Dictionary of Welsh Biography



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GRIFFITHS , VAVASOR (d. 1741 ), Independent minister and tutor . We possess very few verifiable details of his life. The earliest definite date is 1711 , when he was at the academy kept by Samuel Jones (d. 1719 ) (q.v.) at Tewkesbury ; a letter by the future archbishop Secker ( Gibbons , Memoirs of Isaac Watts , 346), speaks highly of Griffiths 's linguistic attainments, adding ‘he seems to be not much under 40. Secker may well have over-estimated Griffiths 's age; but on the other hand the ‘ 1698 or 1699 ’ often given as his year of birth raises considerable difficulties — making him, e.g. an ordained minister when he was only sixteen or seventeen. Everything points to his having been a native of Bugeildy parish, Rads. ; indeed, Maesgwyn may have been the family home. In John Evans 's lists, c. 1715 , Griffiths 's name comes third of the three ministers of the (substantial) congregation at Maesgwyn ; but he may not have been formally ordained before 1726 , for it was in that year (after a refusal in 1725 ) that the Presbyterian fund board started paying him an annual £6 as pastor of Maesgwyn . In the meantime ( 1722 at latest), he was keeping school at his house; it was an endowed school, whose master got £10 a year (perhaps more), charged upon the rent of the farm — the farm itself, of course, also contributed to Griffiths 's subsistence. In Feb. 1733 or 1734 the Presbyterian board invited Griffiths to succeed Thomas Perrott (q.v.) at Carmarthen Academy , but he declined on the score of ill-health. It is however clear that he was already taking older pupils preparing for the ministry — we know, e.g. that Lewis Rees (q.v.) studied with him in 1734 . In 1735 , Griffiths fell in with the board's wishes, on condition that the academy should be removed, not indeed to Maesgwyn , but to Llwyn-llwyd , near Hay , and amalgamated with the school already kept there by David Price , minister of Maesyronnen , near Glasbury . The Congregational fund board joined in this scheme, paying Griffiths an extra £5 a year as pastor of Maesgwyn , over and above the £10 each which the two boards paid him as tutor . In 1736 or 1737 , Griffiths moved his home to Chancefield , on the outskirts of Talgarth , Brecknock , still retaining his pastorate, and teaching at Llwyn-llwyd as well as at Chancefield . His best-known pupils are Jenkin Jenkins and Richard Price (qq.v.), for it is very doubtful whether he ever taught Howel Harris and Williams of Pantycelyn , who were more probably pupils of David Price 's. Griffiths must not be held responsible for the Arianism of Jenkins and Price ; he was a strict Calvinist , otherwise Edmund Jones (q.v.) of Pontypool would hardly have been so lyrical in his praises of him. He d. in 1741 , according to the Cilgwyn church book ( Y Cofiadur , i, 29). We have a letter of his to Howel Harris ( T.L. 267 , 18 Aug. 1740 ), and Harris 's diaries contain several laudatory references to him. It is most probable that he was the ‘ Vavasor Griffiths , Esq. ,’ who in his will ( 1741 ) left £20 to the vicar and wardens of Bugeildy ; but here again we cannot be absolutely certain.

Bibliography:

  • Hanes Eglwysi Annibynnol Cymru , ii, 529, 531;
  • Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Hanes y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd , xxviii, nos. 3 and 4;
  • G. D. Owen , Ysgolion a Cholegau yr Annibynwyr , 1939 , 25-8;
  • Jonathan Williams , A General History of the County of Radnor , Brecknock, 1905 (2nd ed.), 210-11;
  • and the references above.

Author:

Emeritus Professor Robert Thomas Jenkins, C.B.E., D.Litt., Ll.D., F.S.A., (1881-1969), Bangor

Corrections and additions:

GRIFFITHS , VAVASOR ( DWB , 308). He resigned from the Academy before 8 Dec. 1740 . ( Rev. Isaac Thomas , Bangor , in Y Cofiadur , 1958 , 25).