Ystradgynlais & District

History and Heritage

The Welsh Religious Revival 1904

The 1904 Revival gave a great boost to existing chapels and churches, and also sowed the seeds for the establishment of new ones. In addition, a new type of religious establishment began to prosper and take root, one epitomised by the Mission Hall, at Tro'r Gleien, Cwmtwrch. The article below touches on the impact of the Revival, and at the end lists the new members of many churches across South Wales, including those extant in Ystradgynlais at the time.

Ftom The Cambrian 30th December 1904:-

A tall, white-faced youth stood in the pulpit of the Calvinistic Methodist Chapel at Vardre on Wednesday evening...
People gazed on him as they would upon the venerated fathers of the churches if they walked the earth, again. Daniel Rowlands, John Elias, Howel Harris, and Evan Roberts These four are now forever together in the minds of Welshmen. What is the secret of this young man's uplifting above his fellows? Where lays the power by which he has stirred the dying bones of Nonconformity, by which he has scattered the formalists and the lip-servers. What magic persuasiveness is in his tongue to draw people to use the world as a confessional box?
"A teacher smaller than his pupils," a critic described him last week. One with a message Wales has been longing for is a truer definition of Evan Roberts...


Evan Roberts' great-grandfather was a veteran of Waterloo, by name John, and received a shot in his leg which kept him lame for the rest of his life. He was a regular attendant at Moriah Chapel, where his great grandson has been conducting such memorable meetings of late. The old soldier used to limp into his place in the chapel with military regularity and take an active part in the varied activities of the church. He was, quite naturally, a great stickler for discipline, and his travels in "foreign parts" gave him an important place in the community in which he settled down after his campaign was over.
The revivalist's grandfather was Mr David Roberts-a man of peace. He worked for many years at Broadoak Colliery, and was an ardent missionary in the temperance cause. He, too, was in his time one of the pillars of Moriah Chapel, and exercised a great influence over the young people of the village.
Mr Henry Roberts, father of a now famous son, is a native of Lower Loughor, and was educated at the National School then conducted by the late Mr Miles, who is still remembered with affection in the district. Mr Roberts has worked for many years at the Broadoak Colliery. Mrs Roberts, who is a woman of superior intelligence, was born at Llannon, Carmarthenshire-one of the oldest centres of sturdy Nonconformity in Wales. Their union has been blessed with eight children -five girls and three boys. Of the daughters, two are married in America, while the youngest is taking an active part in her brother's mission.
Evan Roberts was apprenticed at his uncle's smithy near Pontardulais, but there was more important work for him to do and soon afterwards he decided to prepare himself for the ministry. With this object in view he became a student at Newcastle Emlyn Grammar School

He lived out his last years in Cardiff and in effect died in obscurity. The 100 years anniversary of the revival brought fresh appreciation for this gentle individual who helped set Wales on fire. He died in 1951 at the age of 72 and was buried in a family plot behind Moriah Chapel in Loughor. A memorial column commemorates his contribution to the revival.

From The Cambrian 23rd December 1904:-


"Diolch Iddo," the great hymn of praise of the revival, is often in the newspapers just now, but probably the town folk, the English speaking population of Swansea, had an opportunity for the first time of hearing it on Monday evening. As its sound came, over the noise of the traffic, from a group of people gathered in High Street Station square, it attracted very many of the curious to the spot. "And so that's the tune they write of" said one who listened. "It's like a bloomin' Sankey hymn!"
When that man has heard it - probably he will before the fire has burned down - sung by a great congregation swayed by one impulse of joy, he will perhaps revise his contemptuous opinion. He has yet to realise the dramatic force which can be put into "Diolch Iddo".
The out-of-door meeting, conducted by Mr Evan Roberts's earliest converts - one of them, Miss Hooker, of Gorseinon, figures on the widely sold postcard of the revivalist and his workers-and a young man from New Quay, the birthplace of the awakening, was followed by a service at Alexandra Road Chapel, the ground floor of which was filled. It started with a strange contrast. Outside a strident, barrel-organ was trilling out its repertoire of music-hall successes, and the strains of one of them warred with the quiet words of the young speaker in the pulpit. The rhythm of "A girl wanted there" jingled in one's mind with the exhortation of the speaker, but by-and-bye the organ was wheeled away, and there was peace save for the clamour of passing tramcars.
It was the gospel of joy that the revivalists emphasised. They spoke most on the happiness of religion, and little on its terror "If some of you were here at half-past nine last night," said one of them, "you would have seen us laughing. Perhaps you would have said we were fools. But we pray that you too may feel such joy as ours. Unless you have this joy, let me tell you, you are not a Christian. You must feel the joy of religion before you can laugh. They say there is too much misery in religion; but the joy we have in Christ is beyond description." That is typical of all the addresses given. The service at this time had little in common with the meetings the leader is holding, and Pentre and Cwmbwrla are familiar with. There were no broken prayers of anguish torn men and women, none of the passionate singing which alone is sufficient to thrill the sou1. The revivalists played upon a tenderer chord.
One of the young missioners, Miss John, sang, with face upturned, "Tell mother I'll be there," and her sweet rendition made many faces moist. The congregation took up the refrain, and over and over again it was given. When heads were bowed in prayer, the appeal came from the minister, Rev J M Saunders, for confessions. There were six who came "within the fold."
It was ten o'clock when this meeting ended. Five minutes later another was in progress in the Station-square again and here the proceedings for the first time became characteristic of the revival wave which is sweeping Wales. The prayers had a passionate ring in them which drew all sorts and conditions of people around the circle. The singing, too, lost its restraint, and the roll of the old Welsh hymns, and afterwards of the Doxology, repeated over and over again, attracted still further spectators. There were in the crowd many of the wanderers who come out with the night, and a few of them, away on the outskirts, were weeping before this remarkable meeting ended. The "Daily Post" representative was assured of the truth of the flowing incident: When one of the missioners was praying for "the poor drunkard, one who had drunk almost enough that evening to bring him under that category, turned to his companion and remarked, "That's us, Bill.
It was nearly eleven o'clock when this gathering broke up. "We'll have another service!" said the senior deacon of the church, and striking up "Throw out the lifeline" he led the way again along the Alexander Road towards the chapel, followed by a large number of people.
This, the second of the evening, was one of the strangest gatherings ever held in Swansea. It brought about scenes as pathetic as any seen during the revival. Almost before it had started people were crying hysterically. One by one young men many of them evidently straight from public houses, drawn by the sound of singing in a brilliantly lighted chapel at this hour, came in, until the congregation was quite a new one. It was the singing of Miss John, a young girl with a beautiful heart-stirring voice which broke down the reserve. She sang:
"In the good old fashioned way
I am going home to glory,
In the good old-fashioned way"

and the simple ballad tune was so easily picked up that soon everyone was joining in. And then there came extraordinary events. Above the prayers unconventional indeed the majority of them were, one heard the sobbing of men who sat with bowed heads in the pews. Soon all semblance of an orderly conducted service was lost. Whilst hymns were being sung by the majority, the minister and missioners were engaged in the seats pleading with the people who had wandered in. Suddenly one young man rose and exclaimed wildly, "When I came in here, I was drunk but now I am sober. I have been sobered by my tears, and they have been falling all the way College Street to this chapel. Never more will I be drunk."
"Diolch Iddo" followed this confession, and it was raised again and again as the announcement was made that others too had yielded. People sang it with eyes streaming with tears. Twelve o'clock saw still an increase in the congregation, and twenty minutes later the Doxology brought the meeting to an end. But there remained behind at least a dozen who wished to have further conversation with the revivalists.
Starting with an open air service in the Station square at seven, the meetings will be continued this (Tuesday) evening.


On Sunday evening a pathetic scene occurred at a chapel in a Glamorganshire town. The pastor delivered a most impressive sermon during the evening service, and at the afternoon meeting he made an eloquent appeal to his hearers, and especially to backsliders to return to the fold. Ultimately a young man sitting in the gallery got up, and with tears streaming down his face asked the church to readmit him into membership. Every eye in the crowded congregation was turned upon him, and the effect was startling when it transpired that he was the minister's own son, who had left the church.
His father essayed to speak, but his feelings overpowered him and he broke down. The organist promptly struck the opening notes of a well known hymn tune, and during the singing the rev gentleman was able to control his feelings, and with tears of joy welcomed his son's return.


From Brynamman to Ammanford the whole life of the people has been vitally influenced by the revival. At Gwauncaegurwen a notable change in the daily life of the people is noticeable. The owners of licensed houses at this place saw their business has been reduced by one-third, and that the people who come to take their drink do so more quietly than hitherto.
At Garnant, young men fond of playing cards have burnt them: in the works, in the train, on the roads, incidents occur emphasising the good influence of the movement. Workmen are more regular, kinder to one another, and more respectful to their officials, and perhaps more noticeable than anything else is the disappearance of bad language.
"The horses," said a Gellyceidrim haulier, "notice the difference-the hauliers have become so kind to them." Many employers of labour say the revival has done great good. Inspector Davies, of Ammanford, says things are always quiet at this time of the year, but he has no doubt that the revival has done much good.
Licence holders at Ammanford say their business has been reduced, but more noticeable is the changed conduct of the customers. One said that it was now a pleasure to be in the business. There was no roughness and lewd talk.


Mr Evan Roberts is beginning to look rather haggard under the strain of the work and there is a good deal of anxiety lest his health should give way.
Miss Rees, of Gorseinon, who is holding meetings in Cardiff, has refused, for the present, invitations to London, Swansea, Newport, and Merthyr.
Mr Roberts on Monday declared that "paying for a pint" meant "rising a ticket for a person to go to destruction." It was certain that there were only too many members of Christian Churches who were neither hot nor cold.
A convert at Jerusalem Chapel, Nantyfyllon, told the minister that he had saved 13s 9d and his "butty" 26s so that they might have a "spree" at Christmastime. He has decided to send his savings to Dr Barnardo's Homes.
An intelligent grocer, speaking to a correspondent upon the revival, said: It has told immensely upon my business in beer and spirits." The extent of a grocer s business in spirits alone may be imagined from the fact that a couple of years ago a grocer in one of the ironworks towns thought nothing of selling from four or five hundred pint bottles of whisky on pay Saturday night. On one special occasion he sold no less than fifteen hundred.
The revival fire is still burning at Glais. Meetings have been held every night at Seion Chapel, and two meetings have been held at St Paul's Church. On Sunday morning a prayer meeting was held at Seion and about half-past five in the afternoon another meeting was held on the Cross.
An excellent open air meeting was held at Lower Loughor by the members of Horeb Chapel. Revival services were held on Sunday at Horeb Congregational Chapel, Loughor. In the afternoon an open air meeting was held at Yspitty, Loughor, and the praying and the singing was very effective.
The scene witnessed at Wern Congregational Church, Ystalyfera, on Sunday night, was an ever memorable one-over sixty being added to the roll of membership. As they filed past the pastor, Rev John Davies, each received the right hand of fellowship, and the congregation burst forth into praise, singing Hiraethog's hymn, "Dyma gariad fel y moroedd," etc.
A woman, who has been detained in Carmarthen Asylum in the past, had her mind unhinged by religious excitement at the Tabernacle Chapel, Carmarthen, on Monday evening.
Mr Evan Roberts was at Clydach Vale on Monday. A woman made her way to the evangelist's side and asked him, "Teach me to be good." It subsequently transpired that she had never been taught even the rudiments of religion. She knew absolutely nothing of religious matters, but she had found the Saviour, and promised to lead a new life henceforth.


The spirit of the revival is gradually making itself felt in Cwmtwrch. Meetings are taking place nightly in all the chapels as well as in the open air. The little place, which in days gone by held the record for rowdyism, is now a peaceful "Cwm".
Rev B James has been busy baptising new converts and readmitting the backsliders. Twelve of the latter returned to the fold on Sunday last, while twenty six and twenty one were respectively baptised on Saturday and Friday last, thus making an addition of fifty nine at communion en Sunday evening. Bryn Seion, which is also in the Rev James's pastorate, has increased its membership by twelve new baptisms on Sunday last.

The total number of converts recorded in the Welsh churches up to date is 19,654. The local figures are: Aberavon District - Aberavon, 48; Port Talbot, 25; Taibach, 29; Cwmavon, 55; Abergwynfi, 102-total, 259. Amman Valley- Bethel (Cong.), 124; Bethesda (B.), 40; Tabernacle (C.M.), 7; Church of England, 20; Carmel (Gwauncaegurwen), 84; Gibea (Brynamman), 31; Siloam (Brynamman), 75- total, 341.
Burry Port - Total 96
Clydach-on-Tawe - Calfaria (B.), 70; Hebron (Cong.), 38; Carmel (Cong.), 11; Moriah (B.), 32; Vardre (C.M.), 15; St. John's (Anglican), 21- total, 187
Fforestfach - Bethlehem (Independent), 91: Calfaria (Welsh Baptist), 60- total, 151
Gorseinon - Libanus (C.M.), 52; Ebenezer (Welsh Cong.) 35: Church of England, 26; Seion (Welsh Baptist), 70 - total, 183
Gowerton - Tabernacle (Independent), 22, Bethania (Welsh Baptist) 15 Gospel Temple and Bethel, Gorseinon, 40 - total, 77
Kidwell - Capel Sul, 43; Sardis 9; Morfa (C.M.) 14: Horeb 17; Welsh Wesleyan 11 Church of England 9- total, 95
Llansamlet - Tabor, Maesybar (Welsh C.M.) 48, Carmel Pentredwr (Welsh C.M.) 25; Nazareth, Birchgrove (C.M.), 14; Ebenezer, Llwynbrwydrau (C.M.) 54; Bethel (Welsh Gong.), 32; Peniel Green (English Cong.), 1 Ainon, Birchgrove (Welsh B.) 4; Saron (Welsh Cong.) 10 - total, 188
MAESTEG - St Marv's Church, 25; St Peter's, 9; St Cynfelyn, 15; Hope (English Baptist), 40; Bible Christians, 28; Seion (Long.), 72; Noddfa (B.), 47; Welsh Wesleyan, 3; Bethany (Pres.), 12; Hermon (C.M.) 32: Dyffryn (Cong.) 30; Caersalem (B.) 40: Salem (B.) 88; Siloh (Cong.) 65; Saron (Cong.) 140; Trinity (English C.M.) 33 Carmel (Cong.) 91; Canaan (Cong.) 28; Tabernacle (B.) 18; Tabor (C.M.) 31; Zoar (Cong.) 10; Congregational 12; Zion (B.) 7; Bethel (B.) 46; Bethania (B.) 90; Libanus (C.M.) 45; Ebenezer (Cong.) 44; Calfaria (B.) 80; Noddfa (Cong.) 23; Bethesda (Cong.) 14 - total, 1,208
Morriston - Total, 1,300
Neath, Skewen, Aberdulais, Tonna and Glyn Neath - Total, 950
Resolven - Total 201
Waunarlwydd - Sardis (Independent) 37: Zion (Welsh Baptist) 16 - total, 53
Ystradgynlais - Church 47; Sardis (Cong.) 117; Ainon (B.) 67; Tabernacle (C.M.) 9; Cwmgiedd (C.M.) 50; Ynis (C.M.) 30- total 320
Ystalyfera - Gurnos (Independent) 20; Zion (Wesleyan) 6; Jerusalem (C.M.) 17; Wern (Independent) 50; Zoar (Baptist) 17; Caersalem (Baptist) 23; Pantteg Independent 130 - total. 263
Mr Evan Roberts's Swansea meetings have been fixed as follows:
Sunday, January 1st 10.30 and 2.0 and 6.0 Pentre Estyll
Monday, January 2nd 2.0 Zoar Swansea 7.0 Cwmbwrla Chapel
Tuesday, January 3rd 2.30 pm Ebenezer Swansea 7.0 Trinity Swansea
An effort is being made by Rev Penar Griffiths, who has arranged the Swansea visit, to obtain a meeting or Carmarthen Road Chapel.

The mention of the chapel at Ynis in the list above is interesting, as it was soon to be superceded by the new Moriah Chapel up the hill from it in Penrhos. It is doubtful whether the Capel Yr Ynys could easily have accommodated such a surge in membership, so along with shifting demographics, and the change to reliance on the railway over the canal, the religious revival must have been another spur to the construction of Moriah Chapel, which opened in 1906.

Contact Ystradgynlais History
Telephone : Available on Request

Email Yeargroup:
Email Wolfian Design:
Ystradgynlais Wargraves
How To Write Alternate History

Click the cover to purchase the paperback

How To Write Alternate History is a series of articles by Grey Wolf, examining subjects such as the identity of man, whether man makes the weather, how the everyday in an alternate world is going to be changed and what names for music, vehicles, weapons etc would be different.


Penybont Sports Bar and Lounge

Complete Cleaning company, Ystradgynlais