Beddgelert Revival (1817-22)
(see general accounts in DA, pp.125-6; MC i. 269-73; MC ii. 201-2; John Jones, Glan Gwynant in Goleuad Cymru, iii. Ionawr 1823, pp.5-9; Robert Ellis, Ysgoldy in Drys. 1878, pp. 377-81, 411-4 and reprinted in John Owen Jones, Cofiant a Gweithiau y Parch. Robert Ellis, Ysgoldy, Arfon, pp.223-37; Griffith Prichard mss quoted in HMA ii. pp.138-45 and Cymru xix, 1900, pp.23-6; Y Llenor Ionawr 1895, pp.42-50; D.E. Jenkins, Beddgelert: Its Facts, Fairies & Folklore, pp.364-9).
‘The Lord made bare his arm and did mighty acts. The floodgates of heaven opened, and the gracious rain poured down in showers on the dry land. Then the wilderness and the solitary place rejoiced, the desert started to blossom as the rose. To some degree the promise was fulfilled, ‘Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped, then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.’ About the year 1817, the first signs appeared that this promise was being fulfilled in many regions, in some measure,—’Lo the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.’ And of every place, Beddgelert had the privilege of being the first as firstfruit of the present revival. Before this it could be said of the region: ‘This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.’ But in the midst of a dark and discouraging night, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light; and they that sit in the valley of the shadow of death the light has arisen upon them. No one remembers seeing in one place more powerful unction on the means of grace than in this region, and a great many other places. The convictions were more powerful to awaken the conscience and prick the heart, and the outpourings of the joy of salvation more powerful than had been seen in some previous revivals. It exceeded every revival before it in its extent, because a degree of it reached to each county in Gwynedd, and some of the counties of the South, and that in the space of two or three years: and there have been added to the churches, since it started, some thousands, between the various countries that were partakers of it. To the Beddgelert society itself were added about nine score, six score in Bryn-engan, not including a great number from various other places. Only a few of the regions of Caernarvonshire did not have in some degree these gracious outpourings on them. This blessed shower, namely the gracious rain, reached most of the mountain areas and valley of Merioneth. The last two Associations that were in Bala clearly testify that according to the hand of the Lord on the numerous crowd which has listening; so in the same way Caernarfon and Pwllheli; and various other Associations broadly the same. Denbighshire and Flintshire are under the same sort of outpourings, many of their regions, and many have been added to the churches. Montgomeryshire has not been left an orphan; in some places there a great number are seeking the way to Zion; beginning to raise up Jesus’ banner, and cheerfully progressing like a crowd keeping a feast. Anglesey, many its privileges, which excelled many in faithfulness and labour with the work in all its degrees, having tasted however, in some places, the sweetness of the clusters of grapes, and greatly longing to taste them further. A little cloud had arisen from the sea, who knows if there will not be a mighty downpour? Hasten the day! There is a very powerful revival in Cardiganshire; namely in Llangeitho, Tregaron, Lledrod, and other places; and because I am a stranger there, I cannot presently give more of the religious history of those regions. Since there is much disregard and scorn on the outpourings of rejoicing, and was, and is now in Wales, perhaps it would not be inappropriate to look for, if among our own nation alone it is, and has been the like acts?’ (DA pp.125-6)
Conditions before the revival
‘As with various other revivals, this revival also began in a period of great distress on the land. One of the ways the Great King brings men to think on their eternal matter is bringing them to temporal distress. Revivals are often brought about through bitter circumstances in Providence. Poverty and distress in commerce was the root of this great revival. The distress after the war with France, when a great many of the country’s farmers went bankrupts, and the working class about to famish, this pressed the land to turn to God. And the result of this was that the Lord blessed it with a religious revival.’ (DCC p.249).
‘We remember hearing that old mother in Israel, Mrs Ellin Williams, formerly of Mur-y-cyplau, mother of Mr Robert Williams, Henllan, saying that she was in the school in Beddgelert a little before the revival broke out and that it was a place fearful for ungodliness. Not a single week would go by without there being a ‘noswaith lawen’ [a merry evening] held in one of the taverns, which was the same as a night of getting drunk, swearing and cursing, and fighting.’ (DCC p.250)
Began on Lleyn Peninsula
‘Though this revival is called the ‘Beddgelert Revival,’ yet strictly it did not start there. Dr Owen Thomas refers to this in his excellent sermon on ‘Religious Revivals’ at the Pont Menai Association in the year 1874. The place this revival started was in capel y Nant, Lleyn. Religion had been remarkably low in that region for a long time; the religious were few in number; the hearers very hard, and the young proverbially wild and unmindful. Some were awake and pained in their souls because of the state of religion in the place, and because of the ineffectualness of all the means of grace. This made an uncommon impression on the mind of one of the elders, who was also superintendent of the Sunday School at the time. Though the name of this man is not given, yet we are fairly sure in our mind that he was Hugh Williams, the Factory, who was a notable man of prominence, powerful, and godly-minded, and who died suddenly in the prime of life. It made such an impression on the mind of this man, that he brought the matter before the church sometime during the summer of the year 1816. He asked everyone who was connected with the church to set aside a particular time each day to ask the Lord to visit them by his Spirit, and that saving power would attend all their means of grace; and he also said, in the next church meeting everyone would be asked if they had done so. In the next meeting, it was found that all bar one had done so. Also, all had been convicted that this was from the Lord and that they would not keep crying to him long, without having an answer to their prayers. It was also found out that the same thing had fallen even on the children of the church, and the children of the Sabbath School, and that they also had prayer-meetings to pray for the same thing.’ (DCC pp.253-4; cf. MC ii. 175)
‘It appears that the public meeting is generally held in this place at two o’clock on the Sabbath afternoon, and the school in the evening. This order was the occasion of a great many of the children remaining around the chapel, without going home after the two o’clock meeting; and as can be expected, no small disorder occurred among them each Sabbath. It happened, however, about the beginning of summer that one of the boys, who would have been as bad as any of his contemporaries, used to now separate himself from the others, and lock himself in the gallery of the chapel, as soon as the congregation left the afternoon sermon. He did this, as he revealed afterward, because the polluting of the Sabbath had become painful to him; and that he now likes to have quiet from the tumult of others. This boy was lame, and he could not, therefore, go home and return in time for the school, because it was a long way for him. He was not many Sabbaths alone in the gallery, before his contemporaries understood this; and if their noise and tumult was great before, it was now much greater, for they wanted to get in through the windows, or by some other means. It was allowed, however, for some to come to him; firstly, a little girl obtained this by her importunity, with the certain promise that she would not worry him at all. [‘It is said this girl was the daughter of the elder referred to, Catherine Hughes, by name, Murpoeth, Mynytho, after this, and her son lives in that place now, namely Mr John Evans.’ Henry Hughes DCC p.255] Two others gained access after a Sabbath or two, on the same conditions. Now, the earnest pleadings of the others for entrance, admitted a large number one by one, having assuredly promised that they would not be a nuisance to anyone. No one outside knew what was going on inside, but those who enjoyed the advantage of being received, by those who had been received inside, they bound tightly to their gathering, and they would not though they lost anything. Gradually, by the size of their desire, they resolved to come together an evening in the middle of the week, on a given furzy slope in the neighbourhood;—a place well-known to them, like a secret and separate plain, where they would not be seen or heard by anyone. What was the secret occupation undertaken by these young people. What indeed, but to pray earnestly for that which the older people publicly prayed for. These prayer meetings started about the time the little girl was allowed to go to the lame boy in the chapel gallery, and it appears that a measure of the same spirituality descended on each one as they went into them.
‘The spirit of prayer had possessed the religious, and some of them used to pray through the entire night. Mention is made particularly of one widow, the daughter of one of the earliest Methodists in Lleyn, Robert Owen, Lonfudr;— and for sure this woman many nights wrestled with God in prayer, for her own cause, her family, and her neighbours. She had a wild and prodigal boy, who had left his valley, and gone to Anglesey to work. The widow heard only infrequently from him, and this from inquiring of others. His mother had not forgotten him, but she wrestled much with God for him. But during her prayers, she understood that a change had taken place in the standing of her boy; what the change was she did not know; she thought that he had either died, or he had by grace returned to God. A minister from Anglesey came to the region to preach, for a little while, by whom the widow was informed that her wild boy had been received into the communion of the church of God, for such and such at time; which period corresponded to the feeling she had had in her prayers...
‘All the unruliness of the children had by this time disappeared, and prayer taken its place. At the beginning of the year 1817, signs appeared that these earnest prayers had come in remembrance before God. It appeared that the ministry possessed greater ardour, and walked with greater power. The young girl who first went to the lame boy in the chapel gallery broke out crying and rejoicing first of all; after this four others were added to her. After a fortnight a crowd of 15 to 20, and not many weeks passed before there were 80, some of every age, under the same excitement. Now, the influence of this revival had reached almost all in the valley. All labour and commerce had slowed down due to the power of the visitation. Some for days and nights on end were unable to eat or sleep, because of the depth of their conviction. Some refrained from all the means [of grace], for fear that they too would be taken with the same conviction; others went to the means to ridicule, swearing that they would keep clear of such madness. But no one was safe. On some the excitement fell in the middle of the night whilst in their beds; and on some as they were travelling, and on others in the fields. These powerful influences were frequently, like the plague, through the valley. No one was safe from being attacked by this saving disease! It fell on a servant of Nanhoron, the mansion of a gentleman in the neighbourhood when he was cleaning out the horses in the stable. He broke out shouting so loudly, that fear possessed those inside the mansion, and outside. Having gone out with a team of horses to the field the next day, the influences took hold in the youths there again, and they fell to the earth on their knees pleading for their lives, and in this form they continued until the team had been loose until midday. The gentleman himself did not show such disregard for them, but the reverse; in a word, the kind of fear had possessed plebeian and gentry at the time so that none dare move his tongue against them. The only family that showed hatred towards the visitation was the family of the vicar of Llanengan. They came to the old gentleman, to demand that he throw out the servant, and to use his influence to put an end to the rejoicing. But the answer the gentleman gave was, ‘I will not; I would rather hear that he prays than curse the horses, as he used to do.’ (MC ii. 175-7) [Henry Hughes adds ‘Colonel Richard Edwards was the name of this gentleman, who was prudent man, remarkably kind and unprejudiced against the Nonconformists, as that family has been for many ages, and the young man who is now there is his great-grandson.’ (DCC p. 257)] (for Hugh Williams see Trysorfa iii. Ionawr 1821, p.254, and Drys. 1908, pp.19-20).
Account of revival given at Monthly Meeting in Jan. 1817 (Owen Thomas ‘Adfywiad Crefyddol’, Drys. 1874, p.247).
Additions at Beddgelert during following months etc. (GC 1823, pp.5-6).
Revival Begins at Hafod-y-Llan in August 1817
‘The Sabbath night under consideration, there the inhabitants of the surrounding brooks and valleys, and those of the village, wended their way to the old farmhouse Hafod-y-Llan. Because the weather was pleasant, everyone old and young went out; not so much to hear the old brother from Bryn-engan preach, because they thought the preacher and his preaching was very common; but the desirable thing with the inhabitants of remote valleys would be the convenience like this to see each other. The old farmhouse is full; the young and thoughtless withdrew to the milking parlour, and to someplace out of view. Richard Williams stood on a bench by the large table in the kitchen, and a small table on that, forming some form of pulpit to hold the Bible. He comes through the start shortly and easily, singing and praying is held. He reads his text in a tone which is almost a moan. Which of two texts it was, our memory fails, though we heard it more than once: either ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,’ or, ‘Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’ [‘It is more than likely that it was the last.’ says Henry Hughes DCC p.261] Everything promised that the old brother would have a fluent sermon. But before quarter of an hour had passed there is here something more than fluency. The power of the world to come—’this thing’ Peter called it—is poured out on the preacher and the hearers—it is serious! It is fearful! It is indescribable. Though Richard Williams is speaking, yet somehow he is not speaking; the voice is not his voice, nor the gift his gift, and neither is the sermon his sermon! The old preacher had his sermon on the text, and more than likely, he had preached it many times before. His observations were learned in his mind, and the old sermon he had determined to preach this time. But the old sermon did not come out, but a completely new sermon that he had not had before, and he could not get a hold of any of it again. He was a messenger this time. SOMEONE ELSE was speaking to the conscience of the congregation, and the old preacher had lost himself in this! Richard Williams said afterwards, that he was doubtful at the time whether he was preaching, or that he was listening to someone else. Well, everyone had been possessed by seriousness and fear. The young people and the wanton left the milk parlour taken with fear of the judgment; they thought that an angel and not a man was speaking. And the remarkable thing was, as we are informed, the crowd had been possessed with too much fear to weep. No one even cried out, except one young man, William Roberts, y Clogwyn, as it was known afterwards. And from his lips we have had this account, and that more than once. He confessed that in his fear he cried out fiercely, but he did not tell us what. The old preacher, though he had lost himself, closed by a form of prayer. He gave a verse out to be sung, and if our memory is correct, William Roberts said that the multitude had been possessed by too much seriousness to sing, but everyone hurried away in quietness and fear. No one said a word to anyone else along the way as they made their way home, nor when they had gone, but what was necessary. A sleepless Sabbath night was this for some. And the same grave silence was had the length of those valleys the next day. It was a dark Monday to many; matters of the soul swallowed up everything else, and dawn had not yet broken.’ (Drys. 1878, p.380) [Henry Hughes adds the following details ‘We are pleased to understand that the old farmhouse remains like it did previously. At least that is what William Humphrey, an old elder of Bethania chapel, said to us, who was born and raised in the region, and remembered the ‘Beddgelert Revival’ well, though he was very young at the time. The kitchen where the meeting was held is on the left of the door, and Richard Williams stood whilst preaching between the window and the fire. He also said that he saw the people jumping many times on the green bit by the house, and heard them rejoicing.’ (DCC p.263)] (see also HMA ii. p.139-40; GC 1823, p.6 etc.; details from William Humphrey in DCC p.263) Disprove Elias tradition (Mrs. Jones, Tremadog NLW MSS ????; J Elias Memorandum book CMA Bala ????).
Meeting during the week
‘Sometime in the following week, a church meeting was held in the village. Though there were three places for preaching, there was only one church meeting, and this meeting was during the day. That world had not yet succeeded in moving the old ‘seiat profiad’ [the experience meeting] to the night. Two old elders, Rhys Williams, Hafod y Llan, and William Williams, Hafod y Rhisgl, sat in the chapel house to wait for the start; their way was far, and so they came punctually. [‘Both of them were grandfathers of Mr Daniel Williams, Ivy House, Porthmadog, the first on his mother’s side, and the last on his father’s.’ Henry Hughes DCC p.263] And indeed so it has been until today; those furthest away have been the most punctual. William Williams was a busy man. He goes and sticks his head into the chapel to see whether the friends had gathered together, in order to start the meeting. He comes back abruptly, and says to his brother. ‘For sure, the people are mistaken; they are expecting a sermon; the chapel is full, the people of the parish are there,’ with the implication, in all likelihood, all sorts of people, and people you would not ever think of seeing in a seiat. Be that as it may, they went in, greatly astounded; where a handful used to gather, as had been customary through the years, the chapel was generously full. There was nothing to be done but to indicate some brother to start the meeting. Leisure was had to read some portion of the Bible, then a verse was given out to sing. With a hand, something more melting and charming than had been from age to age in the singing Beddgelert than any place we know of. What the verse that was given at the beginning of the meeting was, we have not heard. But we think that it was some verse full of the gospel, as we have plenty in our language. By singing the verse, the dams broke with a great shout! By understanding, the chapel was full of men at an end of themselves there. It was not on the stirred feelings and tumult within but wanted some entrance to break out; and give the idea of hope, and had in the verse given, that freedom to them. What followed was amazing! Some crying out for mercy—some rejoicing having received deliverance—some praying—some singing—everything in confusion—no one caring—no one thinking about order! Order indeed; under such powerful influences as these! Master Order must be kept out for a time. The news of the stirring in the chapel immediately went through the village, and from house to house—from valley to valley through the region, and everyone hurried to the place, and everyone fell into the grasp of the same exciting influence. Late in the day, or rather late at night, some of the wisest succeeded in guiding their most stirred companions homeward. Now the rejoicing that was in the chapel spread in different directions, along the ways, and through the valleys. The echo of the rejoicing was also taken up by age old Snowdon, one rock competing to answer the other. It was a new and strange work for these ancient everlasting rocks to have opportunity to have a part in praising their Creator! The like was not had again!
‘There was for a period of time hardly any order, nor a seiat or preaching kept, for the praying or singing would start to set everyone on fire. And if leisure was had to start preaching, if the preacher was not watchful of coldness, he would not have quiet to finish his sermon, so fiery were the feelings of the congregation.’ (Drys. 1878, p.381; HMA ii. p.140-1).
Spread of revival down Nant Gwynant (HMA ii. p.140-1).
Other meetings late Aug. etc. (GC 1823, p.6).
School Meetings etc. (Henry Hughes, Hanes Cyfarfod Ysgolion ac Ysgolion Sabbathol y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd yn Nosbarth Eifionydd, pp.5-42, p.29 on meeting held on 14 Sept. 1817 at Beddgelert).
Sunday School Meeting on 21 Sept. 1817
‘There was there a young religious girl who was the teacher of a number of young girls. As the last chapters of the gospel of John were read, a remarkable weeping came upon them all; they could not proceed with their reading for weeping. A most amazing thing, is it not, in a class of young girls in the Sunday School! At the end, a brother, Richard Roberts, Cae’rgors, by name, addressed the school. This brother had a prodigious talent and affectionate manner. At the end of the address, he warned the young people to behave themselves in a seemly manner in a fair that was to be in Beddgelert the following week. And by speaking and speaking, something amazing descended on him and the whole school. He came across the line of an old verse, ‘Mae’r afael sicraf fry!’ [The firmer hold is above] And with his flexible gift and burning feeling, he played upon the word ‘above.’ ‘From above comes everything of worth to this world of ours—from above comes light, heat, and rain—from above comes the blessings of salvation to our world—from on high God pours out his Spirit; here is hope for the hard men of Beddgelert. If it is dark here, it is light above; if it is feeble here, it is strong above.’ With his words something so solemn, so powerful, descended on the whole school, on young and old, so that all broke out weeping. So powerful was the influence, that the children were in dread; one little boy ran to his father, and cried, ‘Dear father, judgment day has come.’ A serious and quiet weeping filled the place. It is said that no one broke out in rejoicing at that time but the noted youth.’ (Drys. 1878, p.379; HMA ii. p.141; GC 1823, pp.6-7).
Pwllheli Association in Oct. 1817 (GC 1823, p.7).
Monthly meeting at which Michael Roberts preached on Isaiah 9:5? (Adgofion Hiraethog pp.28-33; DCC p.282-3).
‘It was heavy and very low in our land until about the month of September, when the dawn broke in a powerful revival in Beddgelert, and it continues, so that there have been added there to the Church about 80, and there is a degree of additional light, and an hopeful dawn on various places in Eifionydd. It is good to hope and wait for the salvation of the Lord.—December 31st, 1817.’ (Jones, Cofiant Michael Roberts, p.28)
Talyrni, singing in the air, R Williams Dec. 1817-Jan. 1818 etc. (HMA ii. p.142-4).
Other details down to Bala 1818 (HMA ii. p.144).
Bala Association June 1818 (HMA ii. p.144; Drys. 1836, pp.227-30 for sermon outlines, also Y Llenor Gorffennaf 1895, pp.62-70; NLW MSS ??? giving texts; DA, p.126 on particularly blessed Associations during the revival).
Meetings after Bala Assoc. (Davies, Cofiant Morris Roberts, pp.37-45; Owen Jones & Robert Thomas, Cofiant y diweddar Dafydd Rolant y Bala, pp.??)
Rejoicing during the revival
‘A son and a daughter were one Monday morning (after having feasted extensively on the delicacies of the house of God the previous day), coming together in a cart to the village; and by conversing together about religion, their souls were kindled to praise the Lord, and so they came four miles along the way, until arriving at the village without ceasing their praises. Of this I was a witness, because I went out to meet them as I had heard the sound of their coming.’ (GC 1823, p.7; see also ) [Henry Hughes adds: ‘This young man afterwards became a famous elder in Horeb, Prenteg, namely Richard Williams, Erw-suran. I remember hearing him praying at the start of the meetings in Garth chapel, Porthmadog; and the tinkle of the revival ever remained in his prayer. Mr Richard Williams, Bod-y-gadle is his son, who is an elder in Rhyd-y-clafdy, Lleyn. ‘ (DCC p.271)]
“I heard,” he says, “Richard Roberts, Cae’rgors, Beddgelert, say, that they were there, in the hot period of the revival, carrying hay, and he was in the yard taking care of the hayrick, and was sometimes on top of the rick casting his gaze towards the Meadow, when to his amazement he saw the hay field group having thrown their rakes in the air—rejoicing and leaping with all their might. And the reason for this again was starting to sing the verse,—
‘Mae’r Iesu oll yn hawddgar, He’s altogether lovely,
Ydyw’n wir; Yes, ‘tis true;
Mae’n well na phethau’r ddaear, Than all the world more worthy,
Ydyw’n wir; Yes, ‘tis true;
Enillodd ef fy ngalon; Then fare ye well, dumb idols!
Ffarwel, eilunod mudion, My heart is won by Jesus,
Mae gwedd ei wyneb tirion, His face so fair and gracious,
Ydyw’n wir, Yes, ‘tis true,
Yn foroedd o gysuron; An ocean wide of comforts,
Ydyw’n wir.’” Yes, ‘tis true.
(Trans. Edmund T. Owen)
(Drys. 1878, p.411-2; see Cymru xviii. 1900, p.119 for full text of Dafydd Cadwaladr’s hymn ‘Mae’r Iesu oll yn hawddgar’) NB Ebenezer Morris in Beddgelert in 1818 (HMA ii. 202) & Daniel O’Brien & Ebenezer Morris at Brynrodyn (HMA i.
This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones