A Mystery Solved – News from Caebach

In the previous Newsletter, we included a photograph of one of the large collections of handwritten sermons that were discovered in boxes in the gallery in Caebach Chapel. The author was, at the time, unknown. Initially, we thought that the sermons might have been written by the Revd. Kilsby Jones, and that they were transferred to  Caebach for safekeeping following the demolition of Christ Church in the 1980s. However, following a more in-depth look at the papers by our mid-Wales trustee Sue Cole, and direct comparison of the handwriting of one of the sermons with a Kilsby Jones manuscript deposited in the National Library by our Aberystwyth-based trustee, Dr Huw Owen, we were able to rule out Kilsby Jones as the author. Instead, we definitively established the author as the Revd. John Jones, a Baptist Minister from Rock Baptist Chapel, mid-Wales, who went on to become a Baptist Minister in Llandrindod itself.

Jones the Rock (1820 – 1907) as he was known, was born in Radnorshire, the son of the pastor of the local Rock Baptist Chapel. He trained for ministry at Pontypool Baptist Academy between 1844 – 1847 and, following ordination, he was appointed minister at the nearby chapels of Gladestry and Evenjobb. After a short time ministering in England, he returned to Wales following the death of his father, becoming himself minister at the Rock Chapel in 1860, and eventually at Llandrindod. He published three known works during his lifetime – two small volumes of sermons, and his principal work, A History of the Baptists in Radnorshire, which was published in 1895. His sermons and papers are themselves interesting as they contain almost unintentional ‘snapshots’ of his life as minister in the Radnoreshire area during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Among them is a draft of a letter from 1889 to be sent to the Lord Lieutenant of Radnorshire, Arthur Walsh, the 2nd Baron Ormathwaite, thanking him for the gift of two pheasants – and reminding him that he had promised £2 toward chapel repairs. Another is a draft, written on the back of a printed circular that sought to guage opinion on whether the Pontypool Baptist Academy, which had been situated in the town since 1836, should move to Cardiff – which it eventually did.

The author of the entry about the Revd. John Jones in the Dictionary of Welsh National Biography was the erudite historian R C B Oliver, who undertook a lot of local research and whose published works include his 100 Years Baptist Witness in Llandrindod Wells, 1976 – 1976 and The Family History of Thomas Jones the Artist of Pencerrig, Radnorshire. It is possible that the Revd. John Jones manuscript collection came into the possession of Mr. Oliver in the process of his preparation for his article and books, and that they were subsequently deposited at Caebach chapel for safekeeping. We are now hoping to scan as many items as possible, prior to depositing the collection at a recognized depository for all historians to enjoy.

Addoldai Cymru

Sue Cole and Dr Tanya Jenkins at the 2023 Victorian Service at Caebach, held as part of the Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival.