History and Heritage

BEGINNINGS

Saron Chapel, Troedyrhiw was founded in 1820 and meetings were first held at the Old Mill which was located near where either the Garfield building on Cardiff Road or Costcutters on the Square now stand. Later the adult congregation and the scholars of the Sunday school moved for a while to the Harp Inn which stood near the present site of the garage, formerly ‘Shiptons’, on Merthyr Road.

LOCATION OF SARON CHAPEL – FROM 1875 MAP

THE CHAPEL BUILDINGS

The first permanent chapel building was built in 1835. By 1852 a larger chapel had been constructed on an expanded site which had been leased from Mr Wyndham Lewis and was now large enough to accommodate the graveyard which survives, albeit in a sorry state, to this day.

The first chapel measured 32ft by 28ft. The total cost was £409-10s-11d. It was opened on February 10th 1835.

The second chapel (shown below) measured 46ft by 42ft. The cost was £700. It was opened on the 4th & 5th April 1852.

In 1886 the vestry hall with room to seat 250 people was built behind the chapel.

SARON CHAPEL – EARLY 20TH CENTURY

WHAT FUTURE FOR SARON GRAVEYARD?

A derelict space containing a seemingly random collection of headstones and other monuments, some fractured, graffiti covered and leaning at crazy angles; collapsed and bulging retaining walls; mature trees and dense undergrowth producing a jungle effect; beer and cider cans strewn around amidst the remnants of mattresses, chairs, sofas and other items of domestic furniture. Few people gazing upon this scene prior to the early part of 2012 when clearance work began could imagine how important this site once was to the people of Troedyrhiw and how it was that many of our forebears came to inhabit such depressing surroundings as their final resting place.

A DEPRESSING VIEW FROM 2009

For over 150 years things were very different as Saron Chapel looked down confidently from its prominent position on the valley side at the village growing and developing below. This spot was occupied by what was, for a long period, the largest and most important building in Troedyrhiw; a magnet which drew in hundreds of people to Sunday services and a centre of Welsh culture which, sadly, is all but forgotten today. From the lovingly maintained chapel buildings where generations of Troedyrhiw people were christened, worshipped and married to the immaculately kept graveyard where they expected to find a peaceful and lasting repose Saron seemed to offer a comforting permanence which has proved to be illusory.

SARON CHAPEL, TROEDYRHIW – by Susan Imiolczyk


History and Genealogy

Friends of Saron welcome enquiries from those researching their family histories. Quite apart from its status as an important part of the historic fabric of the village, Saron Graveyard is a valuable genealogical resource. We know that burials cover a period from the 1830’s to the 1980’s and even a cursory examination of the memorials and their inscriptions gives a fascinating insight into the social history of Troedyrhiw.

A headstone indicating some early burials including, in 1837,  Zacharia Llewelyn aged 2.

The chapel’s original burial record has been lost and so Friends of Saron members have been photographing all memorials and headstones, transcribing (with Welsh to English translations, where necessary) all memorial inscriptions and plotting grave positions onto a plan of the site.

THE THOMAS FAMILY – 

The following  information is provided for illustrative purposes only. It should be realized that the Thomas family in question is one of many from the village. Thomas is a very common surname in Troedyrhiw, as elsewhere in Wales. Below is a partial family tree of this family. Gathering  information and creating documents such as this can, these days, be a relatively straightforward task for those having the necessary interest and motivation.

This incomplete family tree is a ‘work in progress’.

Click image to enlarge

The following images relate to the above family tree:-

David Thomas 1825-1896. Husband of Amelia Williams and father of Isaac Thomas.

Isaac Thomas 1854-1920 husband of Letitia Berry, son of David  and Amelia Thomas and father of David James Thomas.

This item of Ewenny pottery has been kept in the family for over 150 years. Probably Isaac Thomas’ ‘posset cup’. How has it survived?

David James Thomas, 1875-1941 and his wife Rose Ann Thomas (nee Latcham), 1879-1962. David married his English bride Rose at Saron Chapel in 1911. From that point on no Welsh was spoken in the family; a rather sad but no doubt necessary outcome, the legacy of which is still felt to this day.

It is extremely fortunate that the family bible has survived, albeit in a rather tattered condition. Contained within is a record of births, marriages and deaths covering the period 1825 to 1962.

Thomas family bible with its rather tattered binding.

Page showing birth details from 1825 to 1947. Interestingly for a Welsh bible, all records are written in English.

This vandalised headstone from Saron Graveyard, Troedyrhiw commemorates departed members of the Thomas family covering the period 1825 (birth of David Thomas) up to 1962 (death of Rose Thomas).

Larger (upper) section of Thomas headstone.

Smaller (lower) section of Thomas headstone.

Hedd, perffaith hedd.

(Peace, perfect peace)

What do you think?

ANOTHER TROEDYRHIW FAMILY – Information provided by Anne Reed and Ailsa Rose

Anne and Ailsa have told us that, for a long period,  their family owned the shops at Industrial Buildings, Cardiff Road. The shops included a butcher, grocer and, it is believed, a draper.

VE Day Celebrations 1945 at Industrial Buildings (From Old Merthyr website)

VE Day Celebrations 1945 at Industrial Buildings (From Old Merthyr website)

Industrial Buildings as they appear today (2012)

Industrial Buildings as they appear today (2012)

These buildings are sometimes referred to, even today, as ‘Harris Morris’s’ , named after the branch of this family which established the business many years ago (at least three generations before Anne and Ailsa).

The delightfully named Samson Williams (a great grandfather of Anne and Ailsa) had 12 children with his wife Rachel. They lie buried in Saron Graveyard.

The grave of Samson Williams (1864-1923) and his wife Rachel Williams (1865-1932) at Saron Graveyard

The grave of Samson Williams (1864-1923) and his wife Rachel Williams (1865-1932) at Saron Graveyard

Samson clearly worked in the local collieries as this photograph of him with some of his work ‘butties’ shows:-

Samson Williams, middle of front row, with his work 'butties'. With thanks to Ailsa Rose)

Samson Williams, middle of front row, with his work ‘butties’. (With thanks to Ailsa Rose)

We may sometimes struggle to understand  how hard life could be for  Troedyrhiw people in the ‘depression’ years of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The following items left by Ailsa’s grandfather David Griffiths Thomas are extremely interesting and helpful in this regard:-

Article written by David Griffiths Thomas which appeared in the Merthyr Express Aug 13th 1965. (with thanks to Ailsa Rose)

Article written by David Griffiths Thomas which appeared in the Merthyr Express Aug 13th 1965. (with thanks to Ailsa Rose)

Click to enlarge

David was only 12 years of age when he began work at Merthyr Vale Colliery. The following drawing by talented local artist and FoS supporter Lee Price conveys, we think,  the poignancy of the occasion very well:-

'End of the First Shift' by Lee Price.

‘End of the First Shift’ by Lee Price.

This excerpt from a letter written to David Griffiths Thomas in 1926 indicates what conditions in the village must have been like for many people in the year of the General Strike:-

Letter of thanks related to the provision of canteen meals in Troedyrhiw in 1926. (With thanks to Ailsa Rose).

Letter of thanks related to the provision of canteen meals in Troedyrhiw in 1926. (With thanks to Ailsa Rose).

Click to enlarge

The above letter was signed Geo E. Brown (Headmaster & Canteen Superint’)

The following photograph was passed down to Ailsa by her mother Rachel Anne Thomas , known as ‘Nancy’ to avoid confusion with a grandmother and aunt also named Rachel. It shows her class at Troedyrhiw Girl’s School in the 1920’s. Nancy is in the 3rd row from the front desk, 3rd from right. Notice how all the children are sitting upright, probably on their hands!

A class at Troedyrhiw School in the 1920's. (With thanks to Ailsa Rose)

A class at Troedyrhiw School in the 1920’s. (With thanks to Ailsa Rose)

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