Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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DAVIES , JAMES (d. 1760 ), Independent minister ,

a native of Llanedy parish, Carms. , educated at Carmarthen Academy . In 1712 he was ordained minister of Troed-rhiw-dalar and Llanwrtyd . Thence he removed in 1724 to the pastorate of Cwm-y-glo , between Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare ; it was a joint pastorate with the distant congregation of Cefn Arthen near Llandovery (they had a common origin in the ‘ Brecknockshire church ’ of Henry Maurice ) (q.v.) ; further, they were mixed congregations of Calvinists and Arminians . Davies 's senior ( Arminian ) colleague was Roger Williams ( 1667 - 1730 ) (q.v.) , who lived at Cefn Arthen (he had been in office since 1698 , and upon his death in 1730 the union of Cefn Arthen and Cwm-y-glo came to an end, but not the doctrinal division within both congregations). Davies was not only a Calvinist but belonged to the new ‘missionary’ type of Dissenter . He itinerated vigorously in north Glamorgan and Monmouth ( Edmund Jones , History of Aberystruth , 99, and diary for 1773 ), and on the inception of the Methodist movement welcomed it warmly, inviting Howel Harris to preach in the Glamorgan hill-country; there are two letters of his ( 138 and 145 , both of 1739 ) in the Trevecka collection at N.L.W. In 1738 the Arminian wing at Cwm-y-glo chose a well-to-do local farmer , Richard Rees (q.v.) of Gwernllwyn Uchaf , as Davies 's co-pastor (he d. 1749 ). Relations between the two men and their followers became increasingly difficult, and the ‘left wing’ seceded in 1747 to form the congregation (now Unitarian ) of Cefn-coed-cymer . Owing to the expiry of the lease, Davies and his people left their historic meeting-house at Cwm-y-glo and bought ( February 1749 ) the site at Merthyr Tydfil on which Ynysgau chapel stands; and in 1750 Davies was joined as co-pastor by his son Samuel Davies (see below). In 1751 the Aberdare members of Ynysgau hived off to form a new church. The younger Davies soon revealed Arminian tendencies, and the tale of Cwm-y-glo was repeated at Ynysgau . James Davies failed to control the situation, became well-nigh friendless, and d. at Gwernllwyn Isaf , 29 April 1760 . The diaries of Philip David of Penmain (q.v.) under 3 May , have a rueful reference to his former great popularity and the disesteem into which he had fallen through instability and time-serving; and Edmund Jones ( 15 Aug. 1773 ) refers tersely to him as ‘an apostate’ — it would also seem from this passage that a daughter of James Davies 's had m. David Williams ( 1709 - 1784 ) (q.v.) , the minister of Watford and Cardiff .

SAMUEL DAVIES was at Carmarthen with Thomas Morgan ( 1720 - 1799 ) (q.v.) , who speaks most highly of him and attended his ordination in 1746 to a pastorate in Wiltshire . His defection to Arminianism (or Arianism ) provoked unfriendly comment in the diaries of Philip David and of Edmund Jones , but it is clear that he was held in great esteem and affection at Ynysgau . He d. 18 March 1781 -the year of his birth has not been discovered, nor that of his father's.


  • Geiriadur Bywgraffyddol o Enwogion Cymru , i, 139;
  • Hanes Eglwysi Annibynnol Cymru , ii, 256, 257-8, iv, 362;
  • C. Wilkins , The history of Merthyr Tydfil (Merthyr Tydfil, 1867) ;
  • manuscript sources named above, and
  • NLW MS 10327.


Emeritus Professor Robert Thomas Jenkins, C.B.E., D.Litt., Ll.D., F.S.A., (1881-1969), Bangor

Published date: 1959