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Maesycwmmer, Monmouthshire Tabor Congregational Church Centenary, 1829-1929

Transcription and images kindly provided by Sandra Croushore-Rooke © 2007

ABOUT THIS PAGE: This web page comprises transcription and scanned images from a booklet commemorating the Centenary of Tabor Congregational Church at Maesycwmmer, written by Rev. E. B. Powell in 1929. The 24-page booklet comprises a history of the first hundred years of Tabor, and - in part - of Nonconformity in Monmouthshire more generally. The Wales Synod of the United Reformed Church have kindly granted permission for the transcription and images to be made available as part of the GENUKI/Monmouthshire website, and we are grateful to Sandra for its transcription and preparation.

Additional Note: Page numbers were included on some pages in the original, and these have been retained. On pages without a page number, and for the descriptions of some images, additional text is enclosed in square brackets [] to indicate it has been inserted by the transcriber.


Congregational Church Maesycwmmer


1829 - 1929

[cover page]


Congregational Church, Maesycwmmer.

Centenary 1829 - 1929


[page 1]

Old Chapel

 Tabor Chapel, 1829 structure, front entrance

[page 2 - picture of Tabor Chapel, 1829 structure, front entrance]

 Tabor Chapel, 1876 structure, front entrance

[page 3 - picture of Tabor Chapel, 1876 structure, front entrance]


This little booklet is a programme of the Centenary Celebrations of Tabor Church.

It has been thought that in this way we could best honour the work of our fathers who laboured so nobly in the Master's vineyard.

Here is presented to you a brief history of our "Cause" during the past hundred years. It is necessarily brief, for while there are many facts which are lost to us, and cannot therefore be chronicled, there are several important incidents which cannot be inserted owing to limitations of space.

Doubtless, the little given in these pages will be appreciated by the friends of Tabor, especially those who are scattered abroad. It will serve as a small reminder of the spiritual home in which they were born, and learned to lisp the name of Jesus.

Our grateful thanks are due to the Rev. E. B. Powell, of Neath, for the "Story of Tabor."

The Church has a tradition, of which we are justly proud. It is the oldest Nonconformist Church in the Parish of Bedwas. Many and great are the changes which have taken place since it first became a centre of worship - "chance and change are busy ever." - We rejoice, however, in the knowledge that Tabor is still a consecrated temple, that the vision of its people has not been dimmed, and that it continues to be a home of which Christ is the acknowledged Head.

We praise the past, and resolve that the future shall be bright. We are grateful to the Lord for His wonderful guidance to our fathers, and pray for strength to maintain in His beloved Church a standard of spirituality that shall be worthy of its traditions.



Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

May the grace and favour shown by God during the first century of its existence still be manifest among His people.

We face the future with confidence, knowing that we may rely on the gracious promise, ---




Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

 Rev. T. J. Hughes

[Image: Rev. T. J. Hughes]


History OF TABOR

By Rev. E. B. Powell


To give an account of the real origin of Nonconformity in Maesycwmmer would mean an exhaustive study of the origin of Nonconformity in Monmouthshire, where near Chepstow, the little Independent Church of Llanvaches, which is the oldest Nonconformist Church, not only in that County, but in the whole of Wales, still stands. In the brief space at our disposal, however, we can only touch the fringe of the subject.

About 1595, the Rev. William Wroth, B.A., received from Sir William Lewis, of Van, near Caerphilly, its patron, the living of Llanvaches. Mr. Wroth had been trained at Oxford, and was an educated person. Like too many of his contemporaries, however, he entered the Ministry of the Church without the moral and spiritual conviction necessary for that high calling. Fond of the violin, he would play for hours after the service on Sunday outside the Church, while his parishioners danced. Soon, however, he turned over a new leaf, and the occasion is worthy of mention. About 1660, a gentleman in the neighborhood, a relative of his, with whom he stayed, died suddenly on his way home from London, where he had won a law suit. He had written home asking his family to arrange a feast to celebrate the victory, which meant so much for him and his family. Everything was in readiness, and all were looking forward to a time of great jubilation. Mr. Wroth had bought a new violin, and awaited the coming of the day as eagerly as any. The friends of the family from near and far had come together, when a messenger arrived with the sad news that their host had been taken ill on the journey, and had died. The atmosphere of the place changed in a moment. Mr. Wroth cast his violin aside and began to pray, perhaps, as he had never prayed before, and from that hour became a changed man. His manner of life changed and his   [cont'd]


Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

 Rev. E. B. Powell

[Image: Rev. E. B. Powell]


Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

preaching acquired a new tone. Henceforward, his one and only desire was to save souls. The fame of his preaching spread abroad, and people from distance places flocked to hear him, and went away rejoicing. The author of the "Broadmead Records" writes of him thus: --

"For the powerfulness and the efficaciousness of his preaching, with the exemplary holiness of his life, he was called the Apostle of Wales. By his ministry it pleased the Lord to convert many, so that they left their sinful courses in the world, after which he caused many of them to separate from the worship of the world and gathered them into the Gospel order of Church government."

His preaching, however, offended his brethren in the Established Church of the day, and he had to appear before Dr. Field, the Bishop of Llandaff, but it will always be to the credit of that dignitary of the Church that after hearing Mr. Wroth, and realizing that he had nothing in mind but the highest interests of his fellows, he dismissed him with the words: "Go, and sin no more." And largely, perhaps, on account of the isolated position of his field of labour, he was able to continue the good work for a long time. But when Dr. William Laud became Archbishop of Canterbury he, like every other Nonconformist in England and in Wales, had to suffer for the faith that was in him. He was called before the Court of High Commission in 1633, and his case was before that Court until 1638, when he was deprived of the living of Llanvaches Church. As we have already seen, he had gathered people from far and near to hear him at Llanvaches, and they came not only to hear, but, to find a new way of life. Soon after his dismissal from the Church, he gathered all these together and formed at Llanvaches, but as yet without a Chapel the first Independent Church in Wales. Among them were men like Mr. William Erbury, Mr. Walter Craddock, Mr. Ambrose Mostyn, Mr. Richard Simmonds, Mr. David Walter and Mr. Henry Walter. The Rev. Henry Jessey, the Minister of the Independent Church at Southwark, London, was sent down by his congregation to Llanvaches to help Mr. Wroth and others to establish the Church.



Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

In the history of the Rev. Henry Jessop we find the following reference to the occasion: --

"In the month of November, 1639, he was sent down by the congregation to help the elderly Mr. Wroth, Mr. Craddock and others to establish the Church at Llanvaches, in South Wales. The Church became afterwards, like Antioch of old, the mother Church in that Gentile Country."

Why do we go so far back for the origin of Nonconformity and the cause in Maesycwmmer? The truth is we have not gone as far as we should, nor, as far as we must go, if we are to arrive at the ultimate origin of the great Nonconformist movement. Behind the Rev. William Wroth there was John Penry - who, although he had been dead fifty years, continued to influence thoughtful minds in the land. Behind John Penry again there were the early Nonconformists of England. The origin of the movement in England is, also, the ultimate origin of Nonconformity in Maesycwmmer. But that is a long story, and we can only pick up the thread of it at Llanvaches. The members of the Church at Llanvaches, i.e., the converts of the Rev. William Wroth, were drawn not only from Monmouthshire, but also from Glamorganshire, Breconshire and other counties. The distance made it impossible for them to attend the services except very occasionally. Consequently, in about two years they formed branch churches in Swansea, Cardiff, somewhere in Radnorshire and in Mynydd Islwyn, and the Rev. William Wroth and his assistants visited them as often as they could. In as much as the law of the country at the time refused Nonconformists the right of public worship, it is not likely that they all ever met together. They had to content themselves with small secret meetings at the homes of some of the members. All this was about 1640, when, as we have already written, there was no Chapel, not even at Llanvaches. The Rev. William Wroth died early in the year 1640 - in the year when Civil War broke out.

Realizing the dangers of their position, the ministers and many of the members forming the Independent Church at   [cont'd]



Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

Llanvaches met to discuss what to do, and inasmuch as Bristol was in the hands of the Parliamentary Party, it was decided that the ministers and the young and middle-aged men take refuge in that city. But in 1643, Bristol was captured by the Royalist Party, and they and men of their faith from Bristol had to seek shelter further afield - in London. There they met for worship at "Great All Hallows." Although noblemen and peasants, scholars and poets in Wales were overwhelmingly Royalist when the Civil War broke out, it underwent a great change before the death of Cromwell. The spirit of Nonconformity touched and moved many of the people. Walter Craddock, upon whose shoulders fell the mantle of William Wroth, who fled to England with the others when the War broke out, and became preacher at "Great All Hallows," speaking of the great change says: --

"I use not to tell stories, but let me tell you this one thing, 'Since I have been from you of late, I have observed and seen in the mountains of Wales, the most glorious things that ever I saw in England, unless it were in London. The gospel is run over the mountains between Breconshire and Monmouthshire as the fire in the thatch. And who should do this? They have no ministers, but some of the wisest say there are about 800 Godly people and they go from one to another."

In the year 1646, at the end of the Civil War, Mr. Henry Walter, whose name has already been mentioned as one of those who formed the Church at Llanvaches, was along with 19 others appointed by Cromwell's Parliament "Approvers" for Wales under an:

"Act of Parliament for the better propagation and preaching of the Gospel in Wales and redress of some grievances."

The task of the "Approvers" was to decide who were worthy to serve as ministers and teachers of the people of Wales. Henry Walter was the second son of John Walter, Piercefield Park, near Usk, was educated at Oxford, and   [cont'd]


Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

 Rev. Gomer Davies

[Image: Rev. Gomer Davies]


Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

became Curate at Mynydd Islwyn Church. During that time, he came under the influence of the Rev. William Wroth. He undoubtedly had much to do with the rise and establishment of Independency in Mynydd Islwyn, and being an ardent disciple and friend of William Wroth, it is more than likely that he was turned out of the Established Church about the same time. It is known that he was Minister of the Independent Church, which worshipped here and there in Mynydd Islwyn in 1675. After this more than 80 years passed and many excellent men like Watkin Jones and John Powell, M.A., never ceased to sow "the good seed of the Word," and the Independents of Mynydd Islwyn kept the faith. In the year 1758, we find them gathered together first at Migyn y Bwlch, later at Penydarren, and later still at their first chapel. That was built in 1765, and is to-day known as New Bethel. The minister at the time was Thomas Walters, a native of the parish. He left for New Inn. He was followed by William George. Some of the members, who were of the Methodist faith, favoured another person, and when the vote went against them, they withdrew and built Gelligroes Chapel.

William George, a carpenter by trade, and a devout man, justified the choice of the Church. His enthusiasm created a stir among the congregation. During the years he held the pastorate the Church, which had from the beginning been a fervent body of people, experienced many revivals, and 128 members were added to their number. William George lived in Pontypool, and growing old, he began to feel the strain of the journey of eight miles. In 1828, he advised the Church to appoint a successor. That year a young man from Mr. Peter's Grammar School, Carmarthen, visited the Church, captivated them by his preaching, and he was ordained as their minister on May 18, 1828. A great revival broke out in a few months after his coming - a revival which lasted for two years.



Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

Tabor Congregation Church

Now we come to the story of Tabor itself. In his "History of Independent Churches of Wales," after saying that the Churches at Tabor, Maesycwmmer and Salem, Trelyn were the effects of the revival which broke out at Mynydd Islwyn in a few months after the arrival of the Rev. Thomas Harries in 1828. Dr. Thomas Rees, of Swansea, adds the following words: --
"Tabor is a direct branch of New Bethel and the origin of the cause at Salem is largely due to the efforts of Mr. Harries and some of the New Bethel people."

It is not improbable, however, that some had conceived of the idea earlier than 1828. Members of the Churches at Mynydd Islwyn, Penmain and White Cross, near Caerphilly, living in the neighborhood had, probably, been in the habit of coming together for prayer and fellowship and, we may be sure, to hear the gospel from the lips of some of those preachers who from time to time passed through the neighborhood. The hearths of Gellideg Isaf and Gwerna Fawr, whose members belonged to the Church at White Cross have undoubtedly served as pulpits from which many eloquent sermons were preached. Tabor is built on the Gellideg Estate. Mr. Henry Thomas, its owner, gave the land on which it is built for 1,000 years for ten shillings a year, and on the condition that a seat be reserved, free, for the same period of time for his descendents. The condition is not generally known, and for that reason, perhaps, has not always been faithfully observed. Here we should like to refer to a statement made by the Rev. Lewis Powell, of Cardiff, in his "Memoirs." At the close of a chapter in which he describes a preaching tour of his in 1827, he writes thus: --

"I went to Gwerna, Gellihaf and Hanover."



Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

And in a note at the bottom of the page, he adds the following words about "Gellihaf."

"Independents and Baptists and Methodists preached at Gellihaf. Mr. Henry Thomas gave land to build Tabor, and a burial ground for 1,000 years for 10/- a year."

"Gellihaf" is evidently an error, and should be "Gellideg." The reference beyond all doubt is to Mr. Henry Thomas, who lived in Gellideg, and who was the owner of the Estate. He and his family were faithful Nonconformists, and continue to be so to this day. Moreover the Chapel is built, as we have already stated, on the Gellideg Estate, and the ground rent is paid to the present owners to-day. Mr. Henry Thomas died in 1832, about three years after the erection of the first chapel. What reliable knowledge have we of these far off days? Dr. Thomas Rees says that in 1827 members from New Bethel, Penmain and White Cross met in a cottage near Gellideg Isaf. The cottage occupied at the time by Mr. Edward Richards and his wife, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Thomas, Gellideg Isaf. Mr. Henry Richards, an officer of Tabor for many years was their son, as also was Mr. Daniel Richards, the Secretary of Tabor Church for about 40 years. Mr. Edward Richards, J.P., Ystrad Mynach, is a grandson.

The late Mr. Henry Richards was born at that cottage in 1850 - in less than two years after the building of the Chapel. It was demolished many years ago, but there are still living many who remember it, and remember that it was nearly adjoining the farmhouse. At that humble cottage those early Independents met for prayer and praise, and held societies and occasional preaching services for at least two years before Tabor was built. We wish there were a record of all that transpired at those meetings. They were a noble band - great enough to agree to disagree. When they came to discuss the site of the Chapel they failed to see eye to eye with one another. Some thought it should be higher up in the valley. Others considered this the more suitable spot. The result was, the erection of two chapels instead of one - Salem, Trelyn and   [cont'd]


Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

 Rev. G. M. Jenkins, M.A., F.T.S.

[Image: Rev. G. M. Jenkins, M.A., F.T.S.]


Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

Tabor. Time has proved both to be right, because by this time both are needed and occupy admirable positions in the centre of a growing population.

Tabor was built in 1829, with the door facing south, and like many of the old chapels, with an entrance to the gallery from the outside. The first chapel was only about half the size of the present old Chapel. It was rebuilt in 1855, and during that time the services were held in the barn of Gellideg Isaf. Thus the place which probably had served as a sanctuary for years previously became once again the meeting place of the saints. Although the first Tabor was built in 1829, the Church was not formally established at that time, but in about a year later with a membership of 50, and the Rev. Thomas Harries, of New Bethel, as minister - a fact which goes far to prove that the majority of the fifty were drawn from that Church. Owing to the weak state of his health, and pressure of work, Mr. Harries before long advised the Church to release him and look for a successor, and they extended an invitation to Mr. Herbert Daniel, of Cefnycrib, near Pontypool. He was ordained on May 29th, 1832, the Rev, Thomas Harries and others taking part in the services. After serving the Church faithfully for six years, Mr. Daniel also resigned in order to take over the church at Trosnant, where he experienced the joy of building and wiping off the debt of the Church, which is known to-day as Mount Pleasant, Pontypool. Once again Tabor turned to New Bethel for a Pastor, and for a short time the care of the Church was in the hands of the Rev. Moses Ellis, a powerful preacher and a man of high literary taste - a taste which his grandson, Charles Ellis Lloyd, M.P., Barrister, the author of the "Scarlet Nest" and other books, seems to have inherited. During his ministry Tabor experienced a great revival. In their enthusiasm they stood on the benches singing and shouting - "Blessed be his Name, etc." - thus winning for themselves the nick-name, "Jumpers" from worldly folk. Declining health compelled him, also, to resign and to reserve all his energy for Mynydd Islwyn, where outside the chapel a monument perpetuates his name. After Mr. Ellis the church called the Rev. John Morgan Thomas, of Glyn Neath to the   [cont'd]



Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

pastorate, jointly with Jerusalem, Blackwood, but after a short stay of 18 months, he left for the United States of America. He was followed in the ministry of the Church by William Roberts, from Llanddeussant, Anglesey, an excellent preacher, but owing to certain circumstances, the church reluctantly had to ask him to resign.

On May 28th, 1854, Tabor invited the Rev. J. Mason Davies, Graig, Rhymney, to the pastorate, and according to his successor, he laboured here 13 ½ years against terrible odds. The reference is, we presume to some trouble which arose when a section of the Church withdrew to become eventually the Zoar, Calvinistic Methodist Church, Maesycwmmer.

Mr. Davies left at the end of 1867 for Tyrhos, Pembrokeshire.

In 1868, Tabor having had six ministers in 40 years, invited the Rev. T. J. Hughes, of Abertillery. He declined at the time; but, when approached the following year, he accepted, and was recognized in September, 1869. His long and faithful service to the Church at Tabor, to the district, and to his denomination in the county, deserves far more space than can be given to it here. It is not too much to say that the history of Tabor for the next 43 years is largely the history of the Rev. T. J. Hughes. He loved Tabor, and Tabor loved him. When he commenced Tabor was a small church of about 50 members, but under his care it grew and had in 1904 a membership of 200. The beautiful and commodious Chapel built in 1876, as long as it remains will be a monument to him and to those loyal and enthusiastic people around him in those days. It was built at the cost of £2000, but thanks to the untiring efforts of the Church which secured something like £400 once by a bazaar; the generosity of Mr. William Jeremiah, Brooklyn, New York, a native of the village, and a cousin of the Pastor's wife, who, altogether contributed some hundreds of pounds, but chiefly to Mr. Hughes's own efforts the debt incurred was cleared in 15 years. He not only encouraged and inspired his own people to contribute, but visited Churches in Monmouthshire and in other Counties in order to plead the cause,   [cont'd]



Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

he went to America, preached in no less than six States, and brought back with him about £300 towards the debt of the Church. Although these tours told on his health, he continued with the work which was so dear to his heart until declining strength compelled him to resign. He preached his last sermon on October 6 th, 1907. A few years later he paid a visit to some of his relatives in Australia, and although, he had a serious illness there, he returned with renewed strength only to lose it again gradually until the end came peacefully on March 13 th, 1920. He rests with her who was his companion in joy and sorrow for so many years, his beloved wife, in front of Tabor Chapel, which was the scene of his labour for 43 years, "Until the day dawn and the shadows flee away."

Tabor has had three pastors since The Rev. E.B. Powell, who came from Efailisaf, near Pontypridd. He commenced his ministry in January 1909, and left for Maesyrhaf Church, Neath, in January, 1919; the Rev. Gomer Davis, who came from New Tredegar. He began his ministry in July, 1919, and left for Nantymoel in February, 1924, and the Rev. G. M. Jenkins, M.A., F.T.S., who came from Pontlottyn. He commenced in April, 1925, and resigned in September, 1926.

Tabor, which is free from debt incurred in late years, since about 1922, has always had people of a generous spirit among its members. The harmonium, which has been in use for many years was a gift of the late Mr. Thomas and Mrs. Thomas, Gwerna House, in 1887, and the "Communion Service" that of the young people of the Church at the time of the revival of 1904-5.

Tabor has been exceedingly happy in the choice of its officers from the beginning, and many of them deserve far more than the mere mentioning of their names.

WILLIAM JENKINS (Treasurer for about 40 years).
DANIEL RICHARDS (Secretary for about 40 years).


Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

 Mr. Ioan Jenkins, L.T.S.C., Brecon College

[Image: Mr. Ioan Jenkins, L.T.S.C., Brecon College]


Tabor Congregational Church Centenary

LEVI WILLIAMS (Treasurer for some years).
WILLIAM WIGLEY (Precenter for over 32 years).
THOMAS WILLIAMS T. EINON THOMAS (Precenter and Minutes Secretary for about 10 years).
EDWARD MADDOCK (Secretary for about 10 years).
REG. MORGAN (Secretary for some years).

The following, among others, have freely given of their services to the Church at the Harmonium: --

MRS. M.A, STARK, Pontllanfraith.
MRS. KATE JENKINS, Tenby (who played the new harmonium for the first time).
MRS. DRING, Port Talbot.

In conclusion we should like to record two facts viz.: - That Mr. Reginald Morgan was Secretary of the Church for 7 years previous to the appointment of Mr. Sidney T. Williams, the present Secretary, and that Mr. Ioan Jenkins, L.T.S.C., of the Memorial College, Brecon, as temporary Student-Pastor, is doing excellent work in the Church since July of this year. May God continue to bless him and Tabor.




Centenary Meetings, Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday Evening, October 19 th, at 7:30 p.m.
President: Mr. IOAN JENKINS, L.T.S.C.

Preaching Services.

Sunday, October 20 th, at 11.0 a.m. (Welsh)
Preacher: REV. T. EYNON DAVIES (London)
President: MR. IOAN JENKINS, L.T.S.C.

2:30 p.m. (English)

President: MR. IOAN JENKINS, L.T.S.C.

A duet will also be rendered by MISSES FRANCES EVANS AND
PEGGY ROBERTS, of Ystrad Mynach.

6.0 p.m. (English).

President: MR. IOAN JENKINS, L.T.S.C.
Soloist: MR. BRINLEY HOPKINS, Treharris.
An Anthem will be rendered by Church Choir.
Conductor: MR. T. G. JONES, L.T.S.C.

The Evening Meeting will be followed by a SPECIAL COMMUNION

[page 22]


Centenary Meetings, Monday and Tuesday

Monday, October 21 st, at 2:30 p.m.

A duet will be rendered by MR. IOAN JENKINS and MR. DAVID
HARRIS, Brecon College.

4:30 p.m. TEA. When several ministers and friends will give short
addresses. Price 9d. each.

6:30 p.m.

Great Public Meeting

at which the "STORY OF TABOR" will be told by
REV. E. B. POWELL, of Neath.
Several ministers and friends will deliver addresses.
Soloist: MR. BEN DATE, Nelson.

Anthems will be rendered by Church Choir.

Conductor: Mr. T. G. Jones, L.T.S.C.

President: REV. R. E. PEREGRINE, B.D., Rhymney

Tuesday, October 22 nd, at 7.0 p.m.

[page 23]

 Tabor Congregational Church Group Photo - 1929

[Image: Tabor Congregational Church Group Photo - 1929]

Mr. James Maddocks
Mr. James Roberts
Mr. T. G. Jones
Mr. W. A Williams
(Asst. Organist)
Mr. William Evans
  Mr. S. T. Williams
Miss E. Roberts
Mr. Ioan Jenkins,
(Brecon College)
Miss G. Williams
Mr. Thos. Osborne

[page 24]

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