Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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HUGHES , GRIFFITH ( fl. 1707-1750 ), cleric and naturalist ;

b. in 1707 (christened 29 April ) at Towyn, Mer. , son of Edward and Bridget Hughes ; matriculated from S. John's College , Oxford , in May 1729 , and was ordained deacon and priest ( London ) in 1732 . In that year, he was recommended to the S.P.G. for the Anglican mission in Pennsylvania , and began his ministry at S. Davids , Radnor, Pa. , from which he also itinerated. He reported to the society in 1734 and (three times) in 1735 , describing his success as a missioner among the Welsh Quakers , and calling for a supply of Welsh books. In 1735 , he himself published a reprint, with additions, of Myfyrdodau Bucheddol ar y Pedwar Peth Diweddaf , by John Morgan ( 1688? - 1734? ) (q.v.) , brother of his former vicar at Towyn ; this edition was printed by Andrew Bradford at Philadelphia , and was the fourth (not the third) Welsh book printed in America . In 1736 , however, Hughes complains that his health is breaking down under the strain of long journeys and other hardships — on the other hand, members of an outlying congregation complain that he ‘ seldom comes near us ,’ and call for another missioner with ‘ much more solidity and conduct .’ In Sept. 1736 he was appointed rector of S. Lucy , Barbados , where however we again read of ‘ some difference of opinion with his congregation ’ — possibly a growing interest in natural history interfered with his parochial work. In 1743 , and again in 1748 , he returned to England ; in 1748 he took his B.A. and M.A. degrees, and on 9 June was elected F.R.S. Though he appears to have been still nominally in office down to 1750 , it seems doubtful whether he ever actually returned to his cure; certainly it was in London , in 1750 , that he published his Natural History of Barbados , a work which was praised by Linnaeus , but is unkindly described by an American writer as ‘ one of the scientific frauds of the age .’ Nothing at all seems to be known of his subsequent career; his name is absent from lists of colonial clergymen during the years 1745-81 .


  • Foster , Alumni Oxonienses ;
  • List of Clergy of S. Davids Radnor (obtained through Prof. A. H. Dodd );
  • Journal of the Historical Society of the Church in Wales , iv, 30-2 (by J. A. Thomas );
  • John Clement , ‘Griffith Hughes,’ in Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church (New Brunswick) (of U.S.A.), June 1948 , 151-63;
  • The National Library of Wales Journal , iii, 19-22.


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

Published date: 1959