Ystradgynlais & District

History and Heritage

Coelbren Chapel

Coelbren Church is a Church in Wales chapel in the village of Coebren, up the hill from Abercrave on the road to Glynneath. Inside are war memorials to the fallen of Coelbren.

The Llais Llafur of 30th May 1914 records the extension of Coelbren Church :-


Tuesday last was a notable day in the history of Colbren Church, for it marked the reopening of this edifice after important structural alterations and extensions. The work which has been in hand for several months, was designed by Mr J Cook Rees, of Neath, and has been carried out by Mr Henry Smith, contractor, of Kidderminster. The alteration has resulted in an increase in the seating accommodation from 105 to 180, and has cost roughly £600.
The reopening ceremony was performed by the Lord Bishop of St. David's, Dr Owen, who also attended a luncheon in the schoolroom, prior to the ceremony, the caterers being Mr Shopland, of Prices' Arms. Mr J B G Price presided at the luncheon, and supporting him in addition to the Bishop were Mr and Mrs J E Moore-Gwyn, Dyffryn; Mr and Mrs C F Gilbertson, Abercrave House; Mrs Gough, Yniscedwyn House; Mrs Jenkin G Hughes, Abercrave; Mr Howell Price, Ongar, Essex, and a large number of local clergy including the Revs J G Hughes, Abercrave; D Hughes, Callwen; Ogwen Davies, Cray; J Davies, Rural Dean, Devynock; J. Jones, and J. H. Harris, Ystradgynlais; and J. Secundus Jones, Ystalyfera. The Vicar of Colbren (Rev John Williams) was unfortunately unable to attend owing to illness.

At luncheon Mr Moore-Gwyn, J.P., proposed the health of the Bishop, and in replying His Lordship referred to the great efforts made in the diocese during the past three years in regard to the building of new churches and the restoration of ancient edifices. He looked forward to the future with confidence. In regard to the present situation, as far as the Welsh Bill was concerned, he said he regretted to read in the press accounts of resolutions passed at various religious assembles against any concessions in the Welsh Bill. All that feverish excitement in passing drastic resolution showed that those who supported the Bill did not look to the future with very great confidence. They did not know, of course, what the future would bring forth, but he (his lordship) was quite certain that the ultimate fate of the Bill would not be settled in Parliament, but in the country. (Hear, hear).

Subsequently, Dr Owen consecrated the new burial ground, and the deeds were signed by the Bishop, the Rural Dean and the Vicar of Ystradgynlais.
Then the choir entered the Church singing "Onward, Christian Soldiers," and a formal service specially prepared for the occasion, was taken by the Rev J G Hughes, and the Rural Dean, the Bishop preaching the sermon. Upwards of 250 persons attended, and there was also a large gathering in the evening, when a Welsh service was taken by the Vicar of Devynock. After the reopening service, the Bishop proceeded to Dyffryn, where he was the guest of Mr and Mrs Moore Gwyn.
Prior to the proceedings on Tuesday, about £500 had been raised towards the cost of the extensions, and we understand that the collection on that day will practically clear the expenditure made.

Several handsome gifts have been made to the Church including a lectern by Messrs J B G Price and Vaughan Rice Price; candlesticks, altar desk, service books and mats by Mr and Mrs Moore-Gwyn, Dyffryn; cross and vases by Mr and Mr C F Gilbertson, Abercrave House; Glastonbury chair by the children of the Rev and J Williams, Colbren; books for reading desk, and mats by the Mothers' Union.

The South Wales Voice of 28th June 1947 records the induction of Rev E W Jones as vicar of Coelbren Church :-


On Wednesday evening, 18th June, a large and representative congregation attended the institution and induction, by the Lord Bishop of Swansea and Brecon of the Rev E W Jones, B.A., as vicar of the parish of Colbren. The new vicar was formerly curate in charge of St Paul's church, Glais, where he was very popular, and to show their appreciation of him a large number of his friends attended the induction service. The bishop, in his address, spoke very highly of the new vicar and said that his previous ministry had been very successful.
Among the clergy present were the Ven. Harold S Williams, Archdeacon of Gower; Rev Harries Williams, Rural Dean and Vicar of Clydach; Rev J G Hughes, Vicar of Ystalyfera; Rev W E Jones, Vicar of Abercrave; Rev D L Williams, Rector of Ystradgynlais; Rev W Francis, Vicar of Llansamlet; Rev T Davies, Vicar of Cray; Rev Bonsall Edwards, Vicar of Callwen; Rev W G M Davies, Vicar-designate of Crickadarn; Rev Davies, Vicar-designate of Merthyr Cynog; Rev R Thomas, Ystalyfera; Rev Davies, Bonymaen; Rev Jonathan Davies, Vicar of Defynock; Rev Gwyn Lewis, Ystalyfera; Rev Walter Jones, Vicar of Cwmbwrla.
After the service the visiting clergy and laiety were entertained to tea at the Welfare Hall, which was provided by the ladies of the congregation, and the Bishop thanked them for providing such an excellent tea.
We take this opportunity of thanking the Rev Gwyn Lewis, Ystalyfera, who was curate-in-charge for the past 6 weeks, for his services, and wish him every success in the future.

Vicars of Coelbren

The Rev James Foster Jones, Vicar of Coelbren, is buried in St Cynog's Churchyard, Ystradgynlais, as is his widow Grace Jones.


In Loving Memory
of the
Rev James Foster Jones
Vicar of Coelbren
Who died Jan 23 1894
Aged 68 Years

Rest in Peace

Grace Jones
Widow of the Above
Who passed away
July 21 1920 aged 81 years
Strong and of a good courage

From the article posted above, it appears that Rev John Williams was unwell in 1914. There would appear to be the grave of his wife in St Cynog's cemetery, Ystradgynlais, Sarah Jane who died in 1894 aged only 30. The gravestone, being so dated appears to imply that Rev John Williams was in office at Coelbren from at least the early 1890s until at least the start of the First World War.


In Loving Memory
Sarah Jane
wife of the
Rev John Williams
who died Sept 18 1894, aged 30 years
Lost Awhile


The gravestone to Sarah Jane Williams is located at the altar/vestry end of St Cynog's Church, Ystradgynlais. One wonders, looking at it, whether the Rev John Williams was supposed to join her in that grave, as there is a lot of space on the headstone, and presumes that he did not, since nothing more is written there.

Views of Capel Colbren


The above photographs were taken in 2010.

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