Quakers of Wales
Manuscript by Rowland Ellis
In the book, "Welsh Settlers Of Pennsylvania", are found genealogical notes and lineage charts
relating to nearly 300 families, in addition to many unmarried persons, who removed from Wales
to Pennsylvania, principally between 1682-1700, representing a total of about 2,000 individuals of
the first generation in the Province of Pennsylvania, bearing the surnames :
Andrews, Arthur, Bevan, (Royal descent), Cadwalader, Cook, Cooper, Corbet,
(Chandler), Corne, David, Davis, Davies, Edward (s), Ellis (Royal descent), Evan
(s), Foulke, Gibbons, Griffith, Hardyman, Harry, Haverd, Hayes, Hent, Howell,
Hugh, Hughes, Humphreys, Iddings, James, Jarmon, Jenkins, John, Jones,
Kinsey, Lewis (sub Ellis Lewis & Wm Lewis), Lloyd, Martin, Matthews,
Meridith, Miles, Moore, Morgan, Morris, Mortimer, Oliver, Orme, Owen,
Painter, Pardo, Parry, Peter, Philips, Powell, Price, Pritchard, Pugh, Rees,
Rhydderch, Rhytherrach, Rice, Richard (s), Rider, Roberts, Rothers, Rowland,
Thomas, Tudor, Samuel, Scourfield, Smith, Walker, Walter, Watkins, Whelan,
Williams, Wisdom, Wynn, and others.
***Those in Blue are found as forefathers of either Eytchison or Humphries, or both***
Copyright ©1997-1998. All Rights Reserved, Last Updated on 6 Dec 1997 by Georgene Humphries
The Friends (Quakers) Of Montgomeryshire, Wales In The Heroic Age
The substance of this article was delivered in a lecture to the P Club at Llanidloes on 8 March
1986. The Chairman was Major E. H. C. Davies.
(Compiled for Webpage by Georgene Humphries)
By GERAINT H. JENKINS
The period in Wales, from 1660 to 1689 has rightly been called 'The Heroic Age of Dissent ',
During these in caves, barns and stables. Catholic priests were hanged, drawn and quartered, and
Quakers were cruelly beaten and left to rot in stinking holes called prisons. Those who had sought
to turn the world upside down during the revolutionary years (British) found themselves forced
on to the defensive and obliged to come to terms with the considerable hostility and resentment of
their political enemies years of bitter persecution and harassment, dissenting ministers worshipped
with their beleaguered flocks. They did so with rare courage and forbearance, so much so that
images of their sufferings linger long in the mind.
In Fleet prison in London, Vavasor Powell, the most dynamic and restless of Puritan saints,
continued to chirp like a bird and sing raucously 'A Roundhead I will be. Who can forget the
bravery of Elizabeth Lloyd of Dolobran in forsaking her son of four months in order to join her
husband Charles in Welshpools version of Newgate, in February 1663?2 Similarly, it is hard not to
admire the stubborn Peter Price, a doughty octogenarian who languished in Presteigne prison and
proudly declared to all and sundry that he had not paid tithes for over forty years. Here, indeed,
were enormously sincere and courageous people who had deliberately chosen 'to suffer affliction
with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
There were few churchmen in Restoration Montgomeryshire who were prepared to grant liberty
to tender consciences. The spirit of vengeance was abroad in Wales after 1660, and landowners
and churchmen were determined to launch and sustain a witch-hunt against erstwhile radicals,
republicans and king-killers. No royalist had forgotten that electrifying event on 30 January 1649
when King Charles I had been publicly executed outside Inigo Joness splendid Banqueting House
in Whitehall. In the words of Huw Morys, Waless premier bard, that was 'the coldest day for the
kingdom. Puritan gospellars ejected Anglican clergymen from their livings and governed Wales
with pikes and muskets were viewed with hatred and suspicion. The republic of the 1650s had
been 'a monster without a head, and there is no doubt that sectarian agitation and the use of the
sword had alienated the propertied classes and provoked a powerful conservative reaction which
led to the return of the 'Merry Monarch in May 1660. Nursing bitter memories, loyalists in
mid-Wales were determined to pay off old scores. As Joshua Thomas, the fine eighteenth-century
Baptist historian, said: 'the rapacious wolves fell upon Welsh flocks in1660.
Few people suffered so much and so bravely over the next generation as did the Friends of
Montgomeryshire. A purge was launched by a frightened government, and the dogged
- N.LW. MS.366A, p.9.
- Friends House Library, Lloyd MSS. 1/1.1/16. Letters of Charles Lloyd 11, no. 21.
- British Library, Harleian MS.6207.
- Richard Davies, An A of the Convincement, E, Services and Travels of Richard Davies
(London. 1710), p. 86.
- David Jenkins, Bywyd a Owaith Huw Morys, Pontytmeibion (1622.1709) (unpublished
University of Wales MA. Thesis , 1948), pg 56.
- Rowland Watkyns Flamma Sine Fumo (1662), ed. Paul C. Davies (Cardiff, 1968). p.
9.!Joshua Thomas, Hanesy Bedyddwyr (Carmarthen. 1778). p. 134.
Refusal of Friends to swear the Oath of Allegiance and pay tithes brought them into direct conflict
with established authority. The iniquitous Quaker Act of 1662 was especially damaging to Friends
hopes for the future since it prohibited them from meeting together to worship and threatened
those who offended thrice with transportation. Similarly, the Conventicle Act of 1664 was
deliberately designed to cut the roots of a movement like Quakerism. From the spring of 1660
onwards, however, Montgomeryshire Friends faced considerable hostility with cheerful good h
and astonishing courage. By November, eight Friends were languishing in Welshpools 'old Crib, a
wretched hovel in the hands of a foul-tempered and hard-hearted gaoler. Friends were forced to
sleep on wet straw or cold floors, and were periodically showered with urine and excrement
falling from a chamber above where common felons were housed. Like many of their brethren
elsewhere in England and Wales, they froze during the cold months of winter and sweated
profusely on hot summer days.
When George Fox, the principal leader of the movement, was incarcerated in Scarborough prison
rain poured in through open windows and on to his bed: 'my body was numbed with cold, he
wrote, 'and my fingers swelled, that one was grown as big as two." Possibly as many as 450
Friends died in prison during the reign of. Charles II. Mercifully, however, only five died in Wales,
three of whom were Montgomeryshire men.
The first to perish was Edward Evans who, with his wife Katherine, and William and Margaret
Lewis, had been removed from their homes by local justices and thrust into prison in December
1662 for refusing to swear the Oath of Allegiance. Evans, who was a tender man and a father of
many children, failed to cope with the filth and dampness of I the prison and died eighteen months
later. His fellow-sufferers remained under lock and key for five years. In 1665, Humphrey Wilson,
who had been incarcerated with six fellow Friends three years earlier, died 'of a Distemper
contracted thru the coldness and u of the place. The third Friend to die was Thomas Hammond of
the parish of Montgomery. He had been gaoled for non-payment of tithes at the suit of Lord
Cherbury and Roger Jones, vicar of Berriew and Montgomery. During his confinement Hammond
fell sick and pleaded to be released. His cries went unheeded, however, and he died in January
1674, leaving behind him a widow and four children."
Unlike most of their fellow Dissenters, Friends made no effort to conceal their evangelizing
activities or evade the rigours of the law. They were more liable than most, therefore, to be seized
by bullying constables and beaten without mercy. Armed posses apprehended itinerant Quakers
and left them to rot in overpopulated cells and dungeons. Those who publicly and faithfully
maintained their testimony against tithes, oaths and. carnal weapons lived in constant peril. In
1660, soldiers armed with swords and staves burst into a meeting in Radnorshire, abused Friends,
and 'one of them with his Sword struck a Friend on the Head, and cut his Hat almost through. In
August 1660 groups of Quakers in Merioneth, many of them clad only in shirts and petticoats,
were dragged from their beds by constables and driven, barefoot, to Bala. Many Children of the
- Friends House Library. Great Book of Sufferings, vol. 2, f. 15.
- Michael R. Watts. Vie Dissenters (Oxford, 1978). p. 236. Great Book of Sufferings. Vol. 2, f.
15; Glamorgan Record Office, Account of Sufferings 1660-65, D/DSF/313.
- oseph Besse. A Collection of Me Sufferings of t People called Quakers (London. 2 vols.,
1753), vol. 1, p. 756.
- Ibid., p. 746.
- ,j. Gwynn Williams. 'The Quakers of Merioneth during she Seventeenth Century ,Journal of
the Merioneth Historical and
- Record Society. VIII (1978). P. 140.
Light, were pinched, stoned and beaten as they boldly advanced the Quaker cause. Magistrates
enforced financial penalties and grievous forfeitures with great relish, and some judges were
positively barbaric in their attitudes towards Friends. Judge Thomas Walcott publicly warned
Friends in 1676 that their behavior was tantamount to treason and that their menfolk should be
hanged and quartered and their women burned to death. Such dire threats fortified nervous
clergymen and ferreting informers. Robert Sowtrell, a Shrewsbury cooper, terrorized communities
in mid-Wales by informing on Friends and declaring 'that if he should live to the Age of
Methuselah he would continue to be the Quakers Tormentor. When, in 1677, Hugh Wilson, vicar
of Trefeglwys, and Isaac Lloyd, vicar of Llanidloes, informed on John Jarman, a Llanidloes
Friend, constables were summoned and seven Quakers were thrust into prison and five others
were robbed of cattle and horses valued at £27. lOs." Dozens of obstinate Friends in
Montgomeryshire were presented before the Courts of Great Sessions --often in the company of
drunkards, cursers, Sabbath-breakers and common scolds --and charged with offences such as
'absenting themselves from church, 'frequenting conventicles, and for being 'reputed Phanatiques".
Acts of petty malice perpetrated by neighbours were probably harder to bear than the draconian
measures implemented by the authorities. Fear of schism, coupled with the intransigent campaign
against tithes, prompted clergymen to stir up a vigorous anti-Quaker animus. Rondl Davies, vicar
of Meifod, deplored the attempts of the Dolobran family and their proselytes to hoodwink his
parishioners, and in his"Profiad yr Ysprydion, neu Ddatcuddiad Gau Athrawon, a rhybudd iw
gochelyd (1675)" he urged members of his flock to cling to the 'old pure doctrines taught by
Christ and the Apostles and to turn their backs on wily false prophets. Daviess hostility had been
intensified by the fact that his daughter, Prudence, had joined the Quaker conventicle at Meifod
and had fallen in love with Joseph Davies, the local blacksmith and a Quaker. Furious with rage,
Davies waged a personal vendetta with Charles Lloyd of Dolobran, urged William Lloyd, bishop
of St. Asaph, to tighten discipline in Doolobran of both magistracy and ministry, and drew up a
will in which he bequeathed £30 and a pied heifer to his errant daughter on condition she 'shall
forsake ye Quakers meeting, & resort constantly to some Parish church". True love triumphed,
however, for in 1701 Joseph and Prudence were married, and the latter received the princely sum
of one shilling from her fathers state. The haunting fear that sectarians or republicans might u their
swords once more also provoked acts of malice. The corpse of Captain John Williams, Vavasor
Powells righthand man, was dug up shortly after burial by his enemies and was finally laid to rest
by his friends in Williamss own garden. At Llanfihangel Bryn Pabuan in
- R. Williams, Montgomeryshire, Nonconformity: Extracts from Goal Files, ante, XXIV
(1890), pp202, 211, 228-9,231; XXV (1891), pg 51; XXVI (1892), p. 54. In some versions
of this publication the Welsh title page is preceded by an English counterpart, A Tryall of
the Spirits or a Discovery of the False Prophets, and a Caveat to beware of them. Rondl
Davies, Profiadyr Yesprydion (Oxford, 1675), p. 234. For the names of Quakers under
excommunication in the Pdd5ofMeif~ see N.L.W. SA/Misc/1452.
- Richard Davies, op.cit., pp. 201-2; N.L.W. SA/Misc l452; N.L.W. Church in Wales probate
records, diocese of St. Aseph, Rondl Davies, Meifod, 1696.
- G.R 0., D/DSF 379, p. 49.
- Besse, op.cit., p. 756.
- Ibid pp. 753-4.
- Ibid pg. 757,
Breconshire, the body of the daughter of a puritan saint was dug up in the churchyard and
reburied, like a common suicide, at the cross-roads. 22 In 1688 William David of Talgarth,
commonly known in those parts as Y Cwace Coch (the Red Quaker), committed suicide when his
plans to marry a maid were thwarted. According to a note in the parish register, 'the Lord of the
manor" seized on his goods and his body is in Glasbury churchyard near the way as goes to
Aberllynfi where no good Christians are buried.
Although many Quakers, notably Richard Davies of Cloddiau Cochion, had adopted a pacifist
position in the 1650s, the movement itself did not espouse absolute pacifism in all circumstances
until 1661. George Fox and his fellow-leaders had realised that if Quakerism was to survive and
prosper, violent political action had to be renounced in favour of pacifist principles. Friends thus
bound themselves together in fellowship and in the bond of peace. They refused to bear arms,
send substitutes to serve on their behalf, and contribute to the charge of the county militia.
Moreover, they urged others to beat their swords to ploughshares and their spears to pruning
hooks. Friends publicly maintained their testimony against carnal weapons and encouraged their
enemies to lay down their arms and overcome evil with good. The only war which drew them to
the battlefield was 'the Lambs War, the crusade led by Fox, Barclay and Penn against violence,
hostility, fear and war".
When constables and bailiffs came to distrain property and belongings, Friends stood back
passively and watched as cattle, sheep, oxen, horses,. brass pots and pans, pewter dishes, iron bills
and bars, books and bibles were carried away. Richard Davies, the feltmaker, tells us proudly in
his remarkably vivid autobiography that the civil authorities had failed to persuade, cajole or bully
him into enlisting in the army, participating in war or celebrating military victories. Indeed, he
trembled at the thought of being compelled to shed blood and he had the reputation of a man
who, by his very presence and words, could disarm even the fieriest persecutors; During a
meeting held among Friends in Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire, 'an evil minded man aimed the
mouth of a fowling-piece through a window at Davies and swore loudly that if he dared to utter
one more word he would perish. The mouth of the gun happened to bisect two women who were
sitting next to the window. One of them calmly stood up, placed her back firmly against the
muzzle and cried out: 'Fe fyddaf I farw fy hun gyntaf (I will die myself first). This anecdote not
only reveals the hypnotic influence which Richard Davies exercised over his followers but also the
extent to which rank and file members of the movement were committed to changing society by
peaceable means. Sustained by a strong collective identity, their common experience and
sufferings as a persecuted minority, and their determination to suffer passively for their faith,
Montgomeryshire Friends endured each adversity which befell them with remarkable fortitude and
Although Friends lived in a climate of fear and uncertainty, it needs to be stressed that the
application of the Clarendon Code varied in both incidence and severity. Much depended on the
predilections of bishops, clergymen and magistrates, and it was usually during times of political
crisis like the Popish Plot (1678) or the Rye House Plot (1683) that
- Thomas Richards, Wales under the Penal ?Code 1662-1687 7(London 1925), p. 21.
- R. W. McDonald, 'The Parish Registers of Wales, National Library of Wales Journal, XIX
(1975.6), p. 424.
- See Geraint H. Jenkins, ~The Early Peace Testimony in Wales, Llafur, 4 (1985), pp. 10-19.
- Richard Davies, op.cic., pp. 64, 66.
the authorities were moved to apply the full rigours of the law. At other times persecution was
fitful. It was within the powers of gaolers to soften the rough edges of the law by permitting
periods of parole. Friends were allowed from time to time to visit their families or fulfil
long-standing preaching engagements. Richard Davies was allowed to come and go relatively
freely, to attend local conventicles, and even to travel as far afield as London and Bristol. From
May 1663 onwards, Charles Lloyd of Dolobran and his wife were granted permission to be
detained in a house in Welshpool rather than the prison, and their period of parole was extended
to nine years." Brief moments of respite, such as the Kings Declaration of Indulgence in March
1672, also helped to raise morale among Quakers. Some of their leaders were also able to win
concessions from local dignitaries: Richard Davies was bold, enough to interrupt a bowling match
involving the portly Lord Herbert of Cherbury in order to plead successfully on behalf of his
detained colleagues. Providentially he also fortified their belief that the Lord was with His people:
when David Maurice, a brutal magistrate of Pen-y-bont, was thrown by his horse into the icy
waters of the Tanat river and drowned, Richard Davies drew the appropriate conclusion--they
that trust in the Lord shall not be confounded. Such providences helped to sustain Friends during
times of trial and tribulation, and also served to weaken the claims of Anglican diehards that a
national, established church conformed best to the wishes of God. During the yearly Meeting of
Welsh Friends, held here in Llanidloes during Easter week in 1701, Richard Davies recalled the
uplifting effects of providential mercies during the heroic age:
'Oh the Remmbrance of his present & former Goodness unto us, & to his people, boweth the
spirits of a Remnant before him, the height & the depth of his great & unchangeable Love,
who can Comprehend it, but those that dwell in humility are in a measure sensible of it.
The steadfast witness maintained by Montgomeryshire Friends gained strength from the
knowledge that 'the God of Jacob hath ordained this Building to stand. It enabled them to
persevere and survive in the face of almost impossible odds.
Who, then, were these brave Montgomeryshire Friends? What sort of people were they? It is clear
that Quakerism could not have prospered without the patronage and support of affluent gentry
families, those whom Bishop William Lucy liked to call men with 'great purses. The inspiration of
the cause in Montgorneryshire was the Lloyd family of Dolobran, notably Charles Lloyd
11(1637-98)." Even as a young boy, religion had Intrigued Charles Lloyd, and his sensitive mind
and questioning personality led him on a ceaseless search for truth. He probably acquired a basic
knowledge of Quaker ideas at Oxford, but on his return to his native county he was thrown into
agonizing depths of Spiritual confusion. Like many seekers during the Commonwealth years, he
refused to accept the exclusive claims of either church or sect. It was not until November 1662
Richard Davies, op.cit., pp. 95-7. When Lord Herbert enquired who Davies was he was told
'A Quaker, and Haberdasher of Hats, so which Herbert replied swiftly,
Oh! I thought he was such a One, he keeps his Hat so fast upon the block .
Ibid., p. 187.
G.R.O. D/DSF/2, p. 523
Besse .op.cit., p. 761.
T. Richards op.cit., p. 32.
"The Standard work on the Lloyd family is Humphrey Lloyd. The Quaker Lloyds in the
Industrial Revolution (London, 1975).
- Friends House Library, Lloyd Letters, no. 21.
he espoused the cause of Quakerism, thereby infuriating local landowners and. magistrates.
Nevertheless, Lloyd enjoyed the affection and respect of local Friends note only because he
defended the principles of liberty of conscience and shared prison cells with them but also because
of his selfless and sensitive concern for the welfare of others. His daughter, Elizabeth, described
him as 'handsome, comely and portly; rather tall than of a middle stature, personable every way; of
a fresh, lively countenance and generally cheerful and pleasant, open-hearted, free and charitable;
very compassionate, especially, with such who were under affliction of body or mind. His son,
Charles, spoke glowingly of his love, courtesy, integrity and courage. Essentially a plain man, he
detested hypocrisy, double-dealing and selfishness. 'Lord! lead me in a plain path was a favourite
prayer of his,5 and it is significant that he made extensive use of folk and herbal remedies within
his household. His correspondence is riddled with recipes, nostrums and medicinal advice; among
the ingredients which he used in a variety of cordials and concoctions were comfrey, almonds,
vinegar oil, liquorice juice, plantain, mulberries, aniseed, treacle, knotgrass and yarrow." But it
was his standing and prestige as an affluent gentleman, together with administrative expertise,
which proved to be of inestimable benefit to Quakerism in Montgomeryshire.
Charles Lloyds younger brother, Thomas, was an abler man, at least in an academic sense, and
was both a fluent Latin speaker and a gifted physician. A period in prison for refusing to swear did
not embitter him, for, by all accounts, 'he loved his enemies and prayed for them that despitefully
abused him Thomas Lloyd championed the cause of liberty of conscience and collaborated
intimately with Richard Davies in a bid to shield Friends from the worst rigours of the law. His
decision to join William Penns Holy Christian community in 1683 was a severe blow to the
Quaker cause in Wales, for Lloyd had impressed his antagonists as a learned and courteous
disputant and had inspired his colleagues with his vision of a world in which swords were beaten
into ploughshares. Montgomeryshires loss proved to be Pennsylvanias gain, for Lloyd became one
of the patrician pillars of the Quaker community in Philadelphia, serving as President of the
Provincial Council in 1684 and Deputy-Governor for the Proprietor until 1693. He threw himself
with heroic energy into the struggle to build a New Utopia and on his death, aged fifty five, in
1694, Pennsylvanian Friends spoke glowingly of his humility, godliness and slowness to wrath.
Although the Lloyd of Dolobran protected the interests and welfare of Montgomeryshire Friends,
the most powerful driving force in their ranks was Richard Davies, one of the most valiant and
winsome publishers of truth in Stuart Wales. Davies was a handsome, charming and tender man
who possessed a rare ability to win the undying affection of his followers and to persuade those
who normally expressed adverse opinions about Quakerism to be silent. On the occasion of his
death in 1708, Rowland Owen recalled his 'gravity and grey hairs, his manly presence and lovely
countenance. His idealism persistence and passionate absorption in the movements progress made
him t troublesome figure to those who possessed political and ecclesiastical authority. Sir Leolin
- Friends House Library, Lloyd Letters, no. 21.
- Ibid., no. 19.
- Ibid., nos. 5, 6, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18.
- Richard Williams, Montgomeryshire Worthies (2nd ed. Newtown, 1894), pp. 181-.
- Richard Davies, op.cit., sig.A I 2r.
Jenkins, the Welshborn Secretary of State during Charles IIs reign, found that Davies was no
respecter of persons who poked fun at Friends, while William Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph, found
his patience and stamina sorely tested during lengthy conferences with the Welshpool hatter and
feltmaker. Not many Welshmen of the day would have summoned the courage to tell a prelate
that a Friend discovered more peace in prison than would a bishop in his palace." Daviess
marvellous autobiography, written in relatively tranquil times, is the most vivid portrait we
possess of the trials and tribulations which beset Friends in mid-Wales. His memories are crowded
with dramatic incidents of journeys, meetings and sufferings. Among the most striking passages
are his maltreatment at the hands of his parents and masters, his indecorous ejection from Vavasor
Powells congregation ('there I sat under an ash ree, weeping and mourning), the chagrin of
Welshpool magistrates when he appeared belated before them ('they stood as People in amaze),
and his poignant reunion with Roger Prichard ('when he came to me he took me in his arms and
held me there). The Account is suffused with human glimpses and it provides an invaluable
looking-glass into the soul of a man who dedicated fifty years of his life to advancing the Quaker
cause in Wales. It is no surprise to learn that this Quaker classic had run through eight editions by
It is not so easy, however, to discover much about the social background and life-style of 'the
more obscure men and women who put their lives at peril by joining Quaker conventicles." We
see brief glimpses of them in the Great Book of Sufferings and Quarterly or Monthly
Meetingbooks, but most of them fade into the shadows. It would appear, however, that the
movement drew the bulk of its membership from relatively well-to-do middling sorts within the
community. Members who attended the Meifod conventicle in 1669 were described as
'well-horsed. Yeomen and craftsmen provided the major backbone of the cause in
Montgomeryshire. Those stubborn Friends who were regularly presented before Great Sessions
were invariably farmers, weavers, coopers, feltmakers, gunsmiths, bakers, and their wives. Recent
research into the nature of society in Montgomeryshire in the late Stuart period has revealed that
the median value of the wealth of a sample of eighty yeomen was £85 per annum. They lived in
reasonably comfortable circumstances and their assets and lifestyle generally set them well above
husbandmen. Yeomen were invaluable local administrators and men of influence, and it is
probably fair to say that they were more literate and articulate than husbandmen, cottagers and the
labouring poor. But although farmers and craftsmen (together with their wives) were the most
prominent and reliable members, there was also a place for the poorer sorts, Robert and Hannah
Evans, and Mary, Rebecca and Ann Hamon of Montgomery were described as 'mean persons who
'live in two small houses... remote from the town."Even so, we need always to remember that
Quakerism was a movement for the godly few: although the Compton Census of 1676 grossly
underestimated the strength of Dissent (the total number of Dissenters in Montgomeryshire was
234), it is dear that Friends numbered considerably less than 1 per cent of the population of the
- For the background, see Man Cole, 'The Social Origins of the Early Friends, Journal of the
Friends Historical Society, XLVIII (1957) and Barry Reay, 'The Social Origins of Early
Quakerism, Journal of Interdisciplinary History. XI (1980).
- 'Lambeth Palace MS.639, f. 139 a-b.
- David Jenkins, 'The Population, Society and Economy of Late Stuart Montgomeryshire
c.1660-1720 (unpublished University of Wales Ph.D. thesis, 1985). p. 84.
- Richard Williams, 'Montgomeryshire Nonconformity. op. cit., XXVI (1892). p. 71.
In the last resort, therefore, their significance lies not in their numbers but in their attempt to
propagate radical ideas and their capacity to instill suspicion and fear in the minds of the
population at large.
At least until the passing of the Toleration Act in 1689, Friends were considered by the authorities
to be men and women 'of dangerous principles. Quakers were believed to be the most radical
survivors of the 'late wretched times and they were associated in the public mind with disloyalty to
the Crown." Moreover, many Churchmen were convinced that believers in the inner light were as
great a threat to the well-being of the Church as they were to the social and political fabric. The
noxious tenets of Friends were deemed capable of undermining everything which had been
achieved in the name of the Protestant faith since the early sixteenth century. In proclaiming the
possibility of salvation for all, rejecting conventional notions about the Trinity, and elevating the
doctrine of the inner light above all else, Friends advanced highly radical and unorthodox attitudes
towards existing ecclesiastical values. They cast doubt on the primacy of the Scriptures, poured
scorn on the concept of a visible Established Church, and sought to undermine the powers of
ministers and magistrates. By refusing to pay tithes, church rates and levies, defying the legal
requirement to take the oath of allegiance or swear oaths, and meeting in unlawful conventicles,
Friends left themselves exposed to the wrath of the authorities and to the possibility of
imprisonment, fines and ruinous forfeitures. Some of their most distinctive social habits offended
the sensibilities of landowners and clergymen. In the presence of superiors they refused to
recognize titles, remove their hats or bow courteously. Their use of the egalitarian (thee) and lithe
(thou) defied contemporary modes of discourse and set ~ the teeth of their well-born superiors on
edge. Similarly, by wearing simple, plain clothing, they seemed to threaten traditional conventions
of social distinction. Nor were the pillars of society impressed by the Quakers penchant for
quaking and trembling in public, or such bizarre convulsions seemed to indicate the presence of
wicked spirits rather than the workings of the Holy Spirit. For all these reasons, men of property
in Montgomeryshire were convinced that Quakerism was a tainted faith espoused by fanatics
whose aim was to demolish cherished social values and conventions. The horror and dread which
thee doctrines of 'Gods despised people aroused cast their dark shadows across the pages of:
Rondl Daviess Profiadyr Ysprydion (1675 a work which was sold widely in Llanfyllin, Newtown,
Oswestry and Welshpool and it is no exaggeration to describe Quakers as the Bolsheviks of their
Although the followers of George Fox in Montgomeryshire bound themselves together in sweet
fellowship and dreamed of spreading their ideology among all social groups, their hopes were
thwarted at every turn. First of all, the cumulative effects of persecution and harassment took
their toll, for there was a limit even to the fortitude and patience of Montgomeryshire Friends.
The prospect of bloody noses and bruised bodies was hard1y inviting to itinerant evangelists,
many sufferers were left to rot in foul, damp prisons for several months and even years, and those
who might otherwise have found the Quaker faith attractive were deterred from entering its folds.
As long as church and state authorities were prepared to implement harsh and repressive measures
in order to protect. the political and religious settlement, there was little likelihood that thousands
of peoples would rally to the Quaker cause. Although, as we have seen, persecution under the
- "See Barry Reay, The Quakers and the English Revolution (London, 1985).
- "Geraint H. Jenkins, Literature, Religion and Society in Wales 1660-1 730 (Cardiff, 1978), pp.
Clarendon Code varied in severity, Quakerism found it hard enough to hold on to its own
members let alone poach from other flocks. The 'Lambs War" was a long and disgusting battle.
Secondly, the movement suffered severe losses when many members, troubled by the nightmarish
prospect of further severe repression in the early 1680s, set their hearts on seeking asylum.
William Penns New Jerusalem across the Atlantic.
In May 1681 a dozen Welsh Quaker leaders, including Charles Lloyd of Dolobran and Richard
Davies, were interviewed by Penn in London, as a result of which seven Welsh companies were
formed and 30,000 acres of 'good and fruitful land was bought, mainly in the Haverford, Merion
and Radnor counties on the west side of the Schuylkill river and to the north west of
Philadelphia. Acting as trustees or agents for prospective settlers, Richard Davies purchased
5,000 acres, and Charles Lloyd and Margaret Davies a further 5,000 acres. Charles Lloyd
transferred his portion of 2,500 acres to his brother Thomas, and the parcels of land purchased by
Davies and Lloyd were conveyed largely to those small gentlemen, yeomen, widows and
husbandmen who were convinced that the fertile soils and abundant crops of Pennsylvania were
likely to prove far more profitable than the more rugged and unfruitful soils of mid-Wales. The
overwhelming majority of Quaker emigrants from Montgomeryshire after 1682 were yeomen,
drawn chiefly from the parishes of Hirnant, Llangurig, Llanwddyn, Machynlleth and Meifod."
Captivated by William Penns bold and imaginative scheme, irresistibly tempted by the prospect of
greater wealth, and spurred on by the challenge of helping to build a heavenly kingdom on earth,
these people were prepared to risk the hazards of a stormy, sixweek journey across the Atlantic.
The economic motive was clearly critical: for the modest sum of £20, a man could take his wife,
two children and a servant, and expect to receive 500 acres of land on his arrival. America offered
rewards which might provide them with greater dignity and status as well as wealth.
Thomas Ellis of Is Cregennan in Merioneth, believed that critics of Penn s scheme should 'not be
offended at the Lords opening a door of mercy to thousands in England. Especially in Wales and
other nations who had no estates either for themselves or children. But the departure of these
valiant men and women men of independence and backbone, men of vision, and energy -was a
loss which the Quaker cause in Montgomeryshire could ill afford. Many Friends who tore up their
roots did so with grave misgivings, and it is to the credit of crusaders like Richard Davies and
John ap John that they resisted the temptation to extend their mission in a land where freedom of
conscience was guaranteed. But there is no doubt that the exodus of Quaker families proved a
grievous blow to the cause in Montgomeryshire. Yearly Meeting reports were riddled with
worries about the devastating effects of emigration on local conventicles and it is significant that
by the I690s there was a marked reluctance to grant removal certificates to prospective emigrants
in communities where the number of Friends was dwindling alarmingly. At the Yearly Meeting
held in Rhayader in 1698 it was recorded that 'some friends by their Irregular disorderly &
unsavoury preedings and runneings into Pensilvania, haveing been a Cause of great weakening if
not the totall decayeinge of some meetings in this Dominion
E. R. Morris, 'The Dolobran Family in Religion and Industry in Montgomeryshire, ante,
56(1959-60), p. 131
Glenn, Welsh Founders of Pennsylvania (2 vols, Baltimore, 1911-13), 1, passim.
1972), p. 270.
- P. Brock, Pacifism in Europe to 19.14 (London,
- J.Gwynn Williams, 'The Quakers of Merianeth, Part II, Journ. Merioneth Hist. Soc., VIII
(1979), p. 328.
- T. Jenkins, Hanes Hen Capel Llanuwchllyn (Bala, 1937), p. 28.
of Wales, so that not onely the remnant that is left behind, but likewise the travelling &
ministering Friends in some places meeting with discouragement find Cause of Complaint. It
boded ill for the movement that both an experienced 'publisher of truth like Richard Davies and a
comparative newcomer like John Kelsall of Dolobran chose to refer to their brethren as 'the
The third reason for the decline of Quakerism, paradoxically, was the effect of the passing of the
Toleration Act in May 1689. Ever since the return of King Charles II in 1660, Friends had
dreamed of the day when civil and ecclesiastical authorities abandoned their belief in physical and
moral coercion in matters of religion. That day dawned with, the coming of toleration. Although
Friends still carried badges of inferiority --they were excluded from municipal government, offices
under the Crown, and the universities ...at least they were free to advance their cause publicly, to
hold services in meetinghouses behind unlocked doors, and to plan for the future. The persecuting
spirit of old enemies, as the literature published by Ellis Wynne and Theophilus Evans reveals,"
had not entirely vanished, but the opportunity to launch a vigorous campaign of evangelization
now presented itself. Friends in Montgomeryshire, however, failed to take up the challenge.
Although some modest growth in numbers was achieved for perhaps two decades after 1689," the
longterm trends pointed towards decline. As Quakerism experienced the process of transition
from a sect to a church, the crusading zeal and enthusiasm which had been a major characteristic
of the first generation of believers were lost. During the heroic age, Montgomeryshire Friends had
thrived on sectarian debate, persecution and martyrdom, but with the coming of calmer days they
lapsed into quietism and introspection.
John Kelsall, the Londonborn orphan who was appointed schoolmaster at Dolobran meetinghouse
in 1701, was so troubled by the effects of the 'peace and ease which Friends enjoyed that he
wistfully recalled the harassment, imprisonments and fines of the Restoration period." Two days
after the burial of her father, Richard Davies, in 1708, Tace Davies confessed that 'it is, as to the
outward, an easier way now, to what our Ancients had it From time to time, of course, the old
adrenalin still flowed whenever Quakers gathered together in large numbers, but the general trend
was for them to withdraw into their tents.
To some extent, the introspection and quietism of the movement in the past Toleration period
were symptoms of its organizational structure. At the instigation of Richard Davies, the Yearly
Meeting for Wales (including Shropshire) was established in 1681, and this headed a pyramidlike
structure made up of Monthly and Quarterly meetings designed to protect the interests and
welfare of those whom Amos Davies characterized as: "an elect People." In small, tightlynit
groups, meeting in soberlybuilt meetinghouses or private dwellings, Friendsestablished codes of
conduct which guarded them against pollution by the 'world. Every member was expected to
attend meetings of worship in
- GRO., D/DSF/2, p. 515.
- Ibid., p. 523; H. G. Jones, 'John Kelsall: A Study in Religious and Economic History
(unpublished University of
- Wales MA. thesis. 1938), p. 110.
- See Cweledigaetheuy Bardd Cwsg (London. 1703) and Galwedigaeth Ddsfrtfol Ir Crynwyr iw
gwahawdd hwy ddychwelyd i Grist nogaeth (Shrewsbury, 1715).
- Friends House Library, Kelsalls Journal, MS. Vol.S 194/I, p. 67.
- tbid., pp. 215-6.
- Richard Davies, op.cit., sig. A7r.
becoming manner, stand faithful and valiant in Gods cause, train up children in godly conversation
and biblereading, forsake vain customs and fashions, visit one another and provide for the poor,
be just in dealings and punctual in fulfilling engagements, and maintain their testimony against
tithes and church rates. Standards were awesomely high and it is not the least bit surprising that
some members strayed from the straight and narrow. In 1694 the Monthly Meeting at Dolobran
instructed Evan Davies and Thomas Oliver to visit Hugh David of Llanfyllin and 'warn him to
take care of his walking disorderly as becometh a proffessor of Truth, and to keep himself clean in
Llanvilling and else where Similarly, in 1701, a deputation of three was sent --with little success to
warn Oliver Thomas and Humphrey Wynn against drinking and 'disorderly behaviour The
emissaries discovered that the errant members were in no way repentant, and steps were taken to
translate and publish a broadside, by John Kelsalls father, called Testimony against Gaming,
Musick, Dancing, Singing, Swearing and Peoples calling upon God to Damn them (1682)." Five
hundred copies of the Welsh translation were distributed in a bid to reinforce the public
testimonies of Friends against 'sin and Iniquity which so openly reign among us .
Behaviour at meetings also indicated ways in which the nature of Quakerism had changed. Gone
were the days when Friends quaked and trembled, walked naked into churches, and publicized
their dreams and visions. The spontaneity and enthusiasm of the early radicals had been replaced
by silent worship in meeting-houses. Isolated and insulated from the world, Friends found comfort
in meditation and prayer; not for them the tearful sermons of Dissenting preachers or the metrical
Psalms of Edmund P. Their services, as a result, became more formal and disciplined. Not
surprisingly, therefore, members were to be found from time to time in the arms of Morpheus.
John Kelsall used to keep himself awake during meetings at Dolobran by pricking himself with a
pin, though whether he used the same instrument to awaken fellow slumberers we cannot tell.
Clearly, however, the grave, sober behaviour of Friends in Kelsalls day was in marked contrast to
the passionate and often flamboyant deeds of their forebears.
A goodly portion of the business of Monthly and Quarterly Meetings was devoted to ensuring
that clannish marriage customs were observed. The prospective marriages of couples such as John
Pemberton of Birmingham and Elizabeth Lloyd of Dolobran, and Prudence Davies and Joseph
Davies of Meifod were discussed in some detail, and every effort was made to ensure that
partners were thoroughly acquainted with Quaker beliefs and practices. Marriage to 'people of the
world or 'priestly marriages were deeply frowned upon and were the cause of great pain and
unease. 'Many eyes will be upon thee unawares to thy self, some for good and some for evil was
Charles Lloyd IIs warning to his daughter Elizabeth. Those who disobeyed and were married by
Anglican priests were disowned. In 1703 the Monthly Meeting at Dolobran instructed Robert
Griffith and Richard Lewis to 'speak with Katherine the wife of Oliver Thomas . . . and let her
understand how she has been a trouble & grief to Ffriends in going to be marryed by the
- G.R.O. D/DSF/379, p. 15.
- Ibid pp. 56, 59.
- lbid., p. 66.
- Geraint H. Jenkins, 'Quaker and anti-Quaker literature in Welsh from the Restoration to
Methodism, Welsh History
- Review, 7 (1975), p. 413.
- H. G. Jones, op.cit., p. 77.
- Lloyd Letters, no. II.
Priest. It proved increasingly difficult to persuade young people to shun relationships with
non-members and it was a sign of the times when Richard Daviess grand-daughter 'went to the
priest for a husband and was disowned."
As Quaker energies became introverted, members of Monthly Meetings became increasingly
absorbed in more mundane matters such as repairs to burial grounds, disagreements over
property, wills or debts, and the keeping of accounts. With great compassion, Friends took on the
responsibility of the material welfare of poor brethren, especially those who were victims of
economic distress or bereavement. Sums of money were regularly collected for the relief of
penurious Friends, Through the good offices of leading Friends in Merioneth, Montgomeryshire
and Shropshire, Mordecai Moore, the orphan son of Richard Moore of Shrewsbury, was bound
for seven years as an apprentice barber surgeon to Thomas Wynne of Caerwys in April 1676. The
sum of £10 was paid in advance to Wynne, with the promise of a further advance of £4 and
another instalment of £8 or £9 in due course." The investment bore unexpected fruit which
brought great joy to Montgomeryshire Friends, for Moore subsequently emigrated to
Pennsylvania and married Deborah, daughter of Thomas Lloyd, formerly of Dolobran. Poor
widows were also offered assistance during periods of hardship: in September 1705 Thomas
Oliver and John Roberts visited Mary Rowlands of Hirnant to advise her about 'the properest
method in her husbandry." Since they had no paid ministers to support, Friends were able to use
their funds to help the sick, the aged and the disabled, to arrange apprenticeships, and encourage
the development of new agricultural techniques. The aim, as Charles Lloyd II declared, was to be
of 'mutual comfort and help." But by turning inwards into its own tiny world, Quakerism turned
its back on the opportunity to win new recruits in substantial numbers.
Fourthly, the Quaker movement never truly recovered its former dynamism and appeal following
the death of its principal crusaders. The period after 1688 witnessed the death of many
outstanding leaders in the annals of Welsh and English Dissent. Stephen Hughes and John Bunyan
died in 1688, George Fox, Richard Baxter and Charles Edwards in 1691, John ap John in 1697,
Charles Lloyd in 1698 and Richard Davies in 1708. The movement could ill afford to lose men of
such experience, fortitude and conviction, and it became clear with each passing year that their
successors were not cast in the same mould, The new generation of Montgomeryshire Quakers
was led by placid, efficient men who lacked either the desire or the ability to win over the
unconverted. John Kelsall was. a pious, bookish man, punctilious and industrious to a fault, but
hardly a ball of fire, His melancholy nature prompted Jonathan Burnyeat to urge him to 'have a
care of falling too low as unto the pit of Despair". Davies, clerk of the Mathrafal forge and clerk
of the Yearly Meeting for ten years, was a meticulous book-keeper who, from time to time urged
members to 'stand in the faith, quitt yourselves like heavenly minded men, be strong
lbid., p. 126.
CR0. D/DSF/320, pp. 20-4.
Geraint H. Jenkins, 'From Ysgeifiog so Pennsylvania: The Rise of Thomas Wynne, Quaker
barber-surgeon, Flintshire Historical Society Journal, 28 (1977-8). p. 42.
GRO. DIDSFI379 p. 70.
Lloyd Letters, no. 8.
H. C. Jones, op.cis., p. 85.
stand upon your watch; but he, too, was a shy reserved man. Guided by men of this calibre, there
was little prospect of consolidating, let alone expanding the movement. morale was clearly low,
for Amos Davies moved to Shrewsburv in 1710 and in March 1714 'John Kelsall was appointed
clerk of Dolgun Furnace at Dolgellau. By this time, too, it was coming apparent that Charles
Lloyd III (1662-1748) of Dolobran was a man of straw. unlike his father, who had committed
himself to spiritual affairs with selfless zeal, Charles Lloyd III married into an affluent ironmaster
family and followed the path of economic If-betterment 'with disastrous results. He took grave
risks in a bid to expand his interests the iron industry at Bersham and found himself saddled with a
debt of £16.OO0 by 1727. Friends showed little compassion to bankrupts since those who
incurred heavy debts were seemed to have flouted Pauls command to 'owe no man any thing.
Lloyd had brought same and disgrace to his family and to his fellow Friends in Montgomeryshire,
and members spoke. more in sorrow than anger, of 'the reproach and scandal which his financial
dealings had caused. His fate became a bone of some contention between Montgomeryshire and
Shropshire Friends. By all accounts, Lloyds neighbours were more prepared to forgive than their
colleagues across the border. Eventually, the matter was left the Yearly Meeting of Wales. and at
Rhavader in 1730 Charles Lloyd III was disowned and expelled from the movement for
'unwarrantable and almost unprecedented practices." The Dolobran estate was eventually sold off
in lots, and a crucial chapter in the history of Friends in Montgomeryshire closed.
Finally, those who were born and brought up in the Quaker faith were perhaps not as aware as
their predecessors of the need to propagate their doctrines in the vernacular. It was true that tlte
Yearly Meeting of Welsh Friends, as early as 1682, had pointed out the advantages of publishing
Quaker best-sellers in Welsh and that a campaign had been launched in Llanidloes in 1702 to
collect subscriptions to facilitate the translation of books William Penn. John Crook and William
Chandler But most efforts to multiply printed books in Welsh were thwarted by a dearth of
funds, the absence of qualified translators, and the rigorous process of correction and censorship
which preceded the publication of Quaker literature. The widespread. if pejorative, use of the
word Cwacer other than Crynar reflected the fact that Friends lacked a tradition of expression in
the Welsh language. The meticulous records of Friends, at national, quarterly and monthly level,
were kept in English. Clerks like Amos Davies and John Kelsall spoke little Welsh and although
many Friends from Glamorgan and Monmouthshire preached in Welsh at Dolobran, they were
heavily outnumbered by English speaking 'public Friends from Bristol . Essex. Lancashire,
Lincoln. Scotland and Yorkshire. Indeed, when Ellis? Pugh. author oof Annerch ir Cymru
(published in Philadelphia in 1721). visited Dolobran on his return frpm Pennsylvaia, his testimony
was considered something of a novelty because it was delivered in Welsh. Although most
Montgormeryshire Friends conversed in Welsh, the movement itself never acquired a distinctively
Welsh character, as did Methodism, one of its major rivals in the county from 1738 onwards.
From around the second and third decades of the eightcenth century, Quakerism in
Montgomeryshire began to wither dramatically. In 1724 John Kelsall declared that Dolobran
meeting had 'gone very thin & small and Truth at a very low Ebb amongst 'Zeal and Charity, he
continued. 'are scarce to be found, few seek to be acquainted the inward and secret exercise of
Truth. but people are willing to rub on in a cold form and some scarcely keep up that it self." In
1715 there were only twenty-four Quaker congregations in Wales as a whole, and each decade
henceforward witnessed an increase of Quaker deaths over births, One striking index of the
decline in numbers and zeal is record of sufferings in Montgomeryshire on account of tithes. In
1691, fifteen men and women from the parishes of Guilsfield, Hirnant, Llanwddyn, Chirbury and
Meifod were robbed of barley, corn, flax, geese, hay, hemp. lambs, oats and wheat in lieu of tithes
worth £21 .4s.6d. By 1780 the only sufferer in the county was John Owen of Trefeglw who
forfeited twenty seven lambs and corn valued at LI.4s.Od. Even before the Dolobran estate came
under the hammer, the major focus of the movement had moved from Efyrnwy valley and
Dolobran to the farmhouse of Esgair - goch, near Staylittle, where penurious but persevering John
Goodwin and his wife strove valiantly to save Quakers from extinction." Episcopal reports reveal
that pockets of Friends were still to be found the mid-eighteenth century at Esgair-goch,
Trefeglwys, Llanidloes, Llanwddyn and Meifod, but the signs of spiritual ebb and apathy were
plain to see. When, in 1769. Montgomery Monthly Meeting was amalgamated with that of
Merioneth it was done, one suspects, in order to avoid embarrassment. And the fact that
non-Quakers could afford either to be courteous to Friends or to ignore them reveals that they
had shrunk to a mere shadow of their former selves. Elsewhere, the situation was scarcely more
encouragir when John Griffith returned from Pennsylvania to his native Radnorshire in 1779.
'found things very low there and Sarah Stephenson, commenting on Wales, echoed; like words a
year later. By the end of the century the Society of Friends was in a parlous state in Wales and the
Yearly Meeting held at Welshpool in 1797 was the last of its kind.
- KelsaIl MS. vol. S 194/1, pp. 239-40
- M. R. Wjtts. op.cit., p. 269.
- C.R.0. D/DSF/2, pp. 19-20.
- Ibid, p. 407.
- EE R. Morris. 'Quakerism in West Ntonr~omervshir&. ante. 56(1959.60), pp. 45-65.
- N.L.W. Church in Wales Records. SA/QA/I749; B/QA/2 (1749).
- A Journal of the l.ife. Travels, and l.abours ...of John Griffith (London, 1779), pp. 105-6.
- E. R. Morris. Quakerism in West Montgomeryshire. p. 59.
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