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A Historical and Biographical Sketch from 1750 to 1888,
With Introduction by Reu. RICHARD ROBERTS,
Ex-President of the Conference.
BRECON : EDWIN POOLE, HIGH STREET.
LONDON : WESLEYAN METHODIST BOOK-!!OOM.
HERBERT C. I. RICH, J.P.,
SENIOR STEWARD OF THE BRECON CIRCUIT,
IN REMEMBRANCE OF A LIFE-LONG LOYALTY TO WESLEY \N
OF VALUABLE SERVICES RENDERED TO THE CIRCUIT
FOR UPWARDS OF FORTY YEARS,
AND OF A FRIENDSHIP WHICH HAS INFLUENCED
THREE YEARS OF HAPPY MINISTERIAL LABOUR AMONG KAI,
AND SINCERE METHODISTS,
THIS LITTLE VOLUME
IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED
THE Town and County of Brecknock occupy no mean position in the
history of the rise and progress of the great Revival of the eighteenth
century. The country embraced within the boundaries of the Brecon Circuit
claims the distinguished honour of having given to Methodism its first
Itinerant Preacher, first Martyr, first College, and its first and greatest
It also gave to Wesleyan Methodism its Pioneer and most illustrious
Missionary ; and further, it contends for the honour of having given it its
English and Welsh periodical literature. Such pretensions, if true, assign
to the Circuit a position inferior to none, for historic associations and
far-reaching consequences. That these pretensions are no vain boasting is
an indisputable fact, and the purpose of this historical and biographical
sketch is to collect, arrange, and preserve these interesting records.
The names of Howel Harris, the Apostle of Wales; of William Seward,
Methodism's proto-martyr ; of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon ; and of
Williams, Pantycelyn, will ever be cherished with devout gratitude by the
Evangelical Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Wesleyan Methodism venerates the name of Thomas Coke, of Brecon,
the founder and administrator of its Foreign Missions ; and if Walter
Churchey influenced Wesley to start the Arminian Magazine, the eccentric
versifier merits a place of honour in the records of our Church.
The rise of Methodism and the neighbourhood of Brecon are so
inseparably associated, that it would be impossible in a historical sketch of
Wesleyan Methodism in the locality to pass unnoticed the central figures
and the principal events of the Revival, consequently the Circuit handbook
will be prefaced by a brief statement of its leading facts.
Many fields have been gleaned in the preparation of this sketch, and the
admirable volumes of Tyerman, Stevens, Etheridge, Williams, and Poole,
The work we have attempted will, we trust, prove in some respect a
worthy monument to the memory of Brecon Methodist Worthies, and a
faithful record of " what work God did in their days, in the times of old."
All that remains to be done is to commit this sketch to the " God of our
fathers," and to express our obligation to all who have kindly aided us in
our work, especially to Messrs. George Butcher, of Glasbury, who first
suggested the idea of the sketch and collected many items of interest, and
D. J. Thomas, Brecon, who rendered invaluable assistance in various ways ;
also to the Rev. James Hanby, Messrs. Hobday, Brecon, and James,
Devynnock, and to the Rev. T. Woolmer, of London, and Miss Rosa M.
Evans, of Hay, for the illustrations.
Brecon, August 25th, 1888.
The Author regrets that a few errors were overlooked in correcting
the proofs, which work had to be done during the busy time of changing
Circuits. The principal mistakes are the following :
Page 32. Read, " Some of them occupy prominent positions among
preachers of peerless pre-eminence in the history of the
Page 39. Read, "denounced by several clergymen."
Page 40. Eead, " assemblies " vice " assembles."
Page 53. Read, "Thomas Trouncer," not " Trouner."
Page 54. Read, "A mother in Israel."
Page 64. Lock Chapel cost 300, not 30.
Page 71. Read, "Chairman," not " Chairman."
Page 73. Read " J. Hanby," not " Hansby."
Page 61. In the account of David Rogers, read, "five years in
English Circuits, died at Darlington in 1824."
Page 98. Read, " faitM ul portraiture," not " faitful.' '
is well to rescue from oblivion some of the less prominent
facts and events connected with the triumphs of Christianity,
and to give them a permanent place in the pages of history.
We may learn many profitable lessons from the less important
incidents in the religious life of a country or its people. We may
behold the working of great and noble principles in toil pursued
amid manifold discouragement and in great obscurity. From
that obscurity, like a river whose source is unknown, there often
flows a perennial stream to bless and enrich a whole continent.
The County of Brecon is small in its area and sparse in its
population. It contains no town whose population exceeds eight
thousand, and only two with more than five thousand. From
this rural Welsh County, there have issued forth streams of
blessing refreshing even now peoples in the four quarters of the
globe. Dr. Coke, born at Brecon, the prince of missionaries,
kindled in his day a missionary fire which has not yet died out,
and around which nations now thankfully gather to feel its sacred
glow. James Stewart Thomas, from Hay, sounded forth for
years the Gospel of God's free grace in Southern Africa, and died
a martyr under the assegai of the assassin while at the post of duty
endeavouring to stay the ravages of a tribal war. Daniel J.
Draper published the good tidings of Salvation in Australasia, and
while on his voyage a second time to the country of his adoption,
went down with the " London" in the stormy Bay of Biscay.
The sacred melodies of Williams, Pantycelyn, are now sung by
worshipping multitudes in America and Australia ; their familiar
strains soothe the solitudes of Welshmen in Africa and India ;
the air of foreign ports often vibrate with the voice of Welsh
sailors singing the favourite songs of their native Zion. Howel
Harris, whose unpremeditated but mighty addresses on sin,
retribution, death, judgment, and eternity, "fell like balls of fire"
on the careless and impenitent multitudes, roused the whole
county from its apathy, and sent forth a mighty wave of religious
influence which has not yet subsided. All these men were
Breconians, to whom the world is indebted for much of the good
that is in it. We are under obligation to the Author for
unearthing so many events of interest in connection with
Breconshire, grouping them together with such taste and beauty,
and holding them up in the light of the living.
128, Alexandria Road,
St. John's Wood, London, N.W.,
I. The Founders of English Methodism Pilgrimages-
Professors Lecky and Green on "Methodism" Origin of
Methodism Voltaire's Verdict England's Kedemption A
Coincidence " Holy Club" Oxford Methodists John
Wesley "Wesley Family" Georgia Macaulay's
opinion of Wesley Death. Charles Wesley Early
Life Death. George Whitfield At Gloucester Oxford
Popularity. Page 1
II. The Founders of Welsh Methodism Pre-Methodistic
Wales Griffith Jones Howel Harris Conversion
" Irregularities" Meets Whitfield Rowlands Wesley
Countess of Huntingdon Trevecca Fletcher of Madeley
Daniel Rowlands Howell Davies Progress. 10
III. English Wesleyan Methodism in Wales Introduction
to Brecon Marmaduke Gwynne, of Garth Sarah Gwynne
Charles Wesley's children Stations in 1749 Thomas
Taylor Circuits formed Progress. 22
IY. Welsh Wesleyan Methodism Introduction to Brecon.
Jones, Bathafarn 1799 : Welsh Missionaries Dr. Rees's
eulogium Brecon Llangynidr Chapel Comparison. 28
Y. Amalgamation of English and Welsh Methodism-
Formation of Circuits A Forced Union Final Amalga-
YI. The Old Watton Chapel, Brecon A Group of Method-
ist Ark Bearers Hugh Bold John Church William
Gilbert John Watkins Walter Churchey Dr. Powell
1770 " Great Controversy " Eighty-five years ! Review
1774 : Persecution Brecon Grand Jury. 83
YII. Lion Street Chapel, and Dr. Coke Memorial
Schools Erection of Chapel Opening Jubilee "In
Memoriam " Tablets Gifts Organ. DK. COKE MEMORIAL
SCHOOLS : Happy idea Appropriate monument Enthus-
iasm J. Robinson Kay, Esq. Gift to Members of Common
YIII. Llanfaes Chapel " Old Tabernacle " Litigation
Forgotten Baptist Chapel New Chapel Foundation Stone
Opening Services Amalgamation anticipated. 46
IX, Hay Chapel Old Chapel Eynon Beynon William
Seward Martyrdom " Martyr's Grave " Williams,
Pantycelyn Oxford Eoad Chapel Renovation Organ
X. Glasbury Chapel Village Green Ciltwrch Boughrood
Castle Chapel Squire Hargest Poetry " God's Acre "
Renovations Tablet. 55
XI. Talgarth Chapel Talgarth Church Trevecca Memorial
180G Mr. Chilian Chapel erected Renovations. 60
XII. The Lock Chapel Hugh Hughes Llanfrynach Nancy
Williams Lock Opening Services Thomas Aubrey. 63
XIII. Defynnock Chapel Bailie Walter Williams Wes-
ley's visit Joseph Bradford's illness " Davies, Africa "
Chapel erected Subscription list Bright morning
Watti Lloyd Crisis ! Warning ! Original Trustees
Trophy Philip Morgan David Price The Powells
John Downes Renovations "Meditation among the
XI Y. Pwllgloyw Chapel " New Preachers " welcomed
Pantllwyfen Pantycored Coed Memorial Service
A coincidence Prophetic ! 70
XY. Ministers Stationed in the Circuit from 1770 to
1888186 Ministers North Wales Circuit Kington
Builth Brecon. 71
XYI. Eminent Ministers who Travelled in the Circuit
Joseph Pilmoor, first missionary to America Richard
Whatcoat, third bishop of America Episcopal Church
Jesse Lee and Whatcoat Coincidence James Wood
James Buckley First Missionary Meeting Boggard
House Chapel " Assembly of Kings " Mrs. Buckley
Grandchildren Lady Morgan Samuel Wan-en Agita-
tion Court of Chancery "Ten Thousand a Year"
David Rogers E. Anwyl Dr. Dixon Hugh Hughes
Isaac Jenkins Edwin Thorley Richard Roberts. 74
XYII. In Memoriam : Ministers who Died in the Circuit
William Davies David Jones Henry Wilcox F.
Menhinick T. J. Walker. 87
XYIII. Brecon's Gifts to Methodism Dr. Coke: Life and
Labours American Methodism Philip Embury and Bar-
bara Heck Statistics. 90
CONTENTS CONTINUED .
XIX. Brecon's Gifts to Methodism (continued) John
Prickard: Early life Wesley preaching on the Bulwark
Conversion Missionary zeal Death Howel. Harris's
parting words. William Church: Licensed to preach Welsh
Charity School Eetires Mrs. Church's Epitaph in Llan-
faes Letter from Wesley Kev. Henry L. Church. John
Huglies Scholars of Christ College Dr. Coke's great
missionary sermon Wesley's last visit to Brecon First
Welsh Missionaries Hughes's literary productions Horce
Britannica Breton Bible " Eurgrawn Wesleyaidd "
Miscellaneous. Thomas Jones, Glasbury : Godly mother
Ministry. Lewis Jones, Pwllgloyw : Ministry Char-
acter Rest. James Stewart Thomas : Old Methodist
Class-leader Napoleon threatens to invade England
Jonathan Thomas enlists The Missionary Martyr D. J.
Draper : " Wreck of the London " Prophecy Life in
Australia Honours Shipwrecked "In Memoriam."
John Rees : Venerable age. James Surman Cook Bailie
again W. S. BestaWs family. Robert Hasell Killip South
Petherton Glasbury College Honours. 99
XX. Wesley's Visits to Brecon Extracts from Journals
Builth, Llanthew, Clyro, Brecon, Hay, Trevecca Extracts
from Circuit-Book Souvenirs of Wesley : Chalice, Tea-pot,
Sugartongs. Three Letters (1) Wesley to Howel Harris ;
(2) Benson to Churchey ; (3) Coke to Thomas Williams. 118
XXL " Footprints on the Sands of Time." Events of
Interest in the Circuit : Llanthew Feast Giraldus Cam-
brensis Archbishop Baldwin Another Crusade Missions
1876 Eobinson Watson Thomas Cook Conventions :
Glasbury, 1875 ; Hay, 1886. Temperance Holiness Con-
vention People's Services. 120
XXII. Statistics of Methodism 1. Circuit Statistics
Church Members Sunday- School Scholars Day- School
Returns Temperance. 2. General Statistics of Methodism
Methodism is Apostolic Christianity Noble Heritage. 122
XXIII. Supplementary Chapter Preachers Circuit Officials
Trustees Church Office-bearers Sunday- School and
Temperance Workers Day-School Managers Organists,
DR. COKE AND MEMORIAL SCHOOLS.
Wesleyan Methodism in the Brecon Circuit,
THE FOUNDERS OF ENGLISH METHODISM.
" Painted on the eternal wall
The Past shall re-appear." WHITTIEB.
SUPERSTITIOUS and idolatrous pilgrimages are discountenanced
by the Protestant Church, but enlightened regard even rever-
ence for the birthplaces of great men and great movements
is encouraged. Lives of truly great men exert a benefic.ent
influence, and the history of mighty movements inspires the
The country embraced within the boundaries of our Circuit is,
as we have already seen, " surpassing rich " in historic associations
of the great llevival. A sketch of " The Founders of Methodism "
will include the central figures of the movement three illustrious
Englishmen and three illustrious Welshmen.
Preparatory, however, to these biographical and historical
narratives, we should endeavour to understand the moral and
religious condition of England prior to the appearance of these
Professor Lecky, whose history of the eighteenth century is
acknowledged to be unequalled, expresses his deliberate judgment
on the far-reaching results of Methodism, thus : " Although the
career of the elder Pitt, and the splendid victories by land and
sea that were won during his ministry, form unquestionably the
most dazzling episodes in the reign of George II., they must
yield, I think, in real importance to that religious revolution
which shortly before had begun in England by the preaching of
the Wesleys and Whitfield." Professor Green, in his valuable
work on the " History of the English People," corroborates
Mr. Lecky 's verdict : " The Methodists themselves were the least
result of the Methodist revival. Its action upon the Church
broke the lethargy of the clergy. . . But the noblest result of the
religious revival was the steady attempt, which has never ceased
from that day to this, to remedy the guilt, the ignorance, the
physical suffering, the social degradation of the profligate and the
poor." (Telford's Life of Wesley).
The story of the rise and progress of this remarkable
evangelical revival will never cease to fascinate and interest all
readers. Erroneous views of the great Founders of Methodism,
2 WESLEYAN METHODISM IN THE BEECON CIRCUIT.
and, indeed, of the Eevival itself, which once predominated, are
gradually losing ground, and, now, men who love the Lord Jesus
Christ and His Church, devoutly recognise the hand of God in
the great awakening, and rejoice that it did what it did, not only
in the midst of a great nation, but of a great Church. The work
of the Founders of Methodism meant the conversion of England.
It meant a complete change in the religious life of the existing
churches, and the reflex influence of Methodism has been beyond
True, Methodism contravened ecclesiastical precedents and
traditions, but is it not equally true that great religious awaken-
ings ever do this? And, further, is it not true that the age of
passive servility to the presumptions of sacerdotalism and the
decrees of councils approaches its close ? Methodism, like the
Protestant Reformation, liberated the Church of God from fetters,
and assigned to the New Testament supreme pre-eminence and
paramount authority therein. For accomplishing these things
Methodism needs no apology.
Although our church needs no apology, the story of its origin
and development cannot be too often told ; and a biographical
and historical sketch of Brecon Methodists and Methodism will
place us among the historic characters and principal events of the
The Origin of Methodism.
Methodism was a spontaneous adoption of new practical
measures, which the ever-varying condition of society rendered
expedient, and indeed necessary, for the effectiveness of the
Church of Christ in the moral and spiritual regeneration of
The re-action from Puritanism under the Eestoration plunged
England into a state of appalling degeneracy. Iniquity flourished.
Godliness languished. The Court countenanced gross licentious-
ness. England's temple was the theatre. The drama was
demoralising. God's messengers were ridiculed. The Established
Church lapsed into formality and indifference, and the disastrous
moral contagion seriously affected the Nonconformist churches.
In a word, Canon Taylor's painful testimony is corroborated by
every historian, " England had lapsed into virtual heathenism
when Wesley appeared."
Eminent men in the Church of God viewed with the utmost
concern this deplorable declension of morality and religion.
The prospects were dark and unpropitious. England stood on a
fearful precipice. The enemies of the Cross greatly rejoiced.
The triumph of infidelity appeared assured. Voltaire, the
brilliant and versatile Frenchman, after a three year's sojourn
in our country, addressed, on his return to France, a number of
THE ORIGIN OP METHODISM THE HOLY CLUB. 3
his disciples on the subject of " Eeligion." Eeferring to the
prospects of religion in England, he said : " They are so
disgusted in England with that kind of thing, that a new religion,
or an old religion revived, would scarcely make its fortune there."
This was the calm and deliberate verdict of the accomplished
Frenchman, and his words faithfully and unquestionably echoed
the predominant opinion of England itself.
When blatant scepticism triumphantly predicted the overthrow
of religion, and good men mourned the spiritual darkness and
degeneracy, God was equipping and marshalling new forces, not
to establish a "new religion," but to "revive an old religion."
Neither England's intellectual, social, nor religious life gave any
sign of mighty evangelical revival ; on the contrary, the " Watch-
men " looked in vain for the morning. But though Jerusalem
mourned, " The day of her redemption drew nigh." The
saviours of England were not among the valiant veterans of those
days, they were not among the " Watchmen on the walls," they
had "not proved" the armour of the mighty warriors. Far
away from the noise of the battle, a few Oxford students were
being drawn together by a desire for spiritual conversation and
sympathy. Little dreamt the students who sneered at the
devout desire of these young men, of the far-reaching and all-
powerful potentialities of the " Holy Club " ! Who would have
searched among the " Methodists " of Oxford for the herald, the
singer and preacher, and the great central figure of the " old
religion revived " ? and no human wisdom would have looked to
the little hamlet of Trevecca for the Apostle of Wales.
A biographer of John Wesley calls attention to this remarkable
coincidence : that Voltaire and Wesley trod at the same moment
the soil of Britain, and that both, viewing a great nation
corroded by scepticism and blighted by iniquity, formed opinions
of a totally diverse nature. Voltaire lived in England from 1726
to 1729, and towards the end of 1729 he predicted the downfall
of religion. The Holy Club was formed in the years 1728-9, and
in November, 1729, John Wesley became the recognised leader of
the Oxford Methodists.
This brief review of the religious condition of England will
enable the reader to appreciate the motives of the great founders
of Methodism, and to sympathise with them in the difficulties of
their labours. The work reveals the workers, and those who
understand Methodism revere the memory of the Founders.
The Holy Club.
Oxford may justly claim the honour of being " The Birthplace
of Methodism." Reference has been made already to the " Holy
Club," and to the conspicuous part which its three foremost
members occupied in the great Revival. That club was the
THE HOLY CLUB OXFORD METHODISTS.
cradle of Methodism, and a brief account of its origin and
peculiarities will undoubtedly be read with interest.
In the year 1727 John Wesley quitted Oxford to assist
his venerable father in discharging the parochial and pastoral
duties of Epworth, in Lincolnshire. Two years later, at the
earnest solicitation of the rector of his College, he returned to
resume his tutoral duties.
During his absence from the University, his brother Charles
passed through a crisis in his religious life. Longing for
sympathy and guidance, he opened his heart to one or two of
his fellow-students : they resolved to form a little society half
literary, half religious. This association of earnest and devout
young men, bound together by ties of friendship and a common
sense of spiritual wants, sprang up quite spontaneously, and was
not long in becoming a centre of spiritual life and power. The
members agreed to conform to all the rules of their college, and
as it is a rubric that the students should take the sacrament
every Sunday, they began to do so. Ere long a young gentle-
man of Christ Church, struck with the exact regularity of their
lives and studies, said, " Here is a new sect of Methodists sprung
up." The name was quaint, and not inappropriate. On John
Wesley's return, in November, 1729, the young " Methodists "
immediately gathered around him, and he became the recognised
leader. " Methodist " was not the only name given to the
society. The " Reforming Club," the " Godly Club," the " Holy
Club," " Sacramentarians," " Bible Moths," " Supererogation
Men," and " Enthusiasts," were all in use. John Wesley was
called the Curator, or Father of the Holy Club.* To-day the
two names cherished by the Evangelical Church are Methodists
and the Holy Club.
The earliest members of the club were ' ' John Wesley, Fellow
of Lincoln College ; his brother Charles, Student of Christ
Church ; William Morgan, a commoner of Christ Church, the
son of an Irish gentleman ; and Eobert Kirkham, of Merton
College." Many men of excellent virtues were subsequently
added to these, the most eminent of whom unquestionably were
James Hervey and George Whitfield. Tyerman has promised to
publish the story of the Oxford Methodists. What a valuable
contribution to Christian literature !
Speaking of these young students, he says : " William Morgan's
career was brief and painful ; he was the first Methodist who
passed the pearly gates of the Celestial City. Charles Wesley, in
his incomparable hymns, left behind him one of the noblest
6 WESLEYAN METHODISM IN THE BRECON CIRCUIT.
legacies that an uninspired man ever bequeathed to the Christian
Church. George Whitfield was the prince of preachers a
glorious emblem of the apocalyptic angel flying through the
midst of heave a with the good tidings of great joy unto all
people. And James Hervey will be loved and honoured as long
as there are men to appreciate the highest order of Christian
piety and the most mellifluent compositions in the English
language. The history of the Oxford Methodists is not, however,
an unspotted one. . . . But, with all these drawbacks, the
reader is challenged to produce a band of godly friends whose
lives and labours have, upon the whole, issued in such an
amount of blessing to mankind as that which resulted from the
lives and labours of these students, who in 1735 were known as
" Oxford Methodists."
After thus sketching the history of the Holy Club, we come to
the three most prominent names in the great Revival John
and Charles Wesley, and George Whitfield, who may be justly
termed The Founders of English Methodism.
John Wesley, the central figure of the Great Methodist
Eevival, the man " who embodied in himself not this or that side
of the vast movement, but the very movement itself," was born
at Epworth Rectory, in Lincolnshire, on the 17th of June, 1703.
He was a descendant of a long line of illustrious ancestors.
Bartholomew Wesley, his great-grandfather, was the son of Sir
Herbert Wesley, of Westleigh, Devonshire, and Elizabeth de
Wellesley, of Dangan, co. Meath, Ireland. He married the
daughter of Sir Henry Colley, of Kildare. His grand-father,
John Wesley, married the daughter of the Patriarch of Dorchester,
and niece of Fuller, the Church historian. His father, Samuel
Wesley, married Susanah, the daughter of Dr. Samuel Annesley,
" the St. Paul of the Nonconformists." The grand-father of Dr.