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Unitarian Chapel In Aberystwyth

unitarian chapel new street aberystwythThe Unitarian Chapel on the corner of New Street and Castle Street in Aberystwyth was founded in 1906.

The small chapel, which also doubled as a meeting hall was still in use until 2007.

The chapel is now adorned with a plaque courtesy of the Aberystwyth Civic Society detailing some of its history.

One famous worshiper at the chapel David Ivon Jones was also a key figure in the South African civil rights movement and the African National Congress.

Jones was born in 1883 in Aberystwyth and was orphaned at an early age. He was cared for by his grandmother, although she also died when he was a young boy.

Born a Methodist, Jones decided in his teens that he wanted to convert to Unitarianism. As a Unitarian, believing God to be only one person, instead of the holy trinity he was ostracised by the majority of the community. However, he continued to worship on a regular basis at the New Street Chapel.

Eventually Jones decided to leave Mid Wales, to try and escape the rampant tuberculosis epidemic, which ironically killed him on the other side of the world some years later. Firstly he spent 3 years in New Zealand as a rabbit hunter, before moving on to drier climes in South Africa in 1910. He settled in the Orange Free State, along with his brother who had already set up a busy store there. In fact, 4 out of his 5 siblings moved to South Africa from Aberystwyth.

After moving to Johannesburg, Jones was involved in the white miners strikes on 1913, which saw huge social upheaval in the Witwatersrand area of the country. He had also by this time joined the Socialist Labour Party of South Africa, becoming an avid socialist in the process.

Soon after the strikes, he became on of the first white people in South Africa to actively promote the equal rights movement for blacks in the country. For this he was imprisoned, and to this day he is still honoured by the African National Congress and seen as some what of a hero.

In 1914 he was elected as head of the Labour Party in South Africa, although he soon defected to form his own organisation the International Socialist League, and was responsible for publishing its weekly newspaper, The International.

In November of 1920, Jones was stricken with severe tuberculosis. The disease caused him to waste away, and he decided to leave South Africa for Russia. Upon arriving in Moscow he was one of the first people ever to translate the works of communist leader Lenin into English.

On April 13th 1924 Jones died in Yalta in Russia, and is buried in Novodevichy Cemetary in the Russian capital Moscow.

He was truly an Aberystwyth revolutionary of the highest order.

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