St Cynog’s Church, Ystradgynlais

PWMP logobutton_lang_welshSt Cynog’s Church, Ystradgynlais

It’s thought that a church was built in this vicinity Norman times. The building we see today cost about £1,700 and opened in 1861. It replaced an earlier church which stood about 50m further north.

On the outside of the boiler room wall are sections of what appear to be early Christian stones, inscribed with Latin words. They may date from the 5th or 6th centuries, when St Cynog lived. He was one of the many children of King Brychan Brycheiniog. His mother was an Irish princess, reputedly raped by Brychan.

Cynog received a gold bracelet from his father. A 15th-century poem tells that he used the bracelet as the decisive weapon in a fight against oppressors, who had earlier been allowed to cut a slice of flesh from Cynog’s thigh on condition they stopped harassing the locals!

Some of the structures inside the Victorian church are made of iron, probably exploiting the facilities available at nearby ironworks.

In 1886 the church was the venue for the marriage of celebrity opera singer Adelina Patti, who had settled at Craig-y-Nos Castle, and Italian tenor Ernsto Nicolini. The path to the church door was lined with 900 children, each wearing a rosette. The bride wore a blue silk dress with a lace mantle. Residents of the Swansea Valley gave the newlyweds a set of “rare and valuable” Swansea porcelain.

Some of the congregation were “disappointed” in 1899 when the church’s English-language services were suddenly withdrawn! As local industries attracted labour from afar, growing numbers of local residents did not speak Welsh. Separate English services had been held in the church since around the time the new building opened.

Activities in the church hall during the First World War included a jumble sale in 1917, organised by local women in aid of the Pontardawe Auxiliary Hospital. Items sold included hand-made quilts and a young pig!

Inside the church you can see memorials to local people who died in First and Second World Wars. These were the town’s main war memorials until the 1970s, when the war memorial in nearby Gorsedd Park was erected. There are nine war graves in the churchyard – details below.

Postcode: SA9 1HQ     View Location Map

Parish website

To continue the Ystradgynlais in WW1 tour, walk west along Heol Eglwys to the war memorial at Gorsedd Park
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Churchyard war graves: First World War

Butler, Richard, Private 63432. Died 23/10/1918 aged 24. South Wales Borderers. Son of John Harry Butler and Elizabeth Ann Butler of Oddfellows Street, Ystradgynlais.

Carr, Frederick Herbert, Private 84099. Died 13/12/1918. Royal Air Force. Husband of Beatrice Annie Carr of 9 Graig Terrace, Brecon Road, Ystradgynlais.

Davies, Thomas Howell, Captain. Died 06/10/1919 aged 33. South Wales Borderers. Son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Davies, of Llain-y-Gors, Ystradgynlais; husband of Edith Davies (later Newman). Born in St Clears, Carmarthen.


Churchyard war graves: Second World War

Evans, David Douglas, Sergeant 3025155. Died 26/08/1944. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Evans, Henry Garfield, Guardsman 2735038. Died 17/02/1940 aged 20. Welsh Guards. Son of John Henry and Gwen Evans, of Penrhos.

Evans, William Stanley, Petty Officer Sick Berth D/MX 45954. Died 12/06/1945 aged 36. Royal Navy. Son of John Henry and Gwen Evans, of Penrhos; husband of Mary Ellen Evans, of Abercrave.

Jones, Cyril Eurfryn, Private 14821427. Died 29/08/1945 aged 19. Welch Regiment. Son of Thomas Frederick and Annie Jones, of Ystradgynlais.

Jones, John, Sapper 4077138. Died 19/02/1944 aged 24. Royal Engineers. Son of William John and Mary Jones, of Glanrhyd, Ystradgynlais.

Powell, Alfa, Sergeant (Wireless Op./Air Gunner) 1181850. Died 17/04/1942 aged 20. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Son of William David and Janet Ann Powell, of Bedfont, Feltham, Middlesex.