Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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ELLIS , JOHN (d. 1665 ), cleric and quasi-Puritan .

Rector of Dolgelley from 1646 to 1665 . Born, as his will states, at Gwylan , Maentwrog, Mer. , he was educated at Oxford [at his matriculation he is described as ‘of Llandecwyn ’], becoming Fellow of Jesus College in 1628 and D.D. of S. Andrews in 1634 . He was rector of Wheatfield (Oxon.) till he was nominated by the Commissioners for the Great Seal to the living of Dolgelley , at a time when the religious policy of Parliament was wielded by Puritan lords , the Committee for Plundered Ministers , and the Westminster Assembly , all of them orthodox, moderate, more or less Presbyterian in tendency, before extremer men came into power with Pride's Purge and the Second Civil War . The migration from Oxfordshire to his native Merioneth had one great advantage — the substantial emoluments of the new promotion, which included the natural revenue of the rectory (‘nearly £100 a year,’ it was reputed in 1648 ), together with a reserved rent of £40 per annum from the rectory of Towyn and £80 from the prebend of Vaynol allowed him as ‘augmentations’ by the Puritan authorities . Ellis was named one of the twenty-five ‘ approvers ’ under the Propagation Act of 1650 ; his name is occasionally found attesting certificates for the Protectorate Triers ; he was prominent in advocating the institution of a college for the training of Puritan ministers , and was willing to act as lecturer in it till proper professors were found. Puritan of a sort he may have been, but even the advocacy of a college to curb the extravagances of illiteracy and extremism, his implied criticisms of some of the people allowed to preach by the Triers , and the eulogy pronounced upon him by the uncompromising Cavalier Rowland Vaughan of Caer-gai , go far to prove that he had very little sympathy with the later religious policy of the Puritans . He found no difficulty in conforming after the Restoration — no better proof need be found than the publication in 1660 of his Defenso Fidei , a Latin defence of the Anglican position and a commentary on the Thirty-nine Articles (a few years before, says Rowland Vaughan , he had presented him with an authoritative copy of an Anglican pamphlet defending the use of the Prayer Book ). He d. in 1665 , having in his will placed a tenenent in the parish of Llanaber ( Barmouth ) in the hands of his trustees for the yearly maintenance of an able and godly schoolmaster at Dolgelley to teach twelve children, boys, especially orphans, up to the age of 16; a provision which is usually taken to be the foundation of the Dolgelley grammar school .


  • The Journals of the House of Lords , viii, 568;
  • Bodleian MS. 325, 166;
  • Lambeth MS 904 (iii, 124), 989 (190-1);
  • Wales, a National Magazine for the English speaking parts of Wales (1894–7) , iii, 123-4;
  • Endowed Charities Report, Merioneth (1895) , sub Dolgelly;
  • information from Mr. John Lloyd, Llanbedr, Mer.


Thomas Richards, D.Litt., (1878-1962), Bangor

Published date: 1959