Tredegar Circuit, Monmouthshire
Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by W.L. Taylor
We are glad to present the readers of the “Messenger” this month, with particulars of a healthy Circuit area in the South Wales District; a district which, on account of some difficulties in the past, is not generally understood to be held in the highest esteem by our Connexional Committees, but, which is rapidly earning for itself a better name. Our “Vineyard Corner” is Tredegar, Mon. The population of the Urban District Council area is just under twenty thousand, and, industrially, it belongs to the South Wales coalfield, in this case ironworks forming an addition to the hum of industry.
The use of the Welsh language, so general here, does not, in itself, constitute any difficulty for us. The attitude, instincts, and outlook of the people are largely Welsh; those who migrate from English Circuits here are soon affected by the new environment. We are also overlapped by a Congregational polity which makes Primitive Methodism hard to be understood, and gives us a few administrative difficulties. In short, we have a Welsh atmosphere to deal with in things religious and ecclesiastical, which, somehow, does not lend itself easily to the genius of our Connexion.
Notwithstanding this, we have made substantial progress in the Circuit during recent years. A prominent Congregational minister in the town for many years, said at a public meeting a short time ago that, in his judgment, during his stay in the town, no denomination had made such progress as ours, and he rejoiced in the fact.
The Circuit area is far different from what it was years ago, when such men as Revs. C.T. Harris, W. Harvey, J.P. Bellingham, and others toiled upon it. Nowhere was the partition of Circuit policy more greatly needed, and nowhere has it been more amply justified.
“From Dan to Beershaba” was no mere poetic expression, but a fact to be reckoned with, meaning in this case “from Gilwern, near Abergavenny, to Fleur-de-lis, not far from Cardiff.” Mountain ranges intervened which had to be crossed in winter time with much toil and many dangers. One of the sciences studied by our travelling preachers (no misnomer here) was leg-ology. Now, however, South Wales Circuits rarely require mountain climbing. All the places on the plan are generally found in a valley, the once dreaded mountain range forming the dividing line between Circuit and Circuit. Our “Corner” has four places, all situate within the administrative area of the Urban District Council, three being town societies.
From the old Circuit have been formed Abertillery, Brynmawr, Ebbw Vale and Rhymney Valley Circuits. Coincident with the last division there was a strong desire for improved chapel accommodation. Just before, good premises had been erected in Lower James Street, at a cost of £900, superseding an iron church in Vale Terrace. Old “Ebenezer,” in Mount Street, built in 1843, was looked upon as the “mother” church, from which her sons and daughters went forth to form new religious communities elsewhere. We have been told of one of the stalwarts of the olden times, a Mr. Hodges (whose, son, the Rev. J. Hodges, of Grimsby Second Circuit, so worthily adorns our ministry) who prayed for many long years that God would open up the way for a commodious chapel and schoolroom to supersede old Ebenezer. Though he prayed and toiled, he, like many other seers, “died without the sight.” Companion to him in Christian service was Brother Healey, whose expectant countenance and sincere responses proved inspiring to every preacher who told out the message of God’s love from the old pulpit.
Before the Rev. J. Turner left the Circuit in 1900, a site had been secured in the best position the town afforded (Commercial Street) upon which, during the ministry of the Rev. W.L. Taylor, a beautiful structure was erected, at a cost of £1,800. To asslst the Trustees in their building project, one feature of the work was the establishment of a Sunday School Penny Bank, interest being paid at the rate of two and a half per cent, and the deposits loaned to the Trustees at three per cent., a miniature Chapel Aid Association indeed. £400 of the debt is held from this source, and there is a gradual accumulation of funds. £100 free of interest was also secured from the Centenary Department of the Old Bailey Sunday School Union.
Whilst Commercial Street property was in course of erection, Troedfhiwgwair friends responded loyally to the call of the minister to erect a beautiful iron church. The Saxon equivalent for this word is “The haystack at the foot of the hill,” which is given for the benefit of mere Saxon readers of this article. Services had been held for thirty years in a cottage rented from the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, in which it was impossible to make progress. The cost of the building, £180, was felt to be no difficulty to zealous souls, though there were only five members in society at the time. Two families in particular rendered splendid service, the Longs and the Hollys; and it ought not to go unrecorded that the sisters used to pick out stone in the day time to be carted to the building site by brethren in the evening, when their days toil in the mine had ceased. One sister sustained injury of a serious kind to her hand, necessitating medical attendance for some weeks, but, when commiserated with, she said, “I should do it again.” Nothing can prevent progress with such a devoted, courageous spirit.
Sirhowy, at the same time, cleared the debt of £120 in the jubilee year of its chapel property, an old minister, the Rev. J.P. Bellingham, preaching the jubilee sermons. Space would fail us to tell the names only of those who have contributed their quota to the Circuit’s weal. The station has been well served by its officers. At present Mr. William Clarke, a quiet unostentatious brother is the senior Circuit Steward, Mr. Lewis Holloway acting as his junior. Mr. Holloway is held in the highest esteem by the townspeople generally, is a trusted Labour leader in the Tredegar District of the Miners’ Federation, and, for years, has represented the workmen on the governing body of the County (Intermediate) School. Brother Charles Bowdich is the honoured librarian of the Workmen’s Institute.
Then there are the Williams, the Morgans, the Evans, the Lanes, the Wilcoxs, and a host of others. Of course, there are the Browns. Are not the Browns everywhere? And does not everybody sing their praises since Judge Hughes, as “Tom Brown,“ has done so?
These are all young. In fact, there are no men or women “leaning on their staff for very age” in the Circuit. This predominance of young life is a wonderful inspiration for the minister, and an augury of prosperity in the days yet to dawn upon us. The fathers have gone home, leaving to their descendants the task of carrying on the work so well begun. Right worthily they do it.
“Some hold the fort; some wave the flag.”
The present minister is the Rev. A.E. Willcox, whose plodding consecrated ministry is much appreciated.
There is ample room and opportunity for a second minister, and, in the judgment of those who think they know, the extra financial demand could be easily met by these pushful Primitives. Then will dawn upon the cause in this Circuit another era of success, and, if history repeats itself in this particular, the formation of another live Circuit. May it be soon!
Christian Messenger 1904/366