The Buckley Society Logo

Ystrad Alun Issue Five: The Story of Llong Chapel by Quentin R.H. Dodd: article and illus... Bethel Llong Independent Chapel, late Nineteenth Century "

Llong Independent Chapel, Mold Road, Llong


"The Story of Llong Independent Chapel" by Quentin R. H. Dodd in Ystrad Alun, Journal of The Mold Civic Society: Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Ddinesig Yr Wyddgrug: Nadolig 2004 Christmas. See 28.330, 85.13, 85.14, 110.2, 4 and 5 for the illustrations accompanying the article.


The Story of Llong Chapel.


If you stopped a passer-by in the High Street in Mold and asked them where you could find Llong Chapel in Mold they would look at you with a vacant look and shake their heads. This is the story of Llong Chapel and how it nearly had a happy ending. I became interested in Llong Chapel when in the course of other research I kept coming across press reports of its activities over one hundred years ago. The hamlet of Llong is to be found on the Chester Road about a mile and a half from Mold. In Ellis Davies's Flintshire Place Names (1959) it is said 'between 1775 and 1875 there was an inn called the Ship opposite Llong Bridge on the north side of the river Alyn having a signboard (destroyed many years ago) with a ship painted by Richard Wilson. The Ship Inn was so named from Llong usually signifying ship but here no doubt a boggy or swampy place. Cae Llong is frequently the name for a marshy field'. Today, it is a very sleepy spot where, if you ignore the sound of traffic, the only sounds are those of agriculture or the connection of the golf club to the ball. In the Alun valley below Mold the only industry is the Castle Cement Works and this was, in fact, built not all that many years ago on a green field site.

If we go back a hundred and fifty years or so the position was very different. In the area around Padeswood Station there are shown, on a map of 1857, an ironworks, a chemical works and two oil works. There is little evidence left now but in the names of the local properties such as Oil works Cottage. It is said that thousands must have been employed in the valley particularly if you take into account the collieries. Between the Tyddyn and the dip in the road just beyond the Golf Clubs there were on the left hand side of the road, travelling towards, Chester three different collieries known as Hop, Skip, and Jump whose spoil heaps were visible clearly until the 1960s and whose sites can still be identified. There were other collieries on the other side of the road and alongside the Wrexham Road or set well back from the road. The area was crossed by an absolute maze of footpaths that enabled workers to come in from all over the place to work.

It was in the late 1840s that the railway came to the valley. Before this, the road was the way of travelling from one village or town to another. The turnpike was in place with the tollgate just on the Chester side of Llong Bridge. In 1831 there were no places of worship between Mold Parish Church and Hope in the valley. ( Pontbleiddyn Church was not built until 1836.) It was in that year that a Congregational Chapel was built at Llong alongside the bridle path ( known as Watery Lane ) that leads to Rose Lane and Mynydd Isa. But why was it built there and by whom? The stone came from a small quarry close by and disused for many years.


In 1871 the chapel needed repair and the Trustees had to borrow to cover the cost of those repairs. We have the original mortgage and this helps us. At that time the leading firm of solicitors in the town was Kelly, Keene & Roper and it employed as an assistant clerk William Theophilus Thomas who was an ordained Congregational Minister. He was to become a new trustee of the chapel and so the mortgage followed the good legal practice of the time and recited the history. From this we learn that on the 1st March 1831 one James Hampson granted a lease for 999 years to eleven trustees for a nominal consideration. The area was very small being only ten yards by fourteen. There was about a yard to the front to the road, otherwise it was all built upon. There was no graveyard. There is no talk in the new mortgage of 1871 of there having been a mortgage in 1831. In view of the care which has gone into the 1871 mortgage it is clear there was no mortgage at that time.


So who was James Hampson? We do not know as much about him as we would like. He was the son of William Hamson of Bistre who is described as a yeoman. His son acquires a 'p' and is later described as a yeoman and a gentleman. I believe he was what we would now call an entrepreneur and I suspect he was involved with those early collieries.


Dennis Griffiths, in one of his books on Buckley, tells how in his childhood about 1895, when you left Buckley travelling towards Mold in Mynydd Isa, the people became monoglot Welsh. It is not surprising that the first chapel should be Welsh. The fact that only a lease was granted and the building was so small with no mortgage indicates to me that James Hampson paid for its building. He could have had two motives. He was close to the end of his own life (he died in 1832) and his widow only two years later. He may have wished to give something to his workforce or try to keep them out of the Ship Inn next door!


James Hampson's traceable career shows a lease from the Lords of Mold in December 1802 of 19 acres followed by a mortgage by him and his partner borrowing £800:00.In 1810 Iball's Tenement, a prominent house in Bistre was his. By the time of his death he owns a lot of property, and in particular a house known then as Llwynderw but now identified as Hendy on the Hartsheath Estate. There is an auction after his death in August 1833 and there are ten lots that include,

  1. A house in Mold known as Pwll Melyn and three adjoining cottages and with over thirty acres of land,

(2)(2)(2)(2)(2)(2)(2)(2) Two more fields of twelve acres,

(3) A house known as Fron Dirion Mold with thirty acres,

(4) Iball's Tenement and thirty -seven acres,

(5) Llwynderw and twenty-five acres,

(6) The Golden Lion Pub in Mold and the adjoining house,

(7) Two pews in Mold Parish Church,

(8) A house at Northop known as Wern Gaer with four acres.

It is pointed out that the minerals under lots one two and three belong to the Lords of Mold and are excluded from the sale. This therefore I offer as my proof that James Hampson was an entrepreneur and probably paid the cost of building the Chapel.


The Chapel appears in the 1851 in the Non -Conformist records with this information. It had free space for 48 and others 60 with a further 60 standing. The Deacon was Elias Davies, Pentre Colliery. The present morning Sunday School was 18 and the evening 40.


We now return to 1871. Only three of the original trustees survived and two more of these died before the legal work was completed. Ten new trustees were appointed including our friend William Theophilus Thomas (Gwilym Gwenffrwdd in Bardic circles). This appointment followed a meeting of the congregation held on the 15th September 1870 chaired by one John Williams. It was held in the form for Congregational Churches whereby all participated in the decision to borrow the money and pay £5:10 per year interest. The trustees borrowed £50:00 from Thomas Cox Wheatley of Hartsheath, Butler. There is clearly a link with Hartsheath that shows itself through the years. The loan was clearly a proper financial deal and as it was in the name of the butler was it in fact the Squire of Hartsheath's money? It was repaid at ten pounds capital a year together with the appropriate interest. It was clearly needed to carry out essential repairs.


It was also in 1871 that the Congregational Church of England and Wales held a very important meeting in Swansea that led to the Welsh Speaking congregations being allowed to break away and become the Welsh Independents or ANNIBYNWYR as they are generally known in Wales.


Having secured the money for the repairs the chapel went to work with a will and in less than two months the Chapel was open again . We read in the local newspapers and in particular the Wrexham Advertiser ( 23 April 1871), 'Re-opening of Chapel. The services in connexion with the re-opening of the Independent Chapel at Llong took place on Sunday last, when, in the morning a sermon was preached in Welsh by the Reverend E.Evans, Llangollen. In the afternoon sermons were preached in English by the Reverend J.M.Thomas, Mold and in Welsh by the Reverend E.Evans. At six the Reverend W.T.Thomas and the Reverend E.Evans preached in Welsh. The congregation throughout were crowded. On Saturday evening a lecture was delivered by the Reverend E.Evans on Reading.' Normal activities had been resumed and they were enjoying themselves as only they knew how.


We have, in the possession of the Flintshire Museum authorities what I believe are the original chalice and plate from the chapel. They are of silverplate or plate of one kind or another and appear to date back to when the Chapel was built. The plate is in very good condition but the chalice shows signs of wear particularly on the inside where it is scored. This I feel goes back to its use and the fact that the congregation was poor and could not afford to provide good quality smooth cloth to clean it after use. It was replaced in its later years by the traditional non-conformist wooden tray and small glasses. The Congregation's singing was accompanied by an organ and we know they paid £9:10:0 in 1893 for a new one from Alfred Smith who manufactured at Oxford Road, Manchester.


Going back to the early 1900s is the story of a boy (the father of James Beavan Jones) who was staying at the local pub the Railway Inn and was sent to Sunday School. He thought what was said the week before was an invitation to take an animal next week to harvest festival so he took the donkey and it got stuck in the doorway! His descendants still live in Mold.


We move on to 1885 and find in an annual report 'Mr J.Myrddin.Thomas relinquished the pastorship of the church in 1882 and since then we have been without an established minister . One preacher was installed in 1885 David Jones (then an Estate Agent at Hartsheath) who is staying in the place as an assiduous assistant minister.' In a report held at Bangor University we learn more about him. 'David Jones of Hartsheath, who was raised as a preacher here, died in 1928. He was called as a church minister (just) less than forty years ago.'

In 1867 an event occurred which was to influence the Chapel for very many years. Owen Jones a native of Llanfair Denbighshire came to Buckley to work on a farm. He later became a Colliery Engineer and may have had a spell working on the railway. On the First March 1873 in a snowstorm he walked to Pontblyddyn church with his bride Barbara Jones of the Ship Inn at Llong to be married. He was 22 and she was 20. He unquestionably became the main pillar of the Chapel until his death in 1926.His first home was at Llong Smithy across the bridle way from the Chapel where their first two children were born and the on the Ship Inn closing in 1875 moved with his mother-in law and his family to a smallholding on Rose Lane in Mynydd Isa known as Greenhill Farm. The image is continually given in the mind of Owen Jones and his family majestically sweeping down Watery Lane to Chapel three times every Sunday as well as on other occasions. He did not go out all that often but did take his wife out in a pony and trap. When he died in 1926 he was buried with his in laws and his infant daughter of five in Pontblyddyn Churchyard where he was later joined by his wife. He has a simple epitaph

Canys byw imi yw Crist a marw sydd elw. ['For Christ is life to me and dying is profit.'!! ]


He was a God fearing man and daily bible reading as well as on a Sunday were a feature of life at Greenhill Farm. He had five sons, all colliers, and five daughters. He was also a very Christian man and did not behave like some of the zealots of that time. His eldest daughter Sarah (known as Lally) went away from home into service on the Wirral and came home pregnant by either the man of the house or his son. Owen Jones immediately absorbed her back into the bosom of her family and the child Gwilym was brought up as his own. They were both to play an important part in Chapel life Gwilym being the last organist. Indeed the last three members at the time of closure were Lally, her son and her unmarried sister Eliza. Eliza in the 1930's and 40's was a familiar sight taking the home-made butter from Greenhill Farm to Summertons in Mold for sale. It was a feature of life at Greenhill farm that its agricultural potential was exploited to the full to support all those living there. Eliza made her own bread and scone mix and doubled as chapel cleaner. Lally eventually got married to a collier from Coedpoeth when she was forty and lived in one of the cottages now known as Ty Cerrig the other being occupied by a sister. It appears that the Chapel was never licensed for weddings as Lally and two of her sisters were married at Bistre Church, Today Greenhill Farm is occupied by Trevor Harley who is descended from Owen Jones' sister-in-law.


The congregation was composed of other hardworking families. There were the Rodens from Top y Fron on Rose Lane of whom the two brothers William and Joseph were among the last deacons. William who died in 1926 was a collier working at both the Gwaith Maddy colliery in Nerquis and later at the Bromfield Colliery. He built at Top y Fron a range of outbuildings that were only recently demolished. He carried the old railway sleepers home one at a time on his back from Gwaith Maddy in order to build them. Joseph lived at the Mill Cottage near the White Gates. William's son another William married a non-Welsh speaker and so ceased to worship at the chapel. William Roden's granddaughter well remembers the quality of the wood inside the chapel and wonders where it is today.


Another compelled as a child to go to the English service held every other week tells of few attending as the colliery had closed and people had moved away.


Another prominent member was William Henry Owens who was born in 1860 and was 83 when he died. His life was as a signalman on the railway and he was followed into this employment by his son. Even after his retirement he became a very familiar sight on the road walking to chapel with his bible in his hand. His granddaughter tells me that her grandmother cleaned the chapel and would often give tea to the visiting preacher. His son again married an English speaker. As a result their family worship was at Pontblyddyn Church. The family was expected to support the Chapel at harvest time when they held a service in English. She remembers going to such midweek services with her mother up to the time she herself went into service in 1932. Her father was only able to go if he was not working. It sticks in her mind that they often sang the hymn 'O God of Bethel by whose hand thy people still are fed.' She remembers the enthusiasm of the congregation who would shout 'hear hear' in response to the preacher. She vividly recollects the collection boxes that were used. They were square boxes at the end of long wooden handles. The children thought these were very funny and would giggle uncontrollably. She remembers asking her grandfather how many went to the Chapel and his saying 'very few.'


A frequent visiting preacher to the chapel was Edward Edwards the manager of Star Supplies in Mold who would cycle to chapel. He was a very emotional preacher and would reduce both himself and the congregation to tears.


Cropper in preparing to write his book on Buckley in 1921 vowed to visit every place of worship that he could. ' I had a desire to attend service for one reason or another at several places of worship in the district. I thought it would be an interesting experience to spend a Sunday evening with each of them and note my impressions. While I claim to have inherited the Welsh spirit through a long unbroken line on the maternal side I did not actually attend therefore service at this secluded Bethel ( Llong Chapel ) but from the porch listened awhile to the singing and the sermon. The congregation is a mere handful - there is but a handful of homes to feed it but it fulfils its mission and when my venerable friend Owen Jones of Rose Lane Farm told me he had travelled to and from the little chapel for over fifty years I recalled and realised the most expression of the familiar encouraging words of our Lord… when two or three are gathered together in my name… well done thou good and faithful servant… I have a place prepared…. '


The last detailed appraisal of the Chapel is in 1905 when we are told it was worth £150:00 and has a capacity of One Hundred and Fifty, Three Deacons, Five Sunday School Teachers and Forty-five in the Sunday School. The income totalled £28:16:8.and of this £20:10:0 was for the maintenance of the ministry.


Finally there was a major drain of members in 1940 and the remaining members struggled on to 1949 when they gave up the fight and it closed. They were only three in number all direct descendants of Owen Jones and the chapel needed a lot of repair. The organ was taken to Greenhill where it dominated the house. There was only one real bedroom and the others slept elsewhere. When writing to report the history even Gwilym had to write to the head of the Independents in English. They demolished the Chapel in 1954 leaving all the stone on site.


The decline of Llong Chapel was not due to any decline in the religious will of its congregation. It was caused by the decline in the industrial activity in the lower Alyn valley coupled with the failure of the Welsh language to resist the Anglicanisation of the area. I found that all the descendants of the powerful deacons who ceased to worship there did so because their partners spoke no Welsh, and for no other reason, and the new families maintained their support for the Christian faith by worshipping elsewhere


We move on to 1958 when it was decided that the Upper High Street in Mold was too narrow. So the row of property that obscured the church was to be demolished and the High Street widened. The Parish Church authorities insisted on a wall of stone being built where it can be seen today. There was stone in a wall that had been behind the properties but this was insufficient. At that time if you wanted a boundary wall of stone building properly the mason to do the work was John Hugh Jones of Llanferres. The main contractors Hughes of Ruthin asked him to do the job for them. It was a big job by any stone boundary wall standards. He agreed to do the job if they would provide the stone and also labourers to assist him. When approached the Chapel authorities agreed to give the stone as they said it was going to another religious establishment. All the stone was used.


Even today the family of Owen Jones are represented in Llong by his great grandson Jonathan living at Hill Farm adjacent to the chapel site descended from Owen's daughter Margaretta.


The great shame is that the name stone for the chapel was included in the wall but facing inwards. Since this time many people have tried to locate that stone without success. So if out there reading this article there are any of you who know the site of the head stone I would love to hear from you. I feel that it would be an appropriate memorial to those hard working Christian folk who worshipped in at Llong Chapel for over one hundred years if it could be turned around as a fitting memorial to them.


Author: Dodd, Quentin R.H.


Year = 1920

Building = Religious

Gender = Mixed

People = Couple

Extra = 1920s

Copyright © 2015 The Buckley Society