CBHC / RCAHMW > News > Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa and ‘Cwm Rhondda’

Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa and ‘Cwm Rhondda’

Did you know the shocking statistic that Wales is in danger of losing a third of its chapels and churches by 2030?  This is the forecast for the future of Wales’s religious buildings, predicted by Christopher Catling, our Chief Executive, who is also Chair of Wales’ Historical Places of Worship forum.  His comments were made in light of the proposed sale of the historic St.Michael’s Church, Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa Church (NPRN: 268109) near Llanfyllin, Powys on April 11 but which has since been withdrawn from the market with the Church in Wales deciding to postpone its sale for a year.

The church is historically important in Wales because of its strong connection with the well-known Welsh hymn writer, Ann Griffiths, who was one of the most notable religious poets of her generation in Europe.  She was the author of the Welsh words, ‘Wele’n sefyll rhwng y myrtwydd’ used for the popular hymn tune, ‘Cwm Rhondda’ composed by John Hughes (1873-1932) at the beginning of the 20th century. Her work reflected her detailed knowledge of the Bible and her fervent and deep-rooted Christian faith.  It was at this church that she was baptised, married and is buried in the churchyard and within the church there is a memorial to her.

Ann was born in 1776 at Dolwar Fach farm, in the parish of Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa, one of the five children of John and Jane Thomas.  During a religious revival in the area she became a Calvinistic Methodist around 1796-97 and in 1804 married a local farmer from Meifod, Thomas Griffiths.  Her spiritual experiences were conveyed through the verses she composed and she would often recite them to the maid at Dolwar Fach, Ruth Evans, who later married John Hughes, of Pontrobert (1775-1854). Her correspondence with John Hughes and his note-books, were a valid source and record of her verses.  He supposedly gave them to Thomas Charles of Bala and they were published in 1805, 1807 and 1808, and subsequently later became popular with hymn composers. She died aged 29 – so young – in 1805 following childbirth a few weeks earlier. The church is also an important building in the history of the ‘Plygain’, an unique early morning religious service held in churches and chapels around Christmas and New Year, since the Middle Ages.

The church was rebuilt in the nineteenth century but stands in a round medieval churchyard. Some medieval monuments survive as well as 16th-century painted shields of arms associated with the Vaughan family of Llwydiarth.

Read more about the story in the Welsh-language magazine, Golwg, Vol.36/No.30/April 11, 2024, p.5 and golwg360 where there is a digital version available to read.

Aerial photograph of St Michael's Church, Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa, Powys.
An RCAHMW aerial photograph of St. Michael’s Church, Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa

Bethan Hopkins-Williams, Public Engagement Officer


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