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History of St Davids Church

Morriston in 1890 had seen more than a century of Industrial history. It was part of the ancient and large Parish of Llangyfelach. The area had early coal mines from 1717 onwards. In the second half of the 18th Century an English entreprenuer from Shropshire , John Morris , set up copper smelting works near the river in the area now known as Morriston. He designed a "model" village for his workers which now bears his name.

As there was no church nearer than Llangyfelach, he gave a central site for a Chapel of Ease, known as St. John`s ( now redundant as a church although the building still stands ).

By 1860 the copper smelting was in decline but the manufacture of Tinplate was taking it`s place and Morriston became an importnat part of the Tinplate industry.

The population in 1801 was estimated at 322 , in 1881 it was 1215 and in 1891 it was 8389 ( out of interest the Parish today covers a population of about 30,000 ! ).

This growth also saw an astonishing increase in the building of places of worship. Chapels, large and small, arose in Morriston between 1860 and 1906. The established church was slow in their response !

By the late 1880`s it became apparent that St. John`s was becoming too small. In 1886 the Rev. David Watcyn Morgan ( aged 26 ) had been appointed perpetual curate of Morriston. It was his vision to build a new place of worship in Morriston.

A site was purchased in Woodfield Street , after certain difficulties and opposition had been overcome. The foundation stone was laid by Lady Llewelyn of Penllergaer on 2nd January 1890.

Money had to be raised ! Appeals were made to local magnates. In some areas the local industrialists paid large sums for churches to be built - Morriston was not so fortunate. The Vicar writes wistfully of St. Peter`s in Pontardawe "the handsome gift of a generous donor". Throughout 1890 there was great emphasis on building up a new congregation. Fundraising activities continued in early 1891.

By July 1891 , the new church was roofed and by August the building committee was concerned to see whether the church was dry enough to house an organ. One was ordered and lasted until 1979.

The consecration of the new church was fixed for 15th October 1891.

On the 15th October, the great day arrived. 1891 was a wet year and true to form 15th October was a rainy day !

This was the petition for the consecration of St. David`s Church :

To the Right Reverend Father in God, Basil by divine permission Bishop of St. David`s. The humble Petition of the Reverend Watcyn Morgan, Clerk, Bachelor of Arts. Vicar of the Parish Church of Llangyfelach and Edward Rice Morgan, John Johns, Morgan John Jenkins and other inhabitants. That by deed deposited in the Diocesan Registry of Carmarthen on 19th March 1989 under the hands and seals of Daniel Robert Feason, John Talbot Dillwyn Llewelyn, the Revd. James Allan Smith, Edward Rice Daniel, John Glasbrook and Rev. D.L. Morgan and under the seal of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of England and there was freely and voluntarily and without any valuable consideration granted and conveyed to the said Ecclesiastical Commissioners and their successors all that piece or parcel of land containing one quarter of an acre at Morriston in the Parish of Llangyfelach in the county of Glamorgan, bounded on the East by Woodfield Street, on the West by Haeol Sage , on the North by the brook, and on the south by small tenements. That a new Church or Chapel of Ease has been erected on the piece of land and has been provided with everything necessary for the performance and celebration of Divine Service according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England - to be known as St. David`s.

The church was designed by E.M. Vaughan and this is the contemporary description:

Early English style accomodates 600 worshippers. Principle entrance on the North by stone porch. A well proportioned arch of 26` to the Apex divides the Nave from Chancel. The roof of the Chancel is barrel-shaped with timbers of pitch pine, with carved pattern placed at the intersections.

The church was provided with an immersion well as well as an ordinary font. Externally the walls are faced with grey pennant stone under a green slate roof. There is a spacious `schoolroom` underneath ( known as the Crypt ). The foundations cost 250. The main structure by Joseph Gwyn of Sketty cost 3395 , but the external work brought this up to 4000. The `Sweet toned` organ cost 325.

At 11.30 a.m. on the 15th October the choir , together with a large number of surpliced clergy met the Bishop and the Archdeacon of St. Davids by the front door. The petition for consecration was handed to the Bishop by one of the churchwardens. The Bishop preached on "the wedding of the King`s son" and reminded the congregation that the church should be seen as a school not a club !

A public luncheon followed at the Mission Hall, at which Sir John Llewellyn toasted the health of the Bishop who in response said he hoped the Church would become the centre of a new Parish - after 80 years it did !

The first baptism took place on 10th November 1891 of John Henry son of Charles Henry and Alice Walker.

The first confirmation took place on 13th November 1891 - there were over 100 candidates.

The first marriage took place on 21st November 1891.

By 1892 it was evident St. David`s was a very active church.

Easter was celebrated with four celebrations of Holy Communion. The Good Friday three hour devotions had taken place - it was noted that the congregation was not as large as expected but that it had snowed the previous night.

In 1893 a band of volunteers laid a new block floor in the crypt and dampness in the walls was treated.

A new Church had been built but money was still a problem. There was a debt of 1000 on the building and the organ had not yet been paid for.

At the time of the consecration of St. David`s church the tinplate trade was still flourishing. There was a great rush to supply tinplate to America before the McKinley tarriff took it`s effect. This was a trade protection measure introduced in 1895 by the United States to protect it`s own tinplate trade.

It had a disastrous effect on South Wales. The Parish magazine speaks of a soup kitchen being run in the Parish to relieve the distress caused by the depression in trade and the severe weather. There is also the note of the loss of 68 communicants who left because of the depression.

On a happier note it is noted that a gift of 1000 was made by Miss Talbot of Margam to help clear Parish debts.

By 1896 it was decided to have a great effort to tackle the Parish debt. A spectacular bazaar was organised by Lady Llewelyn of Penllegaer - the net proceeds were 415. At this time over 5000 had been raised for St. David`s. By the end of the year the Vicar announced with great triumph "St. David`s has been paid for ! The arduous labours of many years are now at an end. It remains only for those for whom the church was intended to use it for the greater glory of God. All the seats in this church are free and unappropriated and the services are conducted in the best tradition of the Catholic church. May the church always retain the character of a full and correct worship in this district and a standing protest against timid and invertabrate Churchmanship"

The Vicar then, with leave of absence for 6 months, departed for a visit to Australia !! - the Rev. Watcyn Morgan was truly a remarkable incumbent.


Date Updated : 2008-06-07