Ystradgynlais & District

History and Heritage

Yorath Chapel, Cwmgiedd, Ystradgynlais

These articles from the Llais newspaper in 1956, celebrated the 150th anniversary of Yorath Chapel, Cwmgiedd. They provide a fascinating insight both into the origins of the chapel and into the interior of the chapel as it was in that period. Some of the stories may now seem a bit obscure, such as that over a 'standard' being removed, but they add an interesting blast of colour and personality to the history.


In 1956 the chapel celebrated its 150th Anniversary and according to the reports:

From Sunday, September 9th to Thursday September 12th, Yorath Chapel, Cwmgiedd, will be celebrating its 150th anniversary, but religious activities in the neighbourhood can be traced back to 1739.
In 1740, Howell Harris, one of the pioneers of the Calvanistic Methodist Revival visited Cwmgiedd and history says that he preached a sermon on the yard of Ystradfawr Farm in Ystradgynlais, which used to be a favourite spot for preachers to visit in those far off days. Another pioneer who used to visit Cwmgiedd and Forchollwyn Farm, which is higher up the valley of the Giedd, was William Williams, Pantycelyn, the famous hymn writer.

From The Voice Friday 7th September 1956:-


The first Yorath Chapel was built in 1806 and after a period of 18 years was too small for its congregations, so in 1824 another bigger chapel was built which served its purpose until 1858 when the chapel that stands there today - now nearly 100 years old - was built. The only difference to the original edifice is that during renovations in 1954, the new porch was added. Yorath Chapel has the distinction of being the first Methodist Chapel in the Swansea, Amman and Dulais Valleys and since its inception, has nurtured many eminent preachers, poets and musicians. Some of the most eminent Welsh preachers have occupied the pulpit at Yorath, among them the Revs Owen Thomas, Thomas John, Cilgerran, John Hughes, John Williams, Bryn Siencyn, Thomas Charles Williams, Matthews, Ewenny, Pulston Phillip Jones, Cynddylan Jones, Barrow Williams and many others.
A comprehensive celebration programme has been drawn up to commence on Sunday next when the minister Rev E Dewi Davies, will preach with a special meeting for children in the afternoon. On Monday evening at 7.00pm the pulpit will be occupied by the former minister of the chapel Rev Glanville Davies B.A., B.D., London.
On Tuesday evening at 7.00pm the celebration meeting will be held presided over by the Rev E Dewi Davies, at which representatives of other chapels in the district will speak and Mr Chester D Morgan, Loughor, will speak on behalf of the West Glamorgan Presbytery.
Mr William Evans, secretary and one of the deacons of Yorath will give the history of the cause at Yorath from 1806 to the present time.
On Wednesday evening at 7.00pm the Rev Geraint Thomas B.A., B.D., London will preach.

The Rev E. Dewi Davies was subsequently referenced as present at the induction of a new minister of Tabernacl Chapel on May 1957, where he is described as "Rev. E. Dewi Davies, of Yorath and Moriah" implying a joint pastorate at this period between the chapels of Yorath and Moriah, Ystradgynlais. The Rev E Dewi Davies was still at Yorath in March 1958, when he conducted the funeral of a local man.

Here is another article written by Beryl Cousins after she had attended the anniversary in 1956:

21st SEPTEMBER 1956
Written by Beryl Cousins
"I saw the inside of Yorath Chapel the week of its third Jubilee.
Nowadays it is a chapel of contrasts. On the wall there is a fine electric clock of modern design but the pews are as they were a century ago - narrow and straight backed and witness to the powers of endurance and concentration of congregation that would sit and listen to two consecutive sermons, each of an hour's length by two ministers, one from the north and the other from the south and not notice the discomfort.

Yorath is wearing these days a new look for the porch that was added recently has greatly altered and improved the front of the building. It was an alteration that cost £3,139, all of which, with the exception of £700 has been paid - a remarkable achievement. There are now large stained glass windows above the pulpit. They are very beautiful and have added grace and dignity. They were a gift to the chapel. A great many other gifts were made at the same time with the result that Yorath chapel is today one of the most gracious of Welsh Non-conformist buildings.
It is also one of the cleanest chapels I have ever seen. It is not just well polished and dusted - it glows and twinkles and catches the light in a hundred places.

"There is cornice work on the ceiling picked out in pastel shades and converging on a centre piece. A story is told about that centre piece. It is almost new. The old one collapsed one night after a singing rehearsal. Someone among the practising choir gave the door a slam on the way out and the centre piece already rocking came tumbling down. I wish I had heard that rehearsal.
"Up to 1911 the chapel was lit by paraffin lamps and a story is told about them too. At one time there used to sit in the 'set fawr' an old deacon called Tomos Jones. He had a son Hywel Jones who, like most sons and daughters, was more amenable to change than was his father. Hywel Jones took objection to one of the 'standards' supporting one of the paraffin lamps. It served no useful purpose that he could see so he had it removed. Old Tomos Jones when he next entered the chapel took his customary look around and was outraged when he discovered that the standard had disappeared. There followed a conflict of wills won finally by Tomas Jones. The standard was replaced and Hywel Jones retired in the first round. Once again in the story of the world 'father knew best'. But it serves to illustrate the jealous love these old chapel worshippers felt for their place of worship. It was so sacred a building that nothing must be disturbed.

"I love all these human stories but the best one is a show of a dogged faith. At one time the congregation dwindled to one old man who, week after week, attended service all on his own in a little thatched cottage called Croesdy in a garden in Cwmgiedd.
Had it not been for that one old man's faithfulness there might not have been a Yorath chapel today. Little by little the members increased. The old man passed on to his reward.
And in the fullness of time the little flame that he nursed so tenderly in the thatched cottage in a garden grew into the conflagration of the Revival that ignited Cwmgiedd as it swept through Wales.

"There was a period too, when as a mark of respect in which they were held by the villagers, six old ladies were allowed the tremendous honour of sitting in the 'set fawr' with the male elders of the chapel. Behind that single statement, one senses a story of good living that might make us moderns feel a little ashamed of the way the world has shaped since we took over."

The Yorath Chapel Cemetery includes within it the remembrance graves for David Griffiths, who died in action in the First World War in 1918, and of Benjamin Alexander who was killed in action at Dunkirk in 1940, during the Second World War.

Yorath Chapel Wargraves

Capel Yr Ynys was built in Ynys Uchaf by Yorath Chapel in 1850. It served as a place of worship and a schoolroom for over fifty years before the construction of Moriah Chapel on Brecon Road in Penrhos. The building now forms the basis of Chapel House, a private residence in Ynys Uchaf, alongside the bypass.

The Voice newspaper, 18th November 1965, reports on the departure of a member of Yorath Chapel who was also a well-known lay preacher in other chapels in the Swansea Valley:-


Miss Beryl Davies, of Glannant, Glanrhyd, Ystradgynlais, who, as a lay preacher was a familiar figure in a number of chapels throughout the Swansea Valley, has left the district for Luton. She will be greatly missed by many.
The only daughter of the late Mr and Mrs George Davies, of Bridge Cottages, Cwmgiedd, she was a faithful member of Yorath Chapel, where her services were much appreciated.

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Yorath Chapel, Cwmgiedd

William Leyshon Griffiths


William Leyshon Griffiths was born in Bryngroes Farm Ystradgynlais in 1863 and died there in 1925. He spent his lifetime on the farm where his ancestors had lived since 1605.
When 30 years of age he ascended the pulpit of Yorath Chapel and preached the Gospel from there for 32 years. He excelled as a poet and won many Eisteddfod Chairs, but the major prize eluded him at the Neath National Eisteddfod in 1918 when he was adjudged a very close second to J T Job.

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