The Parish of Mountain Ash was carved out of the Ancient Parish of Llanwonno and the more modern Parish of Aberdare, in the year 1863. The newly constituted ecclesiastical Parish covered the area that included Penrhiwceiber to the south, as far as Cefnpennar and Glenboi to the North, consisting of Newtown, Miskin, Darranlas and Gaegarw. Before the turn of the century there was a staff of Vicar, and six assistant Curates ministering to this large and populous Parish.
Many changes have taken place since the inception of the Parish. The original boundaries have changed, and what was once one Parish is now three, Mountain Ash (1863), Penrihwceiber (1897) and Miskin (1909).
The emergence of the community coincided with the influx of the people to the Cynon Valley from every part of the country, in search of employment and livelihood in the numerous coal mines in the area. The whole town of Mountain Ash betrays the fact that it was built in a hurry in order to house the workers.
From about 1855 Divine Services were held in the Duffryn Boys School (since destroyed by enemy action in the second World War). Since this was neither convenient nor spacious enough, it was decided to build a church where St Margaret’s now stands. The whole edifice was built and endowed by John Bruce Pryce of Duffryn Mountain Ash, and Duffryn St Nicholas (The father of the first Lord Aberdare). The Architect was John Seddon, a friend of the Rossettis and pre-Raphaelite, a leading architect of the day and the co-architect with Pritchard, the restorer of Llandaff Cathedral. The original building consisted an apse (later removed), Nave and South Aisle, the total cost of which was £3,000. It was consecrated by Bishop Alfred Ollivant on 14th August 1862.
At the Easter Vestry in 1883, it was decided to enlarge the beautiful church by the addition of the North Aisle and the vestry at the cost of £1,000, which was consecrated by Bishop Richard Lewis on 20yh March 1884 which the church was re-opened again for worship. On 25th February 1895, the death occurred of Henry Austin Bruce, 1st Lord Aberdare, who had been a distinguished politician (he had been Gladstone’s Home Secretary) and an equally distinguished educationalist. He was a pioneer of Secondary Education in Wales. It was decided to put into operation plans for extending the church, and it was decided to put erect a Chancel, Sanctuary, Vestry and a Tower with a peal of bells, and dedicate the whole as a memorial to Henry Austin Bruce. One idea put forward, but rejected by the Dowager Lady Aberdare, was to have the South Side of the Tower left open, and a life size statue of the late Lord placed in it). The cost of this work was £3,500 and the new additions were consecrated and dedicated by Bishop Richard Lewis on Tuesday 8th February 1898.
The dimensions of the present building of the Church have remained unaltered since 1898, with additions to the internal features, finishing and stained-glass windows. Two features dominate the whole of St. Margaret’s Church, and both are magnificent, one in glorious coloured glass and the other a marvellous blend of stone and hue and carving.
The stained-glass window above the alter, has 5 lights, each light divided into three sections. The three centre lights for a unit, flanked on each side by an Old Testament and New Testament theme. The left-hand light depicts in its two upper sections Kind David showing the plans of the Temple to Solomon, his son, for God has decreed that David should not build it himself. In the background is the scaffolding for which David had made preparation. Below David gives thanks to God and his last word a prayer (1 Chronicles 28.29.) are the inspiration for this window.
The top section of the right-hand light illustrates the occasion when Cornelius was greeted by the angles (Act 10), and the section underneath speaks for itself and is the representation of the parable of the good Samaritans.
The three central lights are a unity. Above is St. Michael, with an angle to his left and right and underneath a verse from the ‘Benedicite Omnia Opera’. The highlight of the whole, at the very heart and centre is the crucified Christ, indeed the very heart of the faith. On each side are Mary and John as traditionally depicted.
Note underneath still, the lily below Mary (her traditional emblem recalling the Annunciation), below Jesus HIS (the first three letters of the Greek form for Jesus), and underneath John, the eagle, his traditional symbol. Of interest is the head of John Nixon on the extreme right-hand bottom corner, and opposite his coat of arms.
The magnificent window is dedicated to John Nixon, who died in June 1899 a pioneer of the Welsh coalfields, and steam coal trade in South Wales. He was the original owner of Deep Duffryn. The window was designed by Mr Robert J Newbury, London and added to the church in 1900.
This is considered by some to be the most valuable single possession of the church. It is early English in character, erected of Caen Stone with Spandrels between the gables and central portions. The arches of wings are the selected alabaster. The columns are of Red Ogwell and Irish Green Marble. The plinth immediately under the bases of the Arcade in the Wings is of Red Mansfield Stone, and the whole base of Green Marble.
The subject of the sculptured work is the genesis and history of the Sacramental idea. The central figure represents our Lord as Melchizedech (the King of Peace and the prefigurement of an eternal and undying Priesthood - Genesis 14. Hebrews 7.). On the immediate right Abraham and depicts Abraham’s willingness to offer his son Isaac who prophetically uttered - “My sin, God with provide himself a Lamb for the burnt offering” (Genesis 22). To the right of Abraham is Aaron, the High Priest and brother of Moses, representative of the Priesthood of the Old Covenant. On the left of the central figure the Prophet Priest, with a scroll on which we have an excerpt from the fifty fifth chapter of his prophecy. Next to Isaiah is Peter, chief of the Apostolic band. We have from left to right as we face the carving, Priest, Patriarch, King, Prophet and Apostle.
The whole has been executed after a design by Mr. E. M. Bruce-Vaughan entire cost of £250 was defrayed by a Parishioner in 1904. As to who executed the work is also a mystery, but he has left a thing of beauty with a powerful message in stone.
On each side of the Reredos along the East Wall are eight small indented arches, four each side of the sculpture work. At one time these arches used to have the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ creed colourfully hand painted within them.
The two small windows on each side of the Chancel are worth noting. On the North a memorial window to Jabez Long depicting the Nativity. Mr, Harry Long, (the son of Jabez Long) who gave both windows, dedicated the South window in memory of his wife, Elizabeth Anne. Notice that this window mentions the donor, then living, as the organist from 1891-19_, The date is still uncompleted.
The altar of the light oak is also the gift of Mr. Harry Long, and dates from August 1912. The front of the altar is richly carved, and thought by many of us to be a shame that so fine a work is hidden by altar frontals, The lovely communion rail, with its centre gates forming a graceful arch, are a memorial to Mr, Harry Long himself, and placed here in 1940, given by his two daughters, Miss Violet (later Mrs. S. T. Griffiths) and Miss Lily Long. They were designed by T Roderick & Sons, Architects, Aberdare.
The stone sedilias are a feature of the Sanctuary, and very comfortable for sitting. Note the head carved in stone on the arch to the right - He is the Revd. Benjamin Lloyd Vicar of the Parish at the time the new chancel and sanctuary were consecrated.
The Sanctuary furnishings are completed with the two beautiful oak standard candlesticks, given by members of the Cynon Valley Corps and centre in affectionate memory of Dr. Gwilym L. Pierce (O. St. J.) Commissioner of St. John’s Brigade 1945-1947. He is a member of a family of Doctors who have rendered service to the community for the best part of a century.
The Bishop’s Chair is a recent addition, gloriously carved in oak, to the treasured memory of Mary Parnell given her husband John H. Farnell and used by the present Bishop of Llandaff on the occasion of his first confirmation as Bishop of the Diocese when he confirmed Margaret Farnell (daughter) in November 1971.
The two wrought iron flower stands (the work of a local foundry and of special design) are the gifts of Mrs. Anne Rosser in §972, in memory of her husband David James Rosser, and her parents Elizabeth and Isaac Harris.
The roof of the sanctuary of dark oak is divided by beams into seventy-two squares. The corners of each square being set off with small plaques, rosettes and leaves of Gold Leaf. Along the wall plates are figures of angels, four on the North and South Walls, coloured red and green. Some hold musical instruments or have their hands folded in prayer.
The Choir Stalls are of plain pitch pine, filled every Sunday with members of the choir, regular in their attendance, and beautifully trained. The two Priest Stalls are carved oak, and date from 1932, installed to the memory of Walter Armitage, People’s Warden 1920-1923, and given by his wife, son and brother Edward.
The processional Cross is of Brass and lacquered, designed and made by the Westminster firm of Caustin (Craftsmen in Church Furnishings and antique restorers). In red enamel with centre piece Land and Banner, and on the four arms are the emblems of the four evangelists, all encircled by silvered chrome. It was presented by Mr. and Mrs. Desmond Powell, in memory of Charles and Elizabeth Powell, their parents, who were successively Vicar’s Churchwardens in St. Dyfrig’s, Newtown, and faithful church people all their lives. The cross was dedicated on All Saints’ Day, 1970.
Three bronze plaques dominate the North Wall and record the history of the Aberdare family to the present day. They begin with John Bruce Prayce, father of the 1st Lord, and founder of St. Margaret’s to the 3rd Lord, Clarence Napier Bruce, who died in 1957 and is the father of the present Lord Aberdare. The is a very close connection between St. Margaret’s and the Aberdare family.
Four carved heads are to be found in the chancel. Above the organ console, the head of Henry Austin Bruce, and directly opposite on the corner of the organ chamber arch is the head of the Lady Aberdare. The other two can be seen by looking directly west, and on the chancel side of the main arch is the head of Queen Victoria, in whose reign the Church was built (according to practice). On the South side the head of Bishop Lewis the consecrating Bishop.
The first organ was installed in 1914. The same organ was remodelled and reconstructed and enlarged in 1952. The whole chamber was constructed in the choir vestry on the North side of the Chancel in accordance to a specification of Messrs. W. G. Vowles Ltd. to a design of Sir Percy Thomas. This was a memorial in light oak, it has a plaque on which are the names of the fallen. The two manual console is at present situated on the South side of the Chancel, placed here to allow room for the new Lady Chapel.
The First Chapel
What is now the Chapel and sacristy (Vicar’s Vestry), was originally one large chamber, the organ being housed in the space now used as the chapel, and the remaining area being the Choir Vestry. After the 1914-18 War it was decided to erect a Memorial to the fallen of the Parish. A dividing wall was built, and the organ moved to the north side of the Church.
A memorial was placed on the new wall, of dark oak panelling incorporating the names of the fallen in carved gold leaf lettering.
The window above is rounded, in the centre of picture of a dove and around it are enumerated the fruits of the spirit - Love, Joy, Peace, Long Suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faithfulness.
At the East End, beneath the Bell Tower, was the original place of the altar, lighted by a beautiful window (now completely hidden by a panel) of two lights, depicting the Annunciation - Gabriel on the left and Mary on the right with a lily. Above is a small round light, with the letter “M” in turn surrounded by lilies - “In memory of Benjamin Lloyd, Priest, and his wife Gertrude Louisa”, goes the simple inscription.
Around the window and walls are matching panelling to the War Memorial, and on the window an oak niche with a statue of St. Margaret.
The original chapel, from the round window, was originally dedicated to the Hold Spirit.
The New Lady Chapel
The present Lady Chapel is a thank offering for 100 years of existence of the Parish Church.
The centenary celebrations were held in 1962 in an impressive manner. The floor of the New Chapel is of Hopton wood stone. The oak panelling half screens were erected in the arch enid the present altar and in the arch to the north of the Chapel to divide it from the Chancel and to provide an entry from the Priest’s sacristy to the Sanctuary.
A distinct feature of the Chapel is the woodwork, carved by Robert Thompson of Kilburn, Yorkshire. He has signed his rather peculiar trade mark on the whole work, a little mouse which can be seen on the left inside face of the altar rails, and on one of the legs of the Credence table.
The architect and designer was Mr. Caroe of London, who is a notable contemporary Church Architect. The Altar, and the beautiful Cross and candlesticks were especially commissioned and designed by Mr. Caroe and are a memorial to Miss. Violet Cooling. She was a School Teacher in the Town, well known and loved, and who rendered magnificent service to the community as well as her Church.
The Persian Rug is in memory of Mr. Harry Rawlins, who served the Parish long and faithfully, especially in his later years as Churchwarden. He was a well-informed local historian and headmaster. His memorial is the gift of his wife and daughter.
The Chapel was dedicated, and the altar consecrated by the Most Rev’d Glyn Simon, Archbishop of wales and Bishop of the Diocese, on the 18th November 1966.
On December 1st, 1985 a Tabernacle and Light were added to the Lady Chapel in memory of George Evans, a much-loved Churchman. It was the gift of his family and it was very appropriate that his son, The Revd. Edward Evans (at that time Rector of Eglwysilan) was present to see it dedicated by the newly consecrated Bishop of Llandaff, The Right Revd. Roy Davies; the dedication taking place during the Annual Parish Confirmation Service.
The Tabernacle has provided not only a means of reserving the consecrated elements of bread and wine for communicating the sick and the elderly but has also helped to focus our attention on the real Presence of Christ in His Church.
Indeed, the Light that burns continuously about the Tabernacle serves as a reminder of Our Lord’s unfailing Presence with His people.
On the Nave side of the Chancel Arch we notice two carved stone heads. The one on the North side is of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on the South side, Our blessed Lord.
Three beautiful examples of the wood carver’s art are the Pulpit, the Lectern and the Litany Desk. All are carved in oak.
The pulpit is a memorial to Henry Austin, 1st Baron Aberdare, and is the gift of his daughter-in-law, Constance Aberdare, dedicated for use in 1898.
The Lectern, of traditional design, with the Bible resting on the magnificently carved wings of the eagle, was given by the Association of the Girls’ Friendly Society in the Llandaff Diocese in memory of Norah, Lady Aberdare, who died on the 27th April 1897.
The litany Desk was presented by public subscription to the memory of Rowland Percival Dowling (a beloved Headmaster and Choirmaster of the Church) in June 1950. On both sides are carved the instruments of the Passion - on the left, ladder, spear, sponge on reed; on the right hammer and pincers.
The South Aisle Windows
There are four very beautiful stained-glass windows along the South Aisle, that tell us a great deal about the history, and events within that history, of the Parish Church. They also commemorate some notable members of the Community.
The two windows nearest the Lady Chapel have been known for many years as the “Good Shepherd” Windows.
The first one is a single light, representing our Lord with a lamb on his left shoulder. It was installed in memory of Violet and Robert, infant children of Henry Campbell, 2nd Lord Aberdare and Constance his wife dated 1887 to1898.
The second is of two lights and commemorates George Dowling and Louisa his wife, erected by their children. It is more than fitting that alongside our Lord, in the left light, stands a boy. In the other we see a boy and a lamb. Mr. Dowling brought many a child to the presence of Jesus during his lifetime, through his own teaching and example. Above is a rose window in which two angels are seen holding a scroll.
The next window, moving westward, has an interesting history. This has an inscription in the glass, “To the glory of God, and in memory of Margaret Ann, dearly beloved wife of Ernest Eyles, b. Feb. 27th. 1885, d. in U.S.A March 31st. 1942”. Two figures of saints appear, St. Dyfrig in one light and St. Margaret in the other.
Of note is the small bronze plaque at the base of the window, explaining that it replaced a previous one destroyed by enemy action in the Second World War.
The original window was the gift of Selina Williams.
This previous window commemorates Martha Hodges in the one light, which was a representation of the Resurrection, with the empty tomb, an angel on each side, and the three empty crosses on a distant hill in the background. The other light was a battlefield. In the foreground a member of the R.A.M.C. supported a wounded soldier. In the background our Lord appearing as through a mist. This section was in memory of the men of Mountain Ash who served in the 1914-1918 War.
The fourth tells a story of the Resurrection morning as Mary Magdalene meets our Lord in the Garden. The words “blest are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” appear in the upper part of the last light. The inscription reminds us that it was erected to “The Glory of God, and in loving memory of Rosina Mary, the beloved wife of Gwilym Jones of “Redlands”, Mountain Ash, who died 13th February 1924”.
The South Entrance
Not many people look, or take particular notice of, the symbolic stone carving that surmounts the main entrance to the Church. Here is depicted the eternal Trinity in Unity, who is worshipped and proclaimed in this beautiful Parish Church.
Immediately above the double doors, and set well back in the arch, is a carving that portrays the crowned and enthroned Christ. In his left hand he holds the orb, while his right hand is help up in a blessing. Angels kneel on either side in adoration.
In the masonry above is a stone plaque with a curved symbol, used from antiquity, to represent God the Father. Within a circle (symbolizing eternity, without beginning or end), is a hand, (the traditional symbol of the Creator who’s handiwork is manifest all round us). Emanating from this are rays of light, bringing the eyes down to focus on the dove, which has always reminded everyone of the Holy Spirit. Surrounding the whole are the words “This is my Beloved Son - Hear Him”.
The fine iron studded oak double doors, as well as the panelled Porch inside, were the gifts of Constance, Lady Aberdare, presented between the years 1924-28.
Situated immediately above the Baptistry, in the South Wall, is a single lighted Memorial Window to thirteen-year-old Nellie Myfanwy, who died on April 13th, 1911. Here is depicted St. Cecilia. The little girl was the daughter of the Rev. J. Sinnett-Jones, sometimes Vicar of the Parish.
The Font, dating from 1905, of Caen Stone, beautifully proportioned and carved, though ornately Victorian, is in memory of Noah Creina Blanche, second wife of Henry Austin, 1st Baron Aberdare of Duffryn. She died 27th. April 1897, and the font was subscribed for by Constance Mary, Lady Aberdare, and the women of Mountain Ash. This font replaces the original one said to have been transferred to St. John’s Church, Miskin, a plain circular one of Bath Stone.
Originally, the present font, had a pinnacled cover of dark oak, which was raised by means of a chain pulley. The counter weight was a solid iron ball, above which was a Dove, so that as the cover was lifted, so the Dove descended. The cover was shattered beyond repair when the iron ball crashed into it, during the redecoration of the Church in the nineteen twenties.
The Baptistry was beautifully panelled in oak and re-modelled by the 3rd Baron Aberdare and family in memory of their mother, Constance, who died in 1932.
It is also interesting to note that the rails surrounding the Baptistry were originally the High Altar rails, erected in the year 1900 in memory of John Easton Robinson. When a faculty was granted for the present altar rails, his only surviving kinsman - Sir Harry Robinson - offered no objection to their removal and re-erection around the font.
Above the West Door is a window worth spending time to study. This glorious rose window is the most beautiful in the Church. In rich colours it depicts Our Lord crowned and enthroned, holding the orb in his left hand, with his right hand held high in blessing. This is flanked on either side by the Greek letters Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters), portraying beginning and end. The whole design is surmounted by a dove, and bears the inscription below -
‘Dedicated to the Glory of God and in loving memory of my parents, this window was erected by Fredrick N. Grey’.
The North Windows
Beginning with the Window on the West end, which is of two lights, we see two figures in each light. St. Illtyd is renowned as the founder of the Church at Llanilltyd Fawr (now commonly known as Llantwit Major) where in the sixth century he collected together a band of disciples whom he trained and sent all over the Celtic Countries. St. David, the Patron Saint of Wales, also has his disciples, and lived in the area of “Glyn Chosen” and founded St. David’s Cathedral. Both were contemporaries.
Surrounding both Saints are a host of smaller pictures, depicting their feats and achievements, and recounting some of the legends that surround them.
One such legend comes to mind when we notice one thing which is common to both lights, a bell. Notice that St. Illtyd holds a bell, while there is a replica on the bottom light that depicts St. David.
Here is the legend. St. Illtyd had left the Church at one period of his life and had retired to a cave nearby to Llanilltyd Fawr, on the banks of the river Ewenny, remaining there for about a year. One day a messenger, carrying a bell, passed by the cave. On hearing the bell Illtyd asked the messenger where he was taking it and was told “To David”. The messenger then continued his journey. When he gave the bell to David, it would give out no sound. When David discovered that Illtyd had handled the bell, he knew that Illtyd would like to have kept it. So, he sent it back to him as a gift.
St. David was also supposed to have received a bell from the Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The dedication of the Window reads “A.M.D.G and in memory of Tudor Cynwyd Bowen, M.A., Priest. Vicar of Mountain Ash 1933-1957. Canon of Llandaff Cathedral”.
Moving east, the next Window has as its theme, “The Quest of the Holy Grail”. An unusual and beautiful window that attracts many admirers. A knight is seen kneeling before the altar keeping his vigil before going out on his quest. Behind him the Holy Grail is held high.
Dedicated to the Gory of God and in memory of Colonel M. M. Morgan, V.D., D.L., J.P., O.C., 5th Welsh Regiment 1912-1915. For forty years he was Vicar’s Warden, born 1854, died 1930. At the base of this window is a memorial tablet to his grandson, Edward Bruce Morgan, who was killed while on National Service in Cyprus in October 1956. The tablet was given by his parents Major W. N. and Mrs. Morgan, Maesydderwen, and was dedicated on Whitsunday, 1971.
Both these windows furnish us with tremendously inspiring stories of Christian adventure, courage and devotion, and could be profitably used for instruction as well as prayer for young and old alike.
The Third Window, moving east, is known to most people as the “Aberdare Window’. It is one of the largest in the whole Nave, certainly the highest and quite different in shape and architectural construction and design from all the rest. It has as its theme “The Great Sacrifice”. In the top portion is recorded the Lord Aberdare Arms, and below in one great light a battlefield dominated by a Crucified Christ, with a dying soldier resting his head on the foot of the Cross.
The words “greater love hath no man than this, but that he laid down his life for his friends” appear. At the base of the window is a Bronze plaque bearing the inscription “In proud and loving memory of their son, Capt. the Hon. Henry Lyndhurst Bruce, the Royal Scots. Killed while gallantly leading his men in a successful attack. Petit Bois, Wytschaete, Flanders 14th. Dec. 1914. Buried where he fell. Given by Henry Campbell, 2nd Baron Aberdare and Constance Mary his wife”. The roof above the window was remodelled and rebuilt in oak with plaster panelling. The whole, window and roof, form one memorial.
The window in the Nort Transept is of two lights and of excellent proportions. Each light has a figure of a saint, on the left St. Cecilia, Patron Saint of Music, and on the right St. Margaret. Significant that this is St. Margaret of Scotland, Queen, holding in her hand a book of the Gospels, and in her right-hand a cross. In the background is Edinburgh Castle, and in the right bottom corner the flag of Scotland, the Red Lion on a Yellow background. This raises some questions as to dedication of the Church, which we will discuss later. Above is a magnificent small Rose window depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary and Our Lord as a child.
A Bronze plaque again below the window records - ‘Erected May 1917 in memory of three sisters. Cecilia Richmond, Canline Louisa Bruce, Nora Creina Blanche Whateley’.
The panelled oak screen in the organ chamber arch, and the doors leading to the choir vestry, were the gift of Constance Mary - Lady Aberdare.
The dedication of the Church has always been in debate. Although there is a stone carving of Margaret of Antioch on the outside of the East end of the church, above the East window, it is more probable that the Patron Saint is Margaret of Scotland. The church was dedicated to St. Margaret for the simple reason that the wife of John Bruce Pryce, its builder and benefactor, was named Margaret. Hailing from Scotland originally, the connection is too obvious to miss. The greater weight of evidence is for St. Margaret of Scotland, and it must be concluded that the architect at the time of the extensions to the church was mistaken.
The Daughter Churches
Having studied the history of the Parish Church in some detail, and noted in addition some of the architecture features, we trace the history of the daughter churches and see how the Parish grew over the years. It is significant how the demand for chapels of ease (Daughter Churches) by an increasing population culminated in the formation of two other Parishes, carved out of the original Parish served by the Church of St. Margaret.
St. David’s Church
One of the earliest developments was the erection of a Mission Church for members of the congregation who which to worship their own Mother tongue.
Consequently, the earlier Welsh Church, of zinc, galvanised sheets, was built on a stone base with a vestry beneath. It was known as the “Iron Church”, and built in 1877, near the “Golden Top” in High Street, the present St. David’s Place. This building was used until the erection of St. David’s the Welsh Church that was so well known in the area. This edifice cost £1,500 to build, the foundation stone being laid by Lord Aberdare on the 20th April 1886. It was opened for worship on St. David’s Day, the 1st March 1887. As well as having a font, this Church also had a Baptistry, where those desiring it could be baptised by total immersion. Here is an interesting quite from the Mountain Ash Church Monthly of December 1898.
“Baptism by Immersion”.
“The less usual form of baptising, vis. by immersion, was witnessed at St. David’s on the 23rd ult., when the Rev. T. Rees admitted by means of “the laver of regeneration” (Titus iii5) two candidates into the family of Christ. It may not be known to all our readers that a suitable Baptistry is provided at our Welsh Church for those who desire this mode of baptism, which has always been approved by the Church”.
The priest mentioned in the extract became known later as Father Tim, of the Priory of the Resurrection, Mirfield, of which he was a brother. Later still he was to become well beloved Bishop of Llandaff, and there are many who remember him with affection and respect.
After the last war, membership of the Church decreased and the few found it difficult to maintain the building. Vandalism precipitated the decay, and the fabric was found to be in such disrepair that in the latter half of the 1950’s, St. David’s was pulled down, thus ending chapter in the history of the Parish.
St Winifred’s, Penrhiwceiber
The population of Penrhiwceiber was increasing and people there came together after 1881 to hold services, first in a cottage and subsequently in the assembly Rooms of the newly built Lee Hotel. The site for a new church was given by Mr. A. Vaughan Lee. The foundation stone was laid on the 29th March December 1883. A Curate’s house was built next to the church in 1885. So numerous had the congregation become, that it was found necessary to enlarge the building in 1888. By the enlargement additional seats had been provided for 150, making the seating capacity of the church 410.
On the 26th February 1897 the church of St. Winifred’s was constituted a consolidated chapelry and Penrhiwceiber became an Ecclesiastical Parish of its own, incorporating Mathewstown and Ynysboeth. It is reported that the population of the new Parish was 6,000 people - 4,00 from the Penrhiwceiber area (former Parish of Mountain Ash) and 2,000 from Tynetown (former Parish of Llanwonno). It is interesting also to read that the rights of the people to marry in their former Parish Church was safeguarded, if they so desired it.
St. Dyfrig’s Church, Newtown
On the same date that St. David’s Church was opened for worship, 1st March 1887, the foundation stone was laid for a church to be built in Newtown. The Patron Saint Dyfrig, was regarded as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Llandaff, though in fact he was Bishop over the greater part of South Wales. It was natural then that the next Mission Church to be built in Miskin, would be dedicated to St. Teilo, the successor of Dyfrig in this Bishopric in C. 545. The daughter churches are all dedicated to Welsh Saints.
The opening ceremony took place on 5th August 1887. It is remarkable to think that this church, completed with a Caretaker’s house was built in the short space of five months. A special feature of the church was a great wooden chancel screen, that was plain yet gave a depth and dimension to the church. The other feature was a superb two manual organ, compact and unique in size and tonal quality. The instrument was completely rebuilt by Osmond’s of Taunton in the early 1960’s when major repair work was carried out to the whole building. Unfortunately, dwindling congregations necessitated the closure of this much love community church, the final service being held there in 1976.
The Church of St. Teilo, Miskin
The foundation stone of this Church was laid by the Hon. Mrs. H. C. Bruce, accompanied by the Hon. Mr. H. C. Bruce. The ceremony is recorded to have taken place at 5:30p.m. on Friday July 11th, 1890.
A report in the Mountain Ash Church Monthly of August 1890 tells us that this hour was chosen because it was thought that many people would be passing home from their work about this time of 5:30p.m. As was anticipated scores of colliers and others in their working clothes, and with unwashed faces turned in to take part in the ceremony. They formed an unusual feature of the crowd and made a striking contrast with the white robed clergy and choristers.
The building was opened with a celebration of the Holy Communion at 10a.m. on Monday, December 1st 1890. From about 1880 a Sunday School has been held at the back of the Bailey’s Arms in one of the rooms, but after 1890 the Church people in Miskin gathered at St. Teilo’s for worship, and the Sunday School was held there as from that date. Indeed, so thriving did the Church become that it was felt it needed extending, and the whole building was enlarged in the year 1893.
The Church of St. Illtyd, Cefnpennar
The Foundation Stone of our sixth Church, chronologically speaking, that of the church of St. Illtyd, was laid by the Rt. Hon. Lord Aberdare on Saturday August 5th 1893. The Festival of the Conversation of St. Paul, January 25th, 1894, was the day chosen for the opening ceremony.
It is reported that an eloquent sermon was preached at its opening by the then Archdeacon of Llandaff, who, referring to the Disestablishment threat, compared the difficulties of the church in Wales at that time with those of the Israelites when about to be overtaken by Pharaoh’s hosts. Great was his admiration in the faith of the people of Cefnpennar despite all obstacles. Canon Roberts compared St. Paul and St. Illtyd of course is the founder of the renowned church at Llanilltyd Fawr, where he had his disciples, and this teaching centre acquired a European celebrity. St. Illtyd was ordained by St. Dyfrig - then Bishop.
The Reading Room (still so called, and not the Church Hall, which in reality it is) was opened for use on the 15th May 1894.
This church has certainly played a prominent part in the community at Cefnpennar, well patronised by the Lord Aberdare Family over the years, especially by the Hon. Mrs. Bruce. This little Church is well proportioned, simple yet beautifully open and homely. In September 1988 an extensive restoration programme was begun. All interior walls were stripped of their plaster and mortar coverings and made good. The wooden floor was replaced with a concrete structure and covered with tiles and a gas central heating system installed. These and other repairs were carried out in order to ensure that worship might continue in our daughter church, for many years to come.
St. John Baptist Church, Miskin
It was decided to divide the Parish and in place of St. Teilo’s the parish church of St. John was built. The foundation Stone was laid on December 7th 1908, by Constance Mary, Lady Aberdare. The Church was consecrated on the 24th June, (St. John Baptist Day) 1909. There are many who remember well offering their bags of money to Lady Aberdare on the opening day which had been collected from the sale of bricks and other ventures. The first Vicar of Miskin was the Revd. David Egryn Roberts, the Senior Assistant Curate at the time of the Parish of Mountain Ash. the Sanctuary of St. John’s was consecrated on December 21st, 1961.