The Parish Churches and Chapels in the Glasbury Area
This article was prepared by M. A. V. Gill in 2005 for the "Glasbury Book" (unpublished), and
was first published with annotations in Brycheiniog Vol XVIII 2012 . The excellent artwork is also by the same local author


This chapter will be dealing with local churches and chapels principally as buildings; but a church or chapel is more than an empty shell – it is a congregation of people who gather together in common worship, whether in prayer, praise and thanksgiving or in listening to the Word of God preached from the pulpit. At the beginning of the twenty-first century throughout the country many are in decline with waning numbers and ageing congregations. A hundred years ago the situation was very different: churches and chapels were all well attended, and each played an important role in the life of its community. J.W. Hobbs, reminiscing of his years as station booking clerk at Three Cocks (1902-1905), wrote that there were good congregations at St. Peter’s church, “chiefly the gentry, retired people, visitors at the Hotel, and some of the large farmers. Most of the working classes were chapel, except those employed at Gwernyfed or Tregoed. The strongest chapel was the Baptist at Glasbury, which was always full on Sunday nights, and often packed. Baptisms used to take place about once a year in the River Wye, which runs alongside the chapel. The chapel was the chief source of social entertainment. During the winter months was held what was called a Christian Union. The two Glasbury chapels and Felindre combined and held two entertainments in each chapel every winter. These always had to be arranged for the week of the full moon, so as to have moonlight on the way home. Our Three Cocks choir and band used to attend frequently. The chapel anniversaries were great events, both children and adults would take part and there were recitations and dialogues, solos, duets and quartettes. There were also frequent tea parties, lectures, Christian Endeavour and Prayer meetings, and concerts, but only on rare occasions were outside artistes engaged; we made our own amusements. Sometimes we would go farther afield, to Penrhoel or Maesyronen chapels or All Saints church, always on foot. We were not afraid of walking in those days;”


References to the ancient church of Aberllynfi are few. Even the dedication is problematic. In the late 1690s, Edward Lhwyd (keeper of Oxford museum) carried out a survey of Welsh parishes, making several extensive expeditions on foot and sending out several hundred questionnaires. According to this survey, the church was dedicated to a mysterious Gorgonius otherwise St. Eigan. It has been suggested that after the Norman Conquest, Bernard de Newmarch may have attempted to conciliate the Welsh by restoring Aberllynfi to Bleddyn ap Maenarch’s eldest son Gwrgan. If the latter were responsible for the building of a church, it might have been named after him, in accordance with Welsh custom. However, the reference to St. Eigan implies an earlier Celtic foundation, associated perhaps with the patron saint of Llanigon who according to one account was the brother of St. Cynidr. Whatever the circumstances of its foundation, Aberllynfi was an independent ecclesiastical parish. When Pope Nicholas IV granted a tithe of the Church emoluments to Edward I in 1288 for six years towards the financing of his crusade to the Holy Land, the chapelry was mentioned in the taxation assessment, separately from and at a quarter of the value of neighbouring Glasbury.

Occasional entries in the earliest Glasbury registers record a marriage or burial at Aberllynfi, the latest being 18th May 1717, when “Clement Williams of ye p(ar)ish of Aberllyfni was bur(ie)d in yt. Church”. Charles Pritchard of Pipton, described in Lhwyd’s survey as “an old serv(an)t yt formerly belong’d to Gwernyfed”, was buried at Aberllynfi on 11th February 1698/9 “aged 114, as common fame reports”. Under the terms of Sir David Williams will dated 15th January 1612, the tithes of Gwenddwr were to be employed for various charitable purposes, among which he specified: “Item I will & demise that theare shalbe a sermon preched every Trinity Sunday for ever att Aberllyvny for the wch the preacher shall have for his paynes Xs & that day there shall be ever disposed in breade amongst the poore of thatt parish of Aberllyvny & Velyndre XXXs ”. There is evidence that the sermon was preached at Aberllynfi by the Vicar of Glasbury as late as 1739. After this the records are silent, and the church seems to have fallen into disuse, a topographical dictionary of 1811 noting that it had “been in ruins for the last sixty years”. According to an oral tradition reported at the beginning of last century, this came about because of a duel that took place one Sunday between two claimants of a neighbouring estate. One of the combatants being slain within the church, it was never again used for divine service.

Overgrown with hawthorn and ash, the site of the church is still visible. Amid the rubble, the stones of the lower courses preserve the outline of the rectangular nave with its south entrance and slightly narrower chancel (though at some date the walls have been rebuilt to form a sheep pen). But nothing now remains of the sepulchral monuments that once graced its interior. The most impressive of these was probably that of Sir Henry Williams of Gwernyfed, of which a sketch exists in one of Edward Lhwyd’s notebooks. By the time Theophilus Jones was writing his History of Brecknock at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the church was in ruins, having fallen into decay around the middle of the previous century. He noted that among the mutilated monuments of the Williams’ family was the “effigy of a person in judicial robes, but lacking the head”. Nearby was an octagonal stone font, bearing the inscription:


which was probably the gift of Sir Henry Williams and his wife Eleanor. For many years it served as a flower container near the entrance to Great House Farm before being moved to St. Peter’s churchyard in the 1880s, where it stood on a pedestal in the angle at the northwest corner of the church. Later it displaced the nineteenth century font inside the building. A further relic from the church now preserved in St.Peter’s comprises a fifteenth century carved oak crown of thorns with the sacred monogram IHS. An enigmatic inscription on the back of the roundel reads “FROM ABERLLYNFI CHURCH VELINDRE CHAPEL”.

Source : -- "A Chapter on the Churches and Chapels in the Parish of Glasbury " by M.A.V. Gill