History of Brechfa Church from
  ' Teulu Teilo'
 by Bob Lenny and Patrick Thomas

 

7. Brechfa Church in 1816

In 1816 the Bishop of St Davids received a report on the state of the parish from David Alban, the first recorded churchwarden of St Teilo's Church. It is a fascinating document written by a man who obviously possessed great character and considerable wit. His comments on the Rector have already been quoted. Of his fellow parishioners he remarked:

‘Most of the parishioners are resorted to church at the times of Divine Service Except few Designing Sectaries Who attend their Own Chappels tolerated by Law.

Our parishioners behave themselves tolerable well when at church they are like the Bereans very Fond of Glad tidings.

Our Parishioners are not notorious swearers, Blasphemers &c Except they be suddenly thrown into bad Temper.

Our Parishioners are very Willing to pay their rates towards the repairs of the Church &c as far as it is in their power, but the pressure of the time rapidly sink them into a state of Insolvency, they can never pay their present high rents and heavy Taxes'.

The intolerable burden of poverty and debt combined with crushing tolls and taxes, which was to drive many Brechfa people into taking an active part in the 'Rebecca' agitation of the early 1840s, was already being felt by the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

David Alban then gave a description of some of the objects in the church:

'We are accomplished in respect of Our Sacramental Utensils the Vessels of Different Species some of Stone some of Timber some of Flax and some of Silver &c. We have The Bible and Common Prayer Book in folio and in Our Own Language, we have a convenient reading Desk and pulpit with a Decent Surplice. We have proper Register Books for Christenings Burials and Marriages.

We have Chest with Locks and keys for the purposes above mentioned [keeping the parish records safe]. There are Window Shutters and Casements to be shut, and kept Open.

We have two Biers and no Cloth. No School is kept in the Church and it is kept free from all profane and Improper uses.'

The churchwarden also mentioned the Calvinistic Methodist Chapel which had been built in Brechfa in 1790, saying that "There is no chappel within Our Parish Except one, which belongs to the Whitefieldians.' One of the first elders of the chapel was Dafydd Alban (presumably not David the churchwarden, though no doubt a relative of his), who died in January 1848 aged 92 and is described as 'remarkable for his piety.' Another member of the family to become an elder of the chapel was John Alban (1802-89). He combined his chapel duties with being 'clochydd' (sexton) of the church. Towards the end of his life John Alban moved to Carmarthen and left the Methodists. In his will he bequeathed £100 to Brechfa Church and £200 to the Church of England. His remarkable generosity when the new St Teilo's Church was built will be referred to later.

In his report David Alban expressed satisfaction with the state of the churchyard.

'Our church yard is kept Decently, and is Well fenced. No Encroachments is made thereon Except by the Greedy Worms and Insects, no Trees are cut Except what is gone towards repairing the Chancel.'
Mentioning the Rector's house (by which he apparently meant Ty Mawr) he remarked that its state of repair was 'Tolerable well, considering the quality and the Magnificience of the Building.'

His view of his own status in the parish was forthrightly expressed: "There is but one churchwarden in our parish, he was chosen above Ten years ago and he is to be a perpetual Churchwarden. The Warden have settled his account last may and Entered in a Book with a Large Balance Due from the parish to him.'
Alban also referred to the parish clerk, chosen by the Rector, and competent in the 'sciences' of reading, writing and singing:

"The same is Our Sexton....he keeps the churchyard Clean and Decent and his Tolling of the Bell is heard from seven parishes.'

We can still be grateful to Brechfa's 'perpetual Churchwarden' for leaving us such a full and lively picture of church life in the parish in the year after Waterloo.