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Rectorial Benefice of Neath
© C L Evans for Rectorial Benefice of Neath
The Church of St. Peter and St Paul
Services Services have resumed in the Church Hall. Who’s Who MA Council members: Mr G. Calder & Mr A Jones Organist and Choir Leader Mary Evans
Organisations Choir: Choir Practice is held in the Church on a Wednesday evening. Mothers Union Chairperson: Pauline Redwood Meet last Wednesday of the month Ladies Guild: Meet 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month at 2.00 pm. Contact: Eirean Matthews Women’s Institute Cimla over 50’s club Cimla Art Group Guides, Brownies and Rainbows Church Hall is also used by the local labour councillors for a surgery once monthly on a Saturday. Church Hall is available for daily hire, for courses etc, at competitive rates, contact Bob Price. Car Park, wheelchair access, toilet facilities for the disabled, and kitchen facilities available
A Chronological History of our Church 1962 - 1969 7th October 19 7th October 1964 - 27th August 1967 1969 - 1984 23rd September1967 - 21st June 1970 28th May 1969 - 30th September 1973 18th May 1970 6th October 1973 - 29th August 1976 13th February 1977 - 23rd January 1980 29th June 1980 - 29th April 1984 1984 - 1998 17th June 1984 - 31st August 1986 28th June 1987 - 9th September 1990 27th June 1993 - 11th May 1997 26th November 1997 - 31st August 2001 1st September - 5th June 2002 1998 - 2002 December 2002 to April 2005 2002 - 2018
Photo’s of the church under construction in the 1970s
The Reverend J F Williams Rector of the Benefice St Paul’s Church was dedicated The Reverend Philip Berrow the first curate The Reverend Canon T Pritchard Rector of the Benefice The Reverend Brian Lucas Curate The Reverend Derek Richards Curate The New St Peter and St Paul’s Church is consecrated by the Most Reverend Glyn Simon, Archbishop of Wales. The Reverend Robert Lloyd-Richards Curate The Reverend Philip Morris Curate The Reverend Graham Holcombe Curate The Reverend W P Thomas Rector of the Benefice The Reverend John Jenkins Curate The Reverend Nicholas Sandford Curate The Reverend Philip Gullidge Curate The Reverend Gary Green Curate The Reverend Gary Green Team Vicar The Reverend Doctor C C Clarke Rector of the Benefice The Reverend Alan Pierce-Jones Team Vicar The Reverend Canon Stephen Ryan Rector of the Benefice
The History Building Development at Cimla from the 1920's Until the 1920's, Cimla was very much a rural area, with wide expanses of grassland interspersed with a few rows of terrace houses and some larger houses and an interesting building known as "TY SEGUR" with four cottages under one roof. In the mid-1920's the road between the foot of Cimla Hill and the four way junction near what is now the Fire Station was widened and improved and several single and semi-detached houses and some bungalows were built on the adjoining land. A start also was made on developing the extensive meadowland known as Cimla Park by the construction of the first section of Hawthorn Avenue. The 1930's saw a much larger development of Cimla Park, where the appropriately-named Cimla Crescent left Cimla Road just above the start of the hill and ran parallel with the boundary of the Gnoll Grounds to turn westwards to join Cimla Road a short way below the Fire Station. Hawthorn Avenue was extended to join Cimla Crescent and Poplars Avenue was built to link Cimla Road with Cimla Crescent. Chestnut Road ran parallel with Cimla Road, linked to Cimla Road via the short Myrtle Road and gave internal access to the other roads on the estate. Until the outbreak of war in September 1939 a number of houses were built to fill the gaps on Cimla Road and a larger number were built in Cimla Park. A rolling programme of Council House building also started at this time, and continued post-war to noticeably increase the population. A smaller but still significant development was of Kenway Avenue, west Of Cimla Road. A scheme to alleviate unemployment in the 1930's was the conversion of a winding country road through Cimla Common and up the hill towards Pontrhydyfen which was known as the Inter-valley Road. This opened up a very large area for housing development which has been in hand for many years and now approaches completion. Although a Church site had been earmarked by the Gnoll Estate at the top end of Cimla Crescent it was not used as it was overtaken by another development: Cimla Common was owned by the Gnoll Estate but as building development is not normally allowed on common land, it was in effect sterilised but the Estate entered into a mutually beneficial agreement with the then Neath Borough Council, whereby the Council gained possession of most of the area on condition that it remained ‘common land’ with unrestricted public access, while a small area, isolated from the rest by two roads, would be allowed to be developed and the Fire Station and a petrol filling station were built, with a space between for a Church. The Bishop of Llandaff was not satisfied that enough people could be recruited, or transfer from other Churches in the Benefice to justify the cost of a conventional permanent Church building and suggested a temporary building to be used both as a Church and as a Benefice Hall. This became possible sooner than expected by the donation of a redundant wooden office building by the National Oil Refinery, Llandarcy, which coincided with the launching of a Benefice Stewardship Campaign and it was decided to erect the donated building by volunteer labour, using foundations, paths and drains put in by contractors. The Reverend J F Williams was Benefice Rector at the time and he asked me, if in view both of my professional qualifications and my experience in erecting headquarters buildings of a similar nature for various Scout troops in the Neath area, I would be able to lead a team of volunteers. We had reached this stage in the early spring of 1964 and I asked the Rector when he hoped to open the Church. He replied "Autumn 1964" and I had to point out (in the light of my Scout project experience) that this would involve working on Sundays in the period after Morning Services and before Evening Services in the Benefice Churches. The Rector spent some time thinking this over, then, to my surprise, he said . . "Yes. The Volunteers will then be in Church all day, won't they?" As with all voluntary projects there was a hard core of regular weekly attenders but fortunately on the late Spring weekend when the N.O.R. building was re-erected we had a turnout of about 50, which enabled us to earn the headline in the next week's NEATH GUARDIAN newspaper 'Church goes up in a day’ One of the end sections of the donated building had been altered, and weakened in the process, but fortunately this was spotted in time to prop it up temporarily, perhaps avoiding a second headline "Church which went up in a day comes down in five minutes". Permanent strengthening was achieved with a series of timber beams above the Altar, rather on the lines of the "Baldacchino" used for other, more practical, purposes, in early Roman Catholic Churches. No successful building project can function without tea breaks and we were indebted to Dorothy Jones and her mother for looking after us in this way. In view of the building's dual purpose, the layout included refreshment facilities for social events and the counter was discreetly curtained off during Services. It was not long before the ladies of the congregation decided to offer free cups of tea after the Services, which may have started a custom which has since spread to the other Churches in the Benefice. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated band of volunteers, the building was finished, as planned, in the Autumn of 1964 and was duly consecrated. Because of the large number of people in the catchment area, the Church and the Hall were well used from the start, with many of the people who had helped to build it in the congregation (excluding, of course, those members of the other Churches of the Benefice who made a significant and vital contribution). A temporary Sunday School had been set up in a local school in the summer and this too operated from Day One. The Permanent Church Encouraged by the success of the venture it was decided to build a permanent Church joined to the original building, which would continue to function as a Church Hall but would also have sliding and folding doors to enable the Hall to provide extra capacity at Festivals. Rector Williams had acquired a book with details of a large number of recently-built churches of both conventional and innovative designs and as an octagonal shape seemed best suited both to our site and to our requirements, it was agreed that I would visit some of those described to assess the suitability of this unusual building shape. He especially wanted me to look at the recently-built Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool, where the Sanctuary floor was only one step' above the general floor level (with no pulpit) and which he felt would bring him into closer contact with the congregation. To experience an octagonal Church in action, I went to a service in one in Cheltenham and found that it gave a more intimate feel to the service than the conventional Church split up by long straight aisles To have continued the octagonal shape up to the top of the roof would have made for a clumsy external appearance, so the roof was tapered upwards. This created a potential problem of echo from the rising sound of singing, which was overcome by using a perforated acoustic ceiling but even this has not been a perfect solution as the choir complain that some of their more exuberant singing is cut down by sound absorption! The building incorporated several modern developments including electric under-floor heating by cables enclosed in a polished hardwood floor (which is why there is a notice warning that the floor must not be carpeted. This has proved successful both in appearance and performance but we have been less fortunate with the electronic organ. Funds would not run to a conventional pipe organ but the saving has proved a false economy as renewal is now needed. The octagonal shape of the building has been repeated in some of the fixtures and fittings, notably the font which is made from a piece of rough-hewn pink granite from a Lake District quarry, blending into an octagonal top and plinth. The central chandelier also follows this shape as do the light fittings themselves (with a precautionary stock of spare shades as they could be difficult to replace in the event of breakages). It is said that the Welsh have two religions, Rugby Football and song (in Chapel and Church as well as on the field) and this was our inspiration for adopting the Neath RFC's Maltese Cross shape for the window behind the Altar and for the Cross motif in the boundary fences and elsewhere. The Altar window would traditionally have been a leaded light but our finances would not run to such an expensive item. Fortunately a casual visit to London's Design Centre revealed a development by a firm who made coloured glass bottles and had started to produce a much thicker variety which could be incorporated in decorative windows at a fraction of the cost of leaded lights (The window glass and its locally-made aluminium frame cost only £250 altogether. Other significant savings included the purchase of a chair by each member of the congregation, the donation of the Bell by the Melyn Works and the making of the Notice Board and the smaller fittings and fixtures by some of the volunteers who had worked on the original project. The church was consecrated and opened on 18th May 1970. The building itself had cost £17,000 with an extra £3,000 for the 'organ. (The foundations and drains for the original building plus materials we had to buy-in for use by volunteers added up to £2,000, so that the whole project had cost £22,000 by May 1970. Updating the original building In the 1980's the Government introduced "Job Creation" schemes to reduce unemployment in the building industry where approved projects could be carried out for the cost of the materials, with labour, and supervision provided at no cost to the building owner. We were fortunate in being' able to have a major update of the original 1964 building, which included enclosing the original wooden walls with brickwork, replacing the untidy roof supports by concealed steel girders (another achievement by the local Blacksmith, who made the aluminium frame of the altar window) installing central heating in place of the electric wall heaters and extending the building to incorporate a better standard of toilet facilities. The men engaged on the work took an interest in what they were doing and even made suggestions for some different ways of carrying out the alterations, a couple of which were worth adopting. To show our appreciation, some of the men were invited to the opening ceremony. Finished at last!! Financial limitations made it necessary to economise on the enclosure of the site and the boundary with Cimla Road was a "post- and-rail" wooden fence put up by volunteers as part of the original scheme. Despite using timber impregnated against wet rot, the fence had a life of only about thirty years and has been replaced by a wall in facing bricks with wrought iron infill panels, each containing a miniature Maltese Cross. The Car Park was surfaced in red ash, a bye-product of local industry, leaving the rain to soak into the ground. This very economical arrangement gradually became waterlogged and a permanent tar-macadam surfaced parking area, connected to the Neath Council's storm-water drainage system was constructed and marked out with conventional white lines. Finally, the footpaths across the site were tidied up and regraded where necessary, both to improve their appearance and to make lawn- mowing (a long-term voluntary activity) much easier. This concludes the thirty-five year saga of the conversion of a part of Cimla Common into a Christian Centre This however, is not the end of the story. Further updates will soon take place, so that the Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Cimla, will be a bright, lively and functional church. Although the Gospel of the Lord does not change, we realise that it Is necessary for the church of God to change in order to meet the needs of the people we are called to serve. (These notes have been contributed by the late Ken Davies F.R.I.C.S, an Architect and Surveyor who has been closely associated with building development on the Cimla throughout his working life (and, to a lesser extent, in his retirement) and his Church connection started at the age of five at Sunday School in Alderman Davies').