A History of Saint Peters, Blaina
Extract from 'The Rock', Parish newsletter April 1999

From 1500 (give or take a year or so) from the reign of Henry VIII through that of nineteen monarchs (and one commonwealth and one abdication) up to today's Queen Elizabeth, four buildings have in turn graced this spot as parish church. The original parish of Aberystruth was very much larger that the present parish of Blaina, having included what is now Beaufort, the land to the east of the Ebbw Fawr from its source above Ebbw Vale to what is now Aberbeeg, the whole of the valley of the Ebbw Fach from Aberbeeg right up to Brynmawr and the Tillery Valley. Even so in its early years the parish could only number between 1500 and 200 properties - none of which - apart from the church - was of any great size.

The first church was built sometime between 1495 and 1505. In his "History of Aberystruth" which was published in 1779, Edmund Jones mentions much heated argument as to where the church should be built. A site on what was known as the Beacon Mountain ( the Arrael Mountain) was first chosen but after considerable labour in clearing it was declared unsuitable for various reasons. The second favoured site was in the Tillery Valley but was eventually seen to be too far away from "the centre of things". (Remember, in those days the parish being a manor of the Lordship of Abergavenny and before having a church of its own came under the care of Lanwenarth Parish, Govilon, so the general outlook would be towards Abergavenny and not Newport). It was also though by some that the priest of that time tried to "push" the Tillery site as it would give him less distance to travel when he served lower down - probably at St., Illtyd's. This would have turned some parishioners against the site anyway - even this authority was sometimes disliked! However, in the end a site in the middle of the parish was chosen - the present site.

This first St. Peter's, being built about 500 years ago, is described by Edmund Jones in his book - when it was already nearly 300 years old -

"It is a large edifice, double roofed with a row of arched stone pillars through the middle going from east to west. It was built with a place for the Popish Confession in the south side wall, which is now prudently filled: a stone porch to contain Holy water to sprinkle people...and a stone font for baptism and a painted glass windows in the east end of the church. The tower is large and of a considerable height, yet hath but two small tintinabulum bells for the church bell uses. It is surrounded with large yew trees, which together with the largeness of the building make it a notable sight both near at hand and at a distance; tho the tree are manifestly in decay"
Archdeacon Coxe in his "Tour of Monmouthshire" published in 1801 added to this by referring to the church as:
"A handsome Gothic building with a square tower which is particularly striking from its sequesters situation and singular appearance; the outside of the body and chancel with the lower part of the tower and battlements are whitened; the reaming part of the tower is hwen stone uncoloured. Over the Communion Table is a whimsical group carved in wood and painted - tow angles are represented sounding brazen trumpets and between them a clergyman in his robes holding an enormous trumpet in his hands as if fatigues with blowing"
The second St. Peter's was seemingly a rather mean affair. It was built in 1827 and lasted until 1853 when it was destroyed by fire which also saw the end of most of the yew trees - the remains or one only surviving into the 1930's.

With the coming of the industry and the increase of population a new and larger church was needed and the third St. Peters - and largest - was opened for public worship on July 12th 1857. This served the parish until coal mine workings undermined the foundations forcing its closure and eventual demolition.

The present St. Peters was dedicated to the worship of God on ( date tbs. ) and although as a building it is not likely to last the 300 odd years of the first, we still look forward with confidence that a St. Peters will be here at the end of the next half millennium.