ss Peter & paul Church, abercanaid
The picture above left shows the first church built in 1882 in the village of Abercanaid, which then became the hall and then a dual-purpose building. Following an exciting renovation and refurbishment of the orginal building into a multi-purpose worship and community venue, the Rededication of Ss Peter & Paul, Abercanaid by Bishop June took place on the 11th July 2018 at 7pm. It was a very special, uplifting and thought-provoking evening for everyone who attended. Sunday worship takes place here every week and there are also regular social and community events.
The church was built in 1911 and is in the centre of the village, surrounded by large grounds. It was closed for worship 30 March 2009. Two stained glass windows from the church have been incorporated into the new Worship Centre, which was rededicated by Bishop June in 2018. (Read about the windows here.)
In the meantime, the Church met for worship in the Church Hall, which was actually the village's first church, built in 1882. Various community groups meet in the hall every week. A Youth Club meets every Wednesday 6.00 - 8.00pm for 11-19. A Senior Citizens Club meets every Wednesday 2.00 - 3.30pm.
The Church hall was the village’s first Church (built in 1882). With the increase in the population at the turn of the century, it was found that the building was too small and a new Church was built. The hall was then used for cultural and social activities.
In the early part of the 18th century, the Parish of St Tydfil covered an enormous area from Aberdare and almost as far as Caerphilly, but the control of such a large area proved impossible and with the increased population, it was decided to reduce the geographical area of the ancient Parish and constitute new ones, each with their own Parish Priests. A start was made in Pentrebach with the building of a small Church. Unfortunately, there remains no record of this Church at all so that the date of its building and consecration is unknown. All that is conjectured is that it was situated in Upper Pentrebach (above the Triangle) some time at the beginning of the last century. Hence the three houses still remain occupied (Church View). Later the Church of St James the Great was dedicated in what had formerly been used as a schoolroom. The first Church in the village of Abercanaid was licensed for Divine Service on 28th May 1884, and was dedicated to St Peter and St Paul. There exists no deed of consecration but it is possible that this was destroyed in the bombing of Llandaff Cathedral in 1941 along with many other documents. It was soon found that this Church was much too small for the rapidly growing population, and a larger Church was planned and built on land adjacent to the old one. The deeds and conveyances of this transition are all preserved in the archives of the Representative Body of the Church in Wales at Cathedral Road, Cardiff. On 24th May 1912, the new Church was consecrated by the then Bishop of Llandaff, Dr Joshua Pritchard Hughes and the dedication of the old Church was transferred to the new one, which has since become the Parish Church.
In June 1925, the new Parish of Abercanaid was created. The Church of Ss Peter and Paul became the Parish Church and was licensed for marriage and the Rev. William John Jones was collated the first vicar. He remained as Vicar until his death in 1933 when the Rev. Eddie Jenkins was appointed. Vicar Jenkins was remembered for his fine voice and knowledge of Welsh music and drama. He resigned in 1936 because of ill health and in 1936 the Parish was taken over by the Rev. John James Evans, who remained for four years until his appointment to the Benefice of Glyn Neath in 1940.
Rev. Buckley looked after the Parish for a short time and later became Vicar of Gabalfa, Cardiff, then a Canon of Llandaff Cathedral. The next Vicar was the Rev. Leonard Payne who later became Rector of the ancient Parish of Llancarfan. Vicar Payne was inducted in March 1940. At the end of Vicar Payne’s incumbency in 1948, the Parish was suspended by decree of the Archbishop of Wales, Dr John Morgan. The reasons for the suspension are not clear, except perhaps that it was then the policy to suspend small livings in the interests of saving manpower. Later this was seen to have been a mistake. In the meantime, a Priest-in-Charge was appointed by the Archbishop in the person of the Rev. H G Hurlow. By this time the buildings in the Parish were badly in need of repair. A long period of industrial depression followed by a devastating war (during which there could be no hope of any extensive restoration or even repair work carried out) had left the Church buildings in a sorry plight.
However, under the leadership of the Rev. Hurlow, the Parish Church was completely restored. The Decree of Suspension was rescinded in 1946. Vicar Hurlow became Rector of Llanharry in 1956. The Rev. David Howell Gwyn Lewis was appointed Vicar on 7th February 1957. His wife Dorothy became the enrolling member of the Mothers Union and Church membership increased. Vicar Lewis remained in the Parish for over ten years. He then became Vicar of Mathern with Mounton in the Diocese of Monmouth. The Rev. Derek Ford was then appointed Vicar. Father Ford remained in the Parish for three years and eventually moved to Alton, Hampshire into the Benedictine Order. He has made a number of moves since and is now Brother Derek SSF in California. The Rev. Elwyn Phillips followed Brother Derek and remained in the Parish for 13 years until his retirement in August 1987. During his incumbency the bell tower was dismantled because it was thought to be in a dangerous position. Thieves and vandals struck on several occasions and many items were stolen including the brass eagle lectern valued at £10,000 and the brass altar cross. Before the end of his ministry a social committee was formed which was most successful in raising funds to build up the Church. The Vicarage was sold.
After the retirement of the Rev. Elwyn Phillips, the Parish became the responsibility of the Rural Dean of Merthyr Tydfil, Canon David S Lee until the Bishop of Llandaff, the Right Rev. Roy Davies appointed the Rev. Gareth Foster as Priest-in-Charge in Abercanaid and Social Responsibility Officer onTuesday 1st December 1987. The service took the form of the Holy Eucharist with the Ynysowen choir taking part. In 1995 the Rev. Foster was appointed Executive Officer of the Board for Social Responsibility. Previous to this appointment the Rev. Foster had been Assistant Curate in the old Parish of Merthyr Tydfil since 1971. During the whole of this time he had been in charge of the St Tydfil’s Well Church, (the Quar) and he had been a valued assistant at St David’s Church. The 1976 he became a Vicar in the Rectorial Benefice and in 1980 he became the Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil, a very significant achievement. There was a very large attendance at Llandaff Cathedral on Saturday 12th February 2000 when the Rev Foster was made a Canon of Llandaff Cathedral. A well attended reception was given in the Church Hall in the evening. In December 2007, all services through the Winter months had to take place temporary in the Church Hall due to the poor state of the Church Building. Numerous meetings were held regarding Church development for the building of a new Worship Centre together with the development of housing on the present Church site. The Church was declared redundant in March 2009 and all acts of worship are held in the Church hall. Through the Rev Foster’s leadership and motivation much was achieved in Church life and he retired on Easter Day 4th April 2010. As from 1st September 2010 the new Parish of Merthyr Tydfil St David and Abercanaid was formed.
Compiled by Miss Barbara Downing