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Historical Notes


14 — The Beginnings of Orthodox Dissent




1795–1823 The Beginnings of Orthodox Dissent



Early Dissent in the District was associated with the name of David Oliver. It is believed that he was a native of Aberdare and that he was apprenticed as a cobbler. He later moved to the Rhondda. The DNB states that he became a member of a Baptist Church at Ystrad in 1785, began to preach in 1786, and was ordained in 1789. History of Baptist Churches in Wales 1794.
“Greal Y Bedyddwyr”, November 1828, states that David Oliver was Minister in Ystrad in


this year with a church of 52 members. It appears that Oliver preached occasionally in


Conventicles in Aberdare and in 1791 he baptized four adults in the River Cynon. Howell Morgan, Jane Jones, Mary Edwards and who were members of Ynysfach Baptist Church later Nebo at Ystrad. In spite of the Visitation Returns of 1795 when Oliver is said to be the Baptist Minister, there is no record of Licensed Conventicles at Aberdare before the end of the 18th century. Gardd Aberdâr states that David Davies a weaver and itinerant preacher from Neath and the Rev Charles Jenkins of Defynnog both conducted services for Baptists at Aberdare before the end of the 18th century but makes no mention of Oliver. There is no mention of Baptists in the first decade of the 19th century.


By 1802, Oliver had changed his views in favour of the Arminianism of the General Baptists. So he left Aberdare to take charge of a church at Newton Nottage later known as the Unitarian Baptist Church but he was back again in 1803 as minister of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd in succession to the Rev John Davies who had followed Edward Evan in 1796. John Davies was married to the sister of Jenkin Rhys, manager of the Llwydcoed Iron Works and she was the aunt of Rhys Hopkin Rhys. According to the cash register of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd, Oliver received his first salary in May 1803 and his last in November 1806. Oliver left Aberdare in 1806 to become Minister of the influential Unitarian Church of Gellionnen where he remained until 1814 when he joined the Independents; the date of his death is unknown.


After this year the Baptists of Aberdare were left to fend for themselves aided by immigrants from Ystrad, Howell Evans and his wife, and from Neath David Williams and his wife and Dafydd y Crydd, and Lewis and Ann Richards. Lewis Richards’ house was chosen as a Baptist Conventicle.


By this year, they were strong enough to register in November as a Conventicle to be known as Carmel. Document of Registration LL-PDM-8. The next step was to hold a Sunday School in the Long Room of the Farmers Arms near the Old Mill in the village of Aberdare, which they rented for 20/– a year. Very soon, Richards’ house grew too small and with the assistance of Baptists from Merthyr, they took a room above the old Market House. Lewis Richards, William his son and William Lewis destined to become the first Baptist minister residing at Aberdare were prominent members. Also, in the records there is an account of the Baptism of a young woman from Carmarthenshire when they had to break the ice before the rites could be performed. By 1810, it was apparent that a Chapel would have to be built and land was leased from D.P. Davies Esq. of Ynyslwyd at a place called Pen Pownd.


June. The Baptist Chapel was officially incorporated into the Baptist Association South East District at a meeting at Dolau in Radnorshire.
November 10th – a formal Application for Registration was made to Llandaff signed by the Rev Rees Jones of Merthyr, Minister, Lewis Richards, Howell Evans, William Lewis; this was endorsed on the l0th December of the same year. LL-PDL-10.


The building was commenced and completed within 12 months in 1812. In the meantime, other forms of Historic Dissent were also growing. Methodism and Independence were developing and both types seem to have met together for Common worship in the early years. Methodism had been introduced 60 years earlier, but nothing permanent was done until the end of the 18th century.


William Jenkins a shopkeeper at Aberdare invited Methodists to send a preacher to Aberdare. Among those who came were Edward Coslett of Machen and an Independent Preacher from Caerffili named Thomas Edwards who was probably the grandson of William Edwards, Y Bont, of Groeswen. They conducted open air services at Aberdare which were attended by numerous people from adjoining parishes. William Jenkins’ shop was located at Tŷ’r Ardd in Monk Street a little higher up than Carmel on the right hand side where Winter’s yard is now situated (when this course of lectures was delivered).


Michaelmas Day a certain Morgan Williams from Blaennant Creunant took a lease on Tŷ’r Heol Gadlys (a little to the rear of the present Mackworth Arms) together with a few fields between Tŷ’r Heol and Cwm Farm and it was here that the first Methodist Society was conducted at Aberdare in the last few weeks of the 18th C. These meetings were also attended by Independents who included Timothy Davies (from Breconshire an apprentice at Wm. Jenkins’ Shop) and Lewis Latency (a carpenter from Llandovery). The new century soon brought changes. William Jenkins retired and went to live in Ystrad and his shop was taken over by Timothy Davies. When Rhys o’r Cwm decided to get married, Morgan Williams had to move out so that the newly weds could move in. The Conventicle left and found a new home at the “Corner house nearer to the left hand side of Lamb Street”. Here, in an upper room, Methodists and independents met during the early years of the 19th C. Then, when Morgan Williams left to live in Hirwaun the lease was taken over by one Thomas Pugh a North Walian who had come to Aberdare from Tredegar, and who was also a Methodist; he was later joined by his cousin William Pugh who settled in Llwydcoed and so things went on until 1804.


It was during this year that a Methodist minister from Merthyr a certain David Williams seems to have inquired whether the Conventicle at Lamb Street belonged to Methodists or Independents. This inevitably led to friction, which was not improved when William Pugh offered his house free of rent at Llwydcoed whereas Thomas Pugh insisted on a charge. The matter ended by the Methodists moving to William Pugh’s house at Llwydcoed and the Independents to Timothy Davies’ shop in Monk Street and they decide to register the premises as a Conventicle.


“To the Right Reverend Father in God, Lord Bishop of Llandaff.


The undersigned being Protestant Dissenters do beg leave to certify your Lordship that a certain house called Capel Drindod, situate, lying and being in the Parish of Aberdare and County of Glamorgan in the Diocese of Llandaff is intended to be a place of Divine worship for the use of the aforesaid denomination. Therefore, the undersigned request that the same may be registered in the records of your episcopal court and a copy thereof delivered unto them according to the Act of Parliament called the Toleration Act in that case made and provided.

Griffith Hughes Minister, of Groeswen
James Jacob, Morgan Rees, Timothy Davies.
Dated October 15th 1804   Endorsed October 16th 1804”


Methodists continued to meet at William Pugh’s house at Llwydcoed and conducted a Sunday School at Llofft-y-Felin and in the Long Room of the old Boot Hotel. They built a chapel at Pentwyn Bach in Trecynon. They were 30 members and they built a chapel to accommodate 300. This was the first building erected in Aberdare by Trinitarian Dissent.

Independents increased. Timothy Davies died in 1807 a “truly honest man” according to the Cambrian. Other immigrants swelled their numbers, notably David Richards, Benjamin Havard, Thomas Harrison and Joseph Harrison. These latter came from Glyn Neath in 1809. They were originally of Scottish descent and Joseph became one of the leading figures of dissent in the first half of the 19th C. He was a notable chapel builder and keeper of a Baptismal register, which is now in the Central Record Office.


Griffith Hughes of Groeswen relinquishes overseeing of Chapel in Monk Street and the care was taken over by the Rev. Methusalem Jones of Merthyr.


Gruffydd Davies, Squire of Ynyslwyd, offered land but they decided on Trecynon and the site of the present Ebenezer was chosen. History of Ebenezer Chapel. The Chapel cost £250 and £6 for the lease. There was no gallery and there were no pews, each worshipper making his own seating arrangements.

The Application for registration of the new building LL-PDM-11 was made in the name of the Rev Methusalem Jones, Minister, Lewis Lawrence as Deacon and William Williams and Evan Treharne as Elders. This is probably why the name Presbyterian was used in the Application.




Development of Orthodox Dissent 1823 to 1850


During the early years of the 19th century the following non-conformist Chapels had been built in Aberdare:

Calvinistic Methodist Chapel at

Pentwyn Bach



Independent Chapel

Ebenezer Trecynon



Baptist Chapel

Carmel Pen Pownd






Position at Hirwaun


Morgan Williams had left Lamb Street in 1804 and settled in Hirwaun where he joined up with other non-conformist dissenters; by about 1806, they had obtained premises for the purposes of holding Sunday Schools. George Overton had provided the dissenters of Hirwaun with a place to worship (some cottages knocked into one) for so long as they continued to


worship together. Four denominations continued together until 1823 when the building became too small. It is not known whether the denominational services were conducted separately or not,


however, the joint effort flourished between 1806 and 1812 when William Crawshay bought the Iron Works.


Similar trade fluctuations affected Aberdare and a similar improvement occurred when Richard Fothergill bought Abernant Iron Works in 1819.

No records are available for the early years of Pentwyn Bach.


At Carmel Pen Pownd, William Lewis was ordained as Minister but the depression in the Iron Trade compelled him to leave for Pontypridd in 1816. Membership of Carmel was only 12, of whom Howell Evans was the only one able to conduct services in public.


Matters improved. The Rev. Richard Hopkins became minister. But shortly afterwards he was convicted of gross immorality and forced to leave. Until 1826, the chapel was served by itinerant preachers.


At Ebenezer, Independents fared little better. By 1813, the Rev Methusalem Jones had relinquished supervision and the members had invited the Rev John Davies of Mynydd Bach, Swansea, to become their minister. He was inducted in July 1813 but the industrial depression forced him to leave within three years. The chapel then chose one of their own number to be their minister. He was Joseph Harrison. He had been a member for many years and began preaching in 1812. He was ordained at Ebenezer on June 26th 1817, beginning a connection with the chapel that lasted for nearly 20 years. At this time, there were 24 members in Ebenezer and the minister’s salary was £1 a month. Harrison’s Baptismal Registers are extremely important contemporary documents and throw a considerable light on the growth of population, state of morals etc, in Aberdare during the early part of the 19th Century.

From now on, it is convenient to deal with the denominations separately.