Parish Pages - Brecon Parishes
Brecon Town in the period covered by the transcribed records
During the 18th century Brecon was one of the foremost towns in Wales, while Cardiff was only a small port in the Taff estuary at that time. Brecon was the central town of a large area with a varied social life and a prosperous economy. The occupations mentioned in the records show the range of activites and help paint a picture of town life. For more detail see Brecon: Occupations and Society 1500-1800 in Volume 19 of Brycheiniog, the journal of the Brecknock Society.
Wards – Brecon town itself was divided into wards, which are often given as places of abode for townspeople in the early 19th century records.
Two of the wards of Brecon are those parts of the parishes of St Mary's and Llanfaes that lie within the town. The wards of Ship Street, Morganwg or Glamorgan Street, High Street Superior, High Street Inferior, Watton and Heolrhydd were centred on the streets bearing those names. Old Port Superior ward was the area around St John's Priory Church near the old town gate (or port) and down to the river Honddu. Old Port Inferior was across the Honddu around and along the Struet. Cantercelly or Cantercelli (originally Cantref Selif) was centred on Lion Street.
The 1744 or the 1834 maps of Brecon give an idea of the area covered by each ward.
Anglican Churches in Brecon
In the period covered by the transcribed records Brecon town was in three Anglican parishes: St John's, St Mary's and St David's (Llanfaes), each with its own parish church in the town.
- St John's, the main, original parish of the town, extended outside the town. The Priory church of St John the Evangelist (now Brecon Cathedral), was in the highest, oldest part of the town near the castle. Click here for a map showing the places in St John's parish that were outside Brecon town.
- St Mary's church was built as a chapel of ease, a daughter church to St John's, in the trading area of the town. It had become a separate parish but its constrained site had little space for burials so after 1693 all burials were at St John's. In the second half of the eighteenth century the extended church had become the fashionable place to worship as it was sited amongst the new Georgian houses of the prosperous citizens. Click here for a map showing the places in St Mary's parish that were outside Brecon town.
- St David's church was in Llanfaes (Llanvace), a community that had developed along the road to the west via the only bridge to cross the Usk from Brecon town. Llanfaes parish extended a considerable way to the south and almost surrounded the extraparochial area of Christ's College. Click here for a map showing the full extent of Llanfaes parish.
Struet Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel (in St John's Parish)
Brecon was an early centre of Methodism and was several times visited by John Wesley. Lady Huntington had a Calvinistic Methodist Chapel built in the Struet about 1780. The chapel was rebuilt about 1820 in the period that the register was being compiled. About 1860 that chapel proved too small and Bethel Chapel was built off Lion Street in what is now Bethel Square. The old chapel became Huntington House (right) which still stands on the corner of the Struet and King Charles Steps. Bethel Chapel is now occupied by Boots the Chemists. For more information about Welsh Calvinistic Methodism and its strong links to Breconshire see http://www.welshchapels.org/nonconformity/calvinistic-methodists-presbyterians/
Watergate Baptist Chapel (in St John's Parish)
Watergate Chapel (below right) was founded in Brecon about 1806 as a daughter chapel of Maesyberllan Chapel in Talachddu parish. In 1817 the minister, John Evans, began using English in services. At first this was popular and increased the size of the congregation but in the next decade it led to a split into the Welsh speaking Watergate Chapel and the nearby English speaking Kensington Chapel.