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The programme for the national gathering of Baptists which took place in Ogmore Vale in 1923 contained many "histories" of Ogmore Vale baptist chapels.
The Ogmore Valley Local History Society has had these translated and very kindly allowed some of these to be copied here as part of the Glamorgan Chapels Database project.
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An Outline of the History of Philadelphia, Cwmogwr.
It was in the house of John Walters when this movement began, towards September 1892. The names of the brothers and sisters who cooperated to its beginning were: John Walters and his wife; Thomas Thomas (Maesteg) and his wife; Thomas Williams and his wife; and Tudor Price, seceder, who returned to the Lord at the first meeting held, and became to be one of the oldest brothers who had been faithful and very kind to the cause, and obliging to the Church until his grave. Following months of prayer meetings and preachings in John Walters' house, the movement moved to Rhiwglyn schoolhouse, and it was there that the brotherhood became a Church. Those who served on that occasion were The Reverend Robert Allen, Maesteg, W. Paran Griffiths, Melin Ifan-Ddu and W. Hughes, Maesteg, at the time. In those meetings also, the following were elected: Thomas Jones and John Walters as deacons; Tudor Price as Treasurer; Herbert Davies as the Church Secretary and Thomas Williams the leader of song. The brothers worked hard and diligently in the face of many difficulties, until they saw success in every part of their work. The membership increased and Sunday school attendance soon became much more. Mr. Allen and Mr. Paran Griffiths were a big help to the Church at the beginning of its course, and for them there was a warm place in the love of the Church.
The first two candidates for baptism were Mrs. Davies and her son Almerick Davies, and The Reverend Paran baptized the two in Melin Ifan-Ddu.
Soon others came to attempt the same privilege, namely Elizabeth Jones, daughter of Thomas Jones, and Ceridwen Davies, sister of Herbert Davies, M. E., Cwmparc, at this time, and they were baptized near Bontlas by Mr. W. S. Griffiths, where the first baptismal took place in the upper part of the Ogwr Valley.
The Church was accepted to the assembly in Maesteg in the year 1895, and it felt indebted to the following brothers for their help during its beginnings: The reverend D. Jones, Penybont; T. Thomas, Pontypool; D. Davies, Gilfachgoch; J. Davies, Melin Ifan-Ddu; D. C. Evans, Bryncethin; Mrs. Brynferch Rees, Pontrhyl and J. W. Moore, Aberdare. As soon as the Church was accepted to the assembly, attempts were made to build a new place of worship, and to this purpose, it was given a piece of land cheaply by the gentleman Mr. Blandy Jenkins, as long as a close communal chapel stood on it. This gave new heart to the brotherhood to go ahead bravely with its building, "Because the people have a heart to work". The builders were Messrs Rattray and Jenkins, Pontycymmer. The building was completed within a year after cutting the foundation, 1894-1895, at a cost of £380. It was built so that another broader chapel could be built on top of the present walls, when the need became necessary, when the present place of worship could be used as a vestry. Mrs. Dawkins Williams, Melin Ifan-Ddu, set the foundation stone.
The Church decided to call upon The Reverend J. W. Moore, Aberdare, to be its shepherd; he answered the call and began his work in January 1895. Membership numbers at that time were 20, and the Sunday school and the Band of Hope, 50. The minister was established in the open meetings, and they were held on May 5 and 6, 1895, when the following ministers officiated: B. Evans, Aberdare (minister of the church where Mr. Moore was raised); T. D. Mathias, Nantymoel; W. P. Griffiths; Robert Allen, and others. A hymn was sung as the doors were opened, "A tent was placed in Gosen country"; after this they entered the place of worship. Lamps to light the tent were given by Tudor Price, Thomas Williams, John Walters and Herbert Davies, M. E. The last person still has a great love for the place, even though he has moved to Cwmparc some years since. Mr. David Rees, tradesman of the area, too - gave the table in the large seat - and possibly the chairs; Mrs. Thomas Jones gave pulpit decorations; the two sisters Mrs. Robert Allen and Mrs. Paran Griffiths gave communion crockery.
Mr. Moore did not stay more than a few months. Although he left so soon, the Church went on through love and work, by overcoming its difficulties; and a call was made to The Reverend M. Jenkins, Abercwmboi, to be its shepherd. He answered favourably. He started his work in June 1890, and was ordinated on August 2 and 3, when the following ministers officiated: W. Lewis, Cilfynydd; J. D. Hughes, Pontygwaith and The Reverend R. John, Tondu. Services were held and the heaven smiled on the union. Membership numbers at the beginning of Mr. Jenkins' ministry were 20, Sunday school and Band of Hope 90 and 6 teachers. Soon the membership doubled and the Sunday school increased. Mr. Jenkins's departure was a big blow to the Church, for he had been here for three and a half years, successful and in peace. During his ministry, Tudor Price, Herbert Davies and Morgan Charles were chosen as deacons.
This time, the Church had been without a minister for almost five years. Eventually, The Reverend John Allen became its shepherd, early in 1905. He was ordained on March 26 and 27, when the following officiated in the meetings; Reverend J. A. Humphreys, Bethlehem, Ogwr Valley; Robert Allen; H. R. Byatt; J. Hughes, Nantymoel; R. John, Tondu and W. Paran Griffiths. Membership numbers were 20 at the beginning of Mr. Allen's ministry; it soon increased to 59. However, after three years and three months, he left, the membership being 50. He alone made the pulpit and the large seat as they are at present. The Church suffered a great loss through his departure.
The next minister who was called to the Church to be its shepherd was The Reverend T. M. Jones, Bethlehem and Salem, Pembrokeshire. He was ordained on February 10, 1908, when the following ministers officiated: W. Saunders, Pontycymmer; the late T. B. Phillips, Tylegwyn and W. A. Williams, Pontypridd (but Blaengarw at the time) Great was Mr. Jones' influence and his respect to the Church and the district for seven years until he moved in February 1915, to Bethlehem, Trealaw. The Church increased to 63 under his ministry and during his time the following brothers were made deacons: Henry Mathews, William Trehearne, John Phillips, William Watts and Thomas Davies, M. E. Again, for about a year, the Church was diligent in prayer for the Lord to guide a shepherd to them, and in October 1915, The Reverend T. Mansel Thomas from Llanstephan came to minister. He was established here on February 7, 1916 and the following ministers officiated: Reverend Hermas Evans, Swansea; J. Hughes, Nantymoel and L. G. Lewis, Pontardawe, now, but Ogwr Valley at the time. After four years of peaceful ministry, Mr. Thomas left to go to Jerusalem, Tondu, leaving the membership of 69, Sunday school of 100 and the Band of Hope 150. The debt was £550 when he arrived but on his departure it was down to £230. In November 1919, Thomas Davies, David John, William Henry Davies and David Griffiths were elected deacons. They were ordained to their office by The Reverend W. P. Griffiths. The Church leader of song is T. C. Brooks, A.C. and its Secretary is David Griffiths.
In 1922 the Church invited The Reverend Robert Allen to shepherd it. He came in January and he was established on April 4. The Reverend Paran Griffiths and E. Llwchwr Jones preached on this occasion, and presided by Llewelyn Humphreys. Membership numbers were 40 and the debt on the place of worship was £190; and at the moment the Church has no shepherd to care for it.
The Chapel is now a Kingdom Hall used regularly by Jehovah's Witnesses.
A short history of Bethlehem, Ogmore Vale. Transated by Nesta Dean
We do not know when or where the Baptist cause began at the upper end of the Ogmore Valley.Tradition has it that preachers travelled through the valley through Bwlch-y-clawdd from the Rhondda Valley to Ogmore and on to Blackmill, Penyfai or Bridgend. They would sometimes lodge for the night in one of the farms in the valley.The road through Bwlch-y-clawdd was an old road and was much used. The farms in the valley were Nantymoel, Blaenogwr, Nantydrus, Fronwen, Tynewydd, the Aber, Caedu, Llestcwmllorwg, Rhiwglyn and Pentre Baili. These still (exist?) today (1923) apart from Caedu. Nothing remains of that apart from the old apple tree at the back of the house which still stands and flourishes today.There were few dwelling houses in the valley and none survives today. Ty'r Fynnon stood near the site of Aber School, Ty Hywel was in Glyn Street and two Grang(Graig?) Houses stood near Bant Las on the side of Craig Rhiw Glyn and two dwelling places called Pwllypant stood at the bottom of Walters Road, but none of these Remains.
Early Baptists were baptized in the River Ogmore at Blackmill. These Baptists held meetings at one of the Graig cottages and at Ty Fynnon or Ty Hywel. The first Bethania chapel was erected by the Independents in 1846 and the Baptists joined them for services.
About 1863 coal levels were opened on the mountain between the Ogmore and Garw valleys. This brought men to the valley and the need arose for houses where these incomers could live. A number of tents were erected near the Nantymoel level (ED: also known locally as the "Klondyke"). One large tent was known as the "barracks" and men lived there before the building of Nantymoel Row. Among the men who settled in Nantymoel there were Baptists and they joined with Congregationalists and Methodists to hold services at Bethel Cottage. The first two houses in Nantymoel Row became a day school and the Baptists used it for services on their Sabbath.
Houses were built at Tynewydd Row, Ogmore Vale and some workers moved there to live. The Baptists in Ogmore Vale worshipped in dwelling houses and at Tynewydd farm. With the increase in the number of Worshippers they had to find a larger room and this they found in the long room of the Blandy Hotel. There they worshipped for 5 years from 1865-70. They also used the small Bethania Chapel which had been built in 1846.
Baptisms took place in the River Ogmore at Nantymoel, Ogmore Vale and at Blackmill.
It was decided that a chapel should be built at Ogmore Vale. A piece of land was obtained from Messrs Brogden & Sons of Tondu and here a small chapel was built, measuring 35 ft by 26ft and had no gallery. It was completed by October 1871 at a cost of £345 15s 2d. The opening ceremony was held in that month. By 1876 a larger and more convenient chapel was built. The numbers of members in 1876 was 112. By 1877 it increased to 232. This was under the ministry of Rev. J. B. Jones. He was succeeded by Rev. J.O. Hughes. Over the years the church has been served by hard working dedicated ministers as well as by zealous laymen. One of these was Alderman John Williams (Aberdare) who, with his wife contributed in all ways to the life of the church.
Two churches sprang from Bethlehem, namely Calvary (English Baptist) 1877 and Philadelphia (Welsh Baptist) 1895. It also had a thriving Sunday School and Band of Hope in the Wyndham (Dunraven Place). Two houses were converted into a suitable building for services. Before that Dafydd Treharne held a Sunday School in the "Huts". These were houses of official in the Wyndham Colliery.
[Last Updated : 2 May 2007 - Gareth Hicks]