Religion – Churches and Chapels of Ammanford (scroll down for introduction)

Llandybie ChurchSt David's Church, Betws
St Michael's Church (San Mihangel a'r holl Angylion), Wind StreetAll Saints Church, Church Street
Christian Temple Chapel (Gellimanwyddl), High StreetEbenezer Baptist Chapel, Baptist Lane
Bethany Methodist Chapel, Wind StreetLlandyfan Church and its Baptism Well
Wesleyan Churches in AmmanfordOur Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church
St John's Church, Tirydail (and The Moose Hall)Ammanford Gospel Hall (Plymouth Brethren)
Ammanford Salvation ArmyEnglish Baptist Church
English Congregational ChurchSt Thomas Church, Pontamman
Churches and Chapels in AmmanfordPhotographs of Carmarthenshire Churches

There are many places of worship in Ammanford – far too many for the somewhat casual browsing that a website encourages. This section contains of brief histories of just the most prominent of these buildings. The full complement can be found in: AMMANFORD: Origin of Street Names & Notable Historical Records by W T H Locksmith (published by Carmarthenshire County Council in 2001)..

Most of the places of worship in the Ammanford area are in fact chapels, indicating the rapid growth of non-conformity in Britain from the nineteenth century onwards. Farmers and the gentry, along with their employees, and later the middle classes, tended to worship in the churches. Non-conformity was the preferred mode of worship by the newly emerging industrial class and their employees, reflecting the increasing trend to universal suffrage that came with the industrial revolution. Many of the chapels were, and are, run by their own congregations through elected deacons who run the affairs of the chapel, including the appointment of new ministers. Contrast this with the Church where the vicar is appointed from outside by the Church authorities.

The strength of non-conformity can be demonstrated by the fact that dozens of chapels were built in Ammanford from the nineteenth century. Most are still standing, though some have been demolished or have fallen into disuse since. No new church, however, had been built in the area since St David's Church, Betws in the thirteenth century and whose origins probably go back to early Christain times. Llandybie church is also medieval with probable origins in the fifth century. It was only in 1885 that this situation changed when St Michael's Church was built in Wind Street followed by All Saint's in 1915, though without its clock tower which was added in 1923.

At the dawn of a new millennium Wales has 5,000 chapels for its 2.9 million inhabitants to worship in – more than England and Scotland together, even with their combined populations of 55 million. The bad news though, at least for believers, is that these 5,000 chapels are currently closing at the rate of more than one a week. Of these at least 1,000 according to one authority are currently under threat of demolition, and the process is only just hitting its stride.

Aging and dwindling congregations no longer have the financial means to maintain their once mighty palaces of worship and some chapels in Ammanford cannot even find a preacher to minister to the faithful. Others are even resorting to sharing their Sunday services with members from other chapels, even those of different denominations. Wales has gone from being the most religious to the least religious region of Britain in just one generation and non-conformity is facing a precarious future as a result, if indeed it has a future at all. "The streets and byways of Wales are nowadays littered with the decomposing hulks of chapels", writes a recent historian, Anthony Jones, in 'The Chapels of Wales' (1996). Everywhere, abandoned Bethanys and Bethesdas; Calfarias and Caersalems; Elims and Ebenezers; Gerazims and Goshens; Moriahs, Seions and Tabernacles are quietly slipping out of sight and into oblivion, their resounding Biblical names soon to become a forgotten litany of lost devotion.

And if a smirk of schadenfreude is flitting over Anglican faces at this news, they'd do well to remember their own shrinking congregations and their own backlog of churches in urgent need of attention. It might be wise then to document the histories of Ammanford's major churches and chapels while they are still here to be seen.

Date this page last updated: August 31, 2010