A General Background of the History of Religion in the Gelligaer Area
Roman Catholicism, ceased to exist as a Church in the area on the formation of the Anglican Church in the days of the Tudors. No trace is found of open Catholic activity in Gelligaer, even in later days of greater tolerance, and it was not until the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century, bringing its great train of immigrants, that there were any signs of the establishment of Catholic places of worship within reach of the borders of the district.
Famine in Ireland in the middle of the last century brought many from that country who sought employment in the new works and collieries at Pontlottyn, and with them they brought their religion.
The mother church for the Roman Catholic worshipper was then St. John's, Rhymney.
Three hundred years of silence ended, and Mass was again openly celebrated in Gelligaer, when a mission hall was established in Brithdir (not Penybank) at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1917, an English Congregational chapel at Bargoed was taken over and consecrated as "St. Peter's," to become the spiritual centre for local Catholics and for the many immigrants and refugees that were later to arrive from war-torn Catholic countries of the Continent.
The term Nonconformist was generally used to denote the Puritans who, early in the seventeenth century, refused to conform to certain practices in the Episcopal Church, and who, after the passing of the Act of Uniformity* in 1662, refused to conform to that act, and thus forfeited their membership of the Established Church. These people were sometimes called "Dissenters" but the name is now generally applied to the Free Churches, which includes the Baptists, Congregationalists or Independents, Presbyterians, Methodists, the Society of Friends and various other evangelistic fellowships which have come into being in recent years.
* The second statute of this Act made use of the Book of Common Prayer compulsory in religious service. Upwards of 2000 clergy refused to comply with this act, and were forced to resign their livings.
Nonconformity existed in the Gelligaer area in the seventeenth century and to the Baptists must go the distinction of establishing the first Church; but the early dissenting congregations undoubtedly consisted of Presbyterians and Independents as well as Baptists. In 1649, John Myles had established a Baptist's cause at Ilston in the Gower peninsula. Now there is a strong link between the Baptists of Ilston and the Puritans of Gelligaer.
Under an act of Parliament passed in the time of Cromwell, parishioners were empowered to choose their own ministers, and we find that the parishioners of Gelligaer chose a certain David Davies, "a man of great ability and learning, of splendid character, and of a good family ". His name appears on the list of ministers who were ejected under the Act of Uniformity in 1662. David Davies had become a Baptist and joined forces with John Myles at Ilston as early as 1650 and when his connection with the Anglican Church at Gelligaer terminated, he continued to minister to the spiritual