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#AtoZChallenge L: Life in Haverfordwest College

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is for bloggers who wish to participate, by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B, April 3 will be C,  and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been published.   Blog posts are usually on a theme, or you can choose to post each day with no theme at all. My theme for 2024 is “Haverfordwest in the News”. Haverfordwest is a town in the county of Pembrokeshire, Wales.

#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter L


from: South Wales Daily News, Saturday 06 October 1883, Page 4

Life In Haverfordwest College Forty Years Ago
The Rev. W. Walters, of Cullercoates, Northumberland, writes to the Freeman: In the year 1837 several of the leading Baptists of Pembrokeshire, who had for some time felt the importance of an educated ministry for the churches in the western parts of Wales, established the college at Haverfordwest. The writer of this paper was one of the earliest students, having entered in January, 1842. After a residence of two years and a half, he removed to Horton College, Bradford, then under the able presidency of the Rev. Dr. Ackworth.

The first theological tutor at Haverfordwest was the Rev. David Davies, who was also the pastor of the Baptist church in the town. He was in all respects a man admirably fitted to preside over the new institution. He was a native of the district, and had spent his youth in it, so that he understood the character and circumstances of the Welsh people – knew how to sympathise with the students and meet the wishes and needs of the churches. At the same time, he had been educated, first at Abergavenny and afterwards at Stepney, and had been pastor for 16 years of the Baptist church at Evesham, in Worcestershire, so that his general culture was equal to the position. He was a sound theologian and an excellent preacher dignified in his carriage, yet kind and amiable; firm, yet conciliatory, and withall apt to teach. He was a man to excite veneration and affection, and those who knew him best venerated and loved him most.

The first classical teacher was the Rev. T. G. Jones, of Beulah, who, in addition to his tutorship, held the office of pastor of two small churches in the neighbourhood. He was a good Latin and Greek scholar, but not very competent teacher. He was liked by the students for his uprightness and kindness, but an unfortunate address, and a still more unfortunate lisp in his speech, prevented the students from paying him that deference which was his due.

The previous education of most of the students was of the scantiest in quantity and kind and as almost all needed to learn the English language, they met in class every morning to read for an hour or two, the English Bible, and study the English grammar. Lessons were given in orthography, ancient and modern geography, and Church history. Once a week a sermon was read for criticism, both as to thought and composition. All these departments were under the direction of Mr Davies.

Mr Jones drilled the young men in the Latin and Greek grammars and towards the close of their stay, which varied from two to three years, some were able to read a page or two of Caesar or Virgil, and a chapter in the Greek New Testament. The instruction thus imparted was final in the case of those students who decided to remain in Wales and become pastors of Welsh churches; preparatory, in the case of those who were transferred to English colleges, with a view of becoming pastors of English churches. In those early days there was not sufficient care taken in the admission of candidates. There was a desire to get students, and in the absence of better men the committee took such as applied. Then, funds were limited and if a young man could support himself altogether, or partially, that fact was a recommendation. Churches and pastors sometimes brought great pressure to bear on the committee in supporting the claims of young men sent by them, though they may have been unsuitable. The result was that in some cases there were serious failures.

At that time the students lived together in a house rented by the committee, both tutors being non resident. A matron presided over the domestic arrangements. Each student on the foundation of the college received £15 a year, out of which he had to provide himself with everything in the way of board, clothing, and books, and pay one shilling weekly to the matron. It is obvious that there was not a large margin for luxuries. Some received supplies from home occasionally. Now and then small (very small) fees came in for preaching. On this scanty income it was possible, by the exercise of the strictest economy, to live.

Of the first students, two had left before I entered; the premier, Thomas Richards, soon finished his work and entered into rest; the second, Moses Philpin, has honourably exercised his ministry for many years, and is still useful at Alcester, in Warwickshire. We had David Evans, an eloquent and popular preacher, who ended his course a few years ago at Newport, Monmouthshire; John Harries, the poet of the college, who emigrated to America, where, I believe, he yet lives and labours; J. G. Owen (afterwards Dr. Owen), he was our son of thunder; John Jones (Mathetes), skilled in dialectics and metaphysics, and who gave promise, whilst yet a youth, of his subsequent brilliant career; William Evans, a man of great talent, whose early death was a loss to the world; Richard Morris, who, after labouring for many years with much usefulness in various parts of England, is now spending his last days near Aberystwith; Thomas Davies, who for some years demonstrated with much success, at Cheddar, the possibility of grouping small churches together, with advantage to themselves and the surrounding district; and several others, some of whom have gone home to God, while the rest remain to this day.

While the college was intended chiefly to train men for the future pastorate, it was, at the same time, made to answer the purposes of a home missionary institution. Many of the churches in Pembrokeshire were small and feeble and in the lower, or English, part of the country, there were large districts without any churches at all. The students were, therefore, much employed in preaching.

One of our regular stations was Marloes; a large struggling village about 20 miles west of Haverfordwest. The Home Mission allowed us five shillings a Sunday for preaching there, morning and evening. There were two or three methods of journeying to the place. Some-times we hired a horse, rode down on the Sunday morning, and home again that night; in that case we paid four shillings for the hire of the horse, and eighteenpence for our board and the horse’s feed of corn, and were, consequently, sixpence out of pocket. Sometimes we walked down on Saturday evening- and returned on Monday; in that case our honorarium was all expended in payment for board and lodging. And sometimes we walked down on Sunday morning, preached twice, and walked home after evening service, reaching the college about midnight; in that case we expended only a shilling for dinner and tea.

The general feeling in the congregation was, that they conferred a great favour upon us by coming to hear us preach. The singers were very independent and saucy. On one occasion, there had been some revelry in the village on the Saturday night, and the singers were the chief revellers. On Sunday morning, they were so seedy that none made their appearance at chapel. In the evening, they were in full force, as if nothing had happened. The preacher for the day (J. G. Owen) would not, however, announce any hymns at night. As, if they were not there, he said, to sing in the morning, they should not sing that night. He, moreover, took occasion, in his sermon, to reprove them for their conduct the previous evening. They and their friends were so enraged that they mobbed him on his way from the chapel, and he was glad to escape from them without broken bones.

Another station was South Dairy, where we preached one Sunday in the month. The morning service was always held in the kitchen of a farmhouse, a mile or so from the chapel, occupied by the deacon of the church. During the service, the farmer’s wife attended to the preparation of the dinner in the same room. The large iron pot was placed on the fire, before the prayer; after a while, the piece of bacon, or salt beef, was put in, and then, in due time, the cabbage and potatoes in nets followed, and all were boiled together. When the good woman, by putting the fork into the potatoes, found they were nearly done, it was time to draw the service to a close. The congregation would disperse, and the family and the preacher would dine. After dinner, we walked to the afternoon service at the chapel, at the close of which the deacon followed the preacher into the vestry, gave him one glass of wine out of a black bottle in the cupboard, put a shilling into his hand for the two sermons, and wished him good afternoon. Perhaps the preacher held a service at a farmhouse on the way home in the evening, or returned in time to hear the president preach in Bethesda Chapel.

Mount Zion and Broadhaven went together as stations. Other places were, at times, conjoined with these. I sketch from memory one of my own Sundays. Walked in the morning, to Portfield Gate, near Haverfordwest, and preached at seven o’clock in the Moravian Chapel there; breakfasted at the house of a Moravian lady close at hand, and walked on to Mount Zion preached there at half past ten, dined at a farmhouse, and walked on to Broadhaven, and preached there at half past two; had tea at a friend’s house near, and began the homeward journey at half past six preached in a cottage on the roadside, about midway between Broadhaven and the town, and then walked home.

Every alternate Tuesday evening, the students who could preach English, preached in rotation at Bethesda—the chapel of which the president was minister. This for most of us was a severe ordeal. Many a man stepped into that pulpit on the Tuesday evening with fear and trembling. An amusing incident occurred on one occasion. It was the turn of a very excellent brother, who died but recently, after filling the same pastorate for nearly 40 years, to preach. Having gone through the preliminary services, he began his sermon, preaching memoriter. He had not proceeded far before his memory failed. After some fumbling in his coat pocket, he produced his manuscript, and opening it at the place, laid it on the Bible. Making a new start, he went on for about 10 minutes still preaching memoriter, and neglecting to turn over the leaves of the manuscript as he went on. Memory was again at fault. After some difficulty and considerable delay, he at length found the place to which he had reached, and now read on to the end. It was the custom, at the close of the service, for the president to meet all the students in the lecture room, and offer some remarks on the sermon. That evening when he came in he began to comfort and cheer the preacher, but to his surprise and the surprise of everyone, except the preacher himself, found that he needed neither comfort nor cheer, and considered that he had acquitted himself in an admirable manner.

During the forty years of its existence, the Baptist College at Haverfordwest has sent out a numerous band of ministers. Most of them have proved a credit to the institution, and a blessing to the Baptist churches in Wales. In several cases they have become pastors of churches in England. Some have settled in Scotland and Ireland, and even in America and the Australian colonies; while others have gone forth as missionaries of the cross to China, India, Western Africa, and the West Indies. the changed condition in the principality in an educational point of view, especially the establishment of the university college there, calls for some change in the management of our denominational institutions.  It would be well if some plan could be adopted whereby the classical, mathematical, and scientific advantages of the former, could be secured by the latter. If a wise use be made of the opportunities now offering themselves, there is before Haverfordwest and her sister institutions a future brighter even than the past.

**Please notePunctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading.

1883, LIFE IN HAVERFORDWEST COLLEGE FORTY YEARS AGO, South Wales Daily News, Saturday 06 October, 1883, page 4.
Retrieved on 01 March 2024 from British Newspaper Archive

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5 thoughts on “#AtoZChallenge L: Life in Haverfordwest College”

  1. I thought I answered this comment Jill, but I can’t find it anywhere. Excuse me if I have. Unfortunately Rev T.G. Jones is no relation to me.

  2. Interesting history of the college experience — and students then had to live on stricter budgets than many do today, although college life is generally about being economical (at least mine was).

  3. Unfortunately not Jill. Even though my Dad had the good Welsh name of Tom Jones, my Jones ancestors are from London.

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