Nonconformist Chapels in Wales

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Creative Commons License Text by Robin Drayton, July 2020 ; This work is dedicated to the Public Domain.
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.


Contents

Introduction

I was scheduled to give a talk on this subject at the Geograph meet and AGM at Llandudno in July 2020. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, this meeting did not take place. Rather than waiting with uncertainty for a future opportunity, I have produced this article as a much expanded version of what could be covered in a half hour talk.

Background information

Nonconformist

Nonconformists are members of Protestant religious groups whose predecessors refused to conform to the doctrine, discipline and practices of the established Anglican Church.
Source of quotation and more informationExternal link

Chapels

Early meeting houses or chapels were generally small structures which provided simple accommodation for the local congregation to worship. Some were built after meetings had initially been held in members’ homes or in the upper rooms of public houses; barns or cowsheds were also occasionally converted into suitable religious premises. A common feature was the central position of the pulpit, representing the predominant emphasis on preaching the word of God.
Source of quotation and more informationExternal link

Significant dates




More details about the Clarendon CodeExternal link

Circulating schools

Although not directly related to the subject of Nonconformist Chapels, the circulating schools which were instigated in 1734 by Griffith Jones, the rector of Llanddowror, are said to have been a catalyst for the growth of both Methodism within the Church of England and Nonconformist denominations. Following the death of Griffith Jones, the schools continued under the control of Bridget Bevan, his supporter and benefactor.
SN2514 : St Teilo's Church, Llanddowror by John Lord
Griffith Jones, who was rector of Llanddowror from 1716 till his death in 1761, was the founder of what became known as the Welsh Circulating Schools. There is a large plaque in the church, commemorating him.

He had been ordained in 1708, and soon became known as a powerful preacher of the Gospel, and crowds came from a wide area to hear him. Like the Methodists later on, he would preach in the open air. Like them, he experienced opposition; in 1714 Bishop Ottley complained about his “going about preaching on week days in Churches, Churchyards, and sometimes on the mountains, to hundreds of auditors.”

Convinced that people’s progress in the Christian life was hindered if they could not read the Bible, he decided to do something about the general illiteracy. He appointed and trained schoolteachers who would spend three months in one place, usually in the winter months when farm work was slack, teaching both children and adults to read the Welsh Bible and to learn the Church Catechism. Night schools were held for those who could not attend during the day. At the end of the three months they would move on to another place

The exact date when these Circulating Schools commenced is not known, but in 1737 there were thirty-seven schools with 2,400 scholars. By the time Griffith Jones died it was recorded that 3,495 schools had been set up, with over 158,000 scholars.
by John Lord


SN0827 : Old schoolroom/chapel by ceridwen
This building seems to have had 3 incarnations: first, between 1737 and 1777, as the venue for one of Mrs Bevan's circulating schools, an educational charity for poor children; it then became Tabernacle Chapel (dated 1901)for a breakaway congregation of the original village chapel; now it is a private house.
by ceridwen


SN0538 : College Square, Newport by Richard Law
Known as College Square on account of the fact that the terrace of white cottages in the centre of the image were used as the school and Teacher Training premises for (Madam) Bridget Bevan's Circulating Schools programme in the mid 19th century.
Bridget was born in Llannewydd in 1698, the daughter of the philanthropist John Vaughan, and she used family wealth to support the establishment of a travelling education system known as the Circulating Welsh Charity Schools, moving from village to village and providing an education to the people. This scheme operated very successfully from the 1730s until the mid 1850s, at which point the schools were taken over by the National Society system, effectively the forerunner of modern educational arrangements.
by Richard Law


SM9828 : Gate and path to St Peter's Church by Robin Drayton
A medieval church which has undergone several restorations with a major one between 1870-75.
In the 18th century it housed a Griffiths Jones Circulating School and John Wesley visited the church twice to preach. Circulating schools were held in a particular location for around three months before moving to a new location. Instruction was in Welsh and the purpose was to teach people to read in order to study the Bible and the church Catechism.
by Robin Drayton


SO1306 : Waun-Tysswg Farm by Robin Drayton
An upland farm surrounded by high moorland on three sides.
In 1768 a Welsh circulating school, where adults and children were taught to read in Welsh, was held here.
The small farm in the distance is Cwm-Tysswg.
by Robin Drayton


KML

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