Bethel Chapel

The Welsh Independent movement started in the area in 1802 and worshippers discussed the opportunity of building a place of worship.

A member called Jacob, a deacon, bought the lease of a piece of ground on 6 September 1809 from the Diocese of Llandaff adjacent to the parish church.

He proceeded to build the chapel known as Yr Hen Ty Cwrdd Uchaf (Upper Meeting House), or Bethel Chapel. It opened by celebrating the first Gymanfa of the Independent Movement in Glamorgan.

Bethel was erected through the efforts of Rev Griffiths Hughes of Groeswen. He cared for the chapel until 1824 when it was handed to Mr Williams of Drefnewydd although he left for Llandyfri in 1828.

Early in 1831 Mr John Davies of Mynydd Bach became minister when membership was 38. It grew to 72 by 1836. In 1842 he was followed by Mr Levi Lawrence of Maenclacheof and he ministered for five years before leaving for Merthyr Tydfil.

In 1851 it had an average Sunday attendance of 421 people, and the Deacon at this point was John Davies, mason of Cefn Mabley.

He was followed by Mr Sem Phillips of Llangynidr who ministered for several years before leaving for America. He was quite possibly the author of the History of Llantrisant in 1866. Whilst Mr Phillips was there the cause flourished and the chapel was redecorated and a gallery was built

His replacement was Rev David Griffiths, inducted on 10 December 1866 - he is buried in the adjacent graveyard. Also buried there is Robert Llew Llau the bard and the cousin of the family of Ynysplwm.

In 1862 a disagreement broke out and the disenchanted members left for a new meeting place called Soar (or Zoar) at Penygawsi. The church had a difficult time, with heavy debts by 1872 and from 1884 to 1890 it was without a pastor until Rev John Llewellyn was inducted and he remained until 1899 before leaving for Maesteg. His son was the winning baritone soloist Willie Llewellyn.

Also one of the leaders of Bethel at this time was John Lewis, a local grocer at the Crown Stores and a fine musician. Rev Llewellyn and Rev Cranog Davies of Soar, Penygawsi talked of reuniting the two churches.

At a special meeting of 13 May 1900 this was approved and trustees purchased the site of a new church, the property formerly occupied by the home of Dr William Price. Mrs Thomas Lewis bequeathed £415.00.

In 1902 they re-combined at the new Zoar Chapel and Bethel was left empty for years before being bought by the parish church for £236 and the gallery was removed but the adjoining cemetery retained.

It became the new Church Hall and has been used as a community venue for all manner of activities from voting booths to stage shows. It underwent a major refurbishment in 2014.

Bethel - News Reports

22 April 1899
The numerous friends of the Rev J. Llewelyn, Bethel, Llantrisant, will be pleased to learn that he has received an invitation to the pastorate of Duffryn 'ongregational Church, Maesteg, which he has decided to accept. His friends at Llantrisant will much regret the severance of their connection with the rev. gentleman, which has been of the most cordial character during his pastorate among them. We wish him success in his new sphere.

19 November 1901
For a considerable period two Welsh Congregational Churches have existed in the ancient but small town of Llantrisant, neither of which is very strong. Steps have recently been taken to amalgamate the two Churches - Bethel and Zoar. As the two are at the opposite extreme ends of the town, a plot of land was purchased in the very centre of the town, and a new chapel is now in course of erecting thereon, where, when completed, the two congregations will worship together.

23 October 1909
The centenary of the establishment of the Welsh Congregational cause at Llantrisant was celebrated at Soar Chapel last week. The Secretary of Soar (Mr Davies) gave an interesting resume of the early days of Congregationalism in the district. Though public preaching services were not recorded until the beginning of the eighteenth century it was believed that Henry Davies, a minister at Glyn-Neath held services in dwelling-houses in the year 1718.

It was in 1802 that Griffith Hughes, of Groeswen, inaugurated the cause at Llantrisant, and through his instrumentality a chapel called Bethel was built. Services were held until the beginning of the present, century, when the two churches, Bethel and Soar, merged into one cause, and a beautiful new edifice was built.