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Bibles by Sea

Carmarthen Record Office

Among its records of Llanddowror parish, the Carmarthenshire Record Office is fortunate to hold three original letters written by the celebrated Reverend Griffith Jones, 1683-1761, for many years incumbent of that parish. The letters are addressed to the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (S.P.C.K.).

Griffith Jones was appointed rector of Llanddowror in 1716, having become a corresponding member of the S.P.C.K. three years previously. During the years he spent in Llanddowror, he was very involved with S.P.C.K. activities, supporting efforts for a new edition of the Welsh Bible in 1717 and 1727. He is also remembered for his work in organising and training teachers for the Welsh Circulating Schools where pupils were taught to read the Welsh Bible and learn the Catechism. After his death in 1761 this work was continued very successfully by Bridget Bevan of Laugharne.

The following transcript from the earliest of the three letters in the Record Office (Ref. CPR/58/17), illustrates the deep involvement of Griffith Jones in the work of the S.P.C.K. and his concern for the provision of Welsh Bibles for the people of Wales:

Revd and dear Sir Landowror 4 Feb 1748/9
I had returned you my sincere Thanks sooner for yr Last Favr but yt I waited thus long in hope of being able to inform you before now yt ye Welch Bibles and Catms on Board the Racehorse of Carmarthen Rees Master, were come safe; but that Ship is not arrived as yet but was well (as I have been informed) abt a Fortnight ago at Plimouth, and I hope will come well to Carmarthen when ye wind (which has been very stormy here for above two months past) comes to be fair.

I hope yr worthy Society have by this time concocted ye best method of distributing ye Welch Bibles to satisfy as soon as may be convenient ye ( ) desire of some Thousands here yt want to buy ym; several good churchmen know not wt to think of ye Dissenters being served before ym and (I) am given to understand yt I am censured severely and very completely abt it as if this was come abt by my means, but ye truth is yt about forty Welch Bibles are come to every dissenting Congregation, as I am informed, from Mr. Price of London ...

I beg leave to mention a Thing wch I humbly apprehend may not be improper for you to know, that there is one Mr. John Price Vicr of Llangevelach near Swansea Glamorganshire a very worthy clergyman, who complains yt some hundreds of Bibles are wanted in his two very large parishes and intends I think to beg leave to make his application to yr Society for ym. He wd strictly observe yr Directions abt ym and is very conveniently situated to serve severall Parishes abt him in ye Counties of Glamorgan and Brecon and some part of Carmarthenshire with little or no expense for Land-carriage in ye County if they come by sea to Swansea. I shd hardly have taken ye Liberty of mentioning this very worthy Gentleman if I knew of any Corresponding Member near him.

It is ye unanimous opinion of most people here who know ye corrupt ways of this Countrey and who have ye Instruction of ye poor and ye Interest of Religion at Heart yt if yr Worthy Society wd think proper to sell certain no. of Bibles at full price it would answer great many good Ends. There wd then be no abate in ye sale . . . . nor wd ye mony'd men buy without need or only for cheapness sake and yr society wd raise a new fund to print an Impression of ye New Testnt with larger types for ye benefit of ancient people which is very much desired . . . . That it may please God to direct and bless your wise consultations to his own Glory and ye Endless Welfare of ye poor souls you labour for in Love, shall be ye prayer of
Rev'd and dear Sir
Your obliged humble servant
G. Jones.

Other documents in the Carmarthenshire Record Office relating to Griffith Jones include two further original letters dated 1749 and 1752 (Ref. CPR/58/18+19); a volume of copy letters from Griffith Jones to Madam Bevan, 1732-1738 (Ref. Museum 347); and the earliest volume of the Llanddowror parish registers (Ref. CPR/58/1) which records in the register of burials for 1761:

"The Revd Mr. Griffith Jones (the worthy pious charitable faithful Rector of this par. for 45 years) . . . . was buried April 11th . . . aged 77."

N.B. This article first appeared in the Quarterly Newsletter of the Dyfed Archive Service, September 1980.
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