Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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BEVAN , BRIDGET (‘ Madam Bevan ’; 1698 - 1779 ), philanthropist and educationist .

The youngest daughter of John and Elizabeth Vaughan , Derllys Court, Carms. She was christened 30 Oct. 1698 at Merthyr church by Thomas Thomas , the rector . Noted as patron of the Welsh circulating schools , she must have known Griffith Jones , Llanddowror , from girlhood, as her father was organizer of S.P.C.K. schools in Carmarthenshire from 1700 to 1722 and Griffith Jones was in charge of schools at Laugharne ( 1709 ) and Llanddowror ( 1716 ). Moreover, Griffith Jones became connected by marriage with the Vaughan family, he and Richard Vaughan , Bridget 's uncle (d. 1729 ), marrying two sisters, Margaret and Arabella Philipps of Picton Castle, Pembs.

On 30 Dec. 1721 Bridget m. ARTHUR BEVAN , barrister-at-law , Laugharne . Bevan became recorder of Carmarthen borough , 1722-41 , and a Member of Parliament , 1727-41 . In May 1735 he was appointed Judge of Equity in South and North Wales . He was the executor of the will of Sir Richard Steele . He d. 6 March 1743 , aged 56, and was buried at Laugharne church . (The date of his death is given by most writers as 1745. )

Derllys Court in Bridget Bevan 's early days was a centre of religious and educational life. Her rector in 1700 wrote a letter to the S.P.C.K. , advocating the erection of a charity school in every parish in Great Britain . It was natural, therefore, for her to be interested in the work of her father and pastor , and she founded at least two schools of her own at Llandilo Abercowin and Llandebïe . She exercised great influence on Griffith Jones , and when he began his Welsh circulating schools , sometime between 1731 and 1737 , she became his chief patron and adviser . Between 1732 and 1738 he wrote 175 letters to her, 94 of which have been published. Sometime after the death of his wife in 1755 , Griffith Jones went to live at Mrs. Bevan 's home at Laugharne , where he d. 8 April 1761 , bequeathing to her the funds of the schools and his private fortune, totalling £7,000, with instructions to carry on the circulating schools. This she did very successfully until her death in 1779 ; indeed, the year 1773 with its 242 schools and 13,205 pupils was the most flourishing in the history of the movement. She bequeathed £10,000 for the continuation of the schools, but her will was disputed by two of her relatives who were also trustees, lady Elizabeth Stepney of Llanelly and Admiral William Lloyd , Danyrallt , Llangadock . The whole fund was placed in Chancery , and remained there for a period of thirty years, having in the meantime accumulated to over £30,000. In 1804 the money was released and devoted to the educational purposes intended by Mrs. Bevan , but in 1854 the schools then set up were absorbed into the system of the National Society . The Welsh circulating school movement had come to an end.

Besides being a patron of the Welsh circulating schools , Madam Bevan was interested in most of the religious, philanthropic, and educational movements of her time. She d. 11 Dec. 1779 and was buried at Llanddowror church on 17 Dec.

Sources:

  • S.P.C.K. Manuscripts ( 1761-79), London, containing abstracts of letters from Mrs. Bevan and her assistants;
  • Manuscripts in the Library of the Carmarthenshire Museum ;
  • letters of Griffith Jones to Madam Bevan , 1723-8;
  • Welch piety, or, A farther account of the circulating Welch charity schools … to which are annexed testimonials relating to the masters and scholars of the said schools; in a letter to a friend , 1742-60 ( 1761-79 ) (the years 1777-8 and 1778-9 missing);
  • Edward Morgan , ed., Letters of the Rev. Griffith Jones, late Rector of Llandowror, Carmarthanshire, founder of the Welsh circulating schools to Mrs. Bevan, late of Langharne, near Carmarthan with an introductory essay , London, 1832;
  • The life and times of Selina, countess of Huntingdon , London, 1839 ;
  • Mary Curtis , The antiquities of Laugharne and Pendine, Carmarthenshire, S. Wales, with some notice of their neighbourhoods, and illustrations , London, 1871;
  • C. Morgan-Richardson , History of the institution once called "The Welsh Piety", but now known as Mrs. Bevan's Charity , 1890;
  • G. Eyre Evans , ‘Arthur Bevan,’ in The Carmarthen Antiquary , iii, 53;
  • D. E. Jenkins , Life of Thomas Charles , Denbigh, 1908;
  • D. Ambrose Jones , ‘Madam Bevan,’ in Yr Haul , March 1931;
  • W. Moses Williams , ‘The Friends of Griffith Jones,’ in Y Cymmrodor , 46, 1939;
  • G. J. Thomas , ‘The Chancery action re Madam Bevan's Will,’ in The Carmarthen Antiquary , 1939;
  • Mary Clement, ‘John Vaughan, Cwrt Derllys, a'i Waith,’ in Trans. Cymm. , 1942;
  • Correspondence and minutes of the S.P.C.K. relating to Wales 1699-1740 , Univ. of Wales Press, 1952 ;
  • Mary Clement The S.P.C.K. and Wales, 1699-1740 the history of the S.P.C.K. in Wales from its foundation to the early years of the Welsh Methodist movement , S.P.C.K., 1954;
  • T. Kelly , Griffith Jones, Llanddowror pioneer in adult education , Univ. of Wales Press, 1950.

Author:

Dr Mary Clement, Ph.D., Llanelli / Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959