Ystradgynlais & District

History and Heritage

Saint Peter's Church, Cwmtwrch

Saint Peter's Church, or Chapel, used to stand opposite the New Tredegar Arms public house in Upper Cwmtwrch. Originally the building was constructed as a works' store by Thomas Thomas, a foundary-owner from Ystalyfera. At some point it was sold to Lord Tredegar, who owned much of the land of Upper Cwmtwrch, and in 1858 he presented to the Church as a place of worship.

At some point, it closed for a number of years before reopening in 1911. Y Daflen, the newsletter of the Ystradgynlais District Heritage and Language Society, states that it closed in 1938, but the Llais shows that a Harvest Festival was held there in 1945. It is quite possible that from 1938 it no longer had regular services, but opened for occasional special ones.

It was demolished following the closure of Bryn Henllys colliery in 1955, but quite when is uncertain. At the time that The Voice wrote their history of Temperance Hall, Cwmtwrch it was stated in the newspaper that "The church, St Peters is today a storehouse for the Ystradgynlais Rural District Council", implying that the date of its demolition was after 1960.

A lot of the area was subsequently re-landscaped with the railway and canal disappearing, buildings levelled, and new residential buildings being erected. The site of the church is now the carpark for the New Tredegar Arms, across the road from the pub.

Views of Saint Peter's Church


In these photographs from Ystradgynlais Library, you can see Saint Peter's Church, Upper Cwmtwrch. It is the tall building on the right of the left-hand photograph, quite clear and directly opposite the New Tredegar public house. In the right-hand photograph, things are less clear - the road actually passes between where we see Ebenezer Chapel and where we can see Saint Peter's Church; in this photograph the angle it was taken from precludes a view of the New Tredegar, which is beyond Ebenezer Chapel, on the same side of the road.

This montage from Y Daflen, the newsletter of the Ystradgynlais District Heritage and Language Society shows Saint Peter's Church bottom right.

From 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 Saturday November 6th 1926 has an article on the Harvest Thanksgiving Services held at what it terms as "Cwmtwrch English Church". It is known that services in Saint Peter's were given in English, and this thus appears to have been a more colloquial name for the church, in that period.

On Sunday and Monday evening last, harvest thanksgiving services were held at Cwmtwrch English Church, where large congregations assembled. The Rev T. T udor Jones and Rev J W Hughes, vicar of Brynamman officiated. The church was beautifully decorated throughout for the occasion by the members of the church, and the services were very impressive. The anthems prepared by choir, under the leadership of Mr W Gwynfe Jones, were greatly appreciated.

From the South Wales Voice 7th May 1927 comes the story of the history of Saint Peter's, including the journey that the windows made from Bristol:-


It is not generally known that St Peters Church Upper Cwmtwrch is the oldest place of worship in the village and was built originally as a works stores by a certain Thomas Thomas. This gentleman it seems, owned a foundry at Ystalyfera and had a tram road running up through the Valley to Cwmtwrch, hence his connection with what is now St Peters Church.

In the course of time Thomas Thomas sold the property to the late Lord Tredegar, who in turn presented it to the ecclesiastical Authorities to be converted into a place of worship. This was in the year 1858, when a certain Rev Dr Thomas Walters became its first clergyman, prior to his removal to Llansamlet about the year 1867-9.

The present Parish Church at Ystradgynlais was not completed until 1861, so that St Peter's church claims priority in the parish.

An interesting feature in St Peter's is the windows, which were brought from Bristol by canal boat - taking 8 months to reach Ystalyfera. The windows were then of good size, as is indicated by the fact that they were taken out of a very old church there during the course of reconstruction and replacement by new ones. These windows were bought from Ystalyfera to Upper Cwmtwrch by light railway or tram road by Thomas Thomas.

According to the records of Mr Samuel Thomas, Lower Cwmtwrch, about £300 was spent in the conversion of the building. Since this conversion, it has been used as a day school under the Church of England authorities, when a goodly number of scholars were turned out, to the credit of the neighbourhood. It has also served as a meeting house for the "Independents", who used it, or a portion of it probably the gallery, for prayer meeting - hence the reason for the claim on the "Eglwys Fach", as it was known in its early days - the Chapel of Ease.

The church was closed for some years until in 1911 it was reopened under the former rector, Rev James Jones, now of Goodwick Pembrokeshire, who later engaged a Mr Wynne as lay reader in charge. Mr Wynne is now curate of Troedyrhiw Merthyr. He was followed by well known inhabitant, Mr H P Grey, and two years ago Mr Broome of Ystalyfera, was asked to officiate pending the arrival of a curate. Thus the Rev J G Price - Watts is the first curate in charge of this Church. The Rev Dr Walters was not a curate but the rector of the parish.

From the South Wales Voice 6th August 1927 came an appeal for local people to help keep the church grounds tidy and safe:-


SIR: Will you kindly allow me to the columns of your valuable paper to appeal to the community appreciation of the work done at St Peter's. This appeal applies specially to the young people. In the past the church grounds are being used as a football pitch as well as for other games. I am decidedly fond of football and other forms of healthy sport and have played in various teams - but never on church private property. I would like to appeal too, to the same young people to refrain from making the churchyard a refuse dump the papers etc. the grounds of now been laid out as great expense in time and labour money and so I think it only fair and reasonable that the church or chapel, of all places, should be jealously guarded in the interests of the people as well as the appearances of the church and village. Parents are asked to cooperate by warning their children from damaging, trespassing or throwing rubbish on the grounds. With their cooperation Cwmtwrch could easily become a model of tidiness

From the South Wales Voice Saturday 17th March 1934:-

Although St Peters Church has been without an officiating curate for some years its pleasing to note that the church members are still faithful church goers.
On Sunday mornings the services are conducted by Mr Thomas Lower Cwmtwrch, the local lay reader who merits every support from the parishioners.

From the South Wales Voice October 1945:-

Harvest Festival - Special harvest festival services will be held at St. Peter's Church on Sunday next when the Rev R.J. Davies, Llansamlet, will officiate.




At the car park of the New Tredegar Arms, it was at this spot that once stood an old warehouse that supplied material to the local mines. Eventually it was converted into an English Church under the Parish Church of Ystradgynlais. It had a bell high up on the roof near the road, and provided a good target for boys with catapults. The walls were covered in ivy and hundreds of swallows used to nest in it.
When it was demolished the wall facing the railway fell across the railway and caused quite a panic.



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