Capel Newydd (Demolished)

Site of Capel Newydd, Blaenavon
Site of Capel Newydd (image NA Matthews)

Capel Newydd was a chapel of ease, built in late medieval times near Mynydd Garn Clochdy. It was attached to the parish of Llanover. There is no confirmed date of opening, although there was apparently a date stone of 1577 in the churchyard. The history of Capel Newydd is shrouded in mystery although several legends have been recorded about its origins. A common story (with slight variations) suggests that it was built (or at least supported) by two or three maiden ladies from Cwmavon or Varteg but there is no concrete evidence for this. There are also stories suggesting that superstitious people believed there to be faerie rings nearby, where unsuspecting travellers would be held prisoner by fairies. Another story relates to an illegal burial of a stranger (believed to be a gipsy), who died in Blaenavon without friends. He was buried at Capel Newydd but, apparently, his spirit rose from the grave and haunted the local farmers until he was exhumed and buried correctly in the parish churchyard.

Described in archaeological journal of 1873 as ‘low’ and ‘mean-looking’, Capel Newydd was rectangular in shape and measured some 32 feet by 16 feet, with a small porch on the entrance measuring 10 feet by 8 feet, and a small bell tower. Inside the chapel was a fireplace to keep the small congregation warm during the winter months. There was also an architectural recess or niche on the south wall of the chapel, suggesting Catholic influence and evidence that Capel Newydd was built before the Reformation.

According to a nineteenth century transcription of a deed of 1628, there were four trustees of the chapel, namely Evan William ap William, Rees Hoskyn ap Meyric, Morgan Howel David, and Henry Jenkyn Howel Loid. The trustees held a house and lands named ‘Tyre y Cappell’ (the adjacent farm, now in ruin) which was used in financial support of the chapel. Capel Newydd was also a beneficiary of Queen Anne’s Bounty. In 1700, it received a grant for the sum of £200, which was used to acquire property in Aberystruth.  A subsequent grant of £200 in 1785 allowed the purchase of additional lands in Llanover and Goytre, whereas a grant in 1792 allowed the chapel to benefit from a further nine acres in Mamhilad and Goytre.

It is unlikely that baptisms, marriages or funerals took place at the chapel – certainly no registers have survived – so presumably these important events took place in the mother church. It is likely Capel Newydd was used simply for the Sunday sermons. Some information is available concerning the appointment of curates during the mid-eighteenth century. The earliest recorded was the Reverend William Thomas, who was appointed to the Curacy of Llanover with Capel Newydd on 29 December 1743. He was succeeded by the Reverend Richard Edwards on 16 June 1756 (also Curate of Trevethin from 1768). By the end of the eighteenth century, the position was held by the Reverend Evan Davies.

The Reverend John Jones was the last to preach inside Capel Newydd. By the 1860s, the chapel had been gradually disused and tended only to be utilised during the summer months. The final service was held in 1861 and by 1863 proposals were being considered as to its closure and eventual demolition. The Bishop of Llandaff desired to formally transfer the various endowments of Capel Newydd to Blaenavon but believed that, in the interests of the ‘better identification and presentation of the endowments’, it would be wise to rename the benefice of Blaenavon – ‘the Perpetual Curacy of Blaenavon and Capel Newydd’. Capel Newydd gradually fell into ruin and was ultimately demolished in 1893 when some of its stones and artefacts were used in the building of St. Paul’s Church at Coed Cae.

Article by Dr Nathan Matthews