The Parish of St. Fagan, Aberdare

“It will all be the same in a hundred years”! In some respects conditions in Aberdare a
hundred years ago were very like conditions today. Then, as now, all around the outskirts of
old Aberdare, new houses were being built to accommodate people who had come to work in
the new and expanding industries.
In 1792 Morgan Watkins began to build houses at Heol y Felin. At that time the only houses
were Melin Llwydcoed and two cottages belonging to the Mill, which was situated on the
South side of the Cynon and was worked by a race, which flowed underneath the wheel. In
1799 John Scales built his foundry on the sited of the present Brickworks and the district
expanded rapidly. By 1845 when the railway from “Llwydcoed Mill St. to the Basin Isaf’,
(Abercynon) was built, there were several hundred houses and more were being built. The
railway was opened on August 1st. 1846.
Similar developments were taking place at Hirwaun, Aberaman, and Mountain Ash all within
the parish of Aberdare that then had one Church, St. John’s, with accommodation for 157
Until 1839 Aberdare was a sub-parish of the great Parish of Llantrisant. Llanwynno and
Ystradyfodwg were similarly placed. It had become a Perpetual Curacy, to all intents and
purposes a parish on its own. In 1772 and in 1838 the patronage passed from the Vicar of
Llantrisant, to the Marquis of Bute. In 1846 he preferred the Revd. John Griffiths to the
living. During the thirteen years he was vicar he left the stamp of his personality on the life of
the town and of the church. St. Elvan’s was built in 1851-2 and St. Fagan’s in 1853-4.
Provision was made for services and Sunday schools in other parts of the parish from
Hirwaun to Mountain Ash.
“The District Chape1ry of St. Fagan” became a separate parish on July 28th 1856. lts
boundary with the parish of Aberdare was readjusted in 1875. On March 3rd 1891, the
districts of Cwmdare and Llwydcoed were added to it.
From that date the boundaries have remained the same but the population has gradually
During the depression of the 1930’s when many parishes in the valleys were depopulated,
new building at Trefelin and Treifor tended to maintain the population of this parish. Since
the second World War the new estate at Penywaun has swelled the population to about 12,000
and we are faced with the problem which was tackled so successfully a hundred years ago that of providing opportunities for the worship and service of God in the outlying districts; a
problem which has, moreover been made more difficult by the present lack of vocations to
Holy Orders and by the disappearance of the public spirited and wealthy churchmen and
churchwomen who gave so freely of their wealth to build churches and schools in the mid 19th century.
Isaac Domere Jenkins 1854 – 1876
An assistant curate of Aberdare under the Revd. John Griffiths, Mr. Jenkins was in charge of
the district of Heol y Felin and of St. Fagan’s Church from the time it was built. He was
appointed Vicar in July 1855. He saw the Church burnt down and re-built in 1855-6. He
built the Schools in 1857 and added the Infants’ School, (now the School Hall), in 1867. He
also built the Vicarage and acquired the Organ in 1874. In 1876 he became Vicar of St.Andrew’s, near Cardiff. It has not been possible to include his photograph.
Charles Jones 1876 – 1890
A native of Caernarvonshire, Mr. Jones had formerly been a Schoolmaster at Bontnewydd in
that County. In 1877 he had a serious nervous breakdown and was not able to take an active
part in the work of the parish for about four years. During his incumbency, the Parish Church
was restored. In 1879, a classroom was added to the School about the same time and St.
Winifred’s Church was built in 1885. Although Cwmdare was not then in his parish, he and
his son-in-law the Revd. H. 1. Williams, played a prominent part in making provision for a
mission room and in the building St. Luke’s Church in 1887. He died in June 1890, and lies
buried on the South side of the Church near the Vestry door.
Evan Bevan 1890 – 1903
Mr. Bevan was inducted on August 7th 1890, but was not able to take up residence in the parish until some months later and did not commence his duties until October 5th 1890. The Revd. H. R. Roberts, (1888-1903), was his assistant curate for the whole of his incumbency, which saw the building of the St. Fagan’s Institute in 1894 and S. James Church, L1wydcoed in 1895. He died “in harness” on January 27th 1903 and was laid to rest at the North East corner of the Churchyard.
Richard Jones 1903 – 1921
Mr. Jones brought the Schools up to the required standard under the Education Act of 1902.
In 1908-9 the Parish Church was restored at a cost of over £ 1200 and the Tower was built to
replace the belfry. He began the work of improving the interior appearance of the church by
erecting the chancel screen as a war memorial in 1921. In that same year became the Rector
of Llanvaches, where he died in 1929. The carved oak chair in the sanctuary was given in his
memory by the G.F.S.
Edward William Hughes 1922 – 1947
After spending some years as a railway missioner in Canada and as a chaplain to the Canadian forces in France, the Revd. E. W. Hughes became Curate of St. Theodore’s Port Talbot in 1919 and Vicar of S. Fagan’s in 1922. An oak altar and reredos were installed and many other improvements to the interior of the Parish Church were made in 1922. Vestments were  introduced and the outward dignity of the church’s worship stressed. His incumbency will however be chiefly remembered for the love and care which he lavished on the church schools. Between 1932 and 1935 the schools were reconstructed and brought up to a very
high standard at a cost of over £2500. Since his retirement in 1946 “Vicar Hughes” has enjoyed greatly improved health and has spent much of his time doing tapestry work. An example of his work hangs in the Children’s Corner in memory of Mrs. G. A. Hughes.
John Elwern Thomas 1947
The present Vicar, like his predecessor is a native of North Wales and came to this parish
from curacies at Conway and Llandrillo-yn-Rhos.
From the original drawing by the Architect in 1853.