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Rectorial Benefice of Neath
© C L Evans for Rectorial Benefice of Neath
The Church of St. Thomas
Services Sunday: 9.30 am - Eucharist 1st Sunday of the Month 11.00 am Bilingual Eucharist     (Cymraeg a Saesneg) Who’s Who Rector's Sub Warden: Robert Williams People's Sub Warden: Ian Anthony P.C.C. Members: Lynda Powell & Robert Rees
Organisations Bell Ringers: Last Monday of the month at 7.00 pm in Church Tower New members are always welcome, come along and have a go! Flower Guild: Genealogy: Contact Ian Anthony, 01639 635929 E.mail ian.anthony1@ntlworld.com Fee for Search - £22 an hour or part of an hour, payable to St. Thomas' Church, Neath Friends of St. Thomas’ Church: Contact Carolyn Wheeler Welsh war memorials on your mobile Details of thousands of people who died in wars are now available to the public on mobile phones at war memorials around Wales. Most war memorials carry only a list of names, but thanks to the HistoryPoints bar-codes displayed besides dozens of memorials you can now discover individuals’ rank, regiment, date of death, age, burial place, next of kin and often the family’s local address. Special pages in memory of some of the men who fell provide photos and potted biographies, for anyone to view as they stand by the memorial. Anyone with a smart-phone or tablet device can scan the bar-codes to download the free information from the HistoryPoints website, where more than 40 war memorials have been featured so far  in 17 of the 22 counties of Wales. One of the key aims is to make it easy for young people to discover how young men and women from their community – possibly their own street, school or workplace – made the ultimate sacrifice in the First and Second World Wars. Several of the featured memorials do not display the names of the local war dead, or the names are usually of view inside a building, but the HistoryPoints bar-codes reveal the local war dead. The war memorials are among 700 places across Wales whose history is featured on the HistoryPoints.org website. The pages can be accessed by scanning the QR (Quick Response) codes displayed at the relevant location , or by browsing on home computers. Many people and organisations have already contributed information on Welsh war memorials, including Clwyd Family History Society, the Home Front museum in Llandudno, Steven John in West Wales, Shaun McGuire in Newport, the Royal Artillery Association in Swansea and several local history societies. Local residents have contributed photos and stories of relatives who died in the wars. The centenary of the First World War means that county and community councils are increasingly commissioning HistoryPoints to provide interpretation of their local war memorials on mobile phones. All of the information – including a map of each memorial – can be viewed on-line anywhere in the world, potentially generating fresh interest in Welsh genealogy tourism. Rhodri Clark, editor of HistoryPoints.org, said: “Only a limited amount of information can be displayed on plaques at war memorials, but now a tiny bar-code on a post or wall nearby reveals the details of who they were and what they did. History of the Church Sometime earlier than 1298, a garrison Chapel stood on or near the site of the present church, which with a chaplain, served the needs of the Norman retainers of the nearby castle. In 1170, Thomas a Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by four of Henry 11’s knights. Many churches were dedicated to his name after pilgrims began reports of miracle cures at his grave. Of four such churches in this area it is certain that by 1298 a St. Thomas’ Church existed on the present site. When Henry VIII broke from Rome in 1533/34 this church, was rededicated to St. Thomas the Apostle. The base of the tower, circa 1340, is the oldest part of the church. In 1691 the tower height was increased by the addition of twenty loads of Sutton stone taken from the ruins of the nearby Neath Abbey. The stone can be easily seen today. In 1684, General Dineley, accompanied the Duke of Beaufort to South Wales sketching antiquities along the route. His drawing of the church shows it to be a low aisle-less building with skylights, at least one porch, on the north side, and a squat tower in which there were 3 bells. After the heightening of the tower in 1694 six bells were hung . Each bell has an inscription These bells are still rung by an enthusiastic team although the "Curfew" ringing of a bell has lapsed. There were many alterations in the name of progress around 1730. Public subscription and grant money was used to pierce the side walls, so creating two aisles. The roof was raised, and the skylights vanished. The porch or porches if there was a south porch, were incorporated in the church, as was much of the churchyard and some graves. The walls were plastered inside and, out giving a smooth finish. Subsequent alterations in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries added a gallery at the west end, a new pulpit, a water-powered organ, an inner wooden porch and two vestries. Consequently little of the original Norman Church can now be distinguished. The Llantwit Stone is probably ninth century. It was originally from St. Illtyd’s Church. There are two fonts, the older was probably once the base of a cross, it was placed in the church in 1909. The second font is of Elizabethan chalice shape, and has an interesting cover. The original lining bowl of Madrepine marble was given by a much loved incumbent, the Rev’d Henry Knight. to whose memory the parishioners renovated the tower. The Royal Standard of 1731 is found on the east wall of the north aisle. The East and West Stained Glass Windows are nineteenth century and commemorate members of the Miers and Howells families respectively. The south wall windows are of German glass of 1909. The north wall windows are late twentieth century and offer spectacular modern exploration of themes. An Altar table in the north aisle and the altar rails are dated 1731, they were presented by Sir Herbert Mackworth when the church was renovated. Six large hatchments or "achievements" - The practice of hanging these boards outside the house of the deceased, and then placing them in church for six months began in the early eighteenth century. A large war memorial commemorates many local people who gave their lives in the Great War of 1914/18. Over the memorial hang three Royal British Legion standards which have been laid-up in the church. Stained Glass Windows - North Aisle The Showmen’s Window – Celebrating the Centenary of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain. Dedicated by the Lord Bishop Theme of the Window The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain was founded in 1889, and in 1989, choose to observe their centenary celebrations at St. Thomas’ Benefice Church in Neath. Indeed one of the references described the Showmen as "a God-fearing group" who hold a service of prayer before opening any fair. The Window is designed using the bold, bright colours and forms now associated with "fairground art" which in its turn was influenced by baroque and heraldic art. In the top of the window is the emblem of the Guild surrounded by ten bright yellow-orange "lights" representing the ten sections of the Guild throughout Britain. The Initials of the ten sections appear in these ten lights. In the two lancets are four vignettes: St. Christopher, patron saint of travellers and children. St. Julian the Hospitaller, patron saint of circus people, innkeepers, ferrymen, and entertainers. Roundabout Horse – representative of the Guild in modern day. Of all the elements the roundabout horse is the most widely recognised for its association with the fair. St. Thomas’ Parish Church and Close about 1890. – This is an imagined scene of Neath fair about a hundred year ago. In it can be seen people meeting and enjoying a day out; also several things representative of fairs. The roundabout is taken from an old photograph of the first steam powered roundabout, build in the 1890’s. In the background are Showmen’s caravans. Overlooking it all is the church. The Neath Fair, first chartered in the 14th century, was always held in the area of the church grounds, around the date of the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Surrounding the vignettes are colours representing the four nations of Britain; red for Wales, dark blue form Scotland, white for England and green for Ireland. In the borders can also be seen daffodils, thistles, roses and shamrocks to represent the four nations. At the top of the lancets can be seen British Lions. Stained Glass Window in Memory of Donald Richard Coleman, CBE, DL, MP, JP Dedicated by The Right Reverend R.T. Davies, Bishop of Llandaff on 20th September, 1992 Theme of Window 1. House of Commons Portcullis 2. Red Ross – the symbol of Mr. Coleman’s political party – the Labour Part – but also symbolises remembrance. 3. Red Kite – Mr. Coleman’s Amendment to the Wildlife Protection Bill, which extends protection to the red kite is the only posthumous Bill to go through Parliament. 4. A colliery, to represent the coal mining industry in the constituency. 5. Neath Abbey 6. Neath Castle 7. Lamb – symbolising the Lamb of God; also representative of the hill-farming in the area. 8. Aberdulais Falls in an imaginary setting, representing the natural beauty of the Neath Valley. 9. Wild flowers. 10. A portrait of Twm, Mr. Coleman’s dog. In symbolism, the dog stands for fidelity. 11. Scripture from the 23rd Psalm and from the 14th chapter of St. John. 12. Scene with badgers – reflects the woodland area of the Neath Constituency. The number of the gold-coloured mushrooms is three, for the Trinity. 13. The Churchwarden’s staff of St. Thomas’ Church. 14. Staff of the Royal Household. Mr. Coleman held the post of Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household. 15. The twelve stars – Mr. Coleman was a long standing and prominent member of the Council of Europe. 16. Boys Scouts Movement – District President for the Neath area. 17. The Boys’ Brigade – Wales President. 18. Neath Rugby Football Club – elected Patron and a fanatical supporter. 19. The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain – the only honorary member in Britain. 20. Iron and Steel Trades Confederation – a sponsored member. This was Mr. Coleman’s Trade Union – he was a metallurgist by profession, employed for many years at Margam Steel Works. 21. Music – Mr. Coleman had a love of music since childhood, particularly oratorio. He had been a member of the Welsh National Opera Company, and performed as a tenor soloist on many occasions in oratorios throughout South Wales. "Comfort Ye My People" was one of his favourites, and was chosen by Mr. Coleman as representative of him. At the time of his death, he was a member of the Church Choir and President of Neath Operatic Society. The window was designed and cartooned by Elizabeth Edmundson, and was dedicated by The Right Reverend J.K. Oliver, Bishop of Hereford on 11th September, 1994. The window was designed by Elizabeth Edmundson The Saint Cecilia Window Dedicated by the Archdeacon of Llandaff (The Venerable W.P. Thomas) The theme of the window is music and singing taken from the Psalms. St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, is shown together with a group of singers. Jubal’s harp is shown in the circular tracer "Jubal the father of all such as handle the harp" (Genesis 5) "Had I but Jubal’s lyre" a line from one of Handel’s oratorios. A pair of skylarks soaring heavenward are included to symbolise the joyousness of singing. The donors are both members of local choirs and the logos of Tonna Male Voice Choir and Neath and District Ladies Choir are included in the circular motifs below the main lettering. The inscription reads THIS WINDOW IS A THANKS OFFERING BY MAIR AND WILLIAM BULL 1996 SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS COME BEFORE HIS PRESENCE WITH SINGING The Window was designed by Colwyn Morris of Llanelli The Glyn Stephens Memorial Window The Window depicts the murder of St. Thomas Becket, the Martyr after whom the Church was originally deciated. One of the symbols incorporated in the window is that of Three Welsh Feathers – Mr. Stephens was a distinguished member of the Welsh Rugby Union and was a Churchwarden of St. Thomas’ for many years. Projects Undertaken by The Friends The stain glass window over the alter, dedicated to the Miers family in 1869. refurbished. The Raredos restoration
Tuesday: 10.00 am Eucharist