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This article was prepared by M. A. V. Gill in 2005 for the "Glasbury Book" (unpublished), and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;”


Glasbury is a large parish. The Rev. James Newman recognised the problem involved when on 26th October 1877 he petitioned for the Bishop’s licence to perform divine service in the National School Room at Ffynnon Gynydd “for the accommodation of the population residing” there, who “by reason of the distance do not attend the Parish Church of Glasbury aforesaid”. He did not anticipate that within a few years his benefice would be divided and a new parish created north of the river. The circumstances surrounding the building of All Saints’ church are well documented.

Within a month of the death of Walter de Winton on 24th May 1878, his younger brother Major Francis de Winton wrote to the Ecclesiastical Church Commissioners that the widow and rest of the family proposed to erect a church to his memory and for the use of the population in the Radnorshire section of the parish. A lengthy correspondence ensued. The trustees of the Maesllwch Estate were prepared to give a site and defray the cost of building, upon condition that the Commissioners agreed to assign the church a separate ecclesiastical district and to provide an endowment and a house of residence for the incumbent. This they declined to do; however, if the church were to be built as a chapel-of-ease to the mother church of Glasbury, they would make an annual grant for the stipend of a licensed assistant curate. On 13th December 1878, the family agreed to “build a church at a cost of not less than £2000”. Meanwhile in correspondence with the Bishop of St. David’s, the Commissioners expressed a willingness to assign the proposed church a “District Chapelry” comprising the Radnorshire part of the parish, supplement the income of the incumbent and consider assisting towards the provision of a parsonage if the vicarial tithe-rent charges and other emoluments currently attaching to the mother church were surrendered to form an endowment for the new cure. By the end of 1879, the Vicar had refused to accept the Commissioners’ proposals with regard to the division of the tithe rent-charges and the Commissioners had refused to secure a £300 per annum endowment; so on 13th December 1879 Penry Lloyd (agent to the Maesllwch Estate) wrote informing the Commissioners that Mrs. de Winton’s offer was withdrawn, the building of the proposed memorial church was to be abandoned and she would erect some other form of memorial to her husband’s memory.

A competition had already been held. George C. Haddon’s design for the new church had been selected from among fifty entries and approved by the architect for the Commissioners. Alternative versions of the design would allow for it to be built in two stages, if need be. In the event of the erection of the tower and spire being postponed, the porch would be finished with a permanent roof, which could later be removed without disturbing more than the outward covering. Seventeen contractors from as far afield as Cardiff, Bristol and Malvern answered the advertisement for tenders, but the estimates ranged from £3500 - £5825. New tenders were sought for the church without tower and spire, and twelve of the same contractors provided estimates ranging from £1947 - £2500. At this stage the idea of building the memorial church was abandoned.

Then, as Edwin P. Vulliamy explained in the application for a grant from the Incorporated Church Building Society, “the parish took the matter up, as the advantage was too great to be lost”. A schedule form dated 26th October 1880 refers to the memorial church for the first time by name, as the “New church of St. Cecilia”; although it was eventually dedicated to All Saints, St. Cecilia is depicted in a memorial window to Julia Cecilia Stretton, mother of the deceased Walter de Winton. As the lowest tender seemed excessive, it was decided to erect the church using estate labour and local tradesmen under the supervision of Edwin Vulliamy (son of St. Peter’s church architect) and Penry Lloyd. Funds were raised with subscriptions from the Maesllwch Trustees, the de Winton family and friends, and local residents, and from the proceeds of a grand bazaar held at the castle. Building commenced in January 1881 according to Haddon’s original plans, modified with a view to economy. Stone was quarried on the estate and neighbouring farmers assisted with the haulage. The land having been duly transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the new church of All Saints was consecrated on 10th October 1882. The Vicar of Glasbury surrendered to the Bishop his right of patronage, and by an Order in Council the “District Chapelry of All Saints, Glasbury” was created on 29th December 1882. Finally, on 18th September 1883 a scheme for the apportionment of the tithe-rent charges came into force. Among the special gifts donated to the church was an organ, so large that it occupied most of the space allocated on the original plan for a vestry. The vicar found it most inconvenient to be cramped into the narrow corridor at the side and back of this magnificent instrument with a mob of choirboys; however, this was remedied in 1886 when an extension was built behind the organ. Meanwhile, at the Easter vestry meeting of 1885 it was resolved that the matter of building the tower “be for the present abandoned”. The subject was never again discussed.

Vestry minutes, churchwardens’ accounts and service registers document the general running of the church, and some of its activities and concerns. Music played an important role. Before even the church was consecrated, a choir had been formed. At times a choir trainer was brought in and payments made for his lodging; the choirboys were rewarded with bonuses for regular attendance, and the expenses paid for the choir to take part in the Choir Union Festival at Brecon and elsewhere. On 1st August 1894, the total cost of “Tickets to Builth & omnibus” together with “Choir Luncheon & Tea at Builth” was £3-19-3; and on 20th June 1899 £1-16-0 was paid out for “Choral Festival 24 Luncheons & Teas”! There were regular purchases of music sheets so that special anthems could be sung at the Harvest and Easter Services; although psalters had been purchased in 1898, further psalters with different arrangements were bought in July 1901, followed by cantatas in the September and music by Caleb Simper just before Christmas. A century later the choir at St. Peter’s took great delight in reviving some of the Simper anthems. In 1903, when asked what method he adopted for the encouragement of congregational singing, the vicar replied: “The female members of the choir sit in the nave”! In the register of services there is a sad entry for 22nd February 1914: “Mr. Amos died suddenly at the organ: heart failure”, though perhaps sitting at the organ, playing for Evensong in the church he had served for over twenty years, is how he might have wished to die. Older parishioners remember well the year of the snow. At All Saints’ church, on 30th December 1962 and the following two Sundays there was “No service owing to snow & frozen heating system”; and on the next four Sundays services were held in the vicarage.

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