Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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JENKINS , HERBERT ( 1721 - 1772 ), early Methodist exhorter, afterwards Independent minister ;

b. in Mynydd-islwyn parish, Mon. According to Bradney ( Hist. of Mon. , I, ii, 442), his father was Herbert Jenkins and his grandfather that William Jenkins of Aberystruth parish who was curate (and kept school ) at Trevethin ( Pontypool ) from 1726 till 1736 . It may be that the parents had ‘dissented’; tradition asserts that they were attached to the church of Edmund Jones (q.v.) , and certainly young Herbert was educated by Bernard Fosket at Bristol . Attracted into the Methodist movement, he began to exhort — in 1740 , as it is thought — and won fame so quickly that his name stands first on the list of ‘public’ (i.e. itinerant) exhorters authorized by the Methodist Association at Watford, Glam. , in Jan. 1743 . No specific district in Wales was allocated to him; rather, he was to be at Howel Harris 's call, and also to co-operate with the English Methodists . Indeed, though he had exhorted with great acceptance in Pembrokeshire in 1741 (despite a severe ‘dressing-down’ by Griffith Jones at Llanddowror ) and again in 1743 ( Cylch. Cymd. Hanes M.C. , iv, 7-8), and though Welsh hymns of his were printed in 1742 and 1744 , and a Welsh version of James Humphreys 's pamphlet in defence of Methodism , in 1745 , he was in effect lost to Wales from 1743 on. His work lay rather in England , and his colleagues were John Cennick and the English Methodists ; he was elected member of the English Conference in March 1744 ( Tabernacle conference book in N.L.W. — extracts printed in Y Drysorfa , 1936 , 159-62), and he frequented its meetings.

His relations with Harris were not fully happy — he was bitterly opposed to Moravianism , and censured Harris 's leanings towards it. He was also beginning to feel disquiet about preaching without being in orders — yet he felt increasing alienation from the Established Church , having been given a not unkindly hint by the bishop of Bristol that he was unlikely to be accepted for Anglican orders. Yet, in spite of the bitter quarrels at the Tabernacle , Jenkins remained a Whitefieldian longer than did several of his fellow-labourers. The tale that he went over to Wesleyanism can hardly be right. True, he had great respect for John Wesley — true also, he appeared from time to time at Wesley 's conferences, but so did Harris , for that matter; Jenkins was a strong Calvinist , and denounced ‘ Baxterianism .’ Not before May 1748 did he part company with Whitefield and with Methodism . He became an Independent , and in 1749 was ordained as pastor of Maidstone , where he d. 11 Dec. 1772 , aged 51. Beyond doubt, he was the ablest of the early Welsh Methodist exhorters — even the Moravian records at Haverfordwest style him ‘ a very solid man .’ A good number of letters to and from him are to be found in the Trevecka collection at N.L.W.


  • Y Tadau Methodistaidd , 1895 , i, 220-2;
  • Garfield Hughes in Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Hanes y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd , xxxii, 1-8 (see also xxxiii, 26-7). Some hold that the David Jenkins who was, with Herbert, the joint author of the 1744 Hymnau ar Amryw Ystyriaethau , 1774 , was Herbert Jenkins;'s brother.


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

Published date: 1959