Dictionary of Welsh Biography



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WILLIAMS , DAVID ( 1709 - 1784 ), Independent minister ; b. in 1709 , the second son of William and Catherine David , Pwll-y-pant (between Caerphilly and Llanbradach ) — the family was well-to-do. He was educated at Carmarthen Academy under Perrott , and in 1734 was ordained minister of Trinity (English) chapel , Cardiff . The congregation of Trinity was small and moribund, but David Williams (like his predecessor) ministered to the Independents scattered up and down Eglwysilan parish, who used to meet in private houses until 1739 , when a chapel was built near the mansion of Thomas Price (‘ Justice Price ’) at Watford (also written ‘ Waterford ’ and ‘ Votford ’ — originally, perhaps, Bodffordd ), on the hill-side between Cardiff and Caerphilly . At first, David Williams 's ministry was as vigorous as that of his friends James Davies (d. 1760 ) (q.v.) of Merthyr Tydfil , and Edmund Jones (q.v.) . When the Methodist revival occurred, he welcomed it whole-heartedly. He invited Howel Harris to visit Eglwysilan , and arranged a meeting for him; see letter 110, 17 May 1738 , in the Trevecka collection . The two corresponded throughout 1738 and 1739 ; the letters refer to the establishment of societies here and there, to various places where Williams went to preach , and to the latter's friendship with John Thomas , the Methodist curate of Gelli-gaer . They refer also to a school opened in the parish under the aegis of Griffith Jones of Llanddowror , and mention that David Williams had ordered some hundreds of Griffith Jones 's catechisms and was in correspondence with him — later ( 1741 ) a letter written by David Williams appeared in Welch Piety. But by 1740 Williams and Harris were on bad terms. The Methodist revival had brought in a considerable number of new members to the Watford church , and this pouring of new wine into old bottles was not a success. In addition, Harris at that time had become obsessed with the doctrine of the ‘ assurance of forgiveness ,’ and had made the profession of this ‘assurance’ a condition of society membership — while the more cautious Williams refused to regard this as essential. Impulsive as usual, Harris would not leave well alone, and wrote a sharply-worded letter to Williams accusing him of spiritual indifference — worse still, he proclaimed from the pulpit at Watford and in the society that Williams 's ministry was ‘carnal.’ The correspondence between them ceased abruptly, apart from one letter written by David Williams to Harris about 1747 . Meantime, the Methodist element had left Watford and established a Methodistic society (which later became an Independent church ) at Groes-wen , where in 1742 it built a chapel; and, of course, David Williams was not present at the famous association held at Watford in 1743 in the ‘ New Room ,’ whether that was Watford chapel , or Groes-wen chapel (the leaders were accommodated in the mansion). The church at Watford waned under the strain. Whether David Williams was ever a real Calvinist is open to question (it should be noted that Charles Wesley preached in his chapel in 1740 and 1741 ), but in any event, he now began (like other early Independent supporters of Methodism ) to veer towards Arminianism and Arianism , and fell out even more with his old friends Edmund Jones and Philip David (qq.v.) — the latter ( 1784 diary) sadly fears that he has pronounced leanings towards Arianism and even Socinianism, while the former is shocked (in 1773 ) to find that he is denying the doctrine of original sin and hobnobbing with the Arians of west Wales ; but the ‘ Old Prophet ’ was still more troubled when he heard in 1780 that David Williams favoured Roman Catholic Emancipation. His wife was the daughter of James Davies (above) of Merthyr Tydfil , and when three of his sons went to the bad, Edmund Jones saw in this ( 1773 ) God's judgement on the father for his doctrinal shortcomings. David Williams lived in his father's house during the early years of his ministry, but later moved to Cwm , nearer Watford , where he kept a school which had a high reputation — there were educated Thomas Morgan ( 1720 - 1799 ) , Morgan John Rhys , and David Williams ( 1738 - 1816 ) (qq.v.) — there is a tendency to get these two David Williamses of Watford mixed up. The minister d. 5 April 1784 , at the age of 75, and was buried in his chapel. By common consent, he was greatly respected throughout his life. He was succeeded in Watford and Cardiff by his son THOMAS WILLIAMS , who for three years previously had been minister of Ynys-gau , Merthyr Tydfil ; but by 1788 he had taken orders in the Church of England ; he died an old man, a vicar and schoolmaster in Hampshire .

Bibliography:

  • T. Rees , History of Protestant Nonconformity in Wales (index);
  • Hanes Eglwysi Annibynnol Cymru , ii, 418-9;
  • Geiriadur Bywgraffyddol o Enwogion Cymru , ii, 648;
  • Y Cofiadur , 1935 ;
  • R. T. Gregory , Hanes Eglwys y Watford dau-can mlwyddiant codi'r capel cyntaf 1739-1939 , Cardiff, 1939 , 1939 .

Author:

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

Corrections and additions:

WILLIAMS , DAVID ( 1709 - 1784 ; DWB , 1030-1). He m. twice. His first wife, Mary , d. 27 Sept. 1745 , aged 24. His second wife was also called Mary , and she d. 24 Dec. 1787 aged 67.

Bibliography:

  • Information from memorial tablets.