The Unitarian Chapel: Extracts from Dr. Randall




The sombre and severe building at the foot of Newcastle Hill possesses considerable historical interest. The present chapel is dated 1795, but its predecessor was one of the first Dissenting centres in South Wales and goes back to the origins of the movement. The story begins wit Samuel Jones of Brynllywarch. He has been described as "in many respects the most eminent of all Welsh Nonconformist ministers of the seventeenth century". He was born at Chirk in Denbighshire in 1628, graduated at Oxford in 1650 and became Bursar of Jesus College in 1655. This was the Cromwellian period, and after a Presbyterian ordination at Taunton he was appointed Vicar of Llangynwyd on 4th of May, 1657. There he married Mary, a daughter of Rees Powell of Maesteg, who was Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1654. Under the Act of Uniformity of 1662 he was ejected and retried to Brynllywarch, a substantial farm house in the same parish, probably part of the property of Rees Powell, and he remained there until his death on 7th of September, 1697.

The first Non-Conformist academy in Wales was established at Brynllywarch Farmhouse by the Rev. Samuel Jones.

We catch a glimpse of the formation of a Dissenting congregation at Bridgend in the returns of the licensed places for the public worship of Protestant Dissenters under the Declaration of Indulgence of 1672. Among these were two fro Samuel Jones, classified as a Presbyterian, at Llangynwyd and Coytrehen, and one for Thomas Joseph, an Anabaptist, in his own house at Bridgend. Nothing is known of this Thomas Joseph, but after the death of Samuel Jones we obtain clear evidence. By a lease of 17th of October, 1702, Michael Williams of Bridgend and Hester, his wife, leased to Rees Price of Tylacoch, Bettws, gentleman, Rees Price, and Thomas Lyson of Waterton, Coychurch, gentleman, a cottage and garden at Newcastle for a term of 999 years at a nominal rent.  A memorandum endorsed on the Lease by the Lessees made a declaration of Trust that the property was to be continued, to be a meeting place for dissenting protestants, implying, therefore, that it was so used already. Indeed, it might have been the house of Thomas Joseph. It is conjectured that a permanent chapel was built upon the site about the year 1717 and it was certainly rebuilt in 1795.

The chapel at Bridgend has survived mainly because of its endowments. Rice or Rees Price of Tynton left town chapels a sum of £200 and two houses adjoining the meeting house at Newcastle. His will was dated 16th of December, 1734, and he died on 20th of June, 1739. The provision of the will was effectuated by a deed of Release of 27th April, 1741. The two houses have disappeared and were probably merged in the enlarged chapel in 1795. Then one John Edwin by deed of 10th May, 1742, assigned trustees for the two chapels a yearly rent of £8 secured upon a property called Tir Tom Jenkin in the parish of Baglan. This was ultimately purchased by the owner of the property for £200 in 1860 and the purchase money invested in trustee securities. 

Samuel Price, the son of Rees Price, and one of the original lessees of 1702, also left a legacy of £100 to the chapels. 


Notes: These extracts are taken from a source written and published in 1955. 
Source: Bridgend: The Story of a Market Town: Dr Randall 

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