Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Home for Hope in the Rhondda

Hope finds a home in Tonypandy

With church buildings closing up and down the Valleys, a Tonypandy church is bucking the trend.  Hope Church Rhondda ( has successfully bought and refurbished a new community hub on Dunraven Street, where they will begin to meet and serve the local community in January 2017. This  dynamic faith community has been meeting in the town’s Bethel chapel for the past three years.

With an average age of 25, the congregation is made up mainly of Tonypandy residents who have plans to use this new centre to continue running a distribution point for the Rhondda Foodbank as well as youth and children's work. A range of other initiatives are in the pipeline, including toddler groups, after school clubs and other community events.

Church Pastor, Ben Franks, 28 and a Cardiff boy originally but now living in Tonypandy, said: 'we have been meeting in an old Chapel building with pews and an organ for the last few years, and whilst it's been an incredible blessing, we're ready to be in a new home that better fits the modern church we are.'

As church attendance across Wales has been in decline, this relatively new congregation is growing, and attracting a young age profile with it. Known for their Nativity Photo booth each year at Tonypandy Christmas Market, the church is looking forward to moving their guitars and drums to a venue more fitting with their modern style.

Hope’s new home used to be a disused charity shop in the town’s old Co-op precinct. Having significantly invested in refitting and modernising the building, the church is looking forward to using it to benefit local projects and the wider community.

Ben Franks said: 'there are lots of traditional chapels and churches across the valley, perhaps appealing to an older generation. Our hope is that this new venue will be a welcoming location for a younger demographic to explore the message of Jesus' death and resurrection, which has totally changed our lives'. One way they plan to do this is by launching an Alpha course (, offering people the chance to consider the meaning of life and explore the claims of Christianity.

Hope Church meets at 4.30 on Sunday afternoons and offers a warm welcome to everybody; young or old! If you are interested in using the space, or the church can support you in any way, please contact the office on 01443 442635 or get in touch through Facebook:

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

I'm a union man

My family has a love affair with the name Thomas. Such was the magnificent obsession on my mother's side that her father rejoiced in being Thomas Thomas. My dad's father was called Thomas Jones, although to his children and grandchildren he was known as Dat.

He was an ardent socialist and Christian, although with no republican leanings as far as I can make out.

In 1916 at the age of 30, Dat was presented with this wonderful banner in celebration of his presidency of the British Steel Smelters Amalgamated Association, a trade union which he and others founded. A few years later this union merged with with Iron and  Steel trades Confederation.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

the reclining chair

In my family this chair is affectionately known as Dat's chair. Dat is an abbreviation of Datgu, one of the Welsh words for grandfather. Dat died just before my birth so I never got to meet him, but he lives on in our stories. He was born in 1880 in Ystalyfera, in the Swansea valley and the family moved to Gorseinon in 1886 in search of its tin plated gold streets. Even though his schooling was limited and his life spent in hard labour in the Grovesend tin works' rolling mill, he taught himself Greek and Hebrew. This chair was given to him by his brother, Davy, when he returned briefly from Gary Indiana after he'd migrated to America. 

Initially designed for the royal families of Europe, the reclining chair proved so popular that it was mass produced and ended up in 8 Loughor Common. It's where Dat sat after a gruelling shift, smoking a pipe in front of an open fire.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Salem by Sidney Curnow Vosper

'Salem' (1908) - Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool museums

This painting by Vosper started its life as an artistic depiction of nineteenth century Welsh chapel life. Later purchased by Lever Brothers, thousands of prints were made and loyal Sunlight Soap customers hung the picture in parlours and bedrooms, happy participants in the first ever customer loyalty scheme. One of  these prints graced my grandparents' home and it later made its way into mine.

Sidney Curnow Vosper, ‘Salem’

Salem' (1908) - Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool museums

Monday, 14 March 2016


Each chapter of Conchie begins with an object that tells some of my dad's back story. Pictures, pieces of furniture, books, photographs, walking sticks and a coat all yield their mute treasure but the first exhibit is a diary from 1983.

Dad was a great scribbler and writer; mostly sermons and ideas penned on sheets of paper, envelopes and the back of utility bills. But he also kept diaries intermittently over the span of his 92 years and the one he kept in 1983 kicks it all off. Unusually for dad there are pages he kept consecutively, commenting on current affairs and reflecting on his life. This was a really big year for him. It marked the end of his working life due to deteriorating health.

It was given to him as a gift by the women's meeting of the church he was pastoring in 1983.