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

 

10. David Morris and the New St Teilo’s Church

The new Rector of Brechfa was inducted to the parish on the 28th of December 1880. David Morris Jones was born at Bane, Llandyfriog, near Newcastle Emlyn. He gained his B A. from St David's College, Lampeter, and was ordained in 1873 to serve as assistant curate in the parish of St Ishmael, Ferryside, with Llansaint. It was from there that he came to be Rector of Brechfa and Curate-in-charge of Abergorlech. His energy was amazing. The old 'Vicarage' was pulled down and replaced with a fine new Rectory, to which he brought his wife, who was a farmer's daughter from Llwyncelyn, near Llandeilo. In 1885 he rebuilt St David's Church, Abergorlech, which was in a desperate state of disrepair. He then turned his attention to the church in Brechfa.

By 1883 David Morris Jones had increased the numbers of services in Brechfa Church to two every Sunday, one at l0am and the other at 6.30pm. There was an average of 50 in the Sunday School, including 30 adults. Church repairs were being paid for from the collections at services. However the possibility of a new church was already being considered. David Williams, the churchwarden, told the Bishop that 'The Church as it is, is in fair condition but a new one is very desirable.' By 1889 the appeal to raise funds for the new building had been launched and John Evans, the new churchwarden, expressed the matter more forcefully: 'Our present church is utterly unfit for divine worship - we hope to be able soon to commence building a new Church.'

A letter of appeal had been sent out by the trustees of the building fund in 1888:

'The parish of Brechfa is situate about 12 miles north of Carmarthen and about midway between Lampeter and Llandilo, in the Diocese of St David's. The parish is not large in itself, but the nearest neighbouring Churches are about 5 miles distant; hence this ancient Church is the only place of worship for the inhabitants of a district comprising an area of very considerable extent.
The present building is in a dilapidated state, and too small for the congregation. It is situated on a damp spot, and in shape is a badly formed parallelogram, being in dimension 35 feet by 16 feet and can only seat 90 worshippers.

The length of the space that serves for a chancel is 6 feet and the pulpit and the reading desk are within the altar rails one on each side of the holy table. The floor is made of mortar, and the ceiling flat like that of an ordinary room. There is not a single architectural feature in the whole building. It is in every respect unfit and unworthy of the holy purposes to which it has been dedicated.

It is now proposed to build a new Church from the designs of E. H. Lingen Barker, Esq., of Hereford, with the approval of the Diocesan and Incorporated Building Society, upon a site generously offered by J.W. Gwynne-Hughes, Esq., of Tregib, and to provide accommodation for 150 worshippers. All seats will be free and unappropriated.

The estimated cost of the proposed new Church and a parish room for Sunday School, Bible Classes etc., (which is greatly needed) is £1200. It is quite hopeless to expect to raise this sum within the parish or district, as the population consists entirely of peasant farmers and their labourers. The services of the Church are sought and appreciated by an increasing number, and there are at present 80 communicants. The subjoined list of promised subscriptions shows the deep interest taken by the parishioners, but very little more can be expected from local sources.

Under these circumstances we venture respectfully to appeal to the friends of the Church far and near for help to raise the sum required for the undertaking.

Any sums that can be given will be most thankfully received by the undersigned, or may be paid to the account of the "Brechfa Church Building Fund" at the National Provincial Bank, Carmarthen.

D. Morris Jones, Brechfa Rectory, NantgaredigR.S.O.,
Carmarthen
John Evans, Churchwarden Trustees
Stephen Roberts, Cerbynau
C.L. Evans, Union Hall
Isaac Davies, Tymawr'

The total contributions made by (for the most part) members of Brechfa Church came to £472.7.6. This sum included £300 subscribed by John Alban, Carmarthen, the former Brechfa Chapel elder and Brechfa Church 'clochydd' who has already been mentioned. The architect for the project, E.H. Lingen Barker, had assisted with David Morris Jones' highly successful rebuilding of Abergorlech Church three years earlier.
The proposed new church received the blessing of the diocesan authorities. The Venerable William Evan James, Archdeacon of Carmarthen, signified his approval in a letter to the Rector of Brechfa written from Abergwili Vicarage in May 1888:

'My dear Sir,

I am very pleased to find that you have determined to set about the erection of a new Church at Brechfa, as the present building is too small for the spiritual wants of the district, and is in such a state of dilapidation as to be utterly unfit for divine worship. I have been for some years most anxious that the old Parish Church should be replaced by a new one, and thus a great scandal and a hindrance to the work of the Church be removed.

It must be to you a source of comfort that those locally connected have contributed so well in proportion to their means, showing how deep an interest they feel in the matter.
I sincerely trust that your appeal to the generous public will receive that support and sympathy which it deserves at the hands of all who have at heart the interest of the Church at large, so that we may soon witness the completion of your good work.

I am, my dear Sir, yours sincerely,
Wm Evan James Archdeacon of Carmarthen'

An appeal letter survives in the hand of David Morris Jones himself. It was sent out from Brechfa Rectory in April 1889 and illustrates the persuasive skill which made him such an effective fund-raiser for his churches:

'Dear Madam,

Do kindly give us a little help towards building a new Church for this poor Welsh mountainous parish.
Our present Church has quite a barnlike appearance and so dilapidated as to be utterly unfit for divine worship.

Whilst thus reluctantly troubling you, I trust that "it is more blessed to give than to receive."

I am, dear Madam, Yours very sincerely,
D. Morris Jones'

The response to such letters was so satisfactory that work on the new church was able to begin. Among the craftsmen engaged on the building was John Davies, the carpenter from Felin Marlais. His son, Mr Harold Davies, informs us that his father received a guinea a week every Friday for his work on the church, and regarded it as one of the best paid jobs he ever had.

 

11. The Opening of the New Church


On the 14th of November 1893 the Reverend David Morris Jones affixed the following notice to the door of the newly completed church building:

DIOCESE OF ST DAVID'S

NOTICE is hereby given, that the LORD BISHOP of ST. DAVID'S intends on Tuesday, the Twenty first day of November instant at Eleven o'clock in the forenoon to Consecrate the new Church to be called "The Church of Saint Teilo Brechfa" situate within this Parish together with the surrounding ground to be added to the existing Churchyard when and where all Persons interested are required to attend.
By desire of the Bishop, John H. Barker, Diocesan Registrar

On the previous day the Bishop had received a 'Humble Petition' signed by David Morris Jones as Rector, John Evans and Charles Lewis Evans as churchwardens, and Samuel Jones, Rectory (the Rector's father); Alfred Thomas, Rose Hill; David Thomas, Rose Hill, and David Davies, Abergoleu, as inhabitants of the parish. This requested the Bishop to consecrate the new church and the addition to the churchyard. The notice on the church door was a sign that the petition had been accepted.

The consecration and the accompanying festivities were described with lyrical enthusiasm in the Carmarthen Journal on the 1st of December 1893:

'Tuesday of last week was a red letter day in the neighbourhood of Brechfa. It was a glorious November morning. The sun shone brightly, and the journey across country, almost each succeeding moment, presented new and ever increasingly grand scenery.

Methinks it should have been impossible
Not to love all things in a world so filled,
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute, still air
Is music slumbering on her instrument.

On this occasion the usually quiet village, cosily nestled amid the grandeur of the surrounding hills, was all astir, for it was the day set aside for the opening of the new Parish Church. For some years the dilapidated condition of the old building had seriously engaged the attention of the church people in the parish, but the Rector (the Rev D Morris Jones, priority, and after many months steady work he was able to accomplish the restoration so sadly wanted there.

Considering the thinly populated district around Brechfa, the difficulty of access thereto, and the lack of resident nobility, he would readily be pardoned if he had remained content for some years to come with the noble work achieved at Abergorlech. This, however, was not the case. Encouraged, perhaps with his former success he resolved to improve matters in his own church at Brechfa, and "a purpose once formed and then death or victory" seems to have been his motto throughout.

Brechfa parish is a small one, forming, as it were, the little centre round which several parishes meet, with fewer than one hundred inhabitants. This was no happy prospect in contemplating structural improvements involving a considerable outlay. The landlord of the parish - for we believe there is only one - is the popular squire of Tregib, Llandilo, Mr J.W. Gwynne Hughes, and an appeal in this dilemma met with encouraging response, for he, with the generosity which is characteristic of the Tregib family, readily consented to present sufficient ground for the erection of a new church and the enlargement of the churchyard.

It has been said that "a thing well-begun is half-done." In this instance, although the beginning was more than excellent, we fear the materials and workmanship were still harassing the minds of the Rector and his little band of faithful workers. Appeals were made far and wide and success followed success. A silver, nay a golden lining, appeared in every cloud.

To-day a new church dedicated to St. Teilo stands in an enlarged graveyard as a lasting tribute to the perseverance and worthiness of the Rector, aided by his Church-workers, together with Mrs and the Misses Gwynne-Hughes, for it is impossible to over-estimate the beneficial influence which the co-operation of the Tregib family has effected in producing such splendid results.

Mr E.H. Lingen Barker, of Hereford, was requisitioned as architect, and the contractors were Messrs Morris & Co. of Knighton.

The new edifice, built of native stone with dressed freestone windows etc. consists of a nave and chancel. The entrance porch is on the north side and the vestry on the south. The nave gangway, chancel and porch are laid with Maw's encaustic tiles. Acoustical decorations were well cared for in the design, the nave roof being open timbered and that of the chapel [chancel?] being wagon-boarded, while the walls are of a good height.

The east window is prettily designed and is filled with a valuable substitute of stained glass, namely, Muranese tinted glass. The remaining windows are of plain glass provided with Hopper's patent ventilating openers. The building is heated with one of Parritt's hot air stoves, while the altar rails standards and wrought iron work of doors, etc., are by Browne & Company, of Birmingham. We are much struck with the faithful representations of foliage, etc., in the carved work within, which was wisely entrusted to Mr Herridge of Cardiff. The west end of the nave has a very uncommon feature in a triple arched gablel, though at present only provided with one bell. This will doubtless receive attention in due time.

A handsome altar cloth has been presented by the Kilburn Sisters, and a beautiful hand worked kneeler for Communicants by Mrs and the Misses Gwynne Hughes. A set of Service Books were granted by the S.P.C.K., while Miss Thomas, Cambrian House, Llandilo, presented a surplice. Through the exertions of Mr Samuel Jones, the rector's respected father, the Church now possesses a nice set of Communion plate, and by similar efforts on the part of Mr Alfred Thomas, Rose Hill, a very substantial porch lamp is procured.
The Consecration Service was conducted by the Lord Bishop of St. David's assisted by the Ven. Archdeacon James as chaplain. There were several clergymen present. They robed in the old Church, and forming a procession, met his Lordship at the main entrance. Mr J H Barker, Diocesan Registrar, attended, and read the petition and the sentence of consecration.

The service was conducted in Welsh, and the Lord Bishop preached a powerful sermon from II. Cor. 6.16., "Ye are a temple of the living God." His Lordship subsequently gave a resume of his sermon in English. This was followed by a largely attended celebration of the Holy Communion, and the Bishop then consecrated the Churchyard.

After the morning service Mr and Mrs J W Gwynne-Hughes entertained a large party, including the Bishop, Mrs Basil Jones, the Hon. Nest Rice, the Hon. Gwenllian Rice, Dynevor Castle, to a recherché luncheon at the Forrest Arms.

A short service was conducted in the afternoon, and the Rev J T Hughes, Vicar of Llanfihangel-ar-arth, preached an impressive sermon from St. John 1.39., "Come and see."

The comfort of everyone was again well cared for, and the general tea in the School-room was well patronized. The following ladies presided over the tables: - Mrs Davies, Tygwyn, Nantffin; Mrs Daniels, Bergwin-bach [Byrgwm-bach?]; Mrs Davies, Abergolau; Mrs Jones, Pantycefn; Mrs Thomas, Rose Hill; Mrs Morris, Penbont; Mrs Thomas, Penpistill; Mrs Evans, Maesygroes; and Mrs Davies, Tymawr. They were ably assisted by several young ladies of Brechfa Church congregation.

The evening service commenced at 6 o'clock, although the Church considerably before that time was crowded to excess. Indeed at all the services the edifice was packed, and large numbers failed to get admission.

Powerful sermons were preached by the Rev J J Evans, curate of Abergwili, who took for his text the words "The God of Heaven, He will prosper us; therefore we, His servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Jerusalem," Nehemiah II..20., and by the Rev T P Lewis, Penllergare, whose discourse was based on Acts 24.25, "And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come, Felix trembled and answered, Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season I will call for thee."

The singing throughout the day was hearty and effective, under the leadership of Mr Evans, choirmaster, while Mr Phillips presided at the harmonium.

We cannot but offer the Rector and his faithful Churchwardens, Messrs C L Evans and J Evans, as well as Mrs Jones, the Rectory, who has proved herself a worthy Rector's helpmate, our warmest congratulations when we consider to the £1,200 required to accomplish this grand work, only between £30 to £40 remains unsubscribed.'

One of the last to be baptized in the old St Teilo's Church was Jane, daughter of Timothy and Rachel Evans, Maesygroes. She was the aunt of Mr Tim Lewis, Lanfryn. The first person to be baptized in the new St Teilo's was Margretta, mother of Mr Bob Lenny, Meillionen, and Miss Iris Lenny, Broderi. The last couple to be married in the old church were Lewis and Hannah Lewis, the grandmother and grandfather of Mr Albert Lewis and Mrs Sheila Williams, formerly of Fronhaul.

The strain of fund-raising and building took its toll on David Morris Jones. He died suddenly and unexpectedly on November the 22nd 1895, aged 46. His last sermon had been preached on an appropriate text from Revelation: 'Ac ni bydd nos yno' ('And there shall be no night there'). It was said to have been the finest sermon he had ever delivered. He was buried in Brechfa churchyard. The inscription on his gravestone records that he 'was chiefly instrumental in building the new Church in Brechfa and rebuilding Abergorlech.' It also includes a verse which is a fitting tribute to the self-sacrifice of this dedicated parish priest: 'Pwy bynnag a gollo ei einioes er fy mwyn i a'r Efengyl hwnnw a'i ceidw hi.' His widow went to live in Ferryside.