Reformation brought many changes to the Vale. The churches
remained but now the service was said in English from the
Book of Common Prayer, and the churches were stripped of
their ornaments, statues and vestments. In later times, with
the upsurge of the reforming puritans, churches were
whitewashed to remove the offense of the "idolatrous" wall
paintings, holy water stoups were smashed, and stone altars
replaced with wooden tables.
It is not known how local people responded to these actions,
but there is little evidence of opposition, and those who
remained faithful to the Roman Faith, as far as we know,
were few indeed. A notable exception was Sir Thomas
Stradling of St.Donats. The Stradling family had a long
tradition of active piety.
In the 14th century Edward Stradling had been one of the
chief patrons of the establishment of Neath Abbey. His son
became a knight of the Sepulchre and later descendants like
William and Harry undertook pilgrimages to the Holy Land and
Three generations later, Thomas, much in favour with Queen
Mary, and appointed by her in 1557 to a commission to
inquire into heresies and seditious books, refused to submit
to Elizabeth's new laws despite a spell in the Tower of
London. Mass continued to be celebrated at St.Donat until
his death. It was he who had built the Lady Chapel and
possibly worshipped there after the main part was used for
"reformed" services. Sadly his son Edward changed his
allegiance, and turned the Lady Chapel into a burial place
for his ancestors.
A centre for "recusants", those who continued to adhere to
the old Faith despite massive penalties, was Penlline. The
manor and castle was owned by the Turbervilles who both
protected those of the old faith and sheltered priests at
the castle. One such was Morgan Clynnog, a missionary priest
in Wales between 1582 and 1619. He was living with Jenkyn
Turberville when in 1596 the house was searched and twelve
recusants were subsequently convicted.
The family stayed loyal to the Roman church for two
centuries, despite such consequences as when in 1650 Anthony
Turberville had two-thirds of his land sequestered to the
Crown for recusancy. It was here that the martyr priest John
Lloyd was arrested, to be followed by his execution in
Cardiff in 1679.
The Turberville family's stand on religion made it possible
for locals to maintain the old Faith. In the 17th century,
William Rees, the older son of Rees David, a substantial
yeoman farmer, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in
France. He was possibly the first priest to be ordained from
the area of our Parish since the Reformation.