Y GROES CHAPEL 1845 – 1985
Y Groes is about 2 miles from Ruabon. It is part of a populous village. The lower part, that nearest Ruabon is known as Y Groes, while the upper part is known as Penycae. Before looking at the history of the cause it would be an advantage to go back to 1845 to the period of industrial growth in the area, as a result people from all parts of Wales moved to live in the area, not only to the Groes but to all the industrial regions and in the midst of these were a number of Methodists.
As houses were difficult to obtain many built houses on the mountainside. These were known as “Tai-un-nos” that is houses built during the course of one night, and eventually they built a room for the purpose of worship which was known as “The Mountain Chapel”. This place lay between Tainant and Penybryn and before long some landowner claimed rent for the land and rather than pay they moved their encampment and many came to live in Penycae and the “Groes”. This then lead to the desire to build a chapel in the Groes to save walking to Rhos, Tainant or Ruabon.
At the time a man called Evan Jones lived in the Groes. He was a memorable man and was one of the officials in Capel Mawr. He was a very astute and cautious man and he was approached many times on the subject of establishing a Chapel in the Groes, but those who approached him were always cleverly dissuaded from continuing. He was also approached by brethren from outside the immediate community. In the monthly meeting held in Liverpool in 1861 or 1862 Mr Cooper from Llangollen did his best to influence him and in answer Evan Jones said “The men living here are poor workmen, they do not have the means to build and maintain a Chapel.” “Where is your faith” said Mr. Cooper. “Well” replied Evan Jones “If the presbytery meeting can obtain £200.00 for us then we will build a Chapel.” “Where will they get £200.00?” asked Mr. Cooper. “Where is your faith, Sir?”
Although the people were only ordinary working folk they themselves put their heart and soul into the work, not only did they build a Chapel but also a Chapel house and a large and pleasant plot of land suitable for use as a cemetery. In the report given by Mr. Evan Jones in the April “Cyfaifod Meisol” he said that the congregation filled the Chapel and that the Sunday school numbered 100. Certainly the effort had not been in vain, soon after this, probably in 1863) although we have no actual date, a Chapel was established when 47 people became members. Two officials were also chosen, Mr. Evan Jones and Mr. Morris Roberts. The Chapel in its early years was not without its problems. But thanks to the wisdom and the ability of Mr. Evan Jones the vessel was carefully steered through the storms safely into calmer waters.
Mr. Evan Jones died in 1870 a grave loss to the cause but others came along to fill the gap. One man especially should be mentioned here, namely Morgan Williams. He was born in Anglesey and it is said that he was a philosopher, a good public speaker as well as being a man of very sound character. Despite these good qualities he was not elected Deacon possibly because he was too honest. The Chapel was joined with Tainant as a preaching circuit and so it remains so this day. The Chapel had continued quietly and comfortably throughout the years and the Groes is considered to be one of one of the pleasantest little Chapels.
After a few years it was felt that a better place of worship was needed and so in 1905 a beautiful new Chapel was built at a cost of £1,600. The new Chapel was evidence of the general increase there had been in the numbers attending the Chapel and although the increase was not as dramatic as it might have been it must be remembered that the Baptists already had a strong cause in the area. Before the Methodists had established a place of worship for themselves the Rev. D.P. Jones became a Minister in 1908 but he moved on to Denbigh in 1911.
John Jones was originally from Llansannon and did not benefit from a religious upbringing. At some point he discovered religion and following his conversion proceeded to teach himself to read and write. He continued faithfully in this work throughout his life. He was a man of noble character and he became a highly respected man in Penycae. He gave great service in “1 Groes” and his loss was greatly felt. He and his wife were a great support to the Church with their hospitality and their generosity. He did have a son preaching in America.
Evan Jones, Morris Roberts, Thomas Jones, Edward Ellis, 1867, William Williams, 1879, William Davis, Thomas Williams, Hugh Griffith and Richard Jones, 1895.
Evan Jones was a great advantage as members of “Y Groes” would no doubt testify. He was possessed of good judgement and clear vision. He also had the ability to address a congregation successfully and was able to win people over through i• wisdom, not through force.
Morris Roberts was an official at Tainant but he was sent with Mr. Jones to “Y Groes” to help to get the cause established. He came originally from Llandrillo, Merionethshire. He was a tall, straight man and he appeared stern but was in reality one of the kindest of men. He was the Chapel treasurer and performed his work diligently and with great honesty. He attended every meeting regularly. He was the Sunday school superintendent for many years and took great interest in his work. His pleasure in promoting the children from class to class was as great as the children themselves.
Thomas Jones was a nephew to Evan Jones and the other side a grandson of that remarkable man from Tainant, John Jones. He was the Chapel secretary „for nearly 30 years and following the death of Morris Roberts the treasurer he became treasurer and he proved a conscientious and diligent worker in both offices. He was of great support to the Chapel through his generosity as well as through the example given by his Christian way of life. The brethren in “Y Groes” were actually aware of his loss, when he died; he was regarded as a wise and good leader.
William Williams was another grandson to John Jones, Tainant, William Williams was a very clear man, young in spirit and of a truly religious nature. He was a very good listener and was influenced, not so much by still as by the truth. He threw himself with enthusiasm into all matters of religion. He attended all the services and especially enjoyed a good “Seiat”, but this was not an empty enjoyment. He also worked hard especially for the cause of temperance. He also worked to teach a class of young people in the Sunday school and they were as fond of him as he was of them. He and his family were also very generous.
William Davis although in appearance a simple man he had not received the benefit of an education but strove hard to study the scriptures. He was blessed with a very good memory and was able to recite by heart dozens of hymns. He was considered a strong man both physically and mentally and an excellent worker. He was very faithful and punctual and was considered to be very gifted in the art of praying.
The Chapel held its centenary in March, 1963 and Mr. W.H. Jones, Berwyn-View a loyal and faithful deacon of this Chapel gave a brief history of the Chapel to the members. Mr. W.H. Jones says Evan Jones was instrumental in raising the Chapel. He was a nephew to Thomas Jones who was the Post Master in Penycae. A building long since turned into a dwelling house which is across the way from Ty Salem. He was a Civil Engineer by calling and we can see that he had a good idea where to build and naturally to chose the best spot in Penycae. Truly as it is said in the New Testament about a city built on a hill, it cannot be hidden and Groes Chapel does command such a description.
This far seeing gentleman had seen the possibilities and as in their days the priests came to their services from far-a-field on horseback and so a stable had to be provided also a Chapel house where the preacher could stay overnight. He also saw the need for a cemetery, as the cemetery at “Salem” was slowly filling and the only one available was the Church cemetery in Rhos. The early fathers of nonconformity wished to be buried in their own cemeteries as there were no places of burial in Rhos the Methodists came to Penycae as did the Baptists as one can see if one goes to these cemeteries today.
In those early day’s permission had to be granted to build a Chapel. This could only be granted by a Committee which met each month. They ruled the Methodists in all things. They owned all. A Methodist Chapel could not call a priest ‘ without their consent, naturally, the request was refused. A very determined Evan Jones overcame them somehow or other. The result was the Chapel being erected and Evan Jones along with Mr. Morris Roberts (the grandfather of Mrs. Jemima Hughes, Bridge Street) being elected the first deacons. Evan Jones became secretary and Morris Roberts treasurer. These two gentlemen were former members of Capel Mawr and Tainant respectively before they came to Groes Chapel.
The Chapel at that time was much different to what it is today. The entrance was much lower, the door led to the porch and 2 doors as seen today to the left and right of the Chapel inside. The Chapel was almost square 8 windows to allow light inside and all had 24 panes, a state of affairs which caused the Chapel to be as a greenhouse in the summer and an ice house in the winter. A form of heating was introduced known as high pressure system. The lighting was in the form of paraffin lamps. The pulpit being lit by 2 candles on each end of the pulpit. The first caretaker’s were Jesse and Mary Davies, Mary being a sister to Ap Tychan a minister at one time at Bethlehem Chapel, Rhos hence its name Capel Bychan. This lady had inherited much of this family’s talent.
Seven years after the opening of the Chapel Evan Jones passed away and his place as secretary was taken by Mr. Thomas Jones who remained in this post for 30 years. Morris Roberts was treasurer and head of the Sunday school for 32 years. When Morris Roberts passed away his place was taken by Mr. John Evans, Ty Cerri, Chapel Street and Mr. Jonathon Jones of Mill Farm, Pentre.
Mr. Jonathon Jones was organist for many years and Mr. Idwal (Mill Griffiths was precenter, his father Mr. Huw Griffiths, as a matter of interest, was at one time conductor of Rhos Male Voice Choir). Among the members one must not forget Mr. Thomas Jones Roberts he, as the saying is, was a front runner of the cause at Groes. His sons were equally well known.
One was the Rev. Dr. Bleddyn Jones Roberts prominent in the translation of the “Dead Sea Scrolls”. Another son Meredith Jones Roberts gained fame in the literary world at one time editor of a welsh magazine. The other son Mr. Gronway Jones Roberts and daughter Mrs. Myfanwy Morris are today still actively involved with the Groes. Their father would have gained a similar prominence also if he had had the opportunity and his contemporaries would not be surprised if he also had the letters his illustrious son Bleddwyn had behind his name.
John Evans was a treasurer for a period, a man who was no mean musician he was also a precenter for a time, a very shy man by nature. But once after accepting office one was certain that he would fill it with honour. He was also a successful Sunday school teacher. The number of ministers that were raised at Groes number 3, namely Rev. loan Davies who ministered at Port Dinorwic but who died suddenly at a very young age. The other 2 being Rev. Samuel Morris B.A.B.D. and the Rev. Dr. B. Jones Roberts whose grandfather was also a preacher and his uncle was a minister in U.S.A.
Peter Ellis of Penybryn and Benjamin Pritchard Drefechan assisted in mid week services and also examined the children in the scriptural exams.
Prominent members to the musical side of the Chapel where Mr. Edward Shone, Police Officer at Penycae, Mr. Henry Thomas and Mrs. Gronwy Jones Roberts.
As to the musical instruments in March, 1884 a harmonium was bought for 213.10s, in 1885 an American organ for £14.13s and in 1892 a harmonium for £40.00 which is still in use. In 1906 a piano was given for the use of the children in the Sunday School by Mrs. Jonathon Francis.’ In 1959 a piano was given by Mr. W.J. Edwards a headmaster at Rhos Council School. During the years much cost had to be met regarding the land etc. on which the Chapel was built and in 1894 the land was bought for £178.4s to meet this cost it was decided that each quarter a special collection was made in addition to the usual contributions. In 1920 a further piece of land was bought for £247.12s this was done in order to provide for a cemetery.
1863 Mr. Evan Jones and Mr. Morris Roberts
1867 Thomas Jones and Edward Ellis,
1895 William Davies, Tainant, Huw Griffiths, Mill Farm,
1909 R. Parry Jones, John Lloyd and Thomas Jones Roberts, Ty Brith,
1923 Edward Henry Ellis, Plas Bennion, Jonathon Jones, William Henry Jones, William Williams, New House,
1941 Llewelyn Davies, William Humphrey Lloyd and Robert Thomas, Hall Street,
1955 Rennie Davies, Bridge Street,
1957 Thomas Jones, Emrys Morris,
1980 Mrs. Margaret Jones, Penybryn.
The Chapel was still in debt in 1900 to the sum of £120.00 which to the great surprise of the membership was cleared by an unexpected gift from a gentleman of the name Robert Davies, Porthaethwy, why he was so generous no person knows as no appeal was made to him by any member and we shall never know.
In 1905 after the completion of the extension to the Chapel special preaching meeting were held on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Sunday, July, 1905, a student from Bala College preached he being Mr. J.T. Davies who came from Holyhead. The Rev. Morday Pierce and Rev. John Evans from Llandidloes and Llanfaircaeneusson respectively were the guest preachers on the following Monday. On the Tuesday the special guest was the Rev. Richard Williams of Hill Street, Rhos. He was followed on Wednesday night by the Rev. Thomas Jones, Leeswood.
Here are 7 names of members when the Chapel opened in 1905, Mrs. Edward Ellis, Plas Bennion, Mrs. Jemima Hughes, Bridge Street, Mrs Jonathon Francis, Delfryn, Chapel Steet, Mr. Idwal Griffiths, Mill Farm and his sister Miss Ceridwen Griffiths, Mr. W.H. Jones, Berwyn View.
In 1905 there were 39 children attending the Chapel. The cost of building the present Chapel was £1,600.00. The lighting by acetylene £42.17.6 an appeal was made for funds towards this and the sum of £200.00 was given by Mr. Robert Davies in addition a sum by covenant was given by Mr. Thomas Davies, Bryn Brith, Chapel Street and in 1932 the sum of £50.00 was left for the Chapel by Mrs. John Evans, Ty Cerrig, Chapel Street. The Chapel also received the sum of £50.00 from the family at Bryn Brith in memory of Gwen who died. She was at one time headmistress of the Infants School, Copperas. The Chapel was still in debt and it was decided to hold a bazaar and the sum of £20.00 was realised. From the year 1904 onwards a period of 50 years an Eisteddfod was held on 1st January. This proved a success in more than one day, it of course was a financial success but it also unearthed hidden talent. In addition each autumn the ladies of the Chapel held a sale of work thus again proved a great success.
A collection for the upkeep of the ministry was made each Sunday service and at the Sunday School and many good causes were supported outside the Chapel. The Sunday school scholars were very successful in the scripture exams held at Llangollen. Having winning the shield on 9 occasions 3 of these in succession. The year 1963 10 scholars sat an exam and 5 received awards. In 1963 the Chapel was painted at a cost of £326.00. An appeal was made to the members ‘resulting in the sum of £356-7.2 being given.
The Chapel was without a minister for 45 years and in 1908 the members felt the need for a minister and the call was given to the Rev. D.P. Jones, a student at Bala College. He duly accepted the call to take care of Groes and Tainant. He stayed for 4 years. The Rev. T.E. Davies followed and served the Chapel for 30 years. Then the Rev. T.E. Roberts and in 1953 the Rev. J.R. Roberts M.A.B.D. The Chapel had a great blessing under their guidance.
In 1986 the Chapel has one deaconess, Mrs. Margaret Jones, Penybryn and 15 members.
The following pictures of Y Groes Chapel during it’s conversion to residential use were taken by John Davies in 2016
Source: Victor Evans, Penycae. 2016 pictures John Davies.
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