Churches, Chapels & Culture
The Welsh Language
Historically, the language of Beaufort was Welsh. The Reverend Peter Williams' monograph, 'The Story of Carmel', concerning Carmel Congregational Church (chapel) in Beaufort, published in 1965 is useful here. Williams reports that between 1904 and 1906, the change was made to conduct the morning Sunday service in English, whereas previously both the morning and evening services had been in Welsh. From the 1830s until the early 1900s, Beaufort was bilingual with both Welsh and English-language chapels: before the 1830s - and possibly much later - the community was primarily Welsh-speaking. Elements of a Welsh service continued (e.g. in Carmel Chapel) until the 1970s. Amongst its Nonconformist chapels, the Welsh Independent Congregational Chapel 'Carmel' was pre-eminent, rising to national fame under the leadership of Thomas Rees DD (author of History of Protestant Nonconformity in Wales, whose second edition was printed in 1883). According to the 2001 census, 440 residents, or 11.7% of the village's population aged 3 and over can now speak Welsh. This gives Beaufort the highest percentage of Welsh Speakers in Blaenau Gwent.
Carmel Chapel is a Grade II listed building. Built 1865, The architect was Rev. Thomas Thomas of Swansea, who designed several chapels for the Independents, many characterised by a bold Classical facade with a giant arch breaking into the pediment.
Classical facade of rock-faced sandstone with grey ashlar limestone quoins also applied around openings. Slate roof. Pedimental gable broken by central giant arch; ashlar quoins. Within arch is round-arched entry, which has C20 doors. Tripartite ashlar window above with segmental head; round arched lights, very narrow to sides. Above is a large tablet inscribed :-‘Carmel Independent Chapel 1865’.
Outer bays each have a tall round-arched window with simple timber glazing. Ashlar sill-band. West side (facing road) is rendered with five tall round-arched windows set within round-arched recesses: glazing similar to the front. Single storey rear vestry.
Four-sided gallery with long panels set between pilasters: applied grained finish, typical of the 1860s. Gallery stepped down behind pulpit for organ. Gallery has thin iron posts with applied marbled finish. Box pews, some dismantled to rear of ground floor. Serpentine-fronted pulpit of mahogany, with turned balusters in outer bays, and sweeping side stairs. Flat painted ceiling, boarded and ribbed to centre with large central rose. Large pipe organ in gallery behind pulpit.
The Beaufort Male Choir
Originally formed in 1897, are still going strong today with over sixty singers from all over Gwent. They have performed in many prestigious venues all around the world, and are one of the most famous choirs in Wales.
The Beaufort Male Choir, one of the oldest in Wales, was founded at the end of the eighteenth century. Today’s choir was reformed after the Second World War in 1947 and this year we are celebrating sixty years of successful music making. Though times and circumstances have changed, we, like our predecessors still aspire to the highest ideals of male voice singing. However, whereas they placed great emphasis on competition in Eisteddfodau with significant success, we for the past forty years have concentrated exclusively on concert work This allows us greater musical freedom and affords us the opportunity of performing in the principal concert halls through the UK and Europe.
One of the most noticeable changes in perspective has occurred in recent years with the introduction of an international dimension. For in those years the choir has undertaken tours to Germany, Malta, France, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland. In addition, the choir has played host to choirs from Germany, the Netherlands, the United States and Japan. Among the highlights in recent years was the accolade of singing before heads of state at Kensington Palace and also before His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. Annual Concert 2009 with RHYDIAN. Also concerts at La Maison Blance in Oxford and St Mary's Chapel in Westminster.
Under the musical direction of Craig James and Accompanist Margaret Davies, the choir has a varied repertoire ranging from Welsh and English Hymns, spirituals and modern ballads as well as the more traditional male voice works. 2011 Annual concert featured Hayley Westenra. In May 2012 the choir performed at Ebbw Vale with the famous tenor Alfie Boe and performed with Katie Treharne from the West Ends production of Phantom of the Opera in September.
Margaret Davies, the choir's accompanist for 43 years has been named on Her Majesty the Queens New Year’s Honours list, she received the BEM for services to Music and the Community
Two more recent photos of the Beaufort Male Voice choir
The Street Singers of 1926
In 1926, at the height of the Great Depression a number of Beaufort Male Choir members decided to undertake a street singing tour of the West Country to raise money to enable cobblers to buy leather to make shoes for destitute children in Beaufort and the surrounding area. Luckily, the accompanist Irving Davies kept a personal diary of the tour and his account can be read by downloading a PDF file by clicking HERE