A History of Carmarthenshire
Lloyd, Sir John E., (Ed.). 2 vols., Cardiff, London Carmarthenshire Society (1935, 1939).
With the kind permission of the publishers sundry snippets from this book have been extracted by Gareth Hicks onto some parish pages, these below are in random order.
Gwilym Marles (1834-79)
William Thomas, who assumed this bardic title was born at Brechfa. Gaining Dr Williams's Scholarship, he proceeded from the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen, to Glasgow University, where he graduated MA. He settled at Llandysul as a schoolmaster, and became the minister also of the Unitarian church at Llwynrhydown. A volume of his poetry was published in 1859 at Newcastle Emlyn; later, Sir Owen Edwards published in the Llenor (July, 1895) a selection of his lyrics, including a few of his hymns. Some of these with others, original or translated, are included in Unitarian hymn books.
Tomos Glyn Cothi (1766-1833)
Thomas Evans was born at Capel St Silin, Brechfa, on the banks of the river which gave him his bardic name. His early education was scanty, but he knew how to gain knowledge and think for himself, in theology and in politics. In 1797, for singing to a company of his friends a song to liberty to the tune of the 'Marsellaise' he was pilloried and imprisoned for two years in Carmarthen. He had already obtained his licence to preach, and in 1813 he became minister of the Unitarian church at Hen Dy Cwrdd, Aberdare. He had literary gifts, both in prose and poetry, edited in 1795 the periodical Y Drysorfa Gymmysgedig , and translated several theological pamphlets in defence of his opinions. He brought out an English-Welsh dictionary (1809), and edited a hymn-book for his denomination, including several hymns of his own composition, which have mostly passed out of use.
Unitarian and General Baptist churches
Interesting too, although rather accidental, is the fact that the county is able to claim the first specifically Unitarian congregation in Wales (Brechfa), and the first specifically Unitarian minister, Thomas Evans.
Thomas Evans is said to have held services at his father's house at Brechfa for some time before he was ordained there in 1794. In 1796...........he built a chapel, 'Ty Cwrdd Glyn Cothi'. he left in 1811 for Aberdare.
Wright in 1816 found at Brechfa, "Unitarian Baptists' ........meeting at a private house........B Davies, a poor man, is their minister...... And in fact "B Davies" appears in the Lewin's Mead (Bristol) Records as receiving grants right down to 1846. It would seem as if the older Unitarian congregation had disappeared immediately on the removal of its founder , and had been replaced by a group of General Baptists, for there is some evidence that B Davies came from Llanfynydd, where that body was strong during the early part of of the century.
Towards 1830, William Rees, ex minister of Llwyn Rhyd Owen, settled on his own freehold at Brechfa; he built the congregation a meeting house, Cwmwr Du, in 1832. After his death in 1844, some informality in the conveyance caused trouble but Dr Lloyd of Carmarthen and others came to the rescue by purchasing the chapel.
A little later we find the ubiquitous Titus Evans in charge; then follows the familiar story; services are today held only at intervals but there are still communicant members. The district, though not the Cwmwr Du church itself (for Thomas was a convert from Independency), can claim another of the major figures of Welsh Unitarianism, namely William Thomas (Gwilym Marles).
...........a vigorous chapel building movement marks the last twelve years of the century (18th)..........Brechfa was built in 1790.