This article is taken from Mrs Eileen Price’s brief history, ‘Tabernacl, Capel yr Annibynwyr, Pontycymer’. Copies of this can be obtained by ringing the editor on 01656 856091.
Tabernacle chapel, like many places of worship in the Garw, was built as a consequence of the huge influx of people coming into the Valley to work in the mines and their associated businesses.
In November 1881 Carmel Independent Chapel was opened in Pontyrhyl and attracted people from all the Valley as it was the only Independent chapel there. With Pontycymer expanding it was felt that Pontycymer should have its own place of worship, instead of people having to walk down to Pontyrhyl in all weathers, so a room was eventually found in the stable loft behind the Squirrel Hotel. Prayer meetings and Sunday schools were held there, with the attendees still retaining membership of Carmel.
With the expanding congregation a more suitable building was needed so ‘a magnificent and conveniently situated vestry was built in Meadow Street’ in 1884. A sister chapel, Nebo, was built in Blaengarw, and the new Tabernacle in Pontycymer separated from Carmel in Pontyrhyl, meaning that the Independent church now had bases in three areas.
After only a short time the vestry in Pontycymer was considered too small to hold the increasingly large congregations so in 1889 a new chapel was built next to the vestry. The English Congregational Church was built further along Meadow Street as its ‘twin’, but for the English speaking members.
Tabernacle chapel went from strength to strength. 1904-5 saw the opening of a new vestry and the installation of a new organ in the chapel, costing £2000, at the time of the great Revival. All members worked hard to pay off this enormous debt.
In 1909 it was registered for the conducting of weddings, and the following years saw a Band of Hope started for young children, a Youth Club, and a Debating Society; choral events such as oratorios, cantatas, and Gymanfa Ganus were common, packing the chapel, with many well-known artists taking part. Penny readings* many times filled the vestry to capacity, and Sunday School outings were very popular, when the whole chapel would march to the Railway station sporting Tabernacle ribbons, on the way to Barry or Porthcawl.
In 1914 at the outbreak of WW1, and later in 1939 with the start of WW2, knitting and sewing classes were held by the women to provide ‘Comforts’ for the troops. Memorial Tablets and a Roll of Honour naming those who lost their lives are still to be seen in the chapel.
As for the personnel involved in this flourishing institution, the list is endless. During its lifetime so far, Tabernacle has been truly blessed in its Ministers, its secretaries, its treasurers, its organists, its deacons and caretakers, its children, teachers and members. Their legacy endures, even though its heyday has passed.