Nantlle Valley History



Hyfrydle Chapel

In November 1859, a revival broke out in Dyffryn Nantlle, and the numbers attending the Chapels greatly increased, by scores in some instances, this revival more than any other laid the foundation and ensured the strength of the many chapels affected, for the remainder of the nineteenth century.

Talysarn Chapel, by the early 1860's, was found to be too small for the congregation and as it was obvious that the Creigiau Mawr area of Hyfrydle Road was to be built upon, the members of Capel Mawr decided to build a chapel there which was to be called Hyfrydle - this being the third branch of Capel Mawr. It was on the 4th of November 1866 that the Chapel was established. The Reverend William Hughes oversaw the work, as he was generally recognised as the leader of both the religious and educational movement in the area.

Hyfrydle Chapel in Talysarn
Image: Hyfrydle Chapel in the background with the train running just beside it.

William Hughes was born on the 10th of January 1818, the son of Rowland Hughes - a quarry labourer; and his wife Jane, formerly Jane Williams, and the grandson of William Dafydd, Tŷ Ucha'r Ffordd - the first Methodist preacher in Llanllyfni. William Dafydd's sermons were always short and sweet, the locals always thought highly of him, and when in later life he became ill and infirm, he used to remain at home, where people used to gather to listen to him preaching the Gospel.

When William Hughes was 17, he decided to further his education, and as there were no local schools, he walked all the way to Chester to attend a specialist school for twelve months.

A year later, in 1836, we find him working as a clerk at Gloddfa'r Lôn Quarry, Talysarn. He was soon promoted to the important position of Chief Clerk - a job that suited him well and which he kept for 41 years.

He was made an elder at Salem Chapel, Llanllyfni in 1840, together with Robert Parry, Tŷ'n Llan and John Pritchard, Tirion Pelyn; but William left the village within three years and moved to Talysarn, where in 1844 he started preaching. His ordination took place in 1859.

William Hughes was a six foot, thinly built man who always seemed to appear stern and serious. He had unusually large penetrating eyes. He was always a slow mover but thorough and determined in his way. His head drooped as he walked or paced, as though measuring a piece of land a yard at a time. He tended to be rather absent minded at work, but he was also a perfectionist.

He always chose the correct words to suit the occasion, and was the motivator and organiser of the day school held at Hyfrydle Chapel. He later became a member of the Talysarn School Board, and generally was reckoned to be the person who contributed most to the education of the local inhabitants at that time. An undated Hyfrydle Chapel School report stated that "It is a lively, well organised school, boasting a comfortable room for children. More use of cards is made here than at any other school in the district. The curriculum is well documented and the work is examined periodically by an appointed official. This is a huge step forward. The teachers are rotated annually, this has it's advantages and also it's disadvantages."

He was ably assisted in overseeing the building work on the chapel by Owen Rogers, Tŷ'n Fawnog; Thomas Jones the shoemaker, who later moved to live at Hyfrydle Chapel House; and William Griffith.

Sixty members of Capel Mawr, Talysarn, moved here to worship as soon as it opened. The mother church donated a gift of £300 to mark the occasion. Hyfrydle was formally opened at Christmas 1866 when the Reverends David Jones, Treborth; John Pritchard, Amlwch; and William Morris, Rhuddlan preached the Gospel.

A 60 year lease was obtained from 1866 for £3/12/-. per annum. Building had begun in early 1865 and it had taken nearly two years to complete. The total expense including the Chapel House was £1520. There was no gallery there at that time and many preachers complained of the echo effect that this produced. The Reverend Joseph Thomas stated in a meeting in late 1866, that at Hyfrydle he could never have the last word, the echo always did!

At the end of 1866 the membership stood at 81 with the number of children at 51. There were 21 Sunday School teachers and also 120 scholars. The average attendance at meetings was about 250. By the end of 1866 the outstanding debt had been reduced to £1100. The Chapel accommodated a total of 410 worshippers, of which at this time 200 seats were reserved at a fee of 9d per annum.

The Reverend William Hughes moved here as a member in late 1866 from Talysarn, but none of the deacons did so. At this time the first elders were appointed; they were Owen Rogers, Tŷ'n y Fawnog, who was responsible for the core of non-members of the congregation; Thomas Jones who by now was living at the Chapel House, presumably as caretaker and also the Chapel Precentor; and lastly William Griffith, Coetmor, who was primarily responsible for full members.

Hyfrydle was linked to Bethel Chapel, Penygroes in 1867. The membership was slow to increase at first, there being 96 in 1868; 114 in 1873 and 167 by 1879. In 1870 William Griffith, Coetmor left for Penygroes and a year later Owen Rogers moved to live in Felin Gerrig, Llanllyfni. He now attended Salem Chapel, where in 1871 he was made a Deacon, only to return in 1877 to live at Talysarn and attend Hyfrydle. ln that same year (1871) William Thomas, Bron Eryri and John Owen, Railway Terrace, were elected elders.

At about this time a strange occurrence took place, the Reverend John Owen Jones, Capel Coch, Llanberis, had given a sermon. His text was "God's retribution against unbelievers, or the ungodly". A literary discussion took place after the service and the minister asked if any new member was present. A young man called Robert Benjamin jumped to his feet and shouted "Yes, me" and lifted up his arm. He then sat down and to everyone's horror collapsed and died.

Sometime during 1879 the seating was rearranged and a gallery was erected at a cost of £1000 , there also remained at this time a balance of £383 due from the original building work thirteen years earlier. On September 29th 1879, the Reverend William Hughes died aged 61 years, and on November 19th of that same year; John Williams, Frondirion, and William Williams, Frondeg, were elected elders.

In early 1881 Hyfrydle's link with Bethel, Penygroes was broken and another forged with Baladeulyn, Nantlle. Sometime during 1885 the Reverend David Jones formerly of Llanllyfni moved back from Denbighshire and settled in Talysarn only to leave again in 1889.

The debt incurred in installing the gallery was constantly reduced during the last two decades of the nineteenth century:

Year Membership Outstanding Debt
1885 207 £983
1890 155 £965
1895 158 £815
1900 199 £526

Mr. Owen Rogers died on the 3rd of March 1890 aged 68 years, he was the eldest son of Robert and Catherine Owen of Tŷ'n Fawnog. He had four brothers: William, David, Hugh and Robert. Shortly after their mother died, their father decided to emigrate to the United States and took with him his two sons William and David. Hugh had been killed in a quarry accident where he and Robert were working at the time - Robert later left the quarry industry and went in for farming and then to the Ministry. He was well known as the Reverend Robert Owen, Tŷ Draw, and bore a faint resemblance to his brother Owen Rogers. Owen however, remained in quarrying all his working life. He was manager for many years at Coed Madoc and later Gloddfa'r Coed Quarries where he won the esteem of both his masters and workers. He was one of Dyffryn Nantlle's most capable managers.

Three years later H.Menander Jones was called to this pastorate from Carmel, he was the last minister in Arfon to be called without a secret vote.

Hyfrydle Chapel in the 1990s
Image: Hyfrydle Chapel in the 1990s.

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