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
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.
click the Image for larger copy