James Family Archives
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A Measure of Grace -
Published In Radnorshire Society Transactions
Volume 69, 1999, Pages 8-
by Trevor Macpherson
“And this I declare to all the inhabitants in England and all that dwell upon the earth, that God alone is the Teacher of His people and hath given to everyone a measure of grace, which is the light that comes from Christ.” William Dewsbury, 1655 
The seventeenth century was the most turbulent period in modern British history, and despite its isolation, the history of Radnorshire was shaped by these events. To understand the history of Quakers in the county, we need to appreciate the impact of early Quakers in England. Many individuals from all classes of society coalesced into a religious sect that was determined to change society. During the Interregnum, they were a militant proselytizing movement, yet within a few weeks of the Restoration, they declared their peace testimony; although suffering greater oppression, they never used violence. After the Toleration Act of 1689, Quakers retreated into an exclusive sect and became isolated from the wider community.
George Fox, the acknowledged founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) was born in Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire. His father, a weaver, was churchwarden, in a parish church with a strong Puritan tradition. George was apprenticed to a local shoemaker who was also a cattle and sheep dealer. At the age of nineteen, George became troubled with the state of society, he left his job and family and traveled throughout England, lodging with people who shared his concern. He read his Bible diligently, but could not accept the authority of the Scriptures, nor could he accept the teachings of the established church:
“But as I had forsaken all the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those called the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, oh then, I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition’, and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy.”
In 1652, George met with the Seekers in Westmoreland, they were Puritans, and some still attended their parish church, but others separated and worshiped in their own chapel. He also met Margaret, wife of Thomas Fell, landowner, circuit judge and Member of Parliament; despite his early doubts, Judge Fell allowed his home, Swarthmoor Hall, to be used by this new sect; he never became a Quaker, but he did protect them in the early years.
After these meetings, some of the Seekers in Westmoreland and the neighbouring counties were recruited to speak the Truth in towns and villages in England and Wales. Known as the Valiant Sixty, one of them, Thomas Holmes, visited Llananno in 1654 and was able to convince some parishioners, probably because of the Puritan tradition in the area. In 1641, some parishioners in Llanbister had petitioned Sir Robert Harley of Brampton Bryan, a Puritan, for a preacher who could speak Welsh. Holmes reported: but most are Welsh, and some cannot understand English. Thomas Holmes died 2nd August 1666, age 39, and is buried at Friends Burial Ground, Pontymoil.
Members of the Valiant Sixty were zealous radicals, intent on transforming the nation and they met many former soldiers who had become disenchanted with conditions in the Commonwealth. Some had belonged to radical groups now suppressed by the Army Council or the Blasphemy Act of 1650; they included Levellers, Diggers, and Ranters. Levellers were a radical republican movement, they argued for an egalitarian society with a reformed legal system and voting rights for freeholders. Diggers believed the English people had been deprived of their rights by the Normans and felt the land should be a common treasury for all and returned to the people as in Saxon times. Ranters offended people by their extravagant and licentious behaviour. The influence of these groups can be seen in early Quaker pamphlets:
“We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government, nor are we for this party nor against another… but we are for justice and mercy and truth and true freedom, that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness, righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with God, and with one another, that these things may abound,”
Unwholesome words they are not free to use; nor to men will they give flattering titles, because the fear of God is in them; neither can they bow to the spirit of pride in men, nor stand uncovered before them, as they do when they approach God in prayer, because His honour ought not be given to another.”
Quakers addressed people in plain speech, they would not acknowledge title or rank and refused to remove their hats to any person, they would not swear on oath or pay church tithes. These were their testimonies and Quakers claimed they were based upon the Scriptures, but many people thought they were political and politics were the prerogative of the aristocracy and gentry. Quakers were also in dispute with other Dissenters and the Church, they were militant, they taunted priests, interrupted sermons, and in debates, they ignored the accepted standards. They angered people and were deemed to be a threat to the Protestant faith, magistrates showed little sympathy and Quakers were often punished for their behaviour, rather than their beliefs.
John Evelyn visited Ipswich prison on the 8 July 1656:
“I had the curiosity to visit some Quakers here in prison; a new fanatic sect, of dangerous principles, who show no respect to any man, magistrate, or other, and seem a melancholy, proud sort of people, and exceedingly ignorant.”
In 1656, Goley Morris of Lower Cilgu, Llanyre, gave a small parcel of land for burials; it is thought the site was abandoned after local Quakers emigrated to Pennsylvania.
There is no lease or conveyance. A document of 1785 stated:
“The Burial Ground in Llanyre, being gift of Goley Morris to friends, but no writing appears, which hath been in possession of friends time immemorial.”
Another document dated 1893 states:
“All that piece or parcel of land and burial ground known as The corner adjoining the Allt situate in the parish of Llanyre.”
George Fox, accompanied by Thomas Holmes, Edward Edwards and John ap John visited Radnorshire in 1657:
“And so we passed up into Wales through Montgomeryshire and up into Radnorshire,
where there was a meeting like a leaguer for a multitude. And I walked a little
off from the meeting whilst the people were a-
Morgan Watkins, a Welsh speaker, lived at Wigmore Grange, and later, Eyton Hall, Leominster. An early convert, he debated religious issues with Vavasor Powell at Knighton and wrote several pamphlets. Meetings were held at his home and the homes of other Friends near Leominster until a meeting house was built in 1687. Morgan Watkins traveled extensively preaching the Quaker message and was committed to Wycombe Prison in 1665. He was in prison with Thomas Ellwood, a former secretary to John Milton and he made several references to Watkins in his autobiography. It is thought that Morgan Watkins died in Gatehouse Prison, London.
Peter Price from Glascwm was convinced after hearing George Fox preach at this meeting, a former soldier and now living in Presteign, he was Justice of the Peace and member of a County Committee.
He published a pamphlet in 1683 The Unequal Unyoked.
“1659 – On the 20th. Of the Month called February, the Friends being peaceably and religiously assembled in their own hired House, were insulted by several soldiers of the Irish Brigage, headed by a Serjeant, and attended by a rabble of rude Boys with Clubs; they forced the Friends out of the Meeting place, and gave them many Blows and other abuses, and when the Serjeant was asked, By what Authority be so acted? He laid hold of his sword, saying, ‘By this Authority’. After the like manner were several other Meetings broke up about the same Time.
In this year also, Richard Moore, John Ap Evan David and John Berks, all of Radnorshire,
for 6s. 8d demanded of them towards the Repairs of the Steeple-
1660 – John David of Radnorshire, for 5s 2d demanded for Tithes, had taken from him a Bullock worth £2 6s 8d.
Margaret Watson of Llannano, Widow, for 4s demanded for Tithes, had a Cow taken worth 40s.
Miles Sykes of the same, for 3s Claimed for Tithes, had a Cow taken from him worth £3. This was a poor man who had several small children, and only that Cow.”
In 1660; In Radnorshire, the several Persons following, for a Fine of 9s. Each, imposed for absence from National Worship, had their Goods taken by Distress.
£ s d
From Richard Moore, Goods worth 1 4 0
David Crowther 15 0
James Miles 2 6 0
John Bevan David 1 6 0
Owen David 1 0 0
Henry Clayton 2 0 0
Edward Evans 2 16 0
David Meredith 1 16 0
David Powell 1 16 0
For Fines of £4 10s Taken £18 3s 8d
From Edward Sikes, for a fine of 13s for absence from publick worship, Goods worth
£1 10s. There were also thirty-
By 1660, many people in England and Wales were disenchanted and rejoiced when King Charles II returned to England. The insurrection of Fifth Monarchists in London was quickly crushed by the army and four thousand Quakers were arrested as a precaution. Leaders of the Fifth Monarchists were executed and Quakers, anxious to stress their peaceful nature, delivered their Peace Testimony to King Charles II on the 21st November 1660:
“Our principle is, and our practices have always been, to seek peace, and ensue it, and follow after righteousness and the knowledge of God, seeing the good and welfare, and doing that which tends to the peace of all… That Spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know and so testify to the world that theSpirit of Christ, which leads us into all truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ nor for the kingdoms of this world…”
Quakers were exonerated, but their suffering increased during the Restoration. Their aim was to revive primitive Christianityh and change society; their meetings were held in public without a priest and any person could pray or preach the gospel.
To impose conformity, Parliament passed five Acts associated with Edward Hyde, Earls of Clarendon, and known as the Clarendon Code. Since publishing the peace testimony, Quakers accepted their suffering without resistance:
“I saw several poor creatures carried by, by constables for being at conventicle. They go like lambs without any resistance. I would to God they would either conform, or be more wise, and not get catched.”
“For this I can say, I never since played the coward, but joyfully entered prisons as palaces, telling mine enemies to hold me there as long as they could: and in the prison house I sung praises to my God, and esteemed the bolts and locks put upon me as jewels, and in the Name of the eternal God I always got the victory, for they could keep me there no longer than the determined time of my God.”
George Fox visited Hereford in 1663:
“And from thence I passed into Wales again, into Radnorshire. And on the First-
George Fox visited Shrewsbury in 1668:
“where we had a precious meeting, and the mayor and his officers, hearing of my being in town, they met together to consult what to do against me; for they said the great Quaker of England was come to town and therefore they took counsel together to imprison me, but some of them opposed it, so the Lord confounded them. And from thence we passed into Radnorshire, where we had many precious meetings and we settled Monthly Meetings.”
George Fox married Margaret, widow of Judge Thomas Fell, in 1669, and renounced any claim on her estate. Described as a Gentleman of Swarthmoor, he continued to spend most of his time in London, whilst Margaret spent her time at Swarthmoor, although George spent periods at Swarthmoor in 1676 and 1679, and Margaret visited him in London on three occasions.
In some areas, Quakers were buried in the parish churchyard, but there were occasions when funerals were interrupted by unruly mobs and many Quakers preferred to be buried in an orchard or garden. However, it became necessary to purchase land and Fox urged Quakers to purchase land which would be a testimony against superstitious idolizing of places for that purpose. Quakers refused to consecrate burial grounds or buildings; they insisted that their meeting houses were not a church; members were the church. George Fox wrote again in 1682:
“And all that say: That we bury like dogs – because we do not have superfluous and needless things on our coffin and do not go in black and a scarf upon our hats and white scarf on our shoulders and give gold rings and have sprigs of rosemary in our hands and ring bells. How can you say we bury our people like dogs because we cannot bury them after the vain pomp and glory of the world. All ground is Gods ground and to consecrate any ground is unnecessary.”
In 1673, David Powell and son, David, gave land in the parish of Llandegley. A document was signed by John Lewis, Glascwm, Robert Watkins, Llanfihangel Rhydithon, Edward Morgan, Llanbister, David James, Llandegley and John Davies, Newchurch. The burial ground became known as Pales, the name may be corrupted from the Welsh word Palis, meaning steep of the rock, however a document dated 9th January 1694 states:
“One parcel of land paled or fenced in roundabout called by the name of A Burying place… about A quarter of an acre more or less.”
This suggests that Pales is a description of a place which is fenced, Quakers were buried here before the meeting house was built.
In 1681, William Penn had been awarded a vast tract of land in America and many Dissenters were keen to emigrate. Wealthy Quakers purchased 30,000 acres which they called the Welsh Tract.
Richard Davies of Welshool bought 5,000 acres and sold in smaller lots to Quakers in mid Wales; including fourteen from Radnorshire:
“Richard Corn – Glover from Llangunllo (50 acres).
Richard Cooke – Glover from Llangunllo (100 acres).
John Evens – Gentleman from Nantmel (100 acres).
Roger Hughes – Gentleman from Llanfihangel Rhydithon (250 acres)
David James – Mariner from Glascwm (100 acres).
Margaret James – Spinster from Newchurch (200 acres).
Edward Jones – Gentleman from St. Harmon (250 acres).
Ellis Jones – Weaver from Nantmel (100 acres).
Thomas Jones – Gentleman from Glascwm (100 acres).
David Kinsey – Carpenter from Nantmel (100 acres).
John Lloyd – Glover from Disserth (100 acres).
David Meredith – Weaver from Llanbister (100 acres).
Richard Miles – Weaver from Llanfihangel Heligen (100 acres).
Evan Oliver – Gentleman from Glascwm (200 acres).”
Although Quakers accepted persecution without retaliation, they did not accept persecution in silence and they began to record their sufferings. They felt it was their duty to expose their oppressors by recording and publishing this information. In 1676, they began to hold Meetings for Sufferings in London to make representations to the Assize Judges at Westminster Hall. In 1682, London Yearly Meeting asked the representatives from each quarterly meetings to reply to these three questions:
1) What Friends in the ministry, in their respective counties, departed this life since the last Yearly Meeting?
2) What Friends imprisoned for their testimony have died in prison since the last yearly meeting?
3) How the Truth has prospered among them since the last yearly meeting and how Friends are in peace and unity?
Knowing the Quaker testimony against oaths, officers frequently asked Quakers to swear the Oath of Allegiance:
“29. 2Mo 1683
Friends of Radnorshire assembled at one of their Monthly Meetings of church affairs in the parish of Llandegley. John Davies, High Sheriff of the County with his Deputy James Price came into the house where one was kneeling at prayer. The Deputy and Constable charged them all in the Kings name to go with them and forbore laying hands on them till the conclusion of their Meeting; and then the High Sheriff swore many Oaths that they should go with him; But it not appearing that he had any Warrant, one of the Friends questioned his authority. This made him angry, and he took the person and pulled him out by the arm; the Constables and officers forced him with the rest to a neighbouring Alehouse where they shut them up in a room and set a guard on them.
In the meantime, the High Sheriff rode three miles to fetch Edward Davies, a Justice of the Peace, his Kinsmen, to his assistance. Being returned, they examined them for their names and habitations, and told them, there was to be a process against them and so continued them sitting up all night with a guard in very cold weather, and early next morning the Sheriff sent seven of them over the bleak hills to prison, namely: John Lloyd, Hugh Lloyd, Edward Jones, Roger Hughes, Henry Cleaton, Anne Cleaton, Amy Phillips. Two others Nathan Woodliff and Thomas Humphrey were by warrant next morning carried before the said Edward Davies to answer such things as should be objected against them.
But he not knowing how to proceed ordered them to continue in the Constables custody and to be brought again before him at Knighton about a week after; when Samuel Powell, another Justice, being with him, they fined Owen Humphrey ₤20 as a preacher, for praying at meeting: And at the same time committed them both to prison for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance. At the next Sessions the oath was tendered to the other seven also and all of them were remanded to prison.”
“1684 – In the Month called May, Peter Price had been a Prisoner above three Years, at the suite of Robert Lucy, Impropriator, on Judgment of the Court of Great Sessions against him for not paying Tithes: He continued Prisoner above three Years after, being eightysix Years of Age. In the last mentioned Month also, John Watson, Robert Watson and David John Phillips, had been imprisoned a Year and three Quarters in Presteign Gaol on Writs de Excommunicato Capiendo.”
Although traveling lawfully on the highway, Publick Friends, acting as itinerant preachers, were often arrested and charged under the Vagrancy Acts. A statute of 1597, permitted rogues, beggars, and vagabonds to be flogged, both men and women. Quakers were often asked to swear an Oath of Allegiance, refusal was judged as contempt.
“Whereas the Persons that stand convicted by the Name of Evan David, of the Parish of Newchurch in the County of Radnor, Yeoman, John Evans in the Parish of Nantmel in the said County of Radnor, Carpenter, and John Lloyd in the Parish of Disserth in the County of Radnor, Glover, being apprehended as Strangers and Vagabonds and not only found without Pass or Testimonial, but justly suspect to be Persons disaffected to the present Government of the Realm, and to the Protestant Religion as it is by Law established and being by the Constables of Llandewy brought before us, whose Names are subscribed, being Justices of the Peace in the said County; and the said Evan David, John Evans and John Lloyd, being not able to give any good Account of themselves, and contemptuously refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance, being lawfully tendered, according to an Act of Parliament in the third year of King James in that Case made and provided.
These are therefore. In Pursuance of the said Act, and in the King Majesty’s Name, to will and command you to receive into your said Gaol the bodies of Evan David, John Evans and John Lloyd, and them to keep in safe Manner until they shall be released by the Course of his said Majesty’s Laws: Hereof fail you not as you will answer the Contrary at your Perils.
Given under Hands and Seals the 10th. Day of June 1688.
Thomas Gwynne, Roger Minwaring”
The Toleration Act of 1689 gave Dissenters freedom to worship, but they were denied admission to universities and were unable to enter the professions. Refusal to swear on oath also denied Quakers any opportunity in public service and their energies were channeled into business and industry. Two political parties were beginning to evolve; Whigs and Tories, Tories supported King James II and his successors, whilst Whigs supported William III, the Glorious Revolution, Parliament, and the Protestant faith. Their policies were defined as laissez faire; maintenance of order, defense of the country, less control in religion, agriculture, commerce, industry, and shipping. As a result, religion became less controversial and fewer people attended church or chapel.
George Fox returned to London on Monday 29th October 1690:
“And for a fortnight in the course of his usual activities he attended meetins on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. On the second Sunday, he was at Gracechurch Street Meeting where ‘he declared a long time very preciously and very audibly and went to prayer’. But after meeting, returning to the house of Henry Gouldney in the adjacent White Hart Court, he complained of cold, went to bed, grew worse, and finally expired… on Tuesday. No physician was present and no medication taken.
On Friday, the body was carried to Friends Burial Ground, Chequers Alley, Bunhill Fields, Clerkenwell.”
Leadership of the Quakers passed to George Whitehead, a former schoolmaster
and one of the Valiant Sixty. Although they were able to build meeting houses and
worship in accordance with their beliefs, Quakers no longer felt they could change
the nation. All Dissenters had lost members and there was little appetite for proselytizing,
but other denominations established academies to train ministers and this provided
leadership for the future. The first generation of Quakers had considerable knowledge
of the Bible and theology; but many had died during persecution. To ensure survival,
the existing leadership decided to re-
Quakers gave thanks for a stable society and the benefits of improved conditions; they began to acquire wealth and donated money to Quaker funds. Quakers were able to build meeting houses, establish schools and purchase land, they also had funds for poor Friends. Administration of these funds required trustees to determine eligibility for relief. Only a few of the early Quakers had been wealthy and many suffered imprisonment, formal membership was not a requirement then, but it became necessary now in order to identify genuine members.
“In our tender and Christian advice that Friends take care to keep to truth and plainness, in language, habit, deportment and behaviour; that the simplicity of truth in these things may not wear out nor be lost in our days, nor in our posterity’s; and to avoid pride and immodesty in apparel, and all vain and superfluous fashions of the world.”
Margaret, the widow of George Fox, wrote to a friend in 1700:
“Let us beware of this, of separating or looking upon ourselves to be more holy than in deed and in truth we are; … and not be entangled again into bondage, in observing prescriptions in outward things, which will not profit nor cleanse the inward man.”
Failure to uphold their testimonies would lead to disownment; joining the militia,
scandal, bankruptcy, drunkenness, and fornication, the most common reason, among
young Quakers, was marriage to a non-
The Yearly Meeting for Wales in 1695 was held at the home of Roger Hughes of Tregriggan, a farm near Dollau. Since 1668, Meetings were usually held in the home of a Quakers family and those attending sought lodgings in nearby inn. By the early years of the eighteenth century, the Yearly Meeting had a large attendance of members with lectures open to the general public.
By the end of the seventeenth century, 2,000 men, women and children from Wales had emigrated to the American colonies, not all were Quakers, but concern was expressed at the Yearly Meeting held at Rhayader in 1698 and minute was circulated:
“And moreover we being under a deepe sence and Considrion that some friends by their irregular, disorderly and unsavoury proceedings and runnings into Pennylvania having been a Cause of great weakening if not the total decayeing of some meetings in the Dominion of Wales….”
Welsh was still the common language of Radnorshire, and could be heard in business meetings and meetings for worship, but very few pamphlets were written in Welsh. In 1682, the yearly Meeting at Redstone, Pembrokeshire, had agreed to publish in Welsh:
“This day it was layed before the Meeting concerning the Good Service of translating books into Welch…”
This item was discussed again in 1702 at the Yearly Meeting held in Llanidloes, also, the concern for isolated Quakers:
“This meeting doth recommend to ye several Quarterly and Monthly Meetings: that they be careful (at least once a year) to choose such friends as may be approved by the said meetings to visit several families.”
In 1743, a visitor to Aberedw noted: that all spoke Welsh; but the churchwardens’ Visitation Returns for 1820 stated: Welsh is never used in our church services, only English.
The Reverend Jonathan Williams writing in the mid – nineteenth century regretted the decline of the Welsh language:
“… in the year 1747, that in all its churches Divine Service was performed in that tongue alone. So great a revolution has since taken place, that the church of St. Harmon, situated in a remote and sequested corner of the county, the inhabitants, of which have little or no direct intercourse with England remains in the present day, the only one in which Christian worship is celebrated, and religious instruction dispensed in the aboriginal language of Britain.”
Yearly Meeting for Wales was held at New Radnor in 1717; Thomas Story, a recorded minister, was on the arrangements Committee. He was surprised when the local priest, who owned a suitable barn, agreed to his request to hire the building. Thomas Story described the priest as a moderate good natured man who told him:
“Since we preach Christ, and endeavoured to reform People, and aim’d at the Honour of God, he could not refuse it, though he expected Censure for it from his own People.”
After Yearly Meeting, Thomas Story rode to Brynllwyd, a farm near the village of Hundred House, the home of widow Margaret Price, and met other Quakers at this isolated farm. When Thomas Story returned to New Radnor the following day, he met many people who had traveled on this day, market day, to attend the Yearly Meeting. Not wishing to disappoint them, he arranged a special meeting at the priests’ barn, but when some of the local magistrates heard of this arrangement, they suggested the town hall would be more suitable. He applied and was allowed to hold the meeting here and because of the large numbers gathered, two meetings were held that same evening. Both were well attended and Thomas Story thought it had been a successful occasion.
In 1753, William Brown, a Publick Friend from Philadelphia, took a guided tour
through south and mid Wales with his traveling companion John Player. They visited
Quakers in the counties of Monmouth, Glamorgan, Carmarthen, Montgomery, Ceredigion
and Radnor. After leaving John and Mary Goodwin at their home at Esgairgoch, near
Staylittle, Montgomeryshire, William Brown and companion traveled to Llanidloes where
they had refreshments with Friends. They rode to Talcoed, Gwystre, where they held
a meeting for worship with Edward Thomas and local Friends. Regular meetings were
held in this farm house and it is thought Qukers were buried in the nearby dell.
The following day, Thomas Lloyd of The Cwm, in the parish of Llanfaredd, escorted
the two visitors to his home, where another meeting for worship was held. William
Brown urged local Quakers to continue with their week-
Quakers in Wales suffered another serious decline in the late eighteenth century when many of their members joined the Methodist evangelical revival. Local meetings were closed and several monthly meetings were unable to fulfil their duties. They were obliged to join with English monthly and quarterly meetings and Welsh language ceased to be part of worship or business. Goods were still seized for non payment of tithes, but it is interesting to compare fines imposed on Quakers in 1660 with fines imposed in 1796. The fines imposed in Llandegley parish seem less punitive than the fines imposed in Llananno. The value of the goods taken by warrant in 1796 is closer to the market value.
“Radnorshire Sufferings, Llandegley Parish. The 5 Month 1796.
Rees Bowen had Taken from him by Virtue of a Warrant from Thomas Jones and John Davies Justices at the Complaint of Davies Morgan agent to James Phillips, Priest of Llandegley and by Edward Lloyd Constable.
Six Ewes and Lambs Valued at £2.18.0d
For a demand for tithe of £2.17.0d
Constable Charge 1.6d
Also Owen Jones had taken from him by Virtue of the warrant and Constable.
1 beast valued at £1.10.0d
For a demand for tithe of £1.13.0d
Constables Charge 1.6d
Also Samuel Hughes had taken from him by Virtue of the said Warrant and Constable.
2 bushels and half of Wheat valued at £1. 7.6d
For a demand for the tithe of £1. 8.0d
Constables Charge 1.6d
Signed at Our Monthly Meeting held at the Pales the 14 of the 4 Month 1797.
By Rees Bowen.”
MAES YR HELEM in the parish of Llananno is thought to be the site of the first Quaker meeting house and burial ground in the county:
“About one mile north west from Crychallt, the family seat of Evan Stephens, Esq. stands a conventicle belonging to the religious denomination of Baptists, called the New Chapel, erected in the year 1805, on the spot where formally the Society of Friends, or Quakers, had a meeting house and burial ground attached.
On the decline of the latter society, and the remaining members of which having abandoned the place, the former took possession of the ground and founded thereon a neat chapel; which in the year 1814, was endowed by Mr. Williams of Maers yr helem in this parish, with several acres of excellent meadow land on the bank of the river Ieithon.”
Members of the Stephens family were Quakers: Thomas, the son of Stephen and Mary Stephens of Reedlean, married Anne Williams at Jamestown Meeting House, Pembrokeshire, July 1771 and is recorded in the Pembrokeshire Monthly Meeting Minutes.
The opinion of Jonathan Williams was later challenged by the Revd John Jones:
“It is strange that there is nothing said in the account given me of the origin of the Baptists cause at Measyrhelem of the society of Friends having a chapel and burial ground there.”
LLANOLEY, a farm in the parish of Newchurch held Quaker meetings in the seventeenth century. It is said that Mary Bevan was taken from this farm to Presteign Gaol and Anne Thomas, at the age of eighty, was held in custody at Presteigne and reported that she was content with her sufferings. Margaret James and Samuel Miles from Llanfihangel Helygen were married at Llanoley, before emigrating to Pennsylvania.
Frances Beavan, a widow living in this parish bequeathed:
“20 shillings to the Meeting of people called Quakers in Radnorshire.”
A lease of 999 years was signed 8 October 1714 for a parcel of land, one sixth of an acre, at Llanoley: The document was signed by Nathan Woodliffe, elder and Nathan Woodliffe, younger, to Hugh Phillip Griffiths, John Jones and others.
Elizabeth Beavan requested:
“To be buried in the ground of the Quakers at Almeley or Llanoley in the parish of Newchurch…
In addition to bequests to her family, there were several to Quakers:
Thomas Woodliffe of Cregrina left instructions in his will for timber to be taken from his farm to fence the burial ground at Llanoley.
The small unmarked burial ground is in the field in front of the house; the last person to be buried here was Mararet Pugh, aged 91; her death was recorded 21st December 1831.
William Lloyd visited Llanoley and gave a report to Hereford & Radnor Monthly Meeting held at Hereford on 11th September 1860:
“The owner appeared willing for Friends to resume possession on condition that the
fences should be made and kept good, and I proposed that she should agree to pay
HAY ON WYE, although not in the county, this meeting was a member of Radnor Monthly Meeting. They held meetings in various buildings from the eighteenth century until 1890. Three buildings were licensed by Brecon Quarter Sessions in 1765, Swan Inn, a barn at the rear of Red Lion Inn and George Inn. In 1833, a meeting house was built in the garden of the Trusted family home, 4 Bridge Street.
It is suggested that Quakers were buried in this garden, but not proven. A daughter of Benjamin Trusted, Sarah Ann, died 8th July 1844, and is buried at Almeley Quaker Burial Ground, Herefordshire. The Religious Census of 1851 referred to a meeting house which seated 40 people. The property was sold to Hereford & Brecon Railway in 1864 and the meeting house was later demolished. A window, taken from the meeting house, was fitted into 4 Bridge Street. Meetings continued at Lidiat y Wain, Cusop, Herefordshire, two miles from Hay, but ceased in 1890 when the owner, Charles J Lilwall resigned from the Society of Friends and joined the Church of England.
Members in the nineteenth century included the families of Howells, Wilmot,
Trusted, Enoch, and Swetman. Thomas Howells married Susannah Beasley of Islington
and they moved to Hay in 1776. He started a business as watch & clock maker; later,
he became a woolen manufacturer and built his own machinery. Although Thomas and
Susannah were closely associated with Quakers in Hay, they never became members and
their children were baptized in the parish church, but he did encourage them to join
the Quakers. They had eleven children, but only four survived into adulthood. Susannah
died 1819 and Thomas died 1824, they are buried in the parish church grounds. William
Enoch, draper & mercer, married Deborah Swetman, grand-
William Wilmot, a local baker, had three sons and two daughters. Benjamin Trusted was Clerk of the North Wales Monthly Meeting, Benjamin and his wife and seven children, two sons and five daughters. Benjamin was part owner of the horses that pulled trams on the local tramway, he was also a woolen manufacturer. In 1842, he was criticized by Monthly Meeting for paying rent charge, then regarded by Quakers as a tithe.
PALES, in 1716, deeds were drawn up for the existing dwelling to be used by the:
“People called Quakers or their Friends… to assemble and meet for religious worship provided the civil magistrates permit them, and the land is for use of same Quakers. John Lloyd & Howell Lloyd of Llanfareth, and Thomas Price of Brynllwyd on behalf of the Qurterly Meeting of Radnor.”
It is not known if monumental stones were in the burial ground at this time, but they had been erected in some areas, and a minute from the London Yearly Meeting in 1717 reminded Quakers of the vain custom of erecting monuments:
“By stones, inscriptions etc. it is therefore the advice of this meeting that all such monuments should be removed, as much as may be with discretion.”
This advice was repeated several times which suggests that not all meeting complied with the original request. In 1850, London Yearly Meeting agreed that headstones could be erected. All monumental stones were to be of uniform size, with only name, date of death and age inscribed; this would ensure there was no distinction between rich and poor in a Quaker burial ground. Later, when floral tributes became a feature of funerals, Quakers were reminded not to encourage needless expense of wreaths as this was inconsistent with Christian simplicity.
When he was a young man, John Griffiths emigrated to Pennsylvania and returned to Radnorshire in 1747; he held many meetings in Wales. Later, he married and settled in Essex. He wrote The Journal of John Griffiths, life, travels and labours…Published in 1799. Many Publick Friends visited this meeting house, including Abiah, wife of Abraham Darby, ironmaster of Coalbrookdale, and Deborah, wife of Samuel, son of Abraham. Joh Eddy, Rebecca Collins and Thomas Wells from America; Johnathan Grubb, Frank Dymond, Joshua Newman, Hannah Burlingham, Matilda Hickman and many others from English Meetings.
Barnard Dickinson of Coalbrookdale, nephew of Deborah Darby, husband of Ann Darby, a niece of Samuel Darby, became a frequent visitor to Pales; he purchased the neighbouring farm of Rhonllwyn.
Six years after his death in 1858, it was sold by his son, William, of Shepherd Bush, Middlesex, Gentleman, to the tenant Richard Beversley Watkins. Several members of the Watkins family were members of the Pales Meeting; brother Thomas of Dollau, sisters Susannah Wilding of Llangullo and Ann Morris of Llanbister.
PENYGRAIG, in the parish of Llanbadarn y garreg was the home of the Southall family in the eighteenth century and the Radnor Monthly Meeting was sometimes held here. Their daughter, Sophia, married Peter Edwards at Pales in 1798. Initially, they farmed Penygraig, but later moved to Pentre.
BRYNLLWYD, a farm near Hundred House was associated with Quakers, many Publick Friends visited; Anne Southall and John Drew were married here in 1715. The Radnor Monthly Meeting and Monmouth and Radnor Quarterly Meeting were held here. Brynllwyd was left to Sophia Edwards by her mother Sarah Southall (nèe Price) who inherited the farm when her brother, Thomas Price died. Sophia’s son, Peter Norman Edwards lived and farmed here before moving to Walton Court.
PENTRE, in the parish of Cascob, was the home of Peter and Sophia Edwards, the family had farmed here for several generations. Peter died 9th June 1833, aged 63, Sophia died 21st November 1839, aged 76. Both are buried at Pales.
WALTON MEETING, meetings for worship were held in a brick summerhouse in the garden of a cottage, adjacent to Walton Court. It was a Particular Meeting between 1844 and 1872, in 1863, five men and six women were members. Most of the members belonged to the Edwards family. The village school, which was supported by the Lewis family of Harpton Court, closed in 1885. There are no Quaker records to support a suggestion that William Wordsworth attended meetings for worship here, although he did visit Hindwell several times when his brother in law, Thomas Hutchinson, was the tenant. Hindwell was part of the Lewis Estate; the lease of the 350 acre farm was taken by Hutchinson, on Lady Day (25th March) 1809.
HINDWELL, when William Wordsworth visited in 1812, he learnt of the sudden death of his young daughter Catherine. Both parents were away from their home and Catherine was left in the care of her aunt, Dorothy Wordsworth at Grasmere. Catherine’s mother, Mary, was at Hindwell and William joined them after visiting Coleridge in London. Following a dispute over rent in 1824, Thomas Hutchinson moved to Brinsop Court, Herefordshire, then owned by the family of the late David Ricardo of Gatcombe Park, Gloucestershire, a former Member of Parliament and political economist.
William Edwards became tenant, he married Mary Ann Dixon at Friends Meeting House, Worcester, 23 August 1832. He purchased extra land and became a noted breeder and cattle dealer. William and Mary had four children and Louisa Jenkins, aged 28, is recorded in the 1851 Census, as their governess.
Arthur, their son, 28 years old, died tragically, 7 November 1861; he was found dead with gunshot wounds and is buried at Pales:
“The corpse was removed as soon as possible, and the sight as the body was borne along to his home presented a spectacle at once horrifying and dreadful. The deceased was about thirty years of age. He had for some time been at Malvern for the benefit of his health, and was about to go hither again. For some time he had been in very low spirits, but we do not hear this was so evident to excite any apprehension on the part of his relatives. An inquest has been since held before the coroner for Radnor, and a respectable jury. Several witnesses were examined; and the jury, after the coroner had summed up, returned a verdit of ‘felo de se’.”
Frances married Edwin Pease, at Ross on Wye Meeting House, 1st October 1862.
Edwin was an Iron-
Emily married Sidney Cooper of Walthamstow at Pales on 3rd October 1866. Sidney’s father, a hat manufacturer came from Walthamstow. Sydney became an auctioneer in Worcestershire. Ann died in 1871, age 36, the same year as her father.
WALTON COURT, Peter Norman Edwards married Rebecca Shipley on 15 May 1835, and her sister Eliza Shipley, married Jesse Sessions on the same day at Friends Meeting House, Gloucester. Peter farmed at Brynllwyd, owned by his mother, but later, moved to Walton Court. When Thomas Hutchinson retired from Brinsop Court in 1845, Peter Edwards took the tenancy and remained there until his death in 1866. Brynllwyd, the farm which he had inherited from his mother was sold after his death.
BRINSOP COURT, is six miles north-
Two sons became successful auctioneers in Hereford, Messrs Alfred & Dearman Edwards. After the death of Alfred, the firm joined HFRussell and became Edwards & Russell. Two years later, they joined Messrs Cooper & Baldwin, eventually they became Russell, Baldwin, & Bright.
The Yearly Meeting of Wales was established in 1668 with three Quarterly Meetings; South Wales, Monmouth, and North Wales. Pales was a Particular Meeting of Radnor Monthly Meeting which was established in 1668. Radnor joined Monmouth in 1761 to form Monmouth and Radnor Quarterly Meeting. It ceased in 1792 and the two monthly meetings joined South Wales Quarterly Meeting. From 1736 until 1764, particular meetings in an area of Ceredigion were in Radnor Monthly Meeting.
The Hardwick Act of 1753, recognized Quaker marriages held in a meeting house, but both parties were required to be members. Because of problems experienced in the seventeenth century, Quakers devised an elaborate procedure before giving their approval to a proposed marriage. They required the cosent of next of kin, marriage between cousins was banned, and there would be several meetings over many months before a monthly meeting gave approval. All members present at a marriage ceremony would sign the certificate. Many young Quaker couples became impatient with this procedure, they eloped and married before a priest. When a Quaker decided to marry aperson who was not in membership, the marriage could only be undertaken by a priest of the Church of England, and this also would lead to disownment.
Disownment was not excommunication and disowned members could still attend meetings for worship, but could not participate in business meetins or receive financial help. Some members did recant and after making a public statement confessing their misdemeanour, membership would be restored. But few Quakers who married in church sought to restore their membership and the Society of Friends suffered a serious decline. It is estimated that there were 60,000 Quakers in 1680, and from an unofficial census in 1840, the estimate was 16,000. Most were disowned in the eighteenth century and only a small number joined by convincement.
By the end of the eighteenth century, many Quakers had acquired considerable
wealth and their testimonies which inflamed people earlier, seemed quaint and no
longer aroused hostility. Quakers were now happy to co-
They became involved in social concerns such as education, prison reform, anti-
In 1832, Half Yearly Meeting for Wales joined Hereford and Worcester Quarterly Meeting and became Hereford, Worcester and Wales General Meeting. Radnor Monthly Meeting joined North Wales Monthly Meeting in 1829, and in 1834, North Wales Monthly Meeting joined Leominster and Ross Monthly Meeting to form Hereford and Radnor Monthly Meeting…
The Queries from London Yearly Meeting began in 1682 and were extended in 1694 and 1700; they now included aspects of behaviour. Replies to specific Queries from Hereford and Radnor Monthly Meeting, held on 23rd February 1841 at Hereford included:
“Min 7 – With some exception as to shooting in one of our meetings and the attendance of places of diversion in another, nothing appears but that friends avoid all vain sports, and places of diversion, gaming, all unnecessary frequenting of taverns, and other public houses, excess in drinking and other intemperance. Some advice appears to have been given against attending places of diversion.
Min 8 – With the exception of a friend having paid a sum under the name of rent charge in lieu of tithe, we believe friends bear a faithful and Christian testimony against paying tithes, priests demands, and those called Church rates, no one is entitle to receive tithes.”
A reply to Queries from Monthly Meeting held on the 29th March 1842 at Hereford:
“Min 2 – Not withstanding the state of things is low amongst us, we believe there are some who experience a little growth in the truth.”
Despite their declining membership, the Monthly Meeting imposed high standards on applicants for membership. From the minutes of the Monthly Meeting held at Ross on 22nd August 1844:
“Min 3 – We, your Committee appointed to visit Susan Wilding upon her application to be received into membership report that we have had five interviews with her. We found her in a serious state of mind and believements be in measure convinced of our religious principals.
We feel that under the circumstances of her case she has a strong claim on the kind care and sympathy of friends, and we desire that she may be encouraged faithfully to persevere in what she believes to be right, but we do not after solidly considering the subject feel satisfied to recommend that she should at this time be received into our Religious Society. Signed on behalf of the Committee. Thos. Evans”
Membership continued to decline with resignations and disownments, some related to behaviour and financial mismanagement, but most were because a member married a person not in membership. A minute from Monthly Meeting held on 24th September 1844 at Hereford:
“The friends appointed to draw up a Testimony against William Gilkes have sent in the following to which this meeting with small alteration agrees, and adopts the same, the Clerk is desired to forward him a copy. William Gilkes a member of this meeting having suffered himself to become attached to a young woman not a member of our Religious Society, conforming with our rules a Committee was appointed to visit him. Notwithstanding the advice which they extended to him he continued the intimacy, very much withdrew himself from the attendance of our meetings and ultimately has been married to the same individual in a manner contrary to the rules of our Society, under these circumstances we feel ourselves called upon to testify against such conduct by disuniting William Gilkes from membership in our Religious Society and he is disunited accordingly.
Still we fee a lively interest in his welfare, and entreat him to strive after the substance of true religion and should he hereafter feel it to be required of him to seek for reinstatement in membership with us, we would encourage him to take up the cross and submit… and believe it would tend to the peace of his own mind.”
Susan Wilding was admitted into membership on the 25th August 1846. This Friend is probably Susannah Wilding of Pennycawdd, Llangunllo, sister of Richard B Watkins of Rhonllwyn. Susannah, from a Quaker family, married John Wilding in 1838, who was an active member of the Primitive Methodists. Hannah died in 1894, age 85 years and John died the following year, both are buried at Pales.
A marriage arranged in accordance with Quaker procedure was probably more stressful than disownment. From the minutes of the Monthly Meeting on the 8th June 1852:
“Min 2 – The friends appointed report that the needful notice of Lucy Smart Trusted’s intended marriage with William Henry Richardson has been given, the other particulars contained in Rule 4… Book of Discipline complied with, and that no objection has been made.
We have also received a certificate from Newcastle Monthly Meeting held at Sunderland on 12 of the last month which has been read informing us that the rules of Yearly Meeting relating to William Henry Richardson have been complied with, and that no objection has been made to his proceeding to his intending marriage with Lucy Smart Trusted. Certificates from Ross and Sunderland giving of due notice having been given have also been produced. We therefore set the parties at liberty to proceed to the accomplishment of their intended marriage and appoint Thos. Evans and Henry Newman to attend it, and see it is conducted according to the good order established amongst us, they are to report to our next meeting.”
After 1837, a civil marriage ceremony was introduced which could remove the problem of marriage to a non Quaker, but many members objected to this ceremony because it was not a religious ceremony where a couple made their declaration before God. In 1856, Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting proposed that members should not be disowned for marrying a non member, but it was not until 1859 that Yearly Meeting agreed. In 1857, Joseph Sturge, a Birmingham Friend suggested that matters of dress and speech should now be optional. Yearly Meeting agreed to a complete revision of procedures of discipline and this was completed in 1861.
Early Quakers had joined an egalitarian movement that was feared by gentry
and aristocrats, but many of their descendants were now wealthy and probably had
an affinity with them. Their children would meet them and by the nineteenth century,
many had married into these families and left the Quaker community. Two grand-
Another member of the Darby family, Alfred, had a large country estate in Shropshire, both he and his wife were members of the Church of England and contributed considerable funds to the parish church.
With a declining membership in such an isolated area as Radnorshire, young Quakers had problems in meeting suitable partners. Elsewhere, they had greater opportunities, they probably attended a Quaker school and would know many young friends, they could travel easily to their monthly and quarterly meetings, and to London Yearly Meeting. In Radnorshire, social activities were restricted, although earlier, in a larger Quaker community, suitable marriages were arranged.
By the mid nineteenth century, there were only two small Quaker meetings in Radnorshire, Pales and Walton. The Religious Census of 1851 recorded 16 people attended the morning meeting for worship at Pales. In 1860, Stanley Pumphrey wrote:
“Within the memory of many, there was here a flourishing congregation. Now the Meeting can hardly be said to exist. One infirm, lane old man, still crosses the hills at the hour of worship to sit there alone with God.”
The Hereford and Radnor Monthly Meeting Tabular Statement for 1860 listed 111 members.
The Quaker Evangelical Revival began in 1876 when Yardley Warner, an American Friend, was appointed schoolmaster at Pales. He began his Tent Meetins on Penybont Common which attracted many local people. After he returned to America, other Quaker Missioners continued his work and by the end of the century, Quaker Chapels had been built in Penybont, Llanyre and Llandrindod Wells. These were programmed meetings, similar to other nonconformist services, and Quakers became a major denomination in the area around Llandrindod. Few of these new members participated in the monthly or quarterly meetings of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), or accepted their liberal ideas, but their lives had been transformed.
CSPQ: A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers, Volume 1 [1650-
CPF: Christian faith and practice in the experience of the Society of Friends, 1961.
GFJ: George Fox’s Journal, edited by John Nickalls.
QFP: Quaker Faith and Practice, 1995.
Almeley Woonton Burial Ground: OS Sheet 148 SO 334 599.
Brinsop Church: OS Sheet 148 SO 442 448.
Brinsop Court: OS Sheet 148 SO 445 458.
Brynllwyd OS Sheet 148 SO 124 539.
Hay Meeting House: OS Sheet 148 SO 228 425.
Hindwell: OS Sheet 148 SO 258 608.
Llanoley Burial ground: OS Sheet 148 SO 197 499.
Llanyre Burial Ground: OS Sheet SO 007 625.
Maes Yr helem: OS Sheet 147 SO 087 765.
Pales: OS Sheet 149 SO 138 641.
Pentre: OS Sheet 148 SO 243 665.
Penygraig: Sheet 148 SO 112 455.
Talcoed: OS Sheet 147 SO 066 660.
Walton Court: OS Sheet 148 SO 258 599.
1 CFP 165
2 GFJ, p.11.
3 The early Quaker missionaries were from Westmoreland and neighbouring counties. The actual numbers were 54 men and 12 women; most of the men were engaged in farming, plus 8 tradesmen, 2 soldiers, and 8 from the professional class. The women included 4 wives and sister of yeomen, a wife and sister of shopkeepers, 2 female gentry, and 3 maids.
4 Keith Parker, ‘Mid-
5 T Mardy Rees, A History of the Quakers in Wales, 1925, p.497.
6 Edward Burrough, 1659; Husbandman, CPF 165.
7 John Whitehead (1661), a former soldier. WC Braithwaite, The Second Period of Quakerism, p. 497, quoting from the tract A Small Treatise, which was published again in 1852 in a pamphlet by Thomas Chalk.
8 The Diary of John Evelyn, Volume 1, p. 319.
9 From HD Williams, ‘Miscellanea’ Archaeologia Cambrensis XXXVI, pp.149-
10 GFJ pp. 293-
11 CSPQ p. 742.
13 CSPQ p. 742-
14 CSPQ p. 743.
15 GFJ p. 398-
16 Samuel Pepys, Diary, 7th August, 1664. WC Braithwaite, The Second Period of Quakerism, p. 22;.
17 Wiliam Dewsbury, 1688, CPF 31.
18 GFJ p. 451.
19 GFJ p. 515.
20 G Stock, An Evaluation of Quaker Practices.
21 Pales Deeds, 13th July, 1694, Powys Archives, Llandrindod Wells.
22 F Noble, ‘Radnorshire settlers in the Foundation of Pennsylvania’, Transactions of the Radnorshire Society, Vol.XXIX.
23 CSPQ p.759.
25 CSPQ p.743.
26 GFJ p.752.
27 London Yearly Meeting of 1691.
28 CFP 401.
29 Field Section Newsletter, No 23, Radnorshire Society.
30 Jonathan Williams, A General history of Radnorshire, 1905, p.275.
31 A Journal of the Life of Thomas Story, 1747, p.570.
32 T Mardy Jones, ‘An Account of a Journey Through Wales’, Appendix II, John Player, A History of the Quakers in Wales.
33 Radnorshire Sufferings 1778-
34 Jonathan Williams, op.cit., p. 231.
35 J Jones, Baptists in Radnorshire, 1895, p.206.
36 Probate: 14th August 1704.
37 Probate: 30th July 1720.
38 Probate: 2nd November 1823.
39 GL Fairs, ‘Society of Friends in Hay’, Transactions of the Radnorshire Society, Vol LI.
40 Pales Deeds, 13th July 1716, Powys Archives.
41 RCB Oliver, ‘The [Wordsworth] Hutchinsons in Radnorshire and on the Border’, Transactions of the Radnorshire Society, Vol XLIX.
42 Heredford Journal, 13th November, 1861.
43 Rachel Labourchere, Deborah Darby, pp. xvi and xvii.
44 Peter Davies, Mare’s Milk and Wild Honey, p.6.
45 Henry Newman, Memories of Stanley Pumphrey, p.23.