Trecastle (1786 to 1821)
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Trecastle, Powys, LD3 8
Revival in Wales to 1858
1786 Trecastle. ‘About the year that Ebenezer Morris came to Trecastle to keep a school, namely 1786, there was a powerful revival which was the second revival; there had been one other in the time of Llewelyn Dafydd, but there is little record of it; and there are no records of any particular revival after the one in 1786 for 35 years; namely the one in 1821, which was a very powerful revival. Until this time the old games had remained:—the hill races on the Sabbath; football and handball with great pomp; the gwylmabsantau and dances, not yet been overthrown; the young people withdrew from the worship in the afternoon to the taverns; where there would often be drunkenness and uproar, swearing and fighting until morning.
At this time the parish of Llywel had the privilege of having a godly and truly hard-working priest, the Rev. David Parry, the present vicar. The revival broke out in the church and in the chapel and scores were converted in both places. The young people came in large numbers to wear the yoke of the Son of God, and there was now only a small remnant to keep up the old corrupt practices. The gwylmabsantau fell into disgrace, and instead of swearing and drunkenness, the voice of praise and singing was heard through all the regions. We hope that a Heil the Bethelite will never arise to found this old Jericho again. And it was not only public ungodliness that was overthrown, but a work was done on the souls of men that will be of eternal honour. Scores were added to the church fellowship at this time, and to this day the church has not been completely childless. The church presently numbers 150, besides children. The only minister who lives here is the Rev David Davies, together with the Rev Benjamin Morris, in Pentre’r-felin.
It was not only Trecastle, or even its neighbourhood, that received the benefit of the revivals here, but on occasion strangers and distant localities reaped something of the fruit—though the fireside hearth is essentially in one place, yet some of its sparks can be carried far. When the revival broke out in Llwyn-neuadd, a locality not far from Trecastle, under the ministry of the Rev Thomas Jones, Carmarthen, in the year 1786, among the great number that received the benefit at that time, was one William Bowen, Aberhenwen. Afterwards he became an officer in the Revenue Office, and a very useful preacher in his day, and finished his course in Swansea. At this time it is said that the gentleman Mr Bowen, Llwyn-y-gwair, Pembrokeshire, received the arrow of truth to his heart. As a young girl was praising along the road, having come out of the chapel, and singing a verse of Williams, Pantycelyn:
Dywedwch i’m pa olwg hyfryd, Trace for me the lines of beauty
Sydd ar Dywysog mawr y bywyd; In our Prince’s figure comely;
A ydyw ol yr hoelion yno, Do the nail-marks still appear
Yn ei draed ac yn ei ddwylo? etc. In his feet and hands so clear?
(Trans. Eifion Evans)
[Lit. Tell me, what pleasant view the great Prince of Life presents? Is the mark of the nails there, in his feet and in his hands?]
The gentleman happened to be passing in his coach. The sweet charming sound fell upon his ear, drawing his attention to the words. He felt their power touch his heart, and inclined his shoulder to the yoke. The great man, despite all the pomp, and privilege of his position, could not get rid of the feelings kindled in his breast at that time, and his spirit had no rest until he reached the refuge that is in Christ. He showed this subsequently in being an unassuming and most useful Christian. Who would have expected that far away Pembrokeshire would have received such benefit from the Trecastle revival in Brecknockshire. In the same revival John Bowen, Pontypool, was saved, who in his early days was a bright shining star in the ministry, and the instrument of turning many to righteousness.
But good never advances without someone complaining about it, and however powerful and evident the good, the opposition will be correspondingly fierce. At the time of this revival, as the movement was so powerful, and the rejoicing so great, many of its subjects spent many hours in singing and praising, and at times, all along the road as they returned home from the means of grace. Indeed, some would spend whole nights in this way in the open air; and the hills echoed with the voice of their praise, and the valleys resounded with their song. One man, more than most in the neighbourhood, felt that this was too much for him to bear. They disturbed his sleep, and this must be stopped. To this end he went to the Justice of the Peace to ask for a legal summons to arrest the leaders of the revival, and to punish them for being so unruly in their behaviour. When he went to the Justice, he was him what was his business. He replied that he was seeking a summons, to bring to punishment the people who were disrupting the area by their singing and praising, so much that it was difficult for him, and many others, to sleep at night. ‘O!’ said the Justice, ‘if that is your request, I cannot give it: because you know that you and I must die!’ And the plaintiff had to be content with that. There is no doubt that the man many times heard the noise of the drunkards, and the yells of the swearers, and noisy threats of quarrellers, without the thing touching his heart. More agreeable, it is thought, to his taste, and easier on the ear, was the chilling cries of the children of the devil, than the cry of wounded souls—than the praise of those who have found their life in the shadow of the Mediator. The truth is that the amount of noise was not an enemy to his sleep, but the nature of the song was contrary to his taste; and he was prevented from sleeping, not by the strength of their noise, but by a stirring in his own breast.
In these years Associations were often held at Trecastle; for some time as often as every other year; indeed, occasionally, every year. This was when there was no where else in the county, apart from Builth, for it to be held. Much mention is made even today by the oldest people of the wonderful outpourings given at that time in those great meetings. Mention is made of one in particular, when heavy rain threatened to completely disrupt the meeting, when a wonderful influence descended on the elders and preachers in their private meeting. At the end of the meeting Robert Roberts, Clynnog, was called upon to close in prayer. If the place was a warm hearth before, it now became an intense flame. The old minister Howel, Trehill, jumped from his seat under the pulpit into the middle of the floor, and there leaped like a hart, and the fire spread so that all the people outside the chapel were kindled by it. The rain stopped as well, and that meeting was remembered for a very long time.’ [MC iii. 354-7]
John Hughes, Methodistiaeth Cymru, (Gwrecsam, 1856), iii, 354-357
This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones