Chapel House 1911-1933


My Family in the 20th Century

Baptists were present in this area from the 17th Century - concurrent with their first presence in Wales - and there are some Jermans (connection as yet undiscovered) buried at Newchapel, the first Baptist Chapel built in the area around 1740. It is not clear when my particular branch of the family adopted Baptism as a particular non-conformist denomination. Not all Jermans were even non-conformist. Many appear to have continued to worship and be recognised at important points in their lives at the various Church of England (later The Church in Wales) Parish Churches in the area, but, sometimes, christening or even marriage in an established church was not necessarily a sign of conformism as it is known that non-conformists sometimes did wish - or were sometimes forced - to have children officially registered in the local parish church.

Choice of burial ground sometimes indicates denomination: prior to the 1880s, it is reasonably certain that anyone buried in the old Bethel Cemetery in Llanidloes, off the High Street, rather than in the Parish Churchyard (St Idloes) would have been non-conformist. This distinction blurred after the opening of the municipal Dol Hafren Cemetery, to the east of the town, which catered for all.

 A move to Chapel House

At some point in the early 20th Century, after 1911, but before the end of the First World War in 1918, Edward Jerman (1873-1943), the basis for this project, and his wife Sarah Anne, moved, probably from Cwmbelan, via Cwmdu, to No.1, Chapel Street, Llanidloes, where Sarah Anne became caretaker of the Baptist Chapel.  Husband Edward continued to be employed at the Elan Valley.

Chapel House, Llanidloes

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This house was effectively a "two-up, two-down", albeit of unconventional design, and was tacked on to the rear of the chapel, which itself faces on to Short Bridge Street. Edward and Sarah Anne Jerman had six children by the time they moved here, with ages ranging from 16 (Edward Ivor) to newly born (Russell). Although the older children must have moved out into other lodgings at some point, it is still difficult to envisage the cramped conditions in which they lived.

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The Revd. Meredith Powell writes (July 2005):

"It never ceases to amaze me that the family managed in some way to squeeze into the little house attached to the chapel.  Mr Russell Jerman (Russell Jerman 1915-2005) was brought up in chapel house. The chapel caretakers' lot was not a particularly happy one then! Coke fires to light and keep going not to mention the muddy boots and wet umbrellas that would be in Church in profusion on Sundays.  Despite having our well equipped kitchen it is still hard work sometimes providing refreshments for people. Imagine how much more inconvenient it must have been when Russell was a boy - the only place to boil water was in a boiler in Chapel House. So every drop of boiling water would have to be carried from there to the schoolroom in teapots and washing bowls and such like.

There were only three quite small rooms down stairs - one had a trap door that gave access to the cellar where in those days was a monstrous coke boiler that I believe had a gigantean appetite answering which would have been a mammoth task.  The chapel was lit then with gas lamps and so in a remarkable way the coal was burned at the gas works to make the gas that supplied the lamps and the water boilers and all the other things and then the coke left over from the process was brought to the chapel and used again in the central heating boiler. Just to complete the circle the coal had probably been dug from the mines in S Wales by Idloesians who had gone to places like Aberfan to work when the lead mines of these part closed.

Your great uncle Russell  told me a number of times how the coke used to be tipped in the doorway of the house and then had to be shovelled down to the cellar and, of course, what went down had to come back up, so all the ash and clinker had to be carried up the stairs through the back room.

Not everyone will remember chapel house as it once was. Where the toilets are now was part of the kitchen/dining room of the house and it was in the comer of that room that the water boiler would be kept. That back room was only the caretaker's on loan - each time the Church had a meeting they had to move out so as to allow Sunday school classes and such like things to meet there. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and an open space where the stairs gave access to that floor. There was no bathroom, toilet or any other of the facilities we take for granted in a house. Downstairs, in that back room there was a sink of sorts but of course with only rudimentary facilities and a boiler to boil water for tea making in the chapel and cleaning and all sorts of other things. It must have been a thankless task being chapel caretaker and it only amazes me that the family maintained their loyalty and commitment after they were no longer beholden to the chapel for a house! That's the family you come from! Be proud!"                                                                                                                                                           

Mother and Daughters

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Mother & Daughter

This photograph of Mary Enid Jerman (1908-1997) and Sarah Anne Ingram (1873-1933) was probably taken around 1930 outside Chapel House.


This photograph is likely to have been taken around 1920 and shows (L-R) Sarah Anne Jerman (1873-1933), Mary Enid Jerman (1908-1997) and Edna Jerman (1900-1989).


It is not known when Edward and Sarah Anne Jerman left Chapel House. Sarah, the caretaker, died in 1933 and Edward Jerman at least is known to have spent the last years of his life with some of his children at Tan-y-Gorn, at the foot of the Gorn Road in Llanidloes.  This house continued to be occupied by one of their daughters until the mid 1980s.       



                                                                                                                                                   






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Wedding, 1935

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Edward Jerman (1873-1943)

Otherwise, Edward Jerman is known to have run the Sunday School savings club at the Baptist Chapel for many years.  He is shown here withhis wife and one of his grandchildren.




The Baptist Chapel has continued to be important to the family locally.  These flower girls (Nan Jones, from Colbren, near Neath) and Jean Jerman officiate at the 1935 wedding of Mary Enid Jerman (1908-1997) to John Walter Jones (1904-1979).  Family  photo in my possession.  JW Jones came from a large family at Coelbren, Breconshire.  Their family history is considered here: Dulais Higher.

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 This grave is at Dol Hafren Cemetery, Llanidloes.


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This bench was dedicated to Cllr. J.W. Jones in 1983 and still stands outside the Baptist Chapel.  His widow, Mrs M.E. Jones (nee Jerman) is shown centre, with Mr Russell Jerman behind her, 6th right.  Below, a more recent descendant claims possession in 2010.

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                                                                                  Photo by G. Jones, 2010

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