death of Reverend H Spencer Morgan, Minister of Bethania Baptist Chapel, Crynant, and Calfaria Chapel, Ystradgynlais:-


The death of Reverend H Spencer Morgan, Minister of Bethania Baptist Chapel, Crynant, and Calfaria Chapel, Ystradgynlais, occurred suddenly at his home, "Y Gorlan", School Road, Crynant.
Mr Morgan who was 64 years of age was educated at Pagefield College, Carmarthen, and the Baptist College, Bangor. He was ordained at Calfaria Chapel, Gilfachgoch, in July 1929 where he ministered for 19 years, married, and raised his family.
In September 1948 they left this country and settled in Sidney, Australia, where Mr Morgan became minister of Petersham and Sutherland Baptist Chapels for 4 years. He started a Sunday school at nearby "Gymea" which became the nucleus of a new church later.


Mr Morgan worked with great vigour and preached with his usual "Welsh Hwyl". He was not happy with the English language and longed to return to Wales to preach in his mother tongue.
"Hiraeth" for the "Old Country" prevented his settling in Australia for more than 4 years.
The family returned to Wales, where Mr Morgan received a call to minister at Bethania, Crynant, where his father, the Rev John Morgan, was the first minister, and Calfaria, Ystradgynlais, where he preached with a richness of experience and fervour, never sparing himself in any form of ministerial work.


The Reverend Spencer Morgan will be greatly missed, but "earth's loss is Heaven's gain".
He was an unassuming, shy man by nature, disliked the limelight, and was always happy to serve cheerfully in the background.
His talent as a preacher is known in all the churches he visited. His conviction was profound and truly he lived for the "cause" he loved so well, and for the work of the Lord.
Mr Morgan preached at a memorial service and administered his final communion at Calfaria, Ystradgynlais.
His memorial will be that the churches should "be strong in the Lord and in the power of his Might and having done all to stand firmly in the Faith"
Mr Morgan is survived by his wife, a son, and a daughter.

The Voice of April 21st 1966 reported on the funeral of the Rev H Spencer Morgan:-


The funeral of the Reverend H Morgan of Calfaria Chapel, Ystradgynlais and Bethania Crynant, whose death at the age of 64 was reported in last week's Voice, took place at Crynant.
The large attendance of ministers was testimony to the esteem in which Mr Morgan was held.
Officiating minister was the Rev J D Thomas, and he was supported by the Reverend Emlyn Evans, Hubert Davies, Alun Davies, G T Matthews, R G Thomas, T S Roberts, Ellis Jones, W T Lloyd Williams, D J Davies, Idris Williams, and T Inwood Jenkins.
Mr Martin L Cowling spoke on behalf of Calfaria Chapel.

People of Calfaria Chapel

In this section, we aim to give snapshots of some of the people who made an important contribution to Calfaria Chapel in the century or so that it was open. Whilst the section from the Llais above mentions many people, this section will include those about whom we have more complete details.

Theophilus Jones

Theophilus Jones was a senior deacon of Calfaria Chapel, Ystradgynlais as well as being Precentor there. By trade he was a Draper and Insurance Agent, and had been born in the town on 25th March 1867. He died aged 78 on 27th November 1945 and was buried on the 1st December 1945 in Gorof Cemetery. His burial is recorded in the South Wales Voice 8th December 1945:-

The burial took place on Saturday last at Gorof Cemetery of Mr Theophilus Jones Fron Haul Brecon Road. The funeral was private and mourners were: Mr Martin Luther Cowling son in law; Mr Lemuel Morgan brother in law; Messrs A Davies, William Morgan, J Morgan, Theo Morgan, D J Jenkins, T Jones, J Jones, D B Jones, B Evans, D Evans, J Evans, William Davies, J Williams, David Thomas, D J Bevan, W Davies, G Davies, T Grabham, T Frances nephews.
Mourners at the house: Mrs Martin Luther Cowling daughter; Mrs J Williams, niece.

Anne Jones

Anne Jones was the husband of Theophilus Jones, and was born in Ystradgynlais in 1861. She was a Sunday School teacher at Calfaria Chapel, as well as labouring in many other ways for the church. At the time of her death aged 73 in 17th July 1932, she was the oldest member of the congregation (being a few years older than her husband). She was buried on the 21st July 1932 in Gorof Cemetery. A memorial service to her is recorded in the South Wales Voice 30th July 1932:-

On Sunday evening last a memorial service was held at Calfaria Chapel to Mrs Anne Jones, wife of Mr Theophilus Jones senior deacon and precentor. Mrs Jones was 74 years of age and the oldest member of the chapel where she laboured for many years, particularly in the Sunday school.

Theophilus and Anne Jones had one daughter, Phebe [sic] who was born in Ystradgynlais on 23rd April 1892. She married Martin Luther Cowling (born 14th September 1893), who was a Shopkeeper, Draper and Outfitter. She died 9th December 1979 aged 87 and was buried in Gorof Cemetery on 12th December 1979. Martin Luther Cowling died aged 89 pm 25th February 1983 at Singleton Hospital and was cremated at Morriston Crematorium, 1st March 1983. Phebe and Martin Cowling had a daughter, Pheobe [sic] Cowling, who in 1958 married David Benjamin Alcwyn Davies.

The Jones and Cowling grave in Gorof Cemetery, Ystradgynlais.



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