Llwynpiod chapel is situated on the edge of the Sarn Helen Roman road (B4578) between Llanio and Tyncelyn. The chapel has 20 members, including four deacons. The church at present does not have a minister, following the retirement of the Reverend Roger Ellis Humphreys in 2012. The origins of the chapel date back approximately 350 years to a nearby farm called Llwynrhys. A gathering of nonconformists would meet there regularly during a time when religious nonconformity was not tolerated. By the end of the 17th century, Llwynrhys was one of the Cilgwyn Presbyterian churches group. Phylip Pugh (1679–1760) became the leader of the Cilgwyn churches and was one of the most influential figures of nonconformity in the 18th century. In 1753 he paid for a new chapel to be built at Llwynpiod, instead of the old meeting place at Llwynrhys. In 1762 the Reverend Thomas Grey (1733–1810) was appointed minister for the chapels of Llwynpiod and Abermeurig. He was a close friend to the Methodist reformer Daniel Rowland, Llangeitho. The current building was erected in 1803 and the 200-hundred-year celebration took place in October 2003.
Two memorials can be seen on the walls. One for James Kitchener Davies (1902–52), who was born at Y Llain. He was a nationalist and a Christian, and after moving to the Rhondda he became a prominent figure greatly influencing Welsh-medium education in the Valleys. To gain an insight into his early childhood one should read his poetic drama Meini Gwagedd. The other memorial is to Mari James (1918–2005), deacon, leader and instigator of many activities at Llwynpiod.
Recently a display board has been placed on the external wall of the chapel giving some of the history behind the Cilgwyn Tour as part of the Ceredigion faith trail.
It is thought that people have worshipped here since before the birth of Christ. It is known that Gwaethfod, from Castell Odwyn, was buried near the church in 1038. The church was built in a Norman style and is very plain and once belonged to the monastery at Strata Florida. It was also part of the Llanddewibrefi Church College until 1291.
We still use a communion cup which dates from 1547. Apparently there are only ten of a similar age left in the county.
Through history the church shut its doors several times for different reasons: lack of support, not enough funds, no minister to officiate. The church is in a very remote area and we’ve never had large congregations attending.
Vicars found it difficult to keep their families on the stipend – one such case was noted by Bishop Clagget in 1733. The Rev. John Rowlands travelled miles to minister to his flock on a Sunday: Nantcwnlle, Llangeitho, Llanbadarn Odwyn and Llanddewibrefi.
Despite our small number of worshippers, we still meet regularly to this day. Beti Evans
Photo: Llanbadarn Odwyn Church / Elin Morse
Today Llwynrhys farmhouse on the fields of Pentrepadarn is a ruin. Historically it is believed that worship took place here approximately one hundred years before the Methodist Reformation. A man named John Jones farmed Llwynrhys and he apparently had a religious conversion while listening to Morgan Hywel preach – a rich man who lived in Llangybi or Betws Bledrws. In 1672 the first licence to preach at Llwynrhys was granted – prior to this people would worship in secret. There is an interesting story about worship during the days before permission to worship was granted. John Jones’ son became a captain in England’s army during the rule of James II, and he was a man of stature and authority. His parents had not heard from him for quite some time and did not know where he was. One day they saw a man riding on a fine horse towards the house. They were quite scared as they believed he was a law officer on his way to give them a summons for breaking worshipping rules. He knocked on the door of the house and a woman answered the door. He asked, ‘Is this Llwynrhys?’ The woman confirmed it was and he asked again, ‘Is this where John Jones lives?’ The woman had such a fright she fainted there and then. After this John Jones himself appeared, begging the stranger not to hurt the woman as she was innocent. The stranger could not hold back any longer and said, ‘Oh my father, I will not hurt her, she is my mother,’ and rushed towards his father and embraced him.
Photo Llwynrhys: Vaughan Evans
Sarn Helen is the Roman road that runs from Caernarfon in the North to Carmarthen in the South. Part of the road runs through the community of Llangeitho, past Llwynpiod Chapel and Stags Head to Llanio (B4578). There was once a Roman Fort in Llanio called Bremia and remains of Roman baths can be seen there. A straight road – which is characteristic of a Roman road – can still be seen to the south of Llwynpiod Chapel past Stags Head towards Llanio. The road was about 160 miles long and its main aim during Roman times was to facilitate transport when moving soldiers from one area to another. According to tradition the name Helen is linked to Elen Luyddog, the wife of Magnus Maximus, although there is some confusion between her and Saint Helena, mother of Cystennin the Great.
J. Kitchener Davies
J. Kitchener Davies (1902–52) was a teacher, poet, dramatist, preacher and political campaigner on behalf of Plaid Cymru. He was raised at Y Llain, Llwynpiod. His birth certificate recorded his name as James (Jim) Davies, but he was called Kitchener at school because his father kept a moustache much like the famous general. Not that Kitchener saw much of his father, as he worked in the coal mines of south Wales. The six-year-old Kitchener lost his mother when she gave birth to her fourth child. Kitchener, with his brother and sister were sent to live in Banbury, Oxfordshire, with an aunt for a while. Later another aunt, Bodo Mari from Y Rhondda, raised the children at Y Llain. The death of his mother, and then later Bodo in 1929, affected Kitchener greatly. Another loss was seeing Y Llain sold when his father remarried.
Kitchener attended Tregaron County School at the same time as important Welsh luminaries such as Griffith John Williams, Ambrose Bebb, Cassie Davies and E.D. Jones. He then became a student at University College Wales, Aberystwyth and came under the influence of T.H. Parry-Williams and T. Gwynn Jones. It was at university that he started to experiment with themes for his creative writing work.
In 1926 he started working as a Welsh teacher in Blaengwynfi in the Rhondda. He wrote a three-act drama Cwm Glo [Coal Valley] which he sent to a competition at the National Eisteddfod in 1934. The adjudicator thought that the drama was unsuitable to be performed, but it was later staged successfully in Swansea and south Wales by the Pandy Drama Company.
Kitchener later won the prize at the National Eisteddfod in 1944 for the poetic drama Meini Gwagedd [Empty Stones]. This was based on the deterioration of Welsh society in his native Llwynpiod. Amidst all the creative writing, he stood as a Plaid Cymru candidate in the general elections of 1945 (Rhondda East) and 1950 and 1951 (Rhondda West). He broadcasted, taught evening classes and wrote in the Welsh- and English-language press.
In the early 1950s he was diagnosed with cancer. On his deathbed the BBC broadcasted his poem, ‘Sŵn y gwynt sy’n chwythu’ [The noise of the wind is blowing]. It is regarded as one of the best Welsh poems of the 20th century.
Gwaith James Kitchener Davies (1980) James Kitchener Davies: Detholiad o’i Waith (2002)