We continue our regular look at Merthyr’s chapels with an aptly named chapel in the run up to Christmas – Bethlehem Chapel in Caepantywyll.
Bethlehem Chapel was one of the oldest Welsh Calvinistic Methodist movements in Merthyr.
In 1840, a number of the congregation of Moriah Chapel, Cefn Coed decided to start a new cause in the rapidly growing area of Caepantywyll, a chapel was subsequently built in 1841 and called Bethlehem.
During the mid 1800’s, the residents of Caepantywyll, mostly employees of Cyfarthfa Iron Works, had established a unique educational network, with three ‘front room’ schools as well as six schools held in public houses.
Bethlehem Chapel was in the forefront of the education of the residents of Caepantywyll, and indeed its first minister Rev John Roberts was a strong leader in education.
Rev Roberts, who was also known by the bardic name Ieuan Gwyllt, was also famous as a musician. As well as composing many famous hymns, he founded the Cymanfa Ganu and also in 1859 he produced “Llyfr Tonau Cynulleidfaol” which took him six years to complete.
The publication of this book began a new era of Welsh congregational hymn singing.
By the 1960’s, with the number of residents of Caepantywyll decreasing, the small congregation dropped to such an extent that the chapel closed and services were held in the vestry of the chapel until that too closed in 1979. The chapel was demolished in the early 1980’s.