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Historical Notes






Rise and Development of Non-Conformity


The earliest non-conformist tradition in the vicinity was associated with Thomas Llewellyn a noted bard of Glyn Eithinog in the Hamlet of Rhigos who flourished sometime between 1580 and 1620. It is said that: he translated the Bible into Welsh before Bishop William Morgan in 1588; that he established Puritan Conventicles in North Glamorgan; that he was licensed to preach by Archbishop Greandell; that he had written to Richard Davies Bishop of St David’s urging him to translate the Bible into Welsh; that his letters are in the Panton Mss; and that he was over 100 years old when he died. These claims were made throughout the literature of the last century and those traditions die hard. Tradition has no basis in historical evidence, e.g. he could not have been licensed to preach by Archbishop Greandell in 1588 because Greandell had died in 1583; no letters are found in the Panton Mss; and no reference to him in the Lambeth Mss. The legend seems to have been publicised by Benjamin Heath Malkin, Vol 1 pp 297–299 published in 1807. Malkin relied for his material on Iolo Morgannwg, but the late Dr. Griffith John Williams has shown conclusively that this tradition has no basis in fact.


Acknowledged authorities are agreed that the first Welsh Non-Conformist Cause was established at Llanfaches in 1639, “Cofiadur” 1923. After that year, there is increasing evidence of the rise of Non-Conformity in this area. From a topographical and geological point of view, the movement was influenced by movements in upper reaches of the Neath Valley and in Breconshire. From Craig-y-Llyn to the Brecon Beacons is a social as well as a geographic area. The culture of the Cynon valley was directly influenced by that neighbourhood.

New standards of literature came from that area to the Cynon Valley in the 18th century and from there too came the industrial developments of the late 18th and 19th centuries.


In the 17th century, Non-Conformity came to the Aberdare Valley not up the valley of the Tâf but from places like Blaengwrach, Cwm-y-Glo, Blaencanaid and the borders of Breconshire. In the early forties of the 17th century, the Vicar of Llantrisant was ejected by the “Triers” appointed by the Puritan Parliament (Commissioners for the Approbation of Public Preachers) and his successor was the Puritan Henry Williams. It is not certain when he died though he was alive in 1669. Long before the Restoration in 1660, Puritans were particularly active in the Merthyr district and there is plenty of evidence that they caused serious trouble to the Rector of Merthyr the Rev Nathan Jones. Bells would be rung during services to disturb him (later they were sold) and itinerant preachers would preach from a yew tree in the churchyard while the Rector was delivering his sermon. Horses were put into the chancel and hay into the steeple. The clerk was a Puritan and no tithes were paid. All these complaints were found in old Mss found in the church and quoted in Williams’ “History of Merthyr”.

Dr Thomas Richards (Pagan Puritans of East Glamorgan), History of Puritan Movement in Wales 1639–53, published London 1920, pp71m and 135. Beside mob reaction there was genuine dissent and Capt Jenkin Jones, Edward Jenkins, Howell Lewis, who were not settled ministers but who were itinerant preachers active in Breconshire and North Glamorgan areas and the dissent that they represented, consisted of a strange mixture of sectaries, Independents, Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers and 5th Monarchy Men (yearning for the advent of a second Cromwell). In view of this combined opposition, it was not surprising that the Rev Nathan Jones was not removed by the “Triers”. He seems to have survived, in the 1660 Restoration of the Monarchy and the re-establishment of Anglicanism the wheel had turned full circle, and Puritan Dissenters found themselves the hunted and not the hunters. In the days of Nathan Jones’ successor, the Rev George Jones, The Clarendon Code came into operation; there were a Series of Acts of Parliament:


1 The Act of Uniformity August 1662
2 The Conventicle Act May 1664
3 The Five Mile Act October 1665


that were all aimed at the suppression of Dissent. Jenkin Jones was imprisoned at Carmarthen and although Henry Williams was not formally ejected from the living of Llantrisant, we find him living at Merthyr as a Puritan Teacher. The Non-Conformists of Merthyr and the neighbouring Parishes of Vaynor and Aberdare became affiliated to a widely scattered Puritan Church of Breconshire, meeting surreptitiously in remote places or in very small groups according to terms of the Conventicle Act. Whenever larger gatherings took place, the results were usually disastrous. Earlier in 1669, Vavasour Powell, one of the leading pioneers of Welsh Non-Conformity, came to Merthyr. Word got round and a congregation of some 1,000 people gathered in the churchyard and the Rector the Rev George Jones reported to the Deputy Lieutenant of the County, Edmund Thomas of Wenvoe, that Powell was accompanied by a band of armed men. Powell was apprehended at his lodgings in Merthyr. Major John Carr made the arrest and Powell was taken to Cardiff then Cowbridge then to the Court of Pleas in London. He was committed to the Fleet Prison where he died in 1670. He was such a powerful preacher that he could draw a large congregation in spite of the Clarendon Code, demonstrating the strength of Dissent in North Glamorgan, borne out by the Episcopal Returns of 1669 – Diocese of Llandaff Merthir Tidfil Parish.

Conventicles at the houses of Howell Rees Phillip and Isaac John Morgan for the Quakers and a next rabble numbers 300, 400, 500 and sometimes 600, (Lambeth Mss Vol 639). Undoubtedly included some from Vaynor and Aberdare. From this time onwards, we start hearing of Conventicles at Blaencanaid, an old farm house in a little frequented spot between Aberdare and Merthyr. In corroboration of these meetings, the most prominent Glamorgan Poet of the 17th century, Edward Dafydd of Margam 1600–1678, has a notable poem: “Cerdd y Ffanaticiaid”, in which he pours scorn on leading Welsh Dissenters of that time. It was reprinted in Seren Gomer July 1902. In this poem, Blaencanaid is cited as a conventicle with minister Howell Lewis by all reports a Baptist with “a party of highland tribesmen about him”, and “Separatists had made a very early home in these inaccessible retreats” – Benjamin Heath Malkin. There were many stories of the courage of these early pioneers and the persecution they had to suffer.


With the coming of the Revolution of 1688 and the Toleration act of 1689, conditions became considerably easier. They began to look for a chapel (Blaencanaid), and secured a lease for 60 years on land near an old farmhouse called Cwm-y-G1o. The Lease was granted by Captain David Jenkins of Hensol. Even the ruins of this first non-conformist Chapel are today barely traceable. Dafydd Morgannwg in 1874 says part of the walls were still standing and he describes the boundaries as 37 feet long and 19 feet wide with adjacent stables 20 feet long and 15 feet wide.

The Leader of the Blaencanaid conventicle was Howell Lewis who was a Baptist. When they moved to Cwm-y-G1o, strict Baptists joined the Church already formed at Hengoed. Quakers set up their own cause at Treharris (Quaker’s Yard). This left Cwm-y-Glo in the hands of the Presbyterians. The designation Presbyterian should not give the impression that they were the forerunners of the Methodists of the next century. The church at Cwm-y-Glo was Independent but like its confreres, it was called Presbyterian because of its ruling body of minister and elders. It was not until the 18th century that the term Independent came into general use to designate a Religious Community whose organization was complete within itself. And to make things even more confusing for the historian, the term Presbyterian was used all through the 18th century to designate Unitarian Churches and the term Unitarian did not come into use until after 1800.

With the departure of the Quakers and the Baptists from the church at Cwm-y-Glo, one would have thought that the church would settle down to its new-found freedom. However, there was a theological division, there was a strong Arminian element who rejected predestination and ascribed to man a greater power of free will and choice as opposed to the Calvinists. Arminians led to Arianism, which later became Unitarianism. It is not known who was the first minister but it was probably the Rev Henry Maurice, who was in charge of a church in Breconshire,


(Eglwys Brycheiniog). When he died in 1682, other Breconshire ministers probably looked after the churches at Blaencanaid and Cwm-y-G1o (later). The Rev Roger Williams was ordained minister at Cwm-y-Glo. He was a native of Cefn Arthen near Llandovery and he was ordained minister of his mother church at Cefn Arthen in the same year. These two churches were 30 miles apart. He came from the same stock as did Williams Pantycelyn. He turned out to


be a strong Arminian and found powerful support from one of the local bards, one Sion Llewellyn a blacksmith from Cefn Coed. He became minister of Cwm-y-Glo in 1711.
He was an interesting character, in great demand at local functions particularly weddings. A book of his religious poems called “Difyrrwch Diniwaid Deunaw o Ganeuon a Naw o


Hymnau Duwiol” was published in 1691, and did more to spread Arminianism in Aberdare than all the sermons put together, (Bywyd Sion Llewellyn John Ross, Heol Awst Caerfyrddin). In 1947, a memorial was unveiled to Sion Llewellyn at the Unitarian Church at Cefn Coed.


The Calvinists were dissatisfied and sometime around 1724 they managed to secure the services of James Davies of Llanwrtyd as co-Pastor, (he was a strong Calvin). But the Rev James Davies was not the only champion of Calvinism in these parts. At the other end of the valley, on the side of the old road from Rhigos to the Neath Valley, was the Unitarian Church of Blaengwrach. A non-conformist conventicle had been conducted there since the end of the 17th century


but the Chapel was not built until 1704.


The first Deed is dated May 1 1719.

“Chapel erected in 1704 by Protestant Dissenters Llewellyn Morgan and his wife on the one part, and Rhys Morgan, David Richard, Lewis Jenkins, Thomas Morgan, Daniel Morgan and Thomas Rees on the other part ”. Carw Coch essay also states that the date 1704 could be seen carved on a beam above the fireplace as late as 1857.


Rev Henry Davies who came from a substantial family in Carmarthenshire settled here as Pastor and schoolmaster and remained until 1740. He spent these years in ceaseless travel in the parishes of Llanwynno, Ystradyfodwg, and Aberdare. He too was a staunch Calvinist and he and James Davies did much to foster the rise of Methodism in this district. 20 of his letters to Howell Harries are extant and 2 from James Davies (Cofiadur 1935 pp 38–55) “June 9th 1738, ‘Many expected to see and hear you at Aberdare and Llanwono. I pity the people that were disappointed at those places, where you fully designed to be when I saw you’, Trefecca Letters 111 (from Henry Davies).”

“March 12 1739, ‘That with all speed you possibly can you will spare a week between Vaynor, Merthyr, Aberdare and Llanwynno’, Trefecca Letter 145 (James Davies).” Howell Harries found some of his strongest supporters in this district in spite of opposition from the older dissenters. These leanings towards Calvinism produced the strongest opposition in Cwm-y-Glo and it is surprising that the co-pastorate could continue without tearing the church apart. Roger Williams died and the Arminian section of the Church looked for a new


minister. They chose one of their own members one Richard Rees of Gwernllwyn Uchaf who had been trained at Carmarthen Academy under Thomas Perrott. He was ordained Minister of Cwm-y-Glo in 1732 much to the delight of the old Poet Sion Llewellyn. James Davies and Richard Rees continued their joint ministry for 15 years and when separation came it was not because of theological disputes but because they had to find a new home as the lease was running out. As far as Cwm-y-Glo was concerned, it was the expiration of the lease that led to the two elements in the congregation to find separate homes.


In this year, the Arminian section under Richard Rees moved to Cefn Coed, Merthyr and established the mother church of Unitarianism in North Glamorgan. When the lease finally ran out James Davies and other members moved a little lower down the valley but still, on the north side of the village on the bank of the River Tâf. They secured a lease February 27th 1749 and built a chapel at Ynysgau, which was described in the Episcopal Returns some years later as a “Pompous Meeting House”. To assist James Davies at their new home, the chapel at Ynysgau inducted his son Samuel Davies as his co-pastor but the young man turned out to be an even more rabid Arminian than the Rev Richard Rees.

James Davies now found himself torn between two loyalties. He had opposed both Roger Williams and Richard Rees but now with his son, he tried to compromise and the result was unsatisfactory for both sections at Ynysgau. The result was that members who lived on the Aberdare side decided to set up their own cause and a chapel was erected


“ar gomin Hirwaun yn Heolyfelin” in 1751. There is some question as to whether Hen Dŷ Cwrdd was set up as a result of theological disputes or because of geographical convenience, though it does seem likely that doctrinal differences proved responsible for the founding of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd at Aberdare. Whether it was Calvinist or Arminian depends upon who was the first Minister. This is in some doubt.

The official history by the Rev Jacob Davies gives as the “General Opinion” that it was the Rev Owen Rees, inducted in 1756. He is known as having been a staunch Calvinist but it seems unlikely that the church would have been without a minister for the first five years however, and again it seems likely that it was cared for by the Rev Thomas Lewis of Blaengwrach who was also a strong Calvinist. This is confirmed by Mrs Rees Bevan who was the widow of Owen Rees and later re-married and who lived to be 100. (Transactions of the Unitarian Society 1918.)

Until further evidence is forthcoming, there is no proof that Hen Dŷ Cwrdd was either Calvinist or Arminian. It was probably Calvinist, with the growing tendency towards Arminianism and Arianism in Ynysgau in 1749, the Revival exaggerating doctrinal differences, and the 1st pastor probably Calvinist and his successor Owen Rees a very strong Calvinist. Indeed, it is more than probable that Hen Dŷ Cwrdd was Calvinist.

1751 Mar 25

1st Trust Deed of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd: “A Meeting House for the Public Service of Dissenting Protestants.” For the next 60 years, the history of non-conformity in Aberdare is largely the history of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd because no other place of worship was built in the Parish until


There is an interesting description of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd in the ‘Swansea and Glamorgan Herald’ for 15th December 1858. “Accommodation was for perhaps 250 people. Chapel was situated ‘In a certain field commonly known as Tir Yr Neathe’ (original Ne-athe and is found in old rent roll of 1633 as Neuadd probably old farm house of Gadlys Uchaf).”

During the ministry of Owen Rees till his death in 1768, Hen Dŷ Cwrdd moved decisively to Arminianism and Arianism. His celebrated grandson Dr Thomas Rees author of “The Beauties of South Wales” 1817, speaks of his grandparents thus: – “Mrs Rees Bevan had embraced the Arminian sentiments of her husband and with him she relinquished the Doctrine of the Trinity and embraced the Tenets which may perhaps be called Arian.” Monthly Repository of 1818. For further information regarding the family, see the Dictionary of National Biography under Josiah Rees. A grandson of Owen Rees who was also called Owen Rees became a partner of the Publishing Firm called Longmans and became a personal friend of Sir Walter Scott. Another Grandson, Josiah later Sir Josiah Rees, became High Court Judge in Bermuda and his son George became Physician to Queen Victoria.


Owen Rees died in this year and lies buried in the Parish Churchyard. His epitaph was written by Edward Evan of Ton Coch. In a grave adjacent lie the remains of a young man, William Owen, who murdered his fiancée at Merthyr Tudful and was hanged at Stalling Down and whose epitaph was also composed by Edward Evan.


Between these years, Hen Dŷ Cwrdd came under the ministry of a man called Edwards of whom nothing is known and later under the Rev David Evans. The Rev John Evans in his answers to the Episcopal visitation Questionnaire 1771 says, “There were Presbyterians in abundance in this Parish, but they have no Minister at present, their number decreased last year for want of a minister”.


This want was met by the ordination of the celebrated Edward Evan of Ton Coch who remained until his retirement in 1796. (He died 2 years later). The activities of Edward Evan are most important for the very revealing insight they give to many aspects of life in Aberdare. Literary, Political and Social life are all reflected in the life of Edward Evan of Ton Coch.


Edward Evan of Ton Coch


He was born in a farmhouse called Tir Ifan Rhys at Pen-Yr-Allt, which is now Tregibbon, Llwydcoed. Iolo Morgannwg gives his pedigree as son of Ifan ap Hywel Gwyn y Gôf and that this Hywel Gwyn was one of the owners of the Cam Dociar Furnace at Dyffryn and that the same Hywel Gwyn was the father of Gwenllian Dociar, “in the days of Oliver Cromwell”. These genealogies are, however, open to question. Gardd Aberdâr also states that there was a great forest of oaks at Craig y Bwlch some “200 years ago” and that Edward Evan’s grandfather had been engaged in felling the trees and clearing the site. Edward was the son of a weaver and was taught the same craft but received very little formal education, though he had some tuition privately from one Siams Sion Aberdare a Wheelwright and Farmer and “a good scholar in English and Welsh”. He was known as a young man of easygoing and carefree spirit, he had learned to play the harp when he was 11 years old and Iolo insists that he was an authority on the Welsh Harp. Llanover mss 59 pp 417–419.

As a young man, he was in great demand as a harpist at local weddings, inns, fairs and taplasau Haf. (Taplas was a Midsummer Dance but came to mean any game played out of doors. e.g. pêl do, pêl talcen tŷ, or pêl droed, interspersed with dancing and singing to the harp accompaniment). A favourite meeting place was the Tonglwyd Fawr but the most popular was the churchyard. Jenkin Howell in “Y Genhinen” in 1903 p 206 recalls old people who still carried scars of the “battle of the Churchyard”. In the early part of the 18th century, Edward Evan took part in these vigorous and lighthearted sports. After some 15 or 20 years, however, he turned his interests to more sober pursuits and gave up harp playing. There were three events that were responsible for this change.

The first took place in about 1740 when he became apprenticed to the famous Glamorgan poet Lewis Hopcyn as a joiner and glazier and it was from Lewis Hopcyn that he derived his skill and interest in poetry and literature.

Lewis Hopcyn, 1709–1771, was the leader of a small band of Glamorgan poets who flourished in the 18th century and included Wil Hopcyn, 1705–74, Rhys Morgan 1700–75 of Pencraignedd, Dafydd Nicholas 1705–74, and later Edward Williams (Iolo Morgannwg), 1747–1826. Together with Edward Evan, these men above all others restored Welsh poetry to its classical traditions.


was therefore, a turning point in his life in the discipline of Welsh poetry and cynghanedd. Meanwhile he followed his new craft of joiner and glazier in the wintertime and in summer spent his time out of doors cutting hay.


The second event, he joined the church at Cwm-y-Glo. Actually all the leading poets of Glamorgan at the time were dissenters and it was probably their influence that led him to do this 8 years before Hen Dŷ Cwrdd was built. This is confirmed by a note on the back of the title page of his Welsh Catechism.


The third event was his marriage to Margaret Thomas of Glyn-Perfedd, Penderyn in February of this year. Having spent a few months at the old farmhouse at Llwydcoed and a few years at Cefnpennar, he and his wife moved to Ton Coch in the Spring of 1749. (Ton Coch is so called because the heat of the summer sun is supposed to have scorched the soil to a reddish colour). The holding of Cefn Pennar was of 53 acres but Ton Coch was 126 acres, which suggests that he was becoming substantial farmer. Ton Coch belonged to the squires of Dyffryn the Knights and the Bruces from Llanbleddian in the Vale and who had taken over the estate from the Jones family. Jones of Dyffryn reputedly descended from Ieuan Ddu ap Dafydd ap Owain a poet of some distinction and a Patron of the Arts who flourished in 1640–80. Iolo states that he purchased the estate for £100, which included Dyffryn, Ton Coch, Abercwmboi and Gelli Ddu Isaf.


There is a reference to 2 freeholders in the Parish liable for Ship Money: – John David Gent and John Jones of Dyffryn Gent. According to the will of William Matthews of Rhoose and Aberaman, December 16th 1637 proved June 6th 1638, his younger daughter Barbara was married to this John Jones.


Hearth Tax assessment: their son James Jones of Dyffryn is described as “principal resident” and was taxed on 7 hearths.


Assessment to 29th July 1671 gives details as follows


Mr. James Jones of Aberdare

7 Hearths

Edward Matthew Esquire

5 Hearths

Christopher Matthew

3 Hearths

William Gibbon

1 Hearth


Before the end of the 17th century, things were not well at Dyffryn. Chancery proceedings in 1690 showed that the Estate was seriously mismanaged and was deteriorating in value but John Jones carried on to maintain his position in Society, as High Sheriff in 1716, and as a Patron of the Arts. By the third decade of the 18th century, the Estate was in dire trouble and was mortgaged up to the hilt. Mr James Jones of Dyffryn b. 1768: Mr Jones is a ruinous sort of man parted from his wife these many years, and mortgaged his estate by riotous living to the Bruces and they were Landlords of Dyffryn when Edward Evan and his wife went to Ton Coch in 1749. This was to remain his home and that of his descendants until 1870 when Rhys Evans his grandson moved to Penygraig Llanfabon.


Is a significant year for local historians for two reasons:
1  The Lease of Cwm-y-Glo gave out,
2  It was the year Edward Evan became a member of Cwm-y-Glo and moved to Ton Coch. There is evidence that he took part in the move to Ynysgau and later to Hen Dŷ Cwrdd. Iolo also insists that he was a strict Calvinist during his early years at Cwm-Y-Glo. But when the Church moved to Ynysgau and thence to Hen Dŷ Cwrdd and under the growing Arminianism of Owen Rees, he tended to similar views.


His first publication – a Welsh translation of Samuel Bourne’s Catechism . The translation was known as “Gwersi i Blant a Dynion Ieuanc mewn Dau Gatecism”, published by Evan Powell Carmarthen, 1757. His next venture was in conjunction with his bardic friend Lewis Hopcyn of Glyn Ogwr. A young Cardigan poet had come to Glamorgan in 1727, his married life proved unhappy separated from his wife, spending the remainder of his life in Ystradyfodwg. His name was David Thomas and among his papers was found a Welsh Metrical translation of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Edward Evan and Lewis Hopcyn completed the translation. Edward was responsible for chapters 2, 7, 9 and 11 and Hopcyn the remainder.


The work appeared in this year under the title of “Llyfr Ecclesiastes neu’r Pregethwr gad Edward Evans o Aberdâr a Lewis Hopcyn o Lyn Ogwr yn Sir Forgannwg”, published by S. Farloy, Bristol.


There is evidence that he was taking an active part in services and is known to have preached on the text of Job 7.16 during this year. Whether he received any academic training during the late 60s is open to doubt vide, “Bardd a’i Gefndir”, R.T. Jenkins, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion. There was an article in the “Ymofynnydd” in 1900 by Principal Walter Evans who insists that there was an E. Evans of Aberdare at Carmarthen Academy during the years 1766 and 1770 and that this E. Evans received a Bursary for these years. This is unlikely as Edward Evan was well past the age limit of 25 years. Probably he received no training.


Thomas Morgan and Edward Evan were ordained at Blaengwrach. Thomas Morgan to be Minister of Blaengwrach itself and Edward Evan to the Pastorate of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd, Trecynon. There are copies of this Ordination Certificate reprinted in Gardd Aberdâr, 1854 page 76 of the 1874 Edition, and also in “Yr Ymofynnydd" of the same year. The article in Yr Ymofynnydd was by John Jones the father of Rees Jenkin Jones.

“We whose names are subscribed below, Ministers of the Gospel, testify that the Re. Edward Evans has been recommended to the Grace of God and is solemnly devoting himself to the whole work of the Christian Ministry this First Day of July 1772 by us


J. Jenkins

David Williams

Samuel Davies

Joseph Simmons

Phillip Charles

Simon Williams

Henry Thomas

Josiah Rees


The belief that he had been at the Academy at Carmarthen is based on the assumption that the J. Jenkins, whose name appears on the certificate, was Dr. Jenkin Jenkins of Carmarthen Academy. The new Minister was to interest himself increasingly in theological matters.


He published a further translation. This time of Charles Winter’s Defence. Winter was a minister who was excommunicated after a dispute at a church at Hengoed.


His last and only original prose work was published. It was a sermon preached at Newcastle Emlyn. It was printed and published by John Rees of Carmarthen. 2/- per dozen to such congregations as buy at least 3-dozen copies and 3d each to all others.


His wife died after 30 years of marriage leaving no issue. Two years later, he married Mary Llewellyn a 43-year-old widow from Rhigos who lived until 1823, when she died at the age of 90. By this lady, he had 2 sons: Edward born 1776 or 1777, and Rhys born 1779. Edward developed a character of great originality, a pillar of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd, and a prominent teacher. He lost his sight and died January 1882 aged 85 years. Rhys was born at Ton Coch in 1779 and became a schoolmaster at Aberpennar where he fell in love with one of his pupils Mary Williams of Aberffrwd. They were married in 1804 when she was just 16 years of age and they too lived at Ton Coch. He was an active member of the Unitarian Church at Cwmbach after it was opened in 1859. The members were mainly puddlers from Abernant Iron Works but with the closure of the Iron Works in 1870, the Unitarian Church closed down also. He was noted for his knowledge of English Classics and his colossal memory. He was said to be able to repeat from memory the whole of Paradise Lost. He died aged 88 in September 1867.


It was said of Aberdare Presbyterians, “They do increase of late because they love to be dissenters".


There were 43 members at Hen Dŷ Cwrdd and their Sunday Worship consisted of one service at 10 o’clock in the morning, (diaries of Thomas Glyn Cothi, April 17 1814, “Preached an evening sermon at Aberdare"). For this one service per Sunday, he received £9 per annum. By 1800, the salary had risen to £21 a year but he had died long before this.


He retired from the ministry a few months before the lease of the chapel was renewed for 999 years. It was completed on December 12th 1796 and includes the names of Richard Rees and Samuel Rees of Werfa and Thomas David and Jenkin Lewis all of the one part and Richard Richards Landowner on the other. The main purpose of the new lease was to secure the burial ground. The first burial was of a young child in 1797.


Edward Evan died on the 21st of June and was buried in the Parish Churchyard. There was a report that there was in his possession a complete copy of “Y Gododdin”, Bulletin the Board of Celtic Studies No. 11 May 1943 pp. 109–112.

He died on the day fixed for him to meet the other bards of the “Chair” or “Gorsedd” of Glamorgan. The claims made for Edward Evan and Iolo that they were the only two poets who held the ancient secrets of the Ancient Druidic Gorsedd are extravagant and false. A certain J.D. from Cowbridge has an article in the “Gentleman’s Magazine” for November 1789, which has this to say: “Beside Edward Williams there is, I believe, only one regular Bard now remaining in Glamorgan or in the whole World; this is The Rev Edward Evan of Aberdare, a dissenting minister. These two persons are the only legitimate descendants of the so long celebrated Ancient British Bards. At least they will allow no others this Honourable title”. E.E. never made such a claim. Iolo, however, fastened on to the legend with all his literary and poetic genius and founded the anachronism known as Gorsedd Y Beirdd.

It is as a Poet that Edward Evan carved his name in Welsh life and placed Aberdare on the literary map of Wales. His poems were published posthumously by his son Rhys. They were published at Merthyr in 1804 under the title, “Canada Moesol a Duwiol”. The book ran to 168 pages and included the Metrical translation previously published. A 2nd edition appeared in 1816 again published at Merthyr but now called “Afalau’r Awen”. A 3rd edition at Merthyr in 1837 and finally a 4th edition published at Aberdare in 1874, which includes a biography. As a poet, the main criticism seems to be that he was over fond of adjectives but for the social historian it is the content that counts. He wrote on a variety of subjects that give an interesting light on the social life of Aberdare. “Tabitha the Weaver at the Old Llwydcoed Mill” is an example quoted in Gardd Aberdâr but not included in the Collection. In politics, he was an extreme Radical. In 1763, he composed a poem when Edmund Thomas of Wenvoe Castle was standing for Glamorgan (Edmund Thomas later, 1767, became Keeper of the Royal Forests). During the French Revolution E.E. seems to have developed a mild form of pacifism and wrote numerous poems on the virtues of peace. In fact, Morgan Williams, (1813–1886), editor of “Utgorn Cymru”, the Welsh Chartist Newspaper published in Merthyr in 1839, declared unequivocally that Edward Evan was noted for his advanced political views. His poems on the condition of roads have considerable local interest.


An attempt had been made to improve the road leading to Glyn Neath. Rhys Morgan had sung eulogistically of it, but Edward Evan was less enthusiastic. He was loud in his praise, however, for the new bridge at Pont-y-Tŷ-Pridd. William Edwards, (another non-conformist minister) from Groeswen near Caerffili, made three abortive attempts since 1746 to cross the Taf with a single span until final success.

A sidelight on local pastimes at Aberdare illustrated by his poetry is the one dedicated to those who ran a false race at Aberdare when some people lost a great deal of money and are sorely grieved. He has a poem in praise of beer.

Up to the death of Edward Evan and the close of the 18th century, there were no conventicles or chapels in Aberdare except Hen Dŷ Cwrdd. Baptists and Independents had made little headway and in spite of visits of Howell Harries and the Wesleys, Methodism had made no real impact. It is probable that at Hen Dŷ Cwrdd there were Calvinists and Arminians who were not strict Unitarians. It is exceedingly unlikely that there were any strict Baptists but even before his death, Baptists and others who accepted Trinitarianism had made their appearance.


The Visitation Return for this year gives “Presbyterians, no Independents, some Baptists. The Presbyterian Minister is Edward Evan and the Baptist Minister is David Oliver”.