Pillars Of Faith
Remembrance of Nonconformist and other chapels in The Rhondda
All information must come come from somewhere. So on this page I will give full credit to the sources of information I have relied upon to prepare this site.
Mid Glamorgan Chapel Survey
Towards the end of the 70's, the planning department of the then Mid Glamorgan County Council undertook a quite ambitious task to document all the chapels within its boundaries.
The survey included, naturally, drawn plans of the buildings, photographs and histories.
They did not manage the magical number of 151 but there are still files of 148 chapels covering the Rhondda. Sadly, some of those files were empty as the chapels had even ceased to exist during the planning stage of the survey and for other unexplained reasons.
Even so, over 140 chapels were documented.
The survey has since been made available for public inspection at the Glamorgan Archives (formerly Glamorgan Record Office) in Cardiff. The survey represents a rich resource for anyone who wishes to study this fascinating subject or simply wants to fuel their knowledge of a single chapel where their parents, grand-parents etc worshipped.
This site acknowledges the generous co-operation of the Glamorgan Archivist without whose assistance this site would be all the poorer or might not have happened at all.
Further information about the Glamorgan Archives (formerly Glamorgan Record Office) can be found here.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Digital Archive
The present unitary Authority (a merger of the Mid Glamorgan districts of The Rhondda, The Cynon Valley and Taff Ely) has compiled a vast photographic archive of some 20,000 pictures all of which are available to view online. Prints or digital copies are also available for purchase.
There are many photographs of chapels within the archive some of which are unavailable elsewhere.
This site acknowledges the generous co-operation of Mr Nick Kelland, the Information Services Librarian, who administers the archive for the permission to reproduce some of these photographs in these pages.
Further information about the digital archive can be found here.
Rhondda Valleys Information and History
There are many private websites on the internet dedicated to The Rhondda. With no disrespect to the rest, this one is possibly the best.
Phil Evans, the webmaster, is a Rhondda boy born and bred. And, although he now lives in North Wales, his heart is still firmly in his place of birth.
He has compiled a beautiful site which, apart from many photographs covering the whole sphere of Rhondda life, has a large amount of information about The Valleys.
This site acknowledges the co-operation of Phil Evans in his permission to reproduce some of the photographs from his site in these pages.
You can visit this site here.
Welsh Chapels and Churches
If the study of the architecture of religious buildings appeals to you, I can certailnly reccomend a visit to Jill Muir's site.
You will find examples from most, if not all, of the Welsh counties.
This site acknowledges the co-operation of Jill Muir in her permission to reproduce content from her site in these pages.
You can visit this site here.
The History Press
It is often said that a single picture can say more than many words. People will dwell on old photograhs reminding them of the past or spotting a half-forgotten relative.
The History Press is in the forefront of publishing books dedicated to old photographs and there are many titles specifically on The Rhondda.
This site acknowledges the kind co-operation of this publisher, and the compilers of these books, in allowing photographs published in their books to be reproduced on this site viz:
A view of Upper Dunraven St, Tonypandy - "MID-RHONDDA From Penygraig to Llwynypia by David J. Carpenter", Page 64
Wesley Methodist Church, Williamstown - "MID-Rhondda by David J. Carpenter", Page 23
Ebenezer, Maerdy - "Maerdy Rhondda Valley by David Owen", Page 60
Mardy Road, Maerdy - "Maerdy Rhondda Valley by David Owen", Page 66
Cymmer Chapel, Cymmer - "Porth And Rhondda Fach by Aldo Bacchetta and Glyn Rudd", Page 19
Capel Y Porth, Porth - "Porth And Rhondda Fach by Aldo Bacchetta and Glyn Rudd", Page 24
Tabernacle, Ynyshir - "Porth And Rhondda Fach The Second Selection by Aldo Bacchetta and Glyn Rudd", Page 82
Moriah, Ynyshir - "Porth And Rhondda Fach The Second Selection by Aldo Bacchetta and Glyn Rudd", Page 82
To see the full range of books by this publisher, consult their catalogue here.
The Glamorgan Chapels Database
This project is hosted on the GENUKI website - a vast resource of all matters connected to UK & Ireland geneology.
The Rhondda comprises of three ancient county parishes.
Information for each of these parishes is separately described within the GENUKI site.
Most of The Rhondda Fawr (Big Rhondda) and part of The Rhondda Fach (Little Rhondda) are described on the Ystradyfodwg pages.
Part of the Rhondda Fach (Blaenllechau, Wattstown, Stanleytown and Pontygwaith) plus Porth and Trehafod are described on the Llanwonno pages.
Finally, Dinas, Williamstown and Cymmer are described on the Llantrisant pages.
The pages contain cross-reference links for the sources of the information there contained so this website will not duplicate that information.
The Methodist Archives
The Methodist Archives are located at the John Rylands University Library, Deansgate, Manchester. The archives do not cater for family history research but covers serious academic research into the Methodist Connexion. This site acknowledges the kind co-operation of the archives in allowing the publication of extracts from accommodation returns and also the filling of the gaps in the ministers' database for both the Welseyan and Primitive Methodist Connexions.
More information about the Methodist Archives can be found here.
The New Room, Bristol
John Wesley built his 'New Room' in The Horsefair, Bristol, in 1739. It is the oldest Methodist building in the world. The site acknowledges the co-operation of Mr David Weeks, the chaplain, in allowing access to the library, which is available for bone-fide research, situated in the building. Not withstanding that, the chapel itself is certainly worth a visit and its preservation to the present day is due in no small part to the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists.
More information about The New Room can be found here.
Glamorgan Family History Society
When I started compiling the database of ministers, I knew that the Baptists, Congregationalists and Wesleyans (Including Primitive Methodists) would be reasonably easy as the data is well published.
The Calvinistic Methodists, however, would cause a bigger problem as no data is generally published and the main archive is located in sunny Aberystwth (one day maybe...). So it came as a complete surprise to learn, via the CD publications of the GFHS of 'Y Darluniadur'. The society has graceously allowed me to extract data from this CD which now allows a small sample of CM ministers up to 1900 to be noted.
You can learn more about the society, and their publications from here.
In compiling this site, I have consulted as many of the written chapel histories that I can find. Most are long out of print so they now only to be found in libraries and other archives.
One notable exception is Dr. Peter Brooks' 2008 history of Salem Newydd, Ferndale. The book is bi-lingual so even this monoglot Welshman can appreciate it without resort to translation. Dr. Brooks also seeks to describe the type of society that existed in association with Nonconformist chapels during their time rather than just, as most histories do, look inwards at itself.
Copies are available for sale at The Pontypridd Cultural Centre (Tabernacle Chapel) and at The Rhondda Heritage Park at the very nice price of £10 with any profits going to Christian Aid. The book is profusely illustrated which makes me quite envious this being the sort of material I can only dream of for inclusion in this site.
Private Sources and Resources
I would also like to thank Mr Eben Phillips, secretary of Ainon Chapel, Ynyshir, for the copies of the denominational annual handbooks from the 1920's which is the prime source of founding dates and seating capacities.
Also special thanks to The Reverend W.Cyril Llewelyn, former minister of Ramah Chapel, Treorchy, for the photograph of that chapel, the yearbooks for the Union Of Welsh Independents (much harder to find than the Congregational yearbooks) and his unique insight into the whole genre gained from his many years in the ministry.
Likewise to Karen Larsen for the old postcard that shows Calfaria, Clydach Vale.
Details of sources of sundry photographs can be found here.
I have also made extensive use of the large scale Ordnance Survey maps (County Series 25 inch to the mile) of 1919/1920 which accurately identify the location of most chapels. Using these, and modern OS Grid References, the chapels can be individually identified even though most have now vanished.
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