Croes y Parc

Croes-y-parc was the mother church of Tabernacl Welsh Baptist Church 1813, in the Star and Garter, on the western side of Cardiff Castle, later (1821) in The Hayes, Cardiff, and also of other churches at Cadoxton, Twynyrodyn, and Pentyrch.

Location map

Largely because of the difference in the languages, there is a completely different hymn tradition in Wales to that which is found in the English-speaking world. It is certainly true that many great Welsh hymns have been translated into English and have become extremely popular in England and North America and elsewhere as a result. But it remains true that there are many well known hymns in Wales that are not known at all elsewhere, or not known that much. One of these is the Welsh hymn 'Yn y Dyfroedd Mawr a'r Tonnau' written by Dafydd William during the Methodist Revival. 

Dafydd William was converted in the early years of the Methodist Revival.  It was in 1740 when he was about 19 years old, possibly as a result of his hearing Howel Harris preach in the area in the spring of that year. William, however, seems immediately to have completely thrown his lot in with the Methodists, possibly an indication of the dramatic and total nature of his conversion. He became totally immersed in the ongoing work of the Revival, and was soon combining his itinerant work as a tailor with preaching and overseeing the local home-based mid-week meetings of the new converts. He also helped to run circulating schools in the Tywi Valley area of Carmarthenshire and in the western part of Glamorgan, including at Margam and Llangynwyd.

Howel Harris

He also found time to develop as a writer of both poetry and hymns, within what is very strong Welsh bardic tradition; and it is for the latter that he is still remembered today.
Croes-y-Parc, as it is still known, was started as a Particular Baptist church in 1776, when it began meeting in the ruins of Llanbedr castle after a number of visits to the area by Rees Edwards of Pontypool. In 1778, the still new church built its first meeting place on the site of a ruined house at Croes-y-Parc where the present chapel now stands, which was built in 1843. This chapel was the mother church of a number of other Baptist works in the area, including the highly influential Tabernacl Welsh Baptist Chapel in The Hayes in Cardiff city centre, and others at Cadoxton, Twynyrodyn and Pentyrch.

E. Wyn James suggests that Dafydd William might have been appointed as the minister at Croes-y-Parc were it not for his age by this time (he was 56 when he moved to Llanbedr).  But his ability as a lay-preacher and his freedom from local responsibilities enabled him to travel widely in his later years, ministering the gospel wherever he was invited. Unlike others of his generation, possibly because he was never a man of means, he travelled everywhere on foot. He is said to have preached in 13 different counties in Wales, and that he was the first Baptist preacher to proclaim the gospel in the Rhondda Valley – the very place that 100 years later would make his name famous as the writer of ‘Yn y dyfroedd mawr a’r tonnau’.
During the last year of his life, Dafydd William became a sick man, and was taken in and cared for by a Baptist family who lived at Holltwn Farm in Cadoxton, near Barry, where the Baptists had a preaching centre. It must be that his wife had already died by this time. Holltwn farm no longer exists, though there is a Holton Road in the town, at the western end of which, at the top of the hill, is a large roundabout just near the Vale of Glamorgan Council Offices. This is the former site of Holltwn farm. It was here that William died in October or November 1794, at the age of 74. He was buried at Croes-y-Parc, where a more recent large headstone marks his burial.