Dictionary of Welsh Biography



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WROTH , WILLIAM ( 1576 - 1641 ), Puritan cleric, and founder of the first Independent church in Wales . He was b. in 1576 ; it is not yet known for certain whether he was a Wroth of Maindiff in Llandeilo Bertholau or one of the family of that name who had settled at Llangattock-juxta-Usk . He went to Oxford — his name is connected with three of the colleges — and graduated M.A. from Jesus , 1605 . When exactly he became rector of Llanfaches is somewhat of a mystery, as there is much in documents at the Public Record Office in favour of 1611 , and a good deal for 1617 . Romantic stories are told about his transition from an indolent apathetic cleric to a Puritan of industry and zeal; it is possible that 1630 was the year of transformation, but there is no proof. It is said that he was a conscientious objector to the Book of Sports ; whatever the exact reason was, he was summoned before the Court of High Commission in Oct. 1635 , and after much procedure of adjourning, charging, and rebutting, Wroth submitted to discipline in 1638 ; the most likely theory is that he surrendered the rectory in that year, as he describes himself in his last will ( 17 Sept. 1638 ) as ‘ Preacher of God's Word ’ and not ‘ rector of Llanfaches .’ That will is a most interesting document, with the name of Henry Walter (q.v.) as chief executor , the signatures of the five witnesses and the bequest of three acres of land as an endowed charity to the poor of the parish for ever. It is open to no doubt that at this penultimate stage of his life he was busy gathering a dissident congregation outside the parish church, ‘ leading away many simple people ,’ for in Nov. 1639 Henry Jessey , a prominent Puritan preacher , came down from London to form Wroth 's followers into a regular church in the ‘ New England Way ,’ words used to describe a moderate quasi- Presbyterian mode of separation from the Church of England . Thus a church was formed, but no chapel was built (as was incorrectly held by Sir Joseph Bradney ), a hybrid church at first, very probably of Baptists as well as Independents . It is no wonder when one remembers his irreproachable character, his simple evangelical preaching, his unique position as the first minister of the first Independent church in Wales , that some of his contemporaries called him an ‘apostle’ and looked upon Llanfaches as an Antioch amidst a gentile country. The Broadmead Records testify that he often came over to Bristol to preach , and add that it was Wroth 's desire to leave this world before the trump of war sounded in the land. He had his desire; his will was proved at Llandaff in April 1641 .

Bibliography:

  • Bradney , A History of Monmouthshire , I, 201, 340; IV, ii, 189; iii, 343;
  • Foster , Alumni Oxonienses ;
  • Cardiff Naturalists' Society: Report and Transactions , XXV, ii, 6-7;
  • Life and Death of Mr. Henry Jessey , 1671 , 1671 , 9-10;
  • Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series , Record Publication , Chas. I , 261, 268, 270, 274, 280, 287;
  • Reference is made to two editions, by E. B. Underhill, 1847, and Nathaniel Haycroft, 1865. Reference is also made to Addenda B (pp. 511–9 in 1847 ed) , 9, 27, 29, 515;
  • T. Richards , Cymru a'r Uchel Gomisiwn, 1633-1640 , Liverpool, 1930 , 38-9;
  • The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion , 1941 , 157-68, 182-4.

Author:

Thomas Richards, D.Litt., (1878-1962), Bangor