The Unitarian movement in Wales has not been without its missionary activities, although those activities would sometimes appear as accidental.
It is remembered how Thomas Perrot of Oswestry, in mid-Wales, returned to his native South in 1718, carrying with him the highly contagious germs of liberalism irom the academy of James Owen, and infecting almost everyone who came into contact with him at the Carmarthen College; it is said that he "paved the way for Arminianism" although he himself, unlabelled by sect, was but a sincere and tolerated scholar who encouraged his students to "think for themselves": students like Jenkin Jones who settled at Llwynrhydowen and Charles Winter at Graigyfargod became the first Arminians to propagate their faith from their pulpits. Perrot died in 1733 but the Academy, being by then impregnated with liberal ideas, continued to breed generation after generation of influential Unitarian ministers and scholars, ranging in doctrine from the Arianism of David Davis Castell Hywel to the early Unitarianism of Dr. Charles Lloyd, and from the Parkerism of Gwilym Marles to the Modernism of D. Jacob Davies.
And who can evaluate the missionary activities of those early, self-taught ministers, like Tomos Glyn Cothi, Evan Lloyd of Nottage and lob Morganwg, who devoted their lives to the propagation of their beliefs, without fear of scorn and persecution?
The Unitarian Society in Wales was founded in 1802 with the main purpose of spreading the liberal faith, through the publishing of essays and sermons, original compositions and cranshtions, and especially translations of the newer ideas from Engband and America; and Longman, the chief publishing firm in the country, one of whose founders and directors was Owen Rees, the son of Josiah Rees Gellionnen, was always ready to print all the important documents, e.g. The Rules of the Society, in 1802.
It was through the literary efforts of ministers like Tomos Glyn Cothi, Job Morganwg, Josiah Rees, John James and Gwilym Marles that Unitarians of Wales in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries came to know of the teachings of Lindsey, Priestley, Belsham and later, Channing and Martineau.
The Welsh Unitarians would publicize their faith by means of hymns and poems, with Tomos Glyn Cothi, and Iolo as prominent members of the Gwyneddigion Society and the Bards of Britain, taking every possible opportunity to praise the "One God" from the Logan Stone on Primrose Hill and on the platforms of the early eisteddfodau in Wales.
Iolo Morganwg, who believed in spreading the faith, suggested that the Unitarian Society in Wales, which he himself had instigated, could establish a special "missionary fund", and he even made the first contribution. Although his dream was not realized, Iolo, in co-operation with Tomos Glyn Cothi (who was inducted as the minister of the Old Meeting House Aberdare in 1811), made the arrangements for the missionary tours of Lyons (1811) and Wright (1816-9) throughout Wales. These interesting visits of Lyons and Wright, who had already travelled the rest of Britain, were sponsored by a special Unitarian Fund in London, with the blessing of the two Societies in Wales; Evan Lloyd of Nottage was appointed to accompany Mr. Lyons, and B. Phillips of St. Clear, "our Welsh Missionary" was to go with Mr. Wright. Lloyd, Phillips, Tomos Glyn Cothi and Iolo would often render a translation of the English addresses, either simultaneously or in the form of a summary at the end of the service.

The Missionary tour of Mr. Lyons

It is interesting to follow Mr. Lyons' route in 1811 and read some of his informative observations.
Arriving at Cardiff: "Here Mr. Evan Lloyd was to have met me... Mr. Lloyd however, did not come, and I was unable to find any Unitarians in the place."
Mr. Lyons was to be conducted "to some small congregations in the neighbourhood". He met an "old man who spoke little or no English, and from whom I could obtain no satisfactory information or direction". He was, however, informed that there was "no religious inquiry in the town, and the morals of the inhabitants of all classes are in a lower state here, than any other town of equal size in the Principality".
Still without his guide, Mr. Lloyd, took a coach to Neath where new arrangements were made for his journey by Mr. David Davis (son of Davis Castell Hywel), the Unitarian minister there. After some difficulty in finding horses, both rode to Coedcymmer where they were welcomed by the minister, Thomas Davies, and a congregation (for the Meeting House was "well filled") of different denominations, "exeedingly attentive".
From Cefncoed they walked, with several of Mr. Davies' people, to Merthyr, and "found a large congregation assembled in the Independent meeting house"; in the evening he preached in the house of Mr. Rees, Unitarian Baptist minister, whose congregation has met "with much opposition" and "turned out of their place of worship" (Cwmyglo). Mr. Lyons observes: "It is exceedingly desirable that there should be Unitarian place of worship at this place, as from the great and numerous iron-works which are carried on in the neighbourhood, it is more populous than any part of Wales, and many of the workmen are of a reading and inquiring turn of mind." Lyons returned towards Aberdare where he preached "to a large and attentive congregation", which was principally "composed of Unitarians, but there are some Arians, and a few Trinitarians among them". He adds that "Mr. Evans (Tomos Glyn Cothi), their minister has lately published a hymn-book for the use of Unitarian Christians".
Neath was the next stop of call and here he "had the pleasure of meeting Mr. B. Philips and several other Unitarian ministers... Mr. Philips preached in the evening at Mr. Davis' place of worship, which is a large room, up one flight of stairs". On the following day "the Unitarian Association was held at Mr. Davis' Place" and Lyons preached "on the harmony of reason and revelation, in relation of the doctrines of the Divine Unity and the infinite supremacy of God the Father". And after the Business Meeting they "dined together at Mr. Davis', in his large school-room."
At the table Mr. Lyons met Iolo Morganwg the Unitarian Bard, and it is interesting to read an Englishman's impression of this famous, controversial, 'journey-man mason" who devoted almost the whole of his life to propagate the liberal faith:
"I there met with Edward Williams (Iolo), the Welsh Bard, who was one of the first prosposers of the Welsh Unitarian Association. He is a man of very extensive and varied information, of amiable manners, of great liberality, and of great zeal for the promotion of rational religion. He is about to publish, at the request of many of his friends, a volume of hymns, in Welsh, which, in the opinion of many of the ministers, will contribute greatly to the improvement and pleasure of public worship among them."
The day was spent "in great harmony and Christian affection", which reminded Lyons of what he had seen and felt "at our annual meetings at London".
From Neath the Missioner left for Swansea where he preached "at the Presbyterian place, where Mr. Howel is the minister", and in the evening "in the Unitarian Baptist chapel where Mr. Jenkins is the minister, and where Mr. Davis sometimes preaches. The congregation is but small, but as it was generally understood that an English missionary was to preach, the place was well filled with people of different denominations".
Mr. Philips, who had promised to accompany him for the remainder of the journey in Wales, "rode with him to Gellionnen... The meeting which is large and commodious, stands alone upon a mountain, and is at a considerable distance from any town and village, yet the congregation was respectable, both as to members and appearance". Mr. Davis of Neath was also present and gave "an abridged translation of my sermon in Welsh". Lyons praises "the labours of the late Rev. Josiah Rees for the enlarged and honourable views which they now entertain respecting the Supreme Being"; he spent the follow-big day "at Mrs. Rees', widow of the late Rev. Josiah Rees, where I was entertained with much hospitality and kindness.
He rode from Gellionnen to Llandyfan (Llandilo), a journey of about 16 miles, and "preached to a large congregation of people... Mr. Griffiths, the Unitarian Baptist minister at this place, is a plain man... possesses good sense... an excellent spirit, of great piety for the promotion of the truth..."
After the service, which Mr. Philips translated to Welsh, they met in a house adjoining the chapel for "conversation, respecting the principles and progress of Unitarianism", and this reminded him of "the friendly conferences which were so frequent at the close of service in Scotland".
Another nineteen mile journey from here took the Missioner to Llanelli, but the attempts made by "Mr. Cooke, a surgeon, and Mr. Hughes, formerly of Exeter," to procure a meeting-house for him to preach was "in vain". However, they found a room in a house and "notice of the time of the service was given by the town cryer". The house became "exceedingly crowded" and after the service several persons made requests that "Unitarian preachers might visit them, and promising that they might provide a place for preaching". From Llanelli they went to Llangendeyrne but because of the "mlscarnage of a letter" regarding the notice of his coming, he had to continue without a meeting to Carmarthen. It was Sunday and he preached in the morning at the Priory Street chapel, "to a large congregation composed... of Arminian and Calvinistic Baptists, and a few Arians and Unitarians. The people in general heard him gladly, but some parts of his sermon had given such offence to the minister and some of the orthodox people, "that they told Mr. Davies they would not lend me their place to preach any more". In the afternoon he preached at Mr. Peter's (David Peter) in Lammas Street. "Mr. Peter is the Principal tutor at the academy at Carmarthen, and a sealous Calvinist." His large congregation heard him with "seriousness and attention".
From Carmarthen he returned to Llangendeyrne where, this time, he preached to a large congregation. A Mr. William Thomas, "formerly a Calvinistic Baptist", was the minister here and "he had the happiness of seeing his congregation proceeding with him from one stage to another in the path of inquiry, until they became confirmed and zealous Unitarians".
Again Lyons returned to Carmarthen and preached "in an Arian Baptist place of worship" (Capel y Porth Tywyll/ Darkgate St. Chapel supervised by Thomas Davies); he comments that these people "are endeavouring, with Mr. Davis, to obtain a chapel for Unitarian worship" ... as they cannot "with any degree of satisfaction, attend the other places in the town".
The next place of call was Templeton but "in consequence of a mistake respecting the time of my coming, the people did not expect me, and were all ernployed in different direction in the hayfields".
He continued on to Tenby, "but could not find any Unitarians, nor any opening for preaching in the town"; his visits to Pembroke and Haverfordwest were also in vain. He returned to Carmarthen where Mr. Philips, who had been home to make preparation for the rest of the journey, rejoined him and both continued on their mission to Rhyd-y-parc chapel. At this chapel, "which is about 18 miles from Carmarthen," he preached "to a large and respectable congregation and endeavoured to prove that the natural tendency of Unitarian principles, is to lead men to respect the scriptures ". At Cwmfelinfinich (sic) he preached out of doors, and Mr. Philips translated to Welsh. Mr. Lyons reminds his readers that "fifteen years since there were no Unitarians in this neighbourhood, but now, many of the most respectable farmers in the country are zealous friends and promoters of rational Christianity".
They proceeded from here to Panteg where the minister, Mr. Evans, like Mr. Philips of Rhydyparc, was a farmer; Mr. Evans was formerly a Calvinistic Baptist who became a Unitarian through reading Unitarian publications and "a careful perusal of the scriptures". In Cardigan he only found three or four Unitarians, but the owner of an inn gave him the loan of an empty house in the centre of the town; the town cryer was sent to give notice of an evening service, "and a very large company of respectable people attended". The journey continued through Newcastle Emlyn to "Llandysul where I preached out of doors to a considerable congregation, on the characteristic marks of truth and Mr. Davis, of Neath (son of Castell Hywel) who was in that country on a visit to his father, preached in Welsh on the same subject". Lyons adds that there "are not many Unitarians in this village, but the enquiries of the people seem very much directed towards subjects of a religious nature". It appears that "some Calvinists" followed him and Mr. Davis to the inn to "refute" their sermons, "but they very soon involved themselves in the most contradictory assertions and made concessions which were entirely subversive of the doctrines they were so zealous to support". According to Lyons the Calvinistic friends left, acknowledging that their creed was not without its difficulties, and that Christians of all denominations ought to treat each other with more candour and liberality..."
Late that night Lyons went with "Mr. Davis to Castle Hywel, and it was near midnight when we arrived. Mr. Davis of Castle Hywel, is an Arian, and is greatly respected in his neighbourhood, as a scholar, a preacher and an excellent man". He preached at Mr. Davis' place, Llwynrhydowen "to a large congregation", and Mr. Davis of Neath (the minister's son) gave "a translation of my sermon in Welsh".
He stayed at Castell Hywel until Sunday where he preached at Llwyn-y-groes (Capelygroes), where Mr. James (John James) of Lloyd-Jack was the minister, and here he met "the largest congregation of Unitarians I saw in Wales". Many members of the congregation are described as "respectable farmers", people "of good information and very zealous Unitarians". In the evening he preached "to a crowded congregation at Lampeter on the humanity of Christ", and then rode to Lloyd-Jack, "the house of Mr. David Jenkin Rees,where Mr. James (John James) lives".
Mr Lyons describes Mr. Rees as "a man of a very strong mind, of great zeal, and who bears the most excellent character". And at the home of this man, "who has been of the utmost service to the cause of Unitarianism" he preached to as many people as the place would contain.
Compliments are also paid to John James, for Lyons believed that "no man in Wales is more capable of serving the cause of Unitarianism"; he explains that he was trained at Exeter "under the late excellent Mr. Kenrick", was a good scholar and able preacher. This is where Lyon's journey comes to an end. Mr. James takes him to Aberystwyth for Chester, and Mr. Philips returns home.
The Missioner from Chester reckoned that he had covered 825 miles during his 50 days from home, and preached 26 times. He looked back on his journey with "the greatest pleasure and satisfaction", having met well-informed and zealous Unitarians. As compared to his experience in Scotland the Welsh Unitarians may not be so well acquainted with the "minute branches of theological controversy, nor so deeply read in scriptural criticism", but they are more "lively, more liberal in their views of church government and discipline, and much more tolerant towards each other ...". He also came to the conclusion that on the whole, "Unitarianism has made very great progress in Wales during the last ten or fifteen years".

The Missionary Tour of R. W. Wright

Between the years 1816 and 1822 Richard Wright from Trowbridge, being commissioned by the Unitarian Fund, followed his "worthy friend, Mr. Lyons" and made three missionary tours in Wales. In his report he maintained that altogether he "spent seventy four days in Wales, travelled about eight hundred miles, preached sixty nine times, and in forty three places". The "large congregations" were "deeply attentive", and he was "happily disappointed" that so many people were "disposed to hear an Unitarian preacher", at the "progress" Unitarianism had already made in Wales, and "the number of places where an English preacher can be understood by the hearers in general".
Mr. B. Philips was again appointed to accompany the Missioner and translate, when necessary, and this he did "with much accuracy".
Where Mr. Lyons concluded his tour Mr. Wright began. He attributes the success of the Unitarian cause in Cardiganshire to the "labours and consistent conduct of Mr. David Jenkin Rees of Lloyd-Jack, the oldest Unitarian in this part of the country, and of Mr. J. James (John James) lately removed to Glamorganshire". These men were for several years joint ministers of the Unitarian churches in Cardiganshire (Pantydefaid and Capelygroes including Lloyd-Jack/ Ystrad/ Rhydygwin).
Although Mr. D. J. Rees (Lloyd-Jack) was now dead it is obvious that Mr. Wright was well informed of his virtues. He was told that "this good man learned English that he might be able to read Unitarian books published in that language. He officiated gratuitously as a minister, and was one of the most liberal subscribers towards the support of another minister as his colleague. He was an excellent farmer... with many servants to whom he read and expounded the scriptures, as part of a religious service which he conducted in his own house daily".
The audience he addressed at Pantydefaid "were deeply attentive", and at Capelygroes he preached to "well-informed Unitarians"; at Lloyd-Jack Unitarian worship was conducted in a large school-room and Wright preached to "a numerous assembly of attentive hearers". In Lampeter he preached "in a room at the inn, which was crowded with hearers", and at Llandysul, "in a school-room to a large company".
In Cardiganshire Mr. Wright says that he found "much intelligence, simplicity, Christian affection and rational zeal". He classifies five congregations as Arian: Llwynrhydowen, Penrhiw, Ciliau, Alltyblaca and Llechryd. David Davis Castell Hywel, who still ministered with William Rees to the above group, is described as "very infirm and unwell"; he died in 1820.

Mr. Wright in Pembrokeshire

Mr. Wright found that this County was chiefly English and wanted to "pay a particular attention" to it, although there was but one Unitarian church established there, at Templeton. Here a decent house had been erected for the worship of the "One and Only God," and Wright preached "nine times, administered the Lord's Supper twice, and delivered an address at a public Baptism", in order that he could "strengthen and establish the infant society". Wright thought that prospects were good here "if proper encouragement be given". At Narberth he preached to hundreds of people in the market place, "from the window at the inn, which answered the purpose of a pulpit".
At Saundersfoot he preached twice in the house of a widow, and at Jefreston and Carew he addressed "attentive hearers" in cottages. The mayor of Pembroke, who was also the minister of the parish church tried to prevent him from holding any meetings, but the minister of the Tabernacle "had the liberality to offer his pulpit" and Wright preached to "a large and attentive audience".
At Haverfordwest the Dissenting minister would have lent him his chapel if he could "have gone in disguise", but Wright decided to address a "large congregation" "in a house which had been an inn", and publicise himself as a Unitarian.
He could not procure a place to meet at Milford, and his attempt at Tenby was also abortive "because the mayor there was also the parish priest and had prevented the crier publishing a meeting in the Methodist chapel".

In Carmarthenshire

In this county he found several Unitarian congregations, and believed that here "the most violent opposers have aided the progress of the movement, by drawing the attention of the public to the subject".
At Panteg he preached to a congregation of Unitarian Baptists, and at Rhyd-y-park "to a good congregation"; the house in which he conducted a service at Felin-Court was also filled with attentive hearers. He preached twice at St. Clears, where there was a small Unitarian Baptist Society "supplied by Mr. Philips, and Mr. D. John who is an excellent preacher, supporting himself and family by the labour of his hands".
Wright believed that the cause he found at Carmarthen "is highly important, and is in a promising stage". He preached here five times to crowded houses. At Kidwelly his notice of coming did not arrive in time "yet a good company was called together in a few minutes".
He preached twice at Llanelli, and reckons that "it is very desirable a regular congregation should be formed, and Unitarian worship conducted in this place".
At Llangyndeyrn he preached once to a congregation which "is not at present in a good state".
The meetings at Brechfa were held in a private house, and Wright addressed a crowd of attentive hearers who had been waiting for nearly two hours for his arrival. (We remember that the Unitarian cause of Cwmcothi had gradually died by the time Thomas Evans (Tomos Glyn Cothi) moved to Aberdare in 1811, and Cwmwrdu was not built until 1832) the congregations are described by Wright as "Unitarian Baptists" with Mr. B. Davies, a poor man, as their preacher.
At Llandilo he addressed a "large and attentive company" in a room at one of the inns. The audience might have been better at Llandyfaen, but at Llandybie he preached in a house to a crowded congregation.
Wright's opinion of Carmarthenshire was that "in many places an encouraging field for the propagation of Unitarianism."

In Glamorganshire

The Missioner preached at a greater number of places in this county than "in any other county in Wales", and it was to this county that he returned for his second journey. He begins at Gelligron, where the late Josiah Rees, the minister of Gellionnen, used to live, and preached "in a farm house to an attentive audience".
At Swansea he found a respectable and improving Unitarian congregation, with some of its members being "persons of superior rank in society"; he preached four times to this "pretty large" congregation, which "were very active in pushing Unitarian tracts into circulation".
He also held an interesting meeting at a place called the White Rock, connected with the copper works, near Swansea. He says that he preached "in a large school room, which was occupied as a place of worship by Christians of different parties" and that here "the most genteel members of the congregation at Swansea attended, and seated themselves on the benches among the working people".
Wright preached four times at Neath, in a neat little chapel, which had recently been "erected for Unitarian worship some of the congregations were large" (this building had been built since the visit of Lyons).
At Neath Mr. Wright, like his colleague Mr. Lyons, had the privilege to meet Mr. Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg), and the impression made is almost identical. Mr Wright reports: "At this place I met an interesting character, Mr. Edward Williams, the Welsh Bard. Though we had not met before, we knew each other by character, and he had come twenty miles to meet me. He was old and subject to a complaint which had prevented his being able to sleep in a bed, or to rest in a horizontal posture, for many years. (Iolo then would be about 73 years old). He was a good poet and mineralogist, and possessed a great deal of genius and information. He had no small degree of eccentricity; he was enthusiastically fond of liberty. He appeared to be universally respected. He travelled with me from place to place for about a week, and I was much entertained by his conversation." At Gellionnen Wright preached once - a chapel "situated among the mountains in a wild part of the country".
He conducted services at Wick where there was a "large audience", and also at Newton Nottage "to a crowded congregation"; at Bridgend three times to small attentive audiences and at Bettws to a small congregation.
At Cardiff he preached in the Presbyterian chapel to a respectable congregation, and although he found a "few Unitarians" in the capital, "they seemed too timid to show themselves openly in the Unitarian cause...".
He held meetings at Caerphilly, in the town-hall and in the market-place; at Maen-mael, once in the open-air, and once in a farm house. He preached twice at Blaengwrach to attentive audiences, and describes the chapel as "situated on a rural spot, in the midst of bold and romantic scenery"; friends had come together from a considerable distance, and they "spent a great part of the night in conversation". (How I would have loved to be there!).
At Newbridge he preached in the market place to hundreds, at Penderyn in a crowded room and at Cymmer to an attentive audience.
He preached four times to large congregations at Aberdare, and at Merthyr-Tydfil seven times. Wright considered Merthyr as one of the most important places in the Principality for the establishment of the Unitarian cause. The place, situated in the midst of the iron works, "is likely to continue to increase", and there was in the town "more of the spirit of enterprise, of free inquiry and liberality, than in many other places". He addressed here "not merely to crowded, but to overflowing congregations", and for one meeting he moved the pulpit to the doorway so that people could hear on the outside as well as from the inside.

In Monmouthshire

Mr. Wright believed that Unitarianism had not before been preached in this county. At Penmain he met a "highly interesting" company of people, and preached to them in an out-building; he returned to this place on another occasion and had the loan of the Independent chapel, where he preached four times; he addressed an estimated crowd of 800 people at the market place of Tredegar.
He had a great deal of success at Newport although he had to preach once in the castle grounds, because the room within the castle, used by Welsh Methodists, had been locked; several preachers came to listen to him and one, a Baptist, became a Unitarian convert.
Wright's visit to Newport created a "great stir" and he advised those who "were anxious to establish Unitarian worship there" to procure a room, form a fellowship, begin a Unitarian library, meet together regularly, do what they could to edify one another, keep up a correspondence with their friends at Bristol, and take their advice respecting all their proceedings.

In Breconshire

In this county he preached "in but two places". The one was Coed-y-Cymmer where he preached twice in the Unitarian chapel to large congregations; the other was Rhymney where he preached in a granary, emptied for the occasion "it was crowded with attentive hearers".
"In this part of Wales" people followed him "from place to place, and Mr. Evans (Tomos Glyn Cothi), the minister of the congregation at Aberdare", accompanied him to translate his discourses when necessary.
Mr. Wright ventured as far north as Wrexham where he preached "in a room which had been recently opened for Unitarian worship"; he addressed a congregation in a Methodist chapel outside the town and visited "two Unitarian families in that neighbourhood". The Missioner is full of praise for the hospitality of the Welsh people, and believes that much may be done among them for Unitarianism; it is an open, extensive field, but to conquer the many difficulties, "great and continued exertions must be made". Then Wright makes this valuable suggestion "I recommend the publication of a small periodical work in the Welsh language; this might produce important effects; a missionary should be constantly employed who can preach to the Welsh people in their own language, and tracts liberally circulated in that language".
This was good, sound advice and, although Iolo Morganwg had already made similar suggestions to the Welsh Unitarian Society, the Movement in Wales had to wait until 1847 to see the publication of Yr Ymofynnydd, the Welsh Inquirer. The Society, founded in 1802, sponsored a number of Unitarian publications in the form of original essays and translations, and even before that date individual ministers like Josiah Rees and Thomas Evans (Tomos Glyn Cothi) published their own booklets, tracts and hymns.

The Mission of John Davies, Alltyblaca

However, the advice of Mr. Wright did not go unheeded, and the missionary work of the Society was soon intensified. But theological oposition also intensified, and the Movement in Wales had another long wait before the British and Foreign Unitarian Society could persuade someone like John Davies of Alltyblaca to pluck up enough courage to make a missionary tour, in 1875, through the counties of Carmarthen and Glamorgan.
By this time the tours of Lyons and Wright were vaguely remembered, and the Black Spot of Cardiganshire had been painted even blacker by its growing theological opponents. And in the words of John Davies of Alltyblaca, "it was not child's play any more" to venture out to provoke people to "think for themselves", especially when the public was forewarned not to listen to "scamps from Cardiganshire who tramp the country spreading lies".
However, the tall, bearded minister did "venture out" and with only the help of friendly agents who were prepared to organize his meetings (book a room and fix a time), on the route. The first meeting was to be held at Llanelli, but no one came to listen to him, not even "the old members of the Alltyblaca church" who had settled there. He walked over the hills to Neath, Aberdare and on to Tonypandy in the Vale of Rhondda, where some "promised to stand firm by the principles"; John Davies was glad to report later that "two of them were very faithful".
More visits were made three times to Llanelli, twice to Rhymney and once to Treherbert (Rhondda). The audiences varied from about 12 in Treorci, where the prospects were "hopeful", to about a 1000 at Llanelli, where the reception was atrocious"; here he had to "escape for his life" through the back entrance of the Town Hall and over a high wall to reach the safety of his lodgings.
No new Unitarian cause can be attributed to the missionary work of John Davies, but who can "weigh and measure" the influence of this pious and powerful man in the counties of Carmarthen and Glamorgan where he attempted, against all odds, to light and fan the flame of the liberal faith on old and new hearths such as Dowlais and Llanelli?

The Mission of Dr. W. Griffiths

One of the earliest missioners appointed by the British and Foreign Unitarian Society was the Dr. William Griffiths, a native of Cwmllynfell, and who served as a minister at the Pontypridd church (1893-1900).
This Unitarian cause at Pontypridd is an example of a church being established (1892) by enthusiastic laymen, Mr. John Lewis, David Davies and J. M. Lloyd-Thomas; it also encouraged its first official minister, W. A. Clarke, (1892) to hold a series of missionary lectures at Hafod, Trefforest, Cilfynydd and Wattstown.
In 1893 Dr. William Griffiths, as a "Missionary of the Society", was sent to North Wales and there, at Caernarfon, his reception was not unlike the one given to John Davies at Llanelli. When his voice could not be drowned by fervent hymns, someone proposed that he should be asked to leave the building and the district immediately. A Mr. Robert Davies (Bryn Beuno) disagreed and referred to the proposals made as a "disgrace to our town and our religious people", asking, "are we afraid that our beliefs can so easily be rocked?" The author of a leading article in the Caernarvon Herald criticised the aggressive mood of this meeting and described the un-Christian attitude as a "shame on the good name of the town, and a disgraceful blot on the light of the times in which we live".
The meetings at Llanberis were more peaceful, and at Talsarn more than 350 attended. The Welsh Herald reporter could not understand why halls were refused to Dr. Griffiths at Pwllheli and Ffestiniog, whilst a Unitarian like Mr. William Rathbone was "good enough to represent them in Parliament... and his money was very acceptable for religious, charitable and education purposes".
In 1893 the British and Foreign Unitarian Society arranged that Dr. Griffiths should visit all the Unitarian churches in Cardiganshire; this "happy" task was completed in 5 days, at the rate of three meetings a day.
The lecture of Rev. H. E. Dawson on "Our Mission Field" was published in Yr Ymofynnydd towards the end of 1875, and in the following year Dr. Griffiths himself published in the same magazine an article on "the future of Unitarianism in Wales", proclaiming the good news that there was a renewal of interest in the land and that missioners should be sent to "those who were Unitarians without knowing it" and to those "unconnected with any church".
And it was with this purpose in mind, presumably, that Dr. Griffiths, with his colleague George St. Claire, from Cardiff went on a missionary visit to Aberystwyth and Tregaron in January 1897, where the "lectures were warmly received and encouraged by the inhabitants".
Another important development in this field was the establishing of the South Wales Postal Mission, through which contact was made and sustained with the "scattered Unitarians". It is believed that this work was started in Wales by Mr. John Lewis, one of the founder members of the Unitarian church at Pontypridd, and in 1898 he presented his first report on the success of the venture.


Davies, D. Elwyn (1982), "They Thought for Themselves": A Brief Look at the History of Unitarianism in Wales and the Tradition of Liberal Religion, Llandysul: Gomer Press, 125-126, 127-133, 133-135, 135, 136-137, 137-139, 139, 140, 141-142, 142-143. [Occasional changes in punctuation]


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful