Some Captured History of Glanamman and Garnant

Bethesda Chapel, Glanamman

The above photograph shows Bethesda Baptist Chapel before the headstones were moved and the Main road widened.

Before Bethesda Chapel was built in 1842, the main baptist chapel in the area was Soar Chapel at Llandyfan. In Cwmamman, local baptists had to gather at each other's homes to worship. It is said that more often than not, the venue was the home of Thomas Bowen, Penybont.

As the Amman Valley became industrialised and the new turnpike road allowed easier access to the area, the population grew. Among those who settled at Cwmamman were a number of Baptists, underpinning the need for a Baptist chapel. A local farmer named David Morgan of Brynlloi Farm (1743 -1811) is credited as being the person who started collecting donations for a new, more convenient chapel in Cwmamman in the early 1800's. His son, William Morgan, saw his fathers endeavours reach completion. He offered the land on which Bethesda chapel sits, "until the River Amman ceases to flow". In fact, it had a 999 year lease; at a cost of 1 shilling per year. This land is known as "Ynysdomlyd" and was once part of the Brynlloi Farm estate. The terms of the lease were printed in a baptist periodical titled "Gwir Fedyddiwr", in September of 1842.

William Morgan also donated £40 towards the cost of building the chapel. In today's terms (2009), that would equate to approximately £2,068.

Until the chapel was ready, William Morgan and his wife agreed to hold services at the long room of the Plough and Harrow, which was a hostelry that they owned at Glanamman Square. They also agreed to play host to visiting preachers. William Morgan's generosity earned him the nickname of "Y Brenin," which translates as "The King".

Bethesda Chapel opened in May 1843, with special services being held on the 17th and 18th.

The Bethesda New Cemetery, which is on Grenig Road, Glanamman, was purchased from the Brynlloi estate for £100.

The 1923 edition of Kelly's Directory for South Wales, states that Bethesda Chapel was built in 1844 and seats 450 people.

In 1936, Bethesda Chapel was renovated and repainted at a cost of £800, the money being raised from financial gifts. This was achieved despite the economic depression in the Amman Valley at the time. The Amman Valley Chronicle reported on the re-opening ceremony, which took place on Thursday 13th February, 1936 and was performed by Miss Gwen Richards, of "Greenlands", Glanamman. She was the granddaughter of William Morgan.
Gwen Richards opened the Chapel door with a golden key, which was handed to her by the chapel's pastor; Reverend E. Dulais Jones. This was followed by a short prayer meeting at the chapel, where a large congregation heard Rev. Dulais Jones dedicate Bethesda Chapel back to the Lord. The Rev. Miles Griffiths also attended and praised the chapel members for their splendid efforts in making the House of God so beautiful.
That evening saw an organ recital and concert at Bethesda Chapel, with the crowds arriving long before the start. The new pipe organ was opened by the donors; Mr and Mrs J. W. James, who were presented with a handsomely bound Baptist hymn book by the Rev. Dulais Jones, in appreciation of their generous gift to the chapel.

Bethesda's Organ 2009

The concert was presided over by Mrs Leah Norah Folland, who by now was residing at Black Pill, Swansea. She made a complimentary speech and was given a tremendous reception by the audience. There then followed several renditions on the organ by Mr Aneurin Rees, F.R.C.O., of Swansea. Other performances were given by:

  • Madam Jennie Evans-Jones, Gwynfe: Soprano
  • Madam Bessie Hickmore, Brynamman: Elocutionist
  • Mr Rees Williams, Swansea: Baritone.

Special services continued all of the following week, with several baptist ministers addressing the congregations.

The 16th April, 1936 edition of the Amman Valley Chronicle, reported that Mrs Leah Norah Folland had made a gift of three oak chairs to the chapel, of which she was a member. Her daughter, Mrs W. W. Taylor of Langland made the gift of a modern style oak table to match the chairs.

The 8th of June, 1939 edition of the Amman Valley Chronicle stated that the wall in front of Bethesda Chapel had been removed due to the work carried out to widen the main road. This of course also resulted in the relocation of headstones, though there was no mention of this in the newspaper's brief article.

In 1943, Bethesda Chapel celebrated it's Centenary and a commemorative booklet was written by G.F. Davies of Cash Stores, Glanamman. G. F. Davies was Secretary of the chapel. The publication was in Welsh and was titled "Bethesda Glanamman, Amlinelliad O'i Hanes" (Outline of it's History).

Bethesa Chapel continues it's regular Sunday services and local people still enjoy the colour and pageantry of the weddings which take place there. It is also used as a venue for the occasional charitable concert such as the one in aid of Hafan Dementia Care which took place in September 2009. Musical performances were given by Gillian Elisa, The Amigo's, the talented harpist Harriet Earis and Cor Merched Tybie.

The Amigos performing at Bethesda and harpist Harriet Earis seated on the right

The above information was taken from a document entitled "Llandeilo Bridge and it's Cwmamman Connections", created by Dilys E. Jenkins in 1996, for the Amman Valley Historical Society. Other sources include the Amman Valley Chronicle, Kelly's Directory and "Bethesda Glanamman, Amlinelliad O'i Hanes" by G.F. Davies.

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