Maesyrhelem (1805)

1805? Maesyrhelem, Radnorshire. ‘The Baptist chapel at Maesyrhelem stands on the left side of the river Ithon, near the turnpike road which leads from Builth and Llandrindod to Newtown. The chapel is in the parish of Llanano, but it is not more than a mile from the village of Llanbadarnfynydd. It stands on an eminence, commanding a view of the river for a considerable distance. There are but few houses to be seen from the chapel; a stranger would wonder where a congregation such as sometimes assembles in it could come from. The first chapel was erected at Maesyrhelem in the year 1805. Before that time meetings had been held for several years in the dwelling-houses of Maesyrhelem and Gwarylae. Mr Joseph Jones, who had been baptized at Dolau by the first Rev. D. Evans, preached there; also Mr Denne, from Rock; and Mr Jenkins Harris, from near Newcastle-Emlyn. The late Mr Abraham Jones, uncle of the writer of this history, recollected being at a meeting held in Maesyrhelem farmhouse when the Lord’s Supper was administered to ten or twelve respectable-looking people. The minister was Mr Joseph Jones. These followers of Christ were in need of a chapel. They resolved to consult Mr Jones, of Brondre, who was one of the deacons of Nantgwyn, concerning the matter. Mr Jones (the minister) and Mr E. Williams (the deacon) went over the hill to Brondre on this business. Mr Jones gave them much encouragement; he contributed £5 towards the erection of a chapel. He went with them to Mr Pugh, of Cwmderow, who gave £5. They obtained other donations in the neighbourhood and returned home pleased and thankful. Mr E. Williams generously gave a piece of land for the chapel and burial-ground. The first chapel was a very plain building, but it was more convenient for the purpose of public worship that the farmhouses. The names of the first members that have come down to us were Mr and Mrs E. Williams, who lived in the parlour at Maesyrhelem; Mr and Mrs T. Evans, who occupied Maesyrhelem Farm; E. Thomas, of the Dingle; E. George, of Gwarycar; Mr and Mrs Hamor, of Upper Esker; Mr and Mrs J. Kinsey, of Llinwent; Mr and Mrs Pugh, of Penybank; H. Price, of Drainllwybr; Mr and Mrs S. Pugh, of Croftyronen; E. Davies, of Dolefrean; and Mr and Mrs O. Morris, of Garregllwyd. The names of the first trustees of the chapel were Hugh Pugh, Roberts Lewis, Edward Jones, Abraham Hamar, John George, and Evan James. The neighbourhood of Maesyrhelem, like other neighbour-hoods in which the Gospel is not earnestly and faithfully preached, was very dark and wicked when the little band of Baptists began to hold their meetings. Card-playing, dancing parties, wakes, and pitched battles were very prevalent. The Word preached by Mr J. Jones and others was attended with the power of the Spirit to the conversion of many. There was a great religious awakening in the neighbourhood. The new chapel was filled to overflowing. Mr J. Jones was not long without helpers in the good work. Two young men, whose names were Abraham Evans, and Edward Rees, went to a meeting intending to disturb the service, so hardened and bold were they in the devil’s service. The Spirit of God convinced them of their sin and wickedness; they were converted and became followers of Christ. These young men were baptized the same Sabbath, and received into the church at Maesyrhelem. These young men became preachers of the Gospel which they had despised. A. Evans became co-pastor with Mr J. Jones. Mr Evans was distinguished for his piety, self-denial, and zeal in the service of Christ. The writer recollects A. Evans and E. Rees. He heard them preach when he was quite young. Mr Jones and Mr Evans did not confine their evangelistic labours to the neighbourhood of Maesyrhelem; they went forth as evangelists into other neighbourhoods that needed the Gospel of Christ. Mr Jones was in independent circumstances; he did not receive a salary for preaching. This was perhaps an advantage to him, but it was no ultimate advantage to the church. It is Christ’s law that His followers should contribute towards the support of the ministry of the Word among them. The sooner churches begin to do this the better it is for them. Mr Jones preached the Gospel under the old Market Hall in Newtown. He was mobbed, taken down from the chair on which he stood, and brought before the magistrates; but he produced his license, and was released. Mr Jones and Mr Evans preached the Gospel at Doleyfrean and Carvodig, in the parish of Llanbister. The preaching of the Word in these places was blessed to the conversion of sinners. These good men preached the Gospel in Cwmgwin in Beguildy, at several places in the neighbourhood of Velindre, at Bettws in the county of Salop, and at Gravel in the parish of Llangunllo, Radnorshire. In all these places the preaching of the Word was crowned with success. At Gravel Mr A. Evans administered the ordinance of baptism (see the ‘History of Gravel’). Meetings were held at Rhydycwm, Madwalledd, and Rhuvid, in the neighbourhood of Velindre. A chapel was built at Velindre (see ‘History of Velindre’). Thus the church at Maesyrhelem became a mother church. She had two daughters - one at Gravel, the other at Velindre. The country between Maesyrhelem, Velindre, and Bettws in Shropshire is very rough and hilly. It must have been hard work for Mr Jones and Mr Evans to travel along these rough mountainous roads in the winter season for the purpose of preaching the Gospel. It must have been a work of faith and labour of love for those good men to journey from Maesyrhelem to Gravel, Cwmgwin, Velindre, and Bettws, that they might preach the Word of Life to farmers and farm-labourers. It is to the self-denying labours of such men as Joseph Jones and Abraham Evans that Wales, as well as many parts of England, are indebted for their knowledge of the Gospel of Christ. These good men had some useful helpers in their work. Thomas Evans, William Davies, and Stephen Mantle were assistant-preachers for many years. The materials supplied for the biography of Mr Jones and Mr Evans are very scanty. They lived to see a great moral change and improvement in the wide district in which they lived. Under their ministry the wilderness and the solitary place did rejoice and blossom as the rose. They continued faithful until their Master came and called them home. The Rev. A Evans died July 7, 1833, aged fifty-three years; the Rev. J. Jones died May 19, 1834, aged seventy-eight years. Mr Jones was a native Newwell, near Newtown. He died at Maesyrhelem Farm, of which he was the proprietor.’ [HBR p.101-4]

This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones

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