Thursday 21st April, 6.30pm

The Willows Centre, Troedyrhiw


Sheila Walker (SW)     Hannah Lowe (HL)            Tommy Cunningham (TC)

John Day (JD)                 Simon Collier (SC)             Bernard Lowe (BL)

Lynda Jones (LJ)            Ron Clark (RC)                    Hazel Collier (HC)

Steve Edwards (SE)       Llŷr (Harri) Evans (LE)     Wyn James (WJ)

Nicola Walker (NW)     Jackie Williams (JW)         Phil Howells (PH)

Sylvia Johnson (SJ)        Mair Attwood (MA)            David Collier (DC)


On behalf of FoS DC thanked those present for their attendance and ongoing support. He explained that information would be provided about the progress made by this project over the past year together with details of some serious problems that had recently arisen. He said that consideration would also be given to the best way forward from this point. DC pointed out that a pack of explanatory documents matched to agenda items had been provided.


Jayne Powney , Joe Conaghan, Andrew Collier, Steve Collier, Irene Winter, Jake Castle (KWT), Peter Evans, Peter Smith, Mary Diggins, Eva Hadley, Clive Thomas, Dave Daniel, Anne Griffiths, Geraint James, Tony Thomas, Cllr Gareth Lewis, Claire Howells (TNHW),


Acceptance of these minutes as a true record was proposed by RC and seconded by SW.


RC enquired whether the committee had considered whether his view that the term ‘cemetery’ might be more appropriate for the Saron site than ‘graveyard’. DC stated that the project had always used the term ‘graveyard’ as this is what this place had historically been known as. DC suggested and RC agreed that a final decision would be made by the FoS committee at their next meeting.


DC referred to the following documents and outlined their contents:-

  • D – Background on the positions of and connections between all interested parties.
  • A – Annual Report including:-
  1. achievements over the past year in the graveyard and working in the community;
  2. the leaseholder’s ‘second thoughts’ which appears to make them unwilling to support any funding bids (stemming in part from their opposition to gambling which prohibits them from dealing with the Heritage Lottery Fund);
  3. a disappointing response to our first approach to a major funding provider (HLF) highlighting weaknesses in our application strategy which we can, hopefully, address in forthcoming enquiries to other organisations.
  • B – Estimated Expenditure on the project to date (including monies obtained from fundraising, donations and volunteer time costed at national minimum wage rate) now totals £32,434.

DC explained that £600 had been spent on the services of a structural engineer to examine  a collapsed retaining wall and design a cost effective gabion basket replacement. Contractors’ quotations received for this work are in the region of £37,000 to £40,000 + VAT.


DC explained that current treasurer Jayne Powney is not present at this meeting due to a prior commitment. She was, unfortunately, unable to send a full statement of accounts but provided a summary which included:-

Starting balance (April 2015). Current balance (April 2016). Main expenditure during the year.     Committed but unpaid expenditure. Income pending.

Full accounts, when available, may be obtained on request to the FoS committee.


In the absence of Cllr. Gareth Lewis LE kindly agreed to act as independent chair for the election of officers of the new committee. It was explained that Jayne Powney (JP) was stepping down from her position of Treasurer and that, with his agreement, SE had been nominated for election as her replacement. The meeting wished to record their thanks to Jayne for all that she has done for this project and expressed the hope that she would continue to show an interest in its progress.With no further names (other than SE) being proposed as candidates and all other officers of the outgoing committee (with the exception of JP) having indicated their willingness to serve again for the coming year, all of those put forward were unanimously elected by a show of hands.


DC referred to Document E -‘Where do we go from here?‘ and outlined its main content by covering the following points:-

  1. Disappointing news from the Saron leaseholder who now appears to be unwilling to support funding bids to cover the cost of urgently necessary structural work.
  2. A discouraging response to an initial enquiry made to a major funding provider indicating that applications must be more closely matched  to expected  ‘outcomes’ and are unlikely to be considered from projects that are deemed to be too ‘wide’ in scope.
  3. FoS remain determined to take this project forward as far as possible and have drafted a flexible programme for the coming year which includes:-
  4. a concerted effort to overcome the unexpected withdrawal of leaseholder support by enlisting input from those with influence and connections to mediate on our behalf (Gerald Jones MP is already in contact with the leaseholder);
  5. submission of a large number of funding enquiries to potential providers that have been identified as being potentially acceptable to the leaseholder;
  6. continuing volunteer led improvements on the Saron site;
  7. promotion of and participation in a range of events and activities in the community.

DC then opened a discussion session by asking for comments and suggestions. The following emerged from this :-

  • LE suggested that the situation that this project finds itself in must have previously happened to others with a successful outcome being achieved. He said that he would make some enquiries.
  • WJ said that he might be able to approach the General Secretary of the Union of Welsh Independents. He also suggested that enquiries could be made of Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism in the Welsh Government and Capel (the Chapels Heritage Society).
  • DC referred to an unsolicited statement received from Jake Castle, Project Officer, KWT, which was extremely complementary about this project describing it as ‘of huge value to Troedyrhiw’, working towards ‘a community & wildlife garden with an awareness of local history’, being ‘locally unique’ and contributing to ‘a broader community cohesion’.
  • WJ explained that he, DC and others are considering holding some local history meetings at Carmel Chapel. These would focus on Troedyrhiw with a range of topics being possible. LJ said that she and her friends would welcome this as the meetings which they attend in Merthyr tend to deal with the history of the town. MA said that, as members of the older generation pass on, much valuable information is being lost. DC asked for an indication of likely attendance at the proposed local history meetings and a good response (6+) was received.


At this point DC brought the meeting to a close thanking those present, once again, for their attendance, giving an assurance that the group will continue to work towards its goal, and expressing the hope that the community will maintain its interest in and support for this project.



Thursday 17th April, 6.30pm

Scout Hall, Troedyrhiw


Hannah Lowe    (HL)     Bernard Lowe             (BL)     John Day        (JD)     Sylvia Johnson (SJ)

Mair Attwood     (MA)    Cllr Gareth Lewis       (GL)    Ron Clark       (RC)    Steve Edwards (SE)

Phil Howells      (PH)    Joseph Conaghan      (JC1)   Simon Collier  (SC2)   Hazel Collier      (HC)

John Jenkins    (JJ)      Jacqueline Williams   (JW)    Sheila Walker (SW)   Stephen Collier (SC1)

Andrew Collier  (AC)    David Collier               (DC)    Judy Collier     (JC)     Nicola Walker   (NW)


On behalf of FoS DC expressed thanks to all those attending this, the sixth, FoS AGM.  He also extended thanks to Ken Long and the scouts for making this venue available and to Cllr. Gareth Lewis for agreeing to act as independent chair for the election of a new committee (agenda item 7.).

DC went on to say that, over the past year, substantial progress has been made on improving the condition of the graveyard and in other aspects of the Saron project. He also made clear that there are still barriers to overcome if the goals which have been set are to be achieved.


Peter Smith, Jayne Powney, Lynda Jones, Tommy Cunningham, Irene Winter, Dave Daniel, Margaret Jenkins, Mary Diggins, Peter Diggins, Jake Castle, Eva Hadley, Ann Griffiths, Tony Thomas, Jean Luffman, Brian Ward, Mark Moore, Alyson Nolan, Ken Long, Claire Williams, Joe Lamb, Pam Powell.

  1. MINUTES OF 5TH AGM – 10TH April 2014:

Other than the need to make an amendment to the apologies received for the last AGM, where Ron Clark pointed out that his name appeared in both Present and Apologies when in fact he was present, the minutes were proposed as an accurate record by RC and seconded by SW.


Item 2 ‘Apologies’ of the previous AGM have been amended to show that Ron Clark, who was listed under both ‘Present’ and ‘Apologies’, was in fact present.


DC referred to Documents A and B of the information packs provided to attendees.

Document A covered the activities and achievements of the past year.  Besides the seven Volunteer Days that had taken place a further sixteen days of on-site improvement has taken place in the first quarter of 2015 alone.  This includes on-going support from Jake Castle (Project Officer) of KWT who FoS wish to thanks, but particular thanks were extended to the small team comprising of Tommy Cunningham, Simon Collier, Mark Moore, Sheila Walker and Stephen Collier, who have been very active and done so much in recent months to bring about  some a major improvements to the site.  Without this considerable effort this project which up until this past year has only managed to hold a maximum of six Volunteer Days in a year, would not have progressed so far.

Document B provides an estimate of expenditure to date, this will be used when seeking matched funding later this year.  This comprises of;

  • Initial clearance of site under Welsh Government funded ‘Tidy Towns’ scheme.
  • Leaseholder repairs to the external wall on the grounds of Public Safety,
  • Support from stonemason Brian Driscoll to take down and rebuild unstable gate piers,
  • FoS members’ commitment and contribution,
    • Communication (Correspondence, Telephone, Email, News Letters, Social Media),
    • Meeting costs,
    • Volunteer Days,
    • Fund raising activities,
    • Refurbishment of gates,
    • Engagement with the community which has and does involve all age groups, (School, Scouts, Youth, Senior Citizens).

In all, using minimum wage for purposes of estimating volunteer labour input, investment to date can be seen to exceed £27,000.


DC advised the meeting that JP (Treasurer) was unable to attend this meeting owing to a prior commitment so would make the report on her behalf.

DC referred attendees to the Treasurer’s Report provided by JP before going through them, highlighting:-

  1. the balance at the beginning of the year which was £841.87,
  2. income from donations and fundraising activities received throughout the year of £529 (see Secretary’s Note below),
  3. costs incurred for materials for weed treatment, waste bags, printing, soil, and group insurance from KWT amounting to £468.83,
  4. the end of year balance, which is £902.04 (see Secretary’s Note).

DC asked whether the meeting accepted the accounts, SC2 proposed acceptance and SE seconded their acceptance.  The meeting accepted the accounts as true and accurate.

Secretary’s Note: The above accounts did not show the recent donation of £20 received from John Day which is yet to be banked, this makes the total £922.04.


At this point DC asked Cllr. GL to take charge of the meeting to supervise the election of officers of the new committee.  The outgoing committee and the roles they had been elected to are covered in Document C

GL, having explained that no nominations had been received but that the current officers had indicated a willingness to continue, asked whether there were any other nominations.

With no new names being proposed as candidates and the officers of the outgoing committee having indicated their willingness to serve again for the coming year, all were unanimously re-elected by a show of hands.

At this point RC interjected with a point of order to advise that, to avoid any possible suggestion of a conflict of interests, Cllr. GL should be identified as being associated with FoS in an advisory capacity rather than as a full member.  DC thanked RC for his advice which he confirmed would be taken and acted upon.


DC referred to Document D which outlined the proposed programme of activities and events which FoS wished to implement in the coming year. This formed the basis of an informal presentation and discussion covering the bullet points below:-

  • Funding is to be sought from Heritage Lottery Fund and Welsh Church Fund for essential structural work. FoS have identified an urgent need to effect repairs to the collapsed retaining wall in the SW corner of the site but recognise that the poor condition of the remainder of this wall may necessitate more extensive and therefore more expensive work.
  • FoS will continue to engage with the local community through its meetings, events and interaction with other groups.
  • The chapel gates are almost ready to be rehung. SC2 reported that the gates will be rehung at the Volunteer Day following this meeting which will be tomorrow (18th April).  There will still be some replacement finials to fit once they have been cast but the pattern and casting box for this to be done is ready.
  • Once the gates are rehung they will normally be kept locked whilst the graveyard remains in an unsafe condition. Arrangements will, therefore, need to be made for them to be opened for essential access eg deliveries and removal of rubbish and this may require that the standard locks used by the Council’s Parks & Cemeteries Dept. should be fitted as was the case following the initial Tidy Towns clearup..

The locked gates issue prompted some discussion as there was concern from attendees with regard to access by residents and others wishing to visit graves. In view of the project’s aim of creating a community asset which can be appreciated by all it was resolved that the next FoS committee will discuss this issue at their next meeting and decide upon workable short-term arrangements for site access with a decision on the long-term pattern being deferred until wider consultations can take place.

  • When the project is completed consideration will need to be made to ensure that the Memorial and Wildlife Garden is maintained. How this is to be done will need to be discussed and arrangements made for its maintenance to continue.

At this point DC handed over the chairmanship to JC1 to guide an open discussion on any matters which those at the meeting wished to raise. In the event discussion was limited but the following emerged :-

  • It had been thought that the original burial record had been lost but the possibility of the existence of a surviving copy has recently been brought to our attention. We are endeavouring to discover the whereabouts of a large ledger containing details of burials but have, thus far, been unable to locate this important historical resource.
  • The grave of Saron’s first minister has been uncovered and re-erected. It had been thought that this was within the confines of the chapel, but in fact was found in the graveyard well away from the footprint of the chapel that was demolished in 1990.  However, the minister may well have been buried within the confines of the original chapel the location of which is not currently known but might, perhaps, be found by further research or archaeological investigation.
  • FoS continue to receive enquiries from across the UK and overseas from people undertaking family history research. An example would be a recent telephone enquiry from an Australian lady who was on a visit to the UK and was actually speaking from Saron graveyard.
  • A number of headstones refer to people who died overseas. These include  a soldier who died in the Boer War and is buried in South Africa and a miner killed in a rock fall in a gold mine in British Columbia.
  • The history of Saron Chapel is being researched by a local historian who will be writing an article for publication in a future edition of Merthyr Historian.
  • SE suggested that an ‘InfoGraphic’ square be mounted that provides a History Timeline, QR Codes and weblinks concerning Saron. This is something that can be considered and discussed at forthcoming committee meetings.

At this point JC1 brought the meeting to a close thanking those present, once again, for their attendance, giving an assurance that the group will continue to work towards its goal, and expressing the hope that the community will maintain its interest in and support for this project.


Thursday 10th April 2014 – 6:30pm

Angel Inn, Troedyrhiw


Jayne Powney  (JP)    Joseph Conaghan      (JC1)   Simon Collier  (SC2)  Hazel Collie     (HC)

Lynda Jones     (LJ)     Tommy Cunningham (TC)    Irene Winter    (IW)     John Day        (JD)

Sheila Walker    (SW)  Sylvia Johnson           (SJ)     Dave Daniels  (DD)    Peter Smith     (PS)

Stephen Collier (SC1)  Nicola Walker             (NW)   Phil Howells    (PH)    Mair Attwood   (MA)

Andrew Collier  (AC)   Wyn James                (WJ)    David Collier   (DC)    Ron Clark        (RC)

Jacqui Roome  (JR) – Troedyrhiw Primary School

Janet Bailey      (JB) – Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust (GGAT)

Jake Castle       (JC2) – Keep Wales Tidy

Claire Williams  (CW) – Communities First



On behalf of FoS DC expressed thanks to all those attending this, the fifth, FoS AGM.  He also extended thanks to Margaret and Brenig for making this venue available and to Claire Williams of Communities First for her kind agreement to act as independent chair for part of this meeting.

For their contributions to this project during the past year particular thanks were extended to JB (GGAT) for facilitating a youth engagement programme (in partnership with FoS) aimed at the Primary School, Scouts and Willows Youth Club; to JR (School) and KL (Scouts) for allowing their respective organisations to become involved, and to Chris Tarbuck (Willows) for taking the first steps towards a new project.  Grateful thanks was also expressed for the expert input of StC and SC in organising on-site work including the urgently necessary dismantling and rebuilding of the unsafe Saron gate piers.

  1. APOLOGIES (See ‘AMENDMENT’ below.):

Megan Davies, Carmen Davies, Steve Brewer, Jean Luffman, Tony Thomas, Eva Hadley, Steve Edwards, Ann Griffiths, Brian Ward, Mary & Paul Diggins, Chris Tarbuck – Willows Youth Centre, Ken Long – Communities First & Troedyrhiw Scouts.

  1. MINUTES OF 4TH AGM – 12TH April 2013:

The minutes of the last AGM were proposed as an accurate record by RC and seconded by SW.


There were no matters arising from the minutes of the previous AGM.


DC referred to an issued document which outlined the main achievements of the past year. The main items were:-

  1. good progress of non-structural site improvement work by volunteers;
  2. successfully completing the rebuild of unsafe gate piers;
  3. delivery of a youth engagement programme in partnership with Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust;
  4. seeking support from existing and new contacts with identified individuals, groups and organisations;
  5. achieving national recognition as finalists at Tidy Wales Awards ceremony held Feb. 2014;

JP provided copies of accounts (see ‘Secretary’s Note’ below) to attendees before going through them, highlighting:-

  1. the balance at the beginning of the year;
  2. income from donations and fundraising activities received throughout the year;
  3. costs incurred for materials and labour for weed treatment, rebuilding and refurbishment of gate piers and gates, group insurance from KWT;
  4. the end of year balance.

The meeting signified acceptance of these accounts.

Secretary’s Note: The above accounts were amended post-meeting to include 2013 – 2014 income from fund-raising which had inadvertently been omitted.  Reconciliation on 29-05-14 shows an end balance at this date of £792.87 and an April ‘13 starting balance of £1,058.49


At this point DC asked CW to take charge of the meeting to supervise the election of officers of the new committee.

CW, having explained that current officers had indicated a willingness to continue, asked whether there were any other nominations.

At this point RC interjected stating that he wished to place on record that, in his view, the outgoing committee are doing an excellent job and proposed that they should be re-elected.  This was seconded by TC.

With no new names being proposed as candidates and the officers of the outgoing committee having indicated their willingness to serve again for the coming year, all were unanimously re-elected.


DC referred to an issued document which outlined the programme which FoS wished to implement in the coming year. The main items were:-

  1. targeting site improvement work towards the creation of a ‘showpiece area’ as a demonstration of volunteer ability and determination in preparation for funding bid;
  2. refurbishing the historic Saron gates ready for refitting to complete a. above;
  3. maintaining a positive dialogue with the Saron leaseholder, freeholder and Council;
  4. seeking publicity across a range of media;
  5. exploring potential sources of funding for urgently necessary structural work;
  6. maintaining links with youth groups, particularly the Primary School and Willows, in support of heritage and environmental activities;
  7. supporting research into the history of Saron Chapel through access to documentary and, possibly, archaeological sources.

DC expressed a conviction that the ultimate success of this project will depend upon continuing community support.  He, therefore, suggested, that residents who are not currently involved should seriously consider becoming members of FoS.  Although additional input into committee and volunteer sessions would be welcomed, members who wished to limit their membership commitment to a supportive role would be equally valued.

DC then handed over the chairmanship to JC1 who guided an open discussion session through the following:-

  1. JC1 opened by emphasising the importance to our young people of having opportunities to explore their culture, heritage and environment. He welcomed the attendance of JR (School) and JB (GGAT) at this meeting and thanked them for enabling much of the past year’s youth engagement work to be delivered so effectively.  Thanks were also expressed to both KL (Scouts) and CT (Willows) who had been unable to attend.
  2. RC asked if Saron ‘graveyard’ was correct terminology and wondered whether Saron ‘cemetery’ might be better. This stimulated some discussion during which DC said that he thought that, historically, ‘graveyard’ and ‘burial ground’ were the most commonly used terms for sites of this sort. JB suggested that, before the demolition, residents would have probably referred to the whole site as ‘Saron Chapel’ whereas now they speak of ‘Saron graveyard’. JD stated that his recollection is that people have always called this place simply ‘Saron’. DD offered the suggestion that the words ‘Saron Memorial’ should be included in the name of this location and DC reminded the meeting that the vision of this project is to create a community asset in the form of ‘Saron Memorial & Wildlife Garden’.
  3. At this point JC1 proposed that the discussion moved on and asked whether anyone had any thoughts on the progress that has been made over the year. PS said that it was very gratifying to see the work that has been done to the gate piers and the gates but that there are still an awful lot of problems which have to be dealt with.  He then asked what progress had been made with regard to the possible installation of a commemorative plaque?  DC responded saying that tentative enquiries have been made but no response has yet been received. JB stated that Merthyr Heritage Trust erected about two plaques every year and that these were quite costly and must conform to their set design standards.  She said that she would be happy to approach the Heritage Trust on behalf of FoS.  PS said that he liked the idea of a memorial plaque and would be willing to make a financial contribution towards it but was concerned that it could receive the attention of metal thieves.  SC pointed out that, for this reason, low value aluminium was the preferred fabrication material these days. JC1 wondered whether FoS could design their own and submit it for the appropriate external validation.
  4. JC1 then asked for comments on FoS proposals to stage one or more events at which residents would be invited to contribute their memories of life in the village in the past. This could involve making audio and / or still / video recordings along the lines of ‘digital storytelling’ and could incorporate sharing of old photographs, documents, treasured belongings, etc. which have some special meaning.  The opportunity to look at Troedyrhiw’s musical heritage might also be included.  WJ responded saying that Canolfan Zoar, Merthyr had twice applied for Heritage Lottery funding to look into the musical history of the borough, including the chapels.  Both had failed but they had now secured funding from another source.  They want to set up groups in areas of the borough including Troedyrhiw and Aberfan and, in principle, might be interested in working with FoS.  The use of a musical theme as a starting point for looking into local history is certainly a possibility but perhaps not in the immediate future (from WJ’s point of view).  DC asked whether it was likely that students from Merthyr College would be involved if such a venture were to be launched as it runs from Merthyr College?  WJ responded saying that students could be involved in planning and recording but the main emphasis would be on the involvement of more mature residents.  DC stated that FoS would be happy to liaise with him (WJ) and Richard Davies, Merthyr College if or when an opportune moment arises.  Making a general point about the value of project involvement in cultural activities JC1 recalled what he called the ‘fabulous’ response by local artists when the Saron themed art exhibition entitled ‘In Memory of’ was held at Merthyr’s Taste of Enterprise Centre in 2011.

At this point DC brought the meeting to a close thanking those present, once again, for their attendance; giving an assurance that the group will work hard to meet the challenges which lie ahead and expressing the hope that the community will maintain its interest in and support for this project.  He requested that those who had not done so filled in a FoS membership form before leaving.


These minutes have been amended and re-issued following the observation at the 2015 AGM, held on 17th April 2015, raised by Ron Clark relating to his name inadvertently appearing in both Present and Apologies lists, he was, in fact, present at the 2014 AGM and these minutes have been amended to reflect this.


Friends of Saron


Thursday 12th April 2013 – 6:30pm
Scout Hall, Troedyrhiw

Jayne Powney (JP) Joseph Conaghan (JC) Simon Collier (SC)
Hazel Collier (HC) Lynda Jones (LJ) Tommy Cunningham (TC)
Tony Thomas (TT) Irene Winter (IW) Steve Edwards (SE)
Sylvia Johnson (SJ) Steve Collier (StC) Sheila Walker (SW)
Nicola Walker (NW) Andrew Collier (AC) Phil Howells (PH)
Peter Smith (PS) Ron Clark (RC) Brian Ward (BW)
David Collier (DC)
Ken Long (KL) Communities First & Troedyrhiw Scouts
Paul Kent (PK) Keep Wales Tidy
Janet Bailey (JB) Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust
DC thanked those present for their attendance and for their continuing support. He also expressed thanks to Ken Long and the Scouts for the use of this venue and for their help in setting up.

DC explained that the meeting will receive a report on some encouraging progress made over the past 12 months and details of some exciting activities which are planned for the coming year.

Rhian Conaghan, Eva Hadley, Chris Tarbuck (Willows Centre), David Daniel, Mary Diggins, Paul Diggins.

Following a proposal by SW which was seconded by StC the meeting accepted these as an accurate record.

No matters arose from the Minutes of 19th April 2012.

DC reminded the meeting of the FoS vision which is to actively involve the community in a project which seeks to create Saron Memorial and Wildlife Garden. This will not only conserve an important cultural and ecological asset for the future but can also provide a stimulus for the exploration of other aspects of our local heritage. He then summarised the work of FoS since the last AGM which has included:-
a. continuing, through Volunteer Days and unscheduled work in the graveyard undertaken with the active support of Keep Wales Tidy, to maintain the gains made by the Tidy Towns clearance work and to make some modest but significant improvements;
b. maintaining a dialogue with those parties which FoS regard as being the principal ‘stakeholders’ in this matter i.e. leaseholder, freeholder and Council;
c. with the active support of our AM, seeking an agreement with the leaseholder which will allow FoS to facilitate a conservation programme whilst they retain overall liability;
d. approaching the leaseholder, through our AM, with a fully costed (with quotations from contractors) proposal for the urgently necessary repair of a collapsed retaining wall;
e. building support through strengthening links with a wide range of individuals and organisations;
f. development and maintenance of a FoS online blog which can be visited at to access details on the background to the project, latest news, forthcoming events, etc;
g. participating in a number of heritage related events including the annual Family and Local History Fair held in Merthyr by Glamorgan Family History Society and a ‘Tomb Reading’ event organised by Canolfan Soar, Merthyr;
h. securing the support of Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust in planning a programme of youth engagement activities to be delivered later this year (further details to be given under agenda item 8.

JP provided a brief verbal summary of and a printed statement showing the financial position of FoS. She explained that the FoS bank balance now exceeds £1000 as a result of ongoing fundraising efforts including the annual sale of FoS Christmas cards and calendars and the generosity of a number of donors.

KL took the chair for this part of the proceedings. Having been proposed by SC and seconded by SJ the following officers of FoS were elected by a show of hands:-

Chair: David Collier
Treasurer: Jayne Powney
Secretary: Joseph Conaghan
Vice Chair: Andrew Collier

The meeting also unanimously resolved that all members of the past committee who so wished would remain in place for the coming year and that new applications to join would be considered.

At this point the Chair reverted back to DC and the meeting continued.

This part of the meeting was chaired by JC.

JC introduced Jan Bailey (JB), Community Archaeologist, Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust.

JB reported that she has met with FoS to consider the possible content and structure of a heritage based youth engagement programme related to Saron and the village. She has also had meetings with staff from Troedyrhiw Community Primary School, Troedyrhiw (6th Merthyr) Scouts and the Willows Youth Centre to ensure that the approach taken will meet their separate expectations and needs. Plans are flexible but include:-
• School – The overall theme will be ‘Troedyrhiw History Detectives’ and is likely to include, amongst other things, visits to the graveyard, village walking trails, attempting to tie old school records to data on headstones, formulating questions, interviewing older residents and making written records. School staff will work with input from JB and FoS. There is considerable excitement in school in anticipation of this work.
• Scouts – Each section will be involved in different projects. The explorer (older) section will receive training in survey techniques and will then complete a measured survey of the graveyard. The scouts are interested in mapping and trails and will work towards establishing a geo-caching trail which will take participants around the village using GPS and clue solving. Other aspects of this work will include research, map skills, testing the trail and creation of a database. A decision on the involvement of the cubs and beavers will be made soon.
• Willows – The Duke of Edinburgh Award group at the Willows Centre have indicated their interest in creating a piece of public art as a heritage themed mural in the form of a time-line. This could be applied to either the external or internal surface of the unsightly concrete fence which forms part of the graveyard boundary.

Discussion – A short general discussion took place indicating approval of the progress which has been made and the direction in which the project is now moving.

PS made some extremely complimentary remarks about the aims of Friends of Saron and the organised and committed way in which its members are working to achieve these.

BW, as a Chapel Street resident who lives close by the graveyard, expressed some reservations about the exact nature of the proposed mural and received some reassurance from DC and JB that – (a) the style and content will be appropriate to its purpose and fitting for its location and (b) the work will be supervised by a trained artist and will use a restrained palette of colours.

DC Stated that FoS is committed to continue with this project and looks forward to being able to report further significant progress through the blog and our occasional printed newsletter over the coming year.

DC thanked everyone present for their continuing support and requested that, before they leave this meeting, they consider filling in a FoS membership form.



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Friends of Saron 


Thursday 19th April 2011 – 6:30pm

Scout Hall, Troedyrhiw


Joseph Conaghan (JC)     Steve Edwards (SE)                 Simon Collier (SC)              Irene Winter (IW)

Lynda Jones (LJ)              Tommy Cunningham (TC)     Tony Thomas (TT)             Gordon Tann (GT)

Jayne Powney (JP)          Sylvia Johnson (SJ)                  Steve Collier (StC)             David Collier (DC)

Ron Clarke (RC)                 Sheila Walker (SW)                    Phil Howells (PH)              Ron Clark (RC)

Andrew Collier (AC)        Anne Griffiths (AG)                   Paul Kent (PK) – Keep Wales Tidy

Claire Williams (CW) – Communities First                  Adam Hitchings (AH) – Heritage Lottery Fund

1.      WELCOME:

DC thanked those present for their attendance and for their continuing support.  He also expressed thanks to Ken Long and the Scouts for the use of the venue and to Claire Williams and Communities First for their on-going assistance

DC stated that FoS is extremely pleased with the results of the recent programme of clearance and stabilisation work which has been carried out in the graveyard under the Tidy Towns scheme.  He was hopeful that this has provided a foundation on which further progress for this project can be built.

2.      APOLOGIES:

Brian Ward, Eva Hadley, Peter Evans, Nicola Walker, Gwyn Griffiths, Chris Tarbuck (Willows Centre), Jean Tolchard, Derek Games, Margaret Jenkins, John Jenkins, Mary Diggins, Paul Diggins, Ken Long, Sherelle Jago (Communities First), David Daniel, Alison Nolan and Phyllis Rees.

 3.      NOTES FOR AGM 14TH APRIL 2011:

DC explained that the record made by the minutes’ secretary at this meeting had unfortunately been lost and that the notes provided today are the best available record of this meeting.  He apologised for this.

Acceptance of the notes was proposed by RC and seconded by SW.


There were no matters arising from these notes, but if anyone had an issue with anything recorded in or missing from these notes DC asked that they raise it later.

5.      CHAIR’S REPORT – APRIL 2011 TO APRIL 2012:

DC began by drawing the attention of those present to the relevant material contained in the document pack provided and on the displayed wall posters.

He was pleased to point out that, for the first time since this project was launched in 2009, some significant improvements have been made to the condition of the graveyard.  DC stated that FoS has received support from many sources but would like to put on record particular thanks to Huw Lewis AM, Cllr Derek Games, Paul Kent of KWT and the staff at Communities First in Troedyrhiw.

The meeting was reminded that, at the previous AGM, an undertaking was made that FoS would adopt a more assertive approach in their efforts to persuade the leaseholders to support this project.  With the knowledge of Huw Lewis AM, who has been acting as an intermediary with the Saron leaseholder, FoS has devoted considerable time and energy over the past year to:-

5.01    An exploration of possible legal avenues which might be available.

As a result of our enquiries we discovered that seeking a good legal opinion with a view towards taking action against the leaseholders could involve an open ended financial commitment with no guarantee of success.  We were strongly advised to consider an alternative strategy for bringing the leaseholders to the negotiating table and were making progress in this direction when such a meeting was made possible.  Enquiries about legal action have been suspended to facilitate good relations with the leaseholders whilst negotiations are on-going.

5.02    Preparing for a possible media campaign.

FoS resolved to use established contacts with journalists and to seek television exposure for the Saron project with a view towards putting pressure on the leaseholders.  Enquiries about a media campaign have been suspended to facilitate good relations with the leaseholders whilst negotiations are on-going.

5.03    Building an ‘Alliance of Concerned Families’.

Since this project began it has been recognised that the descendants of those interred at Saron are entitled to have their concerns about the condition of the graveyard represented.  FoS is, accordingly, building up a database of names and contact details of those who wish to join this alliance.

5.04    Seeking and maintaining useful contacts

A large number of notable individuals, agencies and organisations have now expressed support for or are actively involved in this project.  FoS is working to keep all of these ‘on board’ and to add others as we strive to advance the project.  Those already assisting us in one way or another include:- our AM, our MP, councillors, Council officers, Communities First, Keep Wales Tidy, VAMT, Merthyr Valleys Homes, VAMT, WCVA, Environment Wales, Lord Kinnock, the Archbishop of Wales.

5.05    Seeking a productive dialogue with the leaseholders and other interested parties

A meeting, arranged by Huw Lewis AM, took place in June 2011.  The leaseholder (The Union of Welsh Independents), the freeholder (The Wyndham Lewis Trust), the Council and FoS were all invited to send representatives.  Disappointingly, only the latter two parties attended the meeting and, although no decisions about the future of Saron graveyard could be taken, some useful contacts were made and there was general agreement amongst those present that the condition of the graveyard was a serious problem.  Huw Lewis undertook to make further efforts to bring the leaseholders to a meeting.

This meeting took place on the Saron site in January 2012 and was attended by representatives of the leaseholders, the Council, the Tidy Towns team, Huw Lewis and FoS.  A wide ranging and frank discussion took place with the main outcomes being:-

  1. the leaseholder granted permission for the Tidy Towns team to carry out clearance and stabilisation work in the graveyard, funded through a Welsh Government initiative;
  2. the leaseholder agreed to give favourable consideration to endorsing a Deed of Dedication (DoD) or other appropriate legal arrangement by which they would retain responsibility for the remainder of the term of the lease whilst FoS and/or its successors would facilitate the completion of the proposed project;
  3. the Council’s building control officer made clear that legal action would be taken in respect of the unsafe wall on the Chapel Street boundary.

5.06    Monitoring the progress of the Tidy Towns clear up.

This took place over the period January to March 2012.  FoS has been very pleased with the results and has passed on the thanks of the community to all concerned.  FoS volunteers have begun, under the supervision of KWT, working to consolidate the progress which has been made by treating tree stumps, applying herbicides, etc., to prevent the re-growth of unwanted vegetation.

5.07    Seeking a legal arrangement.

FoS will not be able to enter into any legal arrangement with the leaseholder unless this makes clear that FoS cannot be responsible for any problems which might arise as a direct result of the long term neglect of the graveyard.  A draft Deed of Dedication has been produced and the advice and opinions of a number of agencies are being sought.  This is a matter which will be pursued as a matter of urgency as the future of the project is dependent upon it. Until this issue is resolved FoS anticipate that they will be involved in a ‘holding operation’, with the support of KWT, to ensure that the recent  improvements in the condition of the graveyard are consolidated and it is not allowed to deteriorate once again.

5.08    Giving consideration to the status of the group.

FoS has been made aware that their current status as an ‘unincorporated’ group imposes limitations upon their ability to secure the services of some agencies and to unlock funding.  FoS therefore, needs to consider becoming an ‘incorporated’ group which will bring some additional responsibilities such as a requirement to submit annual accounts to Companies House, but will, amongst its other advantages, make it easier to unlock funding and limit liabilities to an amount which could be as little as £1.

A group must normally have assets of at least £5,000 before it can apply for charitable status. Registration as a charity would bring some advantages and FoS will only consider applying for this when it has succeeded in generating a significant income from funding providers, etc.

FoS feel that, to ensure the sustainability of the project in the long term, the group will either need to widen its membership or be absorbed into a larger group engaged in environmental and conservation work in the village.

5.09    Planning to advance the project.

DC spoke briefly about the content of the document SARON GRAVEYARD PROJECT – POSSIBLE DIVISION INTO MANAGEABLE PARTS which had been issued at the meeting.  This contains constructive suggestions from FoS on the way in which the project can be broken down into different areas of work some of which are low-cost and can be tackled largely by volunteers and others which will require structural work for which it will be necessary to unlock funding.

5.10    Pursuing other activities.

DC suggested that the value of this project lies not only in the efforts being made to rescue an important part of the historic fabric of the village of Troedyrhiw from the effects of many years of neglect but also in the ways in which it can engage the local and wider community.  Over the past year FoS has, amongst other things:-

  1. continued their research into the history of Saron Chapel;
  2. continued building up a burial plan for the graveyard by plotting the positions of all graves, photographing headstones and other monuments and transcribing all inscriptions;
  3. produced an education pack designed to stimulate the young people of the village to take an interest in their heritage;
  4. begun to receive training under the Welsh Government’s Communities 2.0 initiative with a view towards improving the FoS website and working on a ‘digital storytelling’ project aimed at recording oral history from older residents;
  5. begun to produce and distribute a printed newsletter carrying regular updates on the progress of the Saron project.

5.11    Enlisting more support from the community.

Referring to the leaflets and wall posters DC requested those attending to consider ways in which they might be able to help this project by becoming personally involved and/or by speaking to family and friends about this.  He put forward the following for consideration:-

  1. becoming a FoS member;
  2. volunteering for on-site work;
  3. offering useful skills;
  4. contacting businesses for sponsorship or other forms of support;
  5. encouraging younger residents to become involved.


JP provided a brief verbal summary of and a printed statement showing the financial position of FoS.  She explained that the funds were much healthier this year.  £43·82 had been Brought Forward from 2011 and for this Financial Year the accounts stand at £662·85.

JP stressed that FoS need to adopt a cautious approach towards spending their modest assets as funds to cover essential expenditure such as printing costs must always be available. The ‘In Memory Of’ Exhibition held at the Taste of Enterprise Centre in Merthyr had been very good for FoS funds as had the annual sale of Christmas Cards and Calendars together with a payment made for a leaflet drop which was carried out at the same time as a newsletter distribution. JP thanked all who had helped to raise these funds.


CW took the chair for this part of the proceedings.  Having been proposed and seconded the following officers of FoS were elected by a show of hands:-

Chair:             David Collier                     Proposed by SW, 2nd by TT.

Treasurer:  Jayne Powney                  Proposed by SE, 2nd by IW.

Secretary:   Joseph Conaghan            Proposed by RC, 2nd by SJ.

Vice Chair: Andrew Collier                 Proposed by SW, 2nd by SE.

The meeting also unanimously resolved that all members of the past committee who so wished would remain in place for the coming year and that any new applications to join would be considered.

At this point the Chair reverted back to DC and the meeting continued.


This part of the meeting was chaired by JC.

JC introduced Adam Hitchings (AH) of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to the meeting.  FoS is hoping to secure funding from HLF and had invited AH to previous meetings but owing to commitments he had been unable to attend until this evening.

AH explained that he was an officer of the HLF for this area and handles funding from £k to £M.  He had been in contact with FoS for a period of time now and apologised for not being able to make it to earlier meetings.

He explained that FoS will need to get the leaseholders (UWI) on board and until this and other things already mentioned are sorted out FoS is not yet ready to seek funding.

He went on to say that there are plenty of groups that FoS can speak with to find a way forward, details of these had been provided to DC and suggested that FoS visit other projects to see what has been achieved by similar groups.

AH began his summing-up by saying that FoS need the support of the Local Authority, Communities 1st etc. He stated that other professionals who can provide help may be found on-line and finished his contribution by reiterating the importance of sorting out ownership and governance issues.

JC thanked AH for his contribution and then opened the discussion session by inviting contributions from those present.

RC took the opportunity to thank the committee of FoS, Paul Kent (KWT), Terry Mehegan and his Team (Tidy Towns), Councillors, etc., for all the work they have done to date.

PH asked what the timescale for the life of the project might be?  In reply DC stated that current proposals assume that the project will run at least up to the date when the lease terminates.  It has been suggested to FoS, by someone with knowledge and experience in this area that, in the short-term, any low cost maintenance and improvements which the group might undertake on its own initiative, whilst strictly requiring owner’s permission, would be unlikely to be challenged so long as care is taken not to interfere with the unstable boundary walls.  This is a matter which FoS will need to consider carefully as they seek to consolidate the substantial gains which have been made recently and arrive at an acceptable longer term solution.

JP explained that as the lease expires in 2050 the UWI are happy to hand responsibility of the Saron site over.  FoS cannot be sure of the situation post 2050 which is not that far away but a suitable period of time (38 yrs) remains to satisfy the requirements for funding.  AH confirmed that this period of time was more than adequate for funding.

JP further stated that substantial progress has been made over the last year but we need to take care over the wording of the DoD.  It is to be hope that those who follow will be able to continue with the maintenance of the site but the attitude which the freeholder (WLT) will adopt after 2050 cannot be known.

AH stated that as freeholders WLT could take the site back.  This would need to be discussed with the WLT.  Pressure from HL would help.

DC commented that, given its condition, the freeholders could repossess the site now as it has not been maintained as required under the terms of the lease.  They could then clear it and sell it.  The other option which they have (and appear to favour) is to just ‘sit on it’ as it will be the responsibility of the leaseholders to return the site to the freeholders in 2050 in good order.

RC commented that he recalls one or two instances from his time as a councillor involving builders who wanted to purchase cemeteries.  Development of such sites could not take place unless it could be determined that there were no remaining relatives of the interred.  They then had to remove the headstones and place them against the boundary wall.  So the freeholders and potential developers might be biding their time.

JP commented that Karen Foley, a volunteer co-ordinator with VAMT, might know people who could assist the project.

CW suggested that T Mobile might be able to provide volunteers help.

PK stated that he could provide details of a government office which may also be worth approaching.

AH suggested that volunteers might be available from Usk Open Prison.

DC suggested that companies involved in major construction projects in the area might be worth approaching, citing the work underway at Merthyr Technical College where a large retaining wall was being constructed.  Providing a small retaining wall at the rear of the cemetery would be a minor task by comparison.


DC Stated that FoS is committed and determined to continue with this project and look forward to being able to report further significant progress in the near future.

DC thanked everyone present for their continuing support.

Drafted:  31-05-12


Friends of Saron on steps of Civic Centre prior to presenting a petition containing 1214 signatures  from the people of Troedyrhiw to Council Leader. July 2009.

The following documents may be viewed in full on the website of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council:-

Council Meeting 16.09.09 – Agenda Extract.

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Council Meeting 16.09.09 – Document re Agenda Item 13     page 1.

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Council Meeting 16.09.09 –            Document re Agenda Item 13.                                           page 2.

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Council Meeting 16.09.09 –           Minutes Extract

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Friends of Saron have given careful consideration to the need to convert our ‘vision’ into a viable proposal which can be put to all of the interested parties, potential funding providers etc. The underlying principles of our proposal as we now see them are:-

  • Respect for our forebears.
  • Preserving our heritage.
  • Improving a neglected environment.
  • Reducing anti-social behaviour.
  • Conserving wildlife.
  • Involving the community.

We are confident that a proposal can be put together which is:-

    • Affordable.
    • Realistic.
    • Achievable
    • Maintainable.

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Our preferred solution at this stage is to develop the site as Saron Memorial & Wildlife Garden by:-

  1. Restoring secure site boundaries.
  2. Renovating the historic gates and, perhaps, creating a new entrance at the ‘vestry’ end of the site.
  3. Creating a hard surface (paving or tarmac) with the outline of the chapel building and the positions of the graves of the two early ministers marked. Ideally, some form of vandal-proof seating  (possibly natural stone blocks) will be provided here.
  4. Establishing a managed wildlife area on the remainder of the site after all unstable masonry and areas of subsidence have been made safe. This will include reinstatement of some of the main paths allowing cautious access to graves. Undesirable plants including fast growing trees and shrubs and alien species such as Japanese knotweed will need to be eradicated. Careful consideration will be given to the introduction of appropriate slow growing shrubs, controlled cutting back of undergrowth to encourage grasses, herbaceous plants, ferns etc together with insects, other invertebrates, birds, small mammals, slow-worms etc.

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This approach lends itself to the involvement of voluntary help from the local and wider communities. It could prove to be attractive to schools, youth, local history and wildlife groups etc and is likely to be supported by environmental officers at the Council. The minimal intervention on the site which this project will require leaves open the possibility for more extensive work to take place at a later date if circumstances change. It should be noted that the proximity of the Trevithick Trail which is promoted as a heritage route for cyclists and walkers with easy links across the valley to the Taff Trail can be exploited to the advantage of this proposal.


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‘Outside’ of folding leaflet

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‘Inside’ of folding leaflet.