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.


  • 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.


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

Published date: 1959