The church of St Mary


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The church of St Mary’s is believed to have originated in the late 11th or early 12th century, In the Norwich Taxation of 1254, it is described as a church with dependant chapels, these being Baglan, Cwmavon, and possibly that at Glyncorrwg. So the estimated dates of the original building is a pretty fair guess.
Although no documented evidence exists there was a small church on the site of the existing church this is thought to have been built by one of the lords of Afan it seems likely that it was one of the lords of De Avene we have to go back in history to the defeat of Iestyn ap Gwrgan at Cardiff to explain this, after his defeat Iestyn ap Gwrgan’s sons were allowed to settle and administer a small corner of Morgannwg (Glamorgan), between the rivers Neath and Afan, which became known as Afan Wallia. The eldest Son named Caradoc’s family line can be traced back through the passage of time.
Caradog, the eldest son of Iestyn ap Gwrgan, was the only Welsh lord to be able to retain lands in the low-land, retaining the land already mentioned between the River Neath and River Afan, Caradoc, continued to hold this lordship, and for the defence of the passage of the river he had a castle built Its foundations now lie underneath the streets around St Mary's church in Aberafan.
From before the 13 century his descendants had began calling themselves De Avan or D'Avene) and established, under the protection of the castle, a small town.
A mention in a church deed of 1199 of a priest named Wrgan chaplain of Avene seems to bare out the fact that an early church was in existence.
There is documented evidence that about 1385 1875 it was taken over by Margam Abbey, At that time, it consisted of a nave and chancel and a tower at its west end. In about the 15th century, some new construction work was carried out part of which was the east window this is shown to be a design of that period.
Aberafan has had more than its share of devastation due to the river that flows at its boundary with Port Talbot, the most destructive flood happened on July 25th, 1768, St Mary’s church the Parish church of Aberafan was flooded to a depth of over five feet as was the rest of the dwellings of old Aberafan but the church even before the flood was in an appalling state of repair, after the flood work was carried on in trying to maintain the church building through collections by the parishioners but it was good money going after bad until about 1857 the church of St Mary was rebuilt completely.
How many of us remember the magic lantern film shows we saw in the old school hall how little we knew of the history of that hall while we sat on wooden benches watching the flickering screen.
Very few children in the Aberafan area had any formal education In about 1853 a large hall was built on glebe land there had been a smaller hall used as a school close by but this hall was much larger than the old one, at this new church school my father had attended, and I have a class photograph of him and his fellow classmates, the hall was demolished in 1976 and the hall we see now was built.

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