St Lleurwg’s Church Hirwaun

OPENING OF HIRWAIN NEW CHURCH 24.07.1858

There can be no question that Aberdare is a wonderful place. It was only last week that we published a speech of the Vicar of Aberdare, containing a humorous account of the extraordinary and sudden rise of this town in a worldly and temporal sense. It is our duly this week to give some account of its spiritual rise, as far as the Established Church is concerned. Anyone knowing Aberdare ten years ago will remember what a miserable building it was that formed the sole representative of the Church of England in this mountain parish. There it is still to be seen, a long, low building, looking more like a Welsh barn, with a cow-house for chancel, at one end of it, than it looks like anything else. At the other end is a shaky, tumbling-down belfry, the only thin^ that distinguishes it from a barn, with a noisy, tinkling, cracked bell, suspended in it. Look at it in every way, you get nothing holy, nothing venerable, no. thing suggestive of pious thought inside or outside of it; and yet nowhere will you find a more beautiful Church yard, with its stately yews, its gigantic oak, its fine elms, and its rising, growing, promising young lime. There is everything about it that could be wished, except the old Church, and that we presume the parishioners keep up only to show off the graceful and splendid proportions of their truly noble Church, on the brow of the hill in the centre of the town.

Now this was the state of Aberdare, as far as the Established Church was concerned, when the foundation stone of St. Elvan’s was laid seven years ago. Since that period there has been a continual improvement, schools and churches have risen which vie in beauty and architecture with those of any parish in the kingdom. As soon as we enter the parish from Cardiff, on the left we are greeted with a sight of the fine “Dyffryn Schools,” looking like some ancient monastery in the first years of its existence, fresh from the builders’ hands. Higher up on the right are the Cwmbach Schools, the first in the valley where two hundred and fifty children are regularly educated, and supported by the works of Messrs, Powell. On the other side we look in vain for anything either in the shape of school or church, though there is a teeming and a crowded population of many thousands. But the eye is not permitted to rest here, and to see the barrenness; for it is instantly attracted by the graceful proportions of the tower and spire of St. Elvan’s, shooting up into the sky, like another Salisbury in miniature, every whit as beautiful, though not as large. Pursuing our journey further, we have not proceeded a mile, having passed the Town Schools, where four hundred children are educated, and we fall in with another well-built church having equally fine schools, the double and lasting monument of the liberality of the Clive’s.

Continuing our way still to the north, we come to Hirwain, the end of the parish, where, after difficulties almost insurmountable, a Church has been built at last. It is the opening of this Church that we are now recording. The design is by Mr. Roose, architect to Lord Bute. It is very neat, built of the common stone of the county and Bath-stone dressings. It has an elegant belfry, or rather spire, at the west-end, and is surmounted by Bath stone crosses at each of the gables. The order is German-Gothic, and blends well with the scenery around. This Church has been built by subscription, gathered from the inhabitants and others, the greater proportion being, as usual, from Lady Bute, to whose liberality we are also indebted for the site and its valuable enclosure. £170 was given, through the Bishop of the Diocese, by some unknown person, under the same circumstances as the £1000 to the new Church at Cyfarthfa. Independent of these subscriptions, Lord Bute has presented a neat and chaste, yet handsome, communion plate. Also, the ladies of Hirwain, headed by Mrs. Francis Crawshay, have set up a beautiful painted window in the east end of the chancel. This window is executed by Gibbs, of Bedford Square, and the subject is the crucifixion in the centre light, and St. Paul and St. Peter occupying the other two lights-one on the right holding the keys, and St. Paul on the left with the sword. The execution of these figures has been much admired. The altar furniture is the gift of Mrs. Corbet, and that of the pulpit, which is silk velvet, was given by Mrs. Moore, of Hirwain. The two altar chairs did not, unfortunately, arrive in time for the opening these were presented by Mrs. Francis Crawshay. Altogether it is impossible to say too much of the liberal spirit of the inhabitants of Hirwain on this occasion, and in every way connected with the building of the Church. They have come forward most munificently. The whole of the vast company that attended on Tuesday last were entertained at the public expense of the leading gentry of Hirwain town, who subscribed to give every comer a luncheon, under Mrs. Moore’s kind superintendence, at the Cardiff Arms. And it would be unjust to the Rev. David Griffiths, the lately-appointed incumbent of Ystradyfodwg, if it were not recorded that it is mainly owing to his great popularity among the people of Hirwain that all this has been done. The manner in which he has worked up this Church, conjointly with the Vicar, augurs the very best hopes of his own incumbency, in the great and important parish into which he has been inducted. He will leave behind him the utmost regret, and make his place a most difficult one for his successor, as it will be long, whatever may be his qualities, before he can ever adequately supply the vacancy.

Such is the state of Aberdare parish at present, contrasted with what it was ten or twelve years ago-what it was, in fact, when the present Vicar received his appointment from Lord Bute. At that time, and several years before, the Vicar of Aberdare was well known for the uncompromising vigour and pungency with which he lashed the abuses and iniquities of the Church in Wales, more especially in North Wales. When he was himself appointed to a living not a few eyes, therefore, watched how he, who sat in the seat of judgment on others, would regulate his own ministry when brought to the bar of public opinion himself. Let the present state of the Church in Aberdare the respect paid him by his parishioners, and the general popularity of his ministry, answer this question for him.

When we arrived at Hirwain, the view of the Church, proceeding from the station, with the lumpy, hog-backed Carn-moesau as a back-ground, was very pretty. At the entrance of the churchyard, where the lych gate will be placed, was set up a noble rustic triumphal arch, composed of oak, ivy, willows and flowers. The effect was very good. This was the work of Miss Watkins, assisted by Mr. Lloyd, the station-master of Hirwain. On every eminence: a bit of bunting “flaunted in the breeze” which gave for the nonce, even unto cinder tips a gay and picturesque appearance. All this was in honour of the Bishop, for whom there was the greatest curiosity manifested, and Hirwain people will long remember the excitement of the workmen in anticipation of seeing a real live Bishop.” We were told that they continued their labours all night through, in order to have uninterrupted enjoyment of the sight next day.

On entering the Church we did not know where to I turn. Every corner and every seat in every corner was full and uncomfortably occupied. People had come from Swansea, from Neath, from Cardiff, from Newbridge, from Merthyr, and from everywhere. The clergy, as usual, in great numbers and in good case, looking well, and determined to make most of the day. The service was read by the Vicar, and the sermon by the Bishop, who took for his text, Hebrews viii., 25, and preached a most excellent practical and appropriate discourse, to which the people listened with great attention.

The Te Deum, the Gloria Patri, and the Venite, as well as the Jubilate, were chanted by the Hirwain choir, who got through their work well, though we cannot help thinking that they would have sung much better had they selected less difficult music; nevertheless they deserve the greatest credit for the way in which they acquitted them- selves, and we give it them accordingly. Mr. Sherburne, the amateur organist of St. Elvan’s, kindly presided at the “Melodium,” a beautiful instrument, and played with much feeling, and with his usual skill. This instrument belongs to Mr. Clark, of Maindy, Aberdare, and was kindly lent by him for the day. For small churches, we are of opinion that this species of instrument, which was quite new to nil, is almost better adapted than small organs, certainly infinitely more so, than those wheezy, asthmatic puffing things called “Harmoniums,” or “Seraphinet.” Yet, from some strange fatuity they have become very popular, not only in our small churches, but in nearly every Dissenting chapel in the country. We, therefore, strongly recommend to the clergy a more general use of the Melodium, which does not differ much in price, though greatly in harmony, from Seraphines and Harmoniums. After the morning service a collection was made, which amounted to £23 14s, 9d.

The morning service over, the whole of the company retired to the Cardiff Arms, where, as we have already said, a most excellent cold collation was prepared under the superintendence of Mrs. Moore, and given by the inhabitants of Hirwain. The style, in which this was got up, does infinite credit to the liberality of the people of Hirwain, and the kindness of Mrs. Moore. There was nothing wanting, and plenty of everything of the best. It would be impossible to speak too highly of the hospitality of Hirwain people upon this occasion. The hearty manner in which they came forward is as creditable to themselves, as it speaks volumes of the testimony it bears of the faithfulness of the Rev. David Griffiths, to whose popularity and influence among the people of his cure, must be attributed solely this outbreak of parochial munificence. Every way we turned, we found instances of what he had done, and we heard nothing but regrets at the approaching termination of his career among them.

The dinner over, the Rev. Canon Morgan proposed the health of the Vicar, and said that he had the pleasure of reading in last week’s Guardian, a humourous speech of his, on his first entrance into the parish of Aberdare, and how, during his long residence among them, there had been occasionally some friendly rubs between them, and possibly it had been once just as the Vicar had said, for the more Welshmen differ, the more they love each other, and there was abundant evidence of the love that existed between them now; and if there were, which there was not, anything wanting to prove this more satisfactorily, there was the fact of that day, where, in all his life, he never witnessed a greater display of respect and love, and sympathy towards a pastor, than what he had been a not unobservant spectator of, in the day’s proceedings. He would give them the health of the Vicar of Aberdare, and may be long continue to possess the same hale and strong constitution to continue the faithful servant of the Church and his people that he had been hitherto. We need hardly mention the heartiness with which this toast was received. After it had been drunk with much cheering and real good-will, the Vicar replied in a neat speech, taking no credit to himself but giving it all to his fellow-labourers in the cause, namely, the in. habitants of Hirwain, Mr. Corbet, and the Rev. David Griffiths, the curate, without whose hearty co-operation the work they had completed that day would never have been attained. Mr. Corbet replied in a warm, pithy speech, as also Mr. Bird, on the part of the inhabitants of Hirwain.

In the afternoon, the service was read by the Ret. David Griffiths, and the sermon preached by the Dean in his usual forcible and earnest style. The text was taken from 2 Cor. xiii. 14. The collection amounted to E6 14. 9d.

Thus ended so far the day’s proceedings. In the evening the services were all in Welsh, when the Church was again crammed, and truly excellent and eloquent, as well as most appropriate sermons, were preached by the vicar of Aberavon, and the incumbent of Skewen. The evening’s collection was L5. The days collection amounted altogether to £35. The whole cost of the Church was £1190, exclusive of the painted window and the Church furniture. We now conclude, wishing the people of Hirwain much edification and much real happiness from the Church which has been provided for them.

In addition to the Bishop and the Dean, the Archdeacon was likewise present, and that indefatigable, ever-present friend of the Church Mr. Bruce Pryce, who caused many an old Aberdare heart to beat more quickly at seeing him once more in his ancient haunts, and looking so well. Besides we noticed also, the Rev. E. Morgan, vicar of Llantrisant, and family; the Rev. J. Morgan, rector of St. Andrews; the Rev. D. Hanmer Griffith., vicar of Cadoxton; the Rev. Walter Griffiths, incumbent of Resolven; the Rev. M. E. Welby, incumbent of Sketty; the Rev. D. Evan., vicar of Llangyfelach; the Rev. W. David, rector of St. Fagan’s; Rev. John Howells, Cyfarthfa Rev. Wm. Green, Pentrebach Revds. D. Morgan, and G. Lewis, curates of Merthyr Tydfil; Rev. W. Jones, curate of Tredegar; Revds. David Davies and D. J. Richards, curates of Aberdare; Rev. J. D. Jenkins, incumbent of St. Fagan’s, Aberdare Rev. Wm. Davies, curate of Aberpergwm Rev. Charles Mayberry Capt. Mayberry and Mrs. Mayberry, Penderin Rectory Captain and Mrs. Harris, Treverigg; Miss Baskerville Thomas, Swansea; Mrs. Sloper, Aberaman; Misses Price, Glyn-Llech; Mrs. James Roberts, Gadlys Hon. H. V. E, Powys William Davies, Esq., Hirwain Mr. Wm. Powell, and Mr. John Watkins, churchwardens, and a host of other clergy and laity, including Mr. and Mrs. Corbet, Mr. and Mrs. Clark. Dr. and Mrs. Davies, Mrs. Bruce and family, Mrs. Griffith and family, the Misses Williams of Aberpergwm, the Misses Griffiths of Ynyscynon, Mrs. Samuel, Mrs. Thomas Jones, Mrs. Gawn, Mrs. E. Thomas, Miss Bolting, Mr. and Mrs. David Evans, Mr. Sims, Mr. Bird, Mr. Lloyd, Mrs. and Miss Thomas, Aberaman, Mr. Morgan Williams, Misses Howard, Mrs. John Thomas, Penyrhadw, Mrs. and Miss Williams, Penyrhadw, Miss Stangel, Miss Cromer, Messrs. G. and H. Kirkhouse, C. E., Hirwain, &c., &c.