Hen Dy Cwrdd

Hen Dy Cwrdd (The Old Meeting House) is the Mother Church of Unitarianism in the Cynon Valley. Its origins extend back to the Dissenting Meeting Houses at Cwmyglo and Blaencanaid Farm on the mountainside between Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil. The Meeting House at Aberdare was built in 1751 and the congregation at that time was described as an agricultural community. It was the first Nonconformist Place of Worship in the valley and its theology slowly developed from Arminianism to Arianism and Unitarianism.

The chapel has been closed for worship since 1995 but it has a long history of eminent members over the years. There was a great emphasis on culture, education and radical political reform.

Caradog, whose statue stands in the centre of Aberdare, was the conductor of the South Wales Choral Union which won competitions at the Crystal Palace in London in 1872 and 1873.Thomas Dafydd Llewelyn was a famous Harpist and composed music for the Harp; some of the scripts are available at the National Library of Wales. Y Carw Coch kept the Red Stag Public House in Trecynon and organised the first Competitive event in literature, and singing, leading to Welsh Eisteddfodau all over Wales. The congregation had its own Magazine early in the nineteenth century, when members would pass on the information from one to another. The Llewellyn Family, who owned the Bwllfa Coal Mine in Cwmdare, were prominent members and Sir D. R. Llewellyn was the Treasurer but never produced a Balance Sheet; if the congregation was short of money, he would provide. Thomas Dafydd Llewelyn brought the Welsh National Anthem into prominence when he entered a group of Welsh Music manuscripts for a competition at the Llangollen National Eisteddfod in 1858.

Well known ministers have served here including the Rev Thomas Evans (Tomos Glyn Cothi) who was invited to become a minister when he was serving a sentence at Carmarthen Prison for composing a song in favour of the French Revolution. R. J. Jones was a well known scholar and kept a Grammar School in the area. E. R. Dennis was keen on Drama productions and was instrumental in the building of the Little Theatre in Aberdare. He was followed by D. Jacob Davies and J. Eric Jones.

The chapel has now been taken over by the Welsh Religious Buildings Trust with a view to restoring the building.

For over 100 years, it was the only Unitarian Place of Worship until a chapel was opened at Cwmbach in 1859, Highland Place in 1860 and a chapel at Napier St., Mountain Ash in 1912.

"They Love to Be Dissenters - The Historical Background of Unitarianism in Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare with Specific reference to Hen Dŷ Cwrdd, Trecynon" is available from the Highland Place Church Secretary.

The Roots of Religious Dissent in Merthyr Tydfil District c. 1650 - c. 1750
An Outline History of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd, Trecynon

A lay guide to theological terms used in the essay
Memorial to Edward Harri of the Gyrnos
The ministers of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd
From the Hen Dŷ Cwrdd Minute Book, 1858-62
Items from Yr Ymofynnydd, 1861-62
Report from The Cambrian, 11th January, 1861, p.8
Extracts from the Aberdare Almanack, 1902, pp. 89-92
Extract from The Aberdare Times, Saturday, February 27th, 1897
Some eminent people associated with Hen Dŷ Cwrdd
Notes on the Ministers since 1833
Item from Yr Ymofynnydd, 1977 & 1979

News has arrived from the Welsh Religious Buildings Trust to inform us that restoration work on Hen Dy Cwrdd should start before Christmas. They are also keen to form a 'Friends of Hen Dy cwrdd' group. If you are interested, please inform Eric Jones.

BLUE PLAQUE: At the end of April a Blue Plaque was placed on Hen Dy Cwrdd to mark its Historic interest. It was unveiled by the Chair of the Council, Coun. Robert Smith with a large number of local dignitaries present. The roof of the building as well as the windows and doors have been replaced and it is hoped that the inside of the building will be restored during the next 12 months.

FRIENDS: Would you be interested in becoming a Friend of Hen Dy Cwrdd and be part of an effort to find a useful future for the building ? Contact Eric Jones.

Views of the Chapel

All photos by Keith Lewis-Jones

Open Doors 2011 - 10th September,2011

A unique opportunity arose during the Open Doors 2011 event organised by the Civic Trust for Wales. Hen Dy Cwrdd Chapel, which is now in the care of the Welsh Religious Buildings Trust, was the location for a lecture given by David Leslie Davies on the subject of 'Unitarianism in Merthyr and Aberdare with specific reference to Hen Dy Cwrdd, Trecynon'.

The lecture was introduced by Christine Moore from the Welsh Religious Buildings Trust.

Over fifty people attended the lecture.