needs of the dissenting congregation in that locality. In and around Gelligaer, there appears to have been a considerable number of Dissenters and in David Davies they found a leader under whose guidance they formed in 1650 a Church which later became known as Hengoed.
The latter part of the seventeenth century was a period of religious intolerance and persecution, and Nonconformists laboured under severe restrictions. Acts of Parliament, such as the Five Mile Act** in 1665, aimed at their suppression; and many a story is told of secret meetings held in remote places in the hills of Gelligaer.
** This Act was aimed at Nonconformist ministers, who were forbidden from coming within 5 miles of incorporated towns or the place of their former livings. They were also forbidden to teach in schools. This act was not rescinded until 1812.
During this unsettled period it appears that meetings were held in Llancaiach Fawr and various other places, such as Ysgwyddgwyn near Deri, at Berthlwyd and Llanfabon.
Developments at Pontlottyn.
In the early part of the century there had been an influx of population to Pontlottyn as the result of the opening of the Rhymney Iron Works and a number of Churches came into being. Soar Baptist Church was founded in 1837 and it became the mother church of no less than six other Churches.
It was also in the year 1837 that the Calvinistic Methodist Church at Bethlehem, Pontlottyn, was founded; and this is the earliest Calvinistic Methodist chapel actually inside the area. Early in the century, meetings had been held in private houses, but the population had increased to such an extent as to justify the erection of a chapel.
The inspiration behind the movement came from the Reverend William Davies, Cwmllwydrew, Penybanc. He had been active at Ysgwyddgwyn for some time, although the Church there was not formed until 1850. A man of many parts, William Davies, in addition to preaching on Sundays at Ysgwyddgwyn, Pontlottyn and Twyn Carno, found time to do some farming as well. He also knew something about architecture, for it was he who designed and built Bethlehem. His son, Dr. Aaron Davies, who afterwards became the minister, made a valuable contribution to the cause of education and local government in this region.
Craig-Fargoed and the Congregationalists.
Industrial development at Bedlinog attracted much of the population of that area, and in 1869 Moriah, Bedlinog, was built. The chapel and graveyard at Craig-Fargoed, which was founded by the Arminian Baptists under Charles Winter in 1750, is now under the care of the Caerphilly County Borough Council. A notable feature of the building being a very old sundial built in the wall. In 1844 the minister at Craig-Fargoed was James Evans, who took a prominent part in establishing Carmel, Fochriw, in 1864.
With the exception of Hengoed and Craig-Fargoed, the older Churches of all the main Nonconformist denominations were nearly all established at Pontlottyn. This was a natural development as the upper reaches of the Rhymney Valley were the first to be industrialised. The Welsh Wesleyan Church was established in Pontlottyn in 1858.