Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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OWEN , JOHN ( 1808 - 1876 ), known as ‘ John Owen of Tyn-llwyn ’, Calvinistic Methodist minister, and writer on agriculture

b. 1 Aug. 1808 at Gwindy , Llecheiddior , Eifionydd , son of William Owen and his wife Margaret , who was a niece of Robert Jones ( 1745 - 1829 ) (q.v.) of Rhos-lan . He was an early and a wide reader, and as a youth wrote in Seren Gomer on behalf of Catholic Emancipation . He went to several schools, including that kept by Evan Richardson (q.v.) and a school at Chester where Glan Alun ( Thomas Jones , 1811 - 1866 , q.v.) was his schoolfellow. At home, he turned in the literary circle of Eifionydd , which included such men as Dewi Wyn , Robert ap Gwilym Ddu , and Ellis Owen (qq.v.). He began preaching in 1836 , married, and went to Bala C.M. College , but had to leave on the death of his father . He was ordained in 1842 , but never undertook a pastoral charge, for he held that such an institution had no place in Methodism. In 1853 he removed from Gwindy to the large (and run-down) farm of Tyn-llwyn , Pentir , near Bangor . But his landlord was a Tory , and turned John Owen out ( 1869 ) for voting for Love Jones Parry of Madryn in the 1868 election. Failing to get a suitable farm, he took to banking at Portmadoc . He did not succeed as a banker , so he resumed farming , at Caenewydd in Llangybi . But in 1873 he was placed in the large and good farm of Penyberth on the Madryn estate . There he d., 17 May 1876 ; he was buried in the Tai-duon burial-ground , Pant-glas , Eifionydd .

Owen was esteemed a good preacher , though ‘dry’ and doctrinal. But he is described as a man with too many irons in the fire. As the story of 1868-9 shows, he was a zealous Liberal of the old individualistic kind; and in his native county his name has become a symbol of the emergence of that Liberalism . But possibly his pioneer work in scientific farming is his greater claim to remembrance. He devoted himself to the improvement of the soil and to more careful stock-breeding . He enclosed and built, ‘ drained scores of acres and improved scores more ’ at Tyn-llwyn , all at his own cost — and had to abandon the profits to his landlord. He paid great attention to improving Welsh Black cattle , and here again, after he had left Tyn-llwyn , stock-raisers all over Wales profited more than he did by his improvements. He wrote on agriculture in the Traethodydd , and in 1860 published Detholiad, Magwraeth, a Rheolaeth y Da Byw mwyaf priodol i Dywysogaeth Cymru . He is described as a tall, long-striding man, serious and taciturn.


  • Y Gwyddoniadur Cymreig (1889-96) 2nd. edn,. viii., 122 P-S;
  • J. Jones (‘Myrddin Fardd’) , Enwogion Sir Gaernarfon (1922) ;
  • W. Hobley , Hanes Methodistiaeth Arfon , v. 179-82.


His only son, JOHN OWEN ( 1849 - 1917 ) was b. at Gwindy in July 1849 , and d. at Criccieth 15 April 1917 . From Garth school at Bangor and the Liverpool Institute , he went to Bala C.M. College in 1867 , began preaching , and went up to Edinburgh , where he graduated. On 30 March 1875 he was inducted as pastor at Criccieth , and remained there till his death, though his pastorate was rather stormy. He, too, wrote a good deal — e.g. he co-operated with Alaw Ddu ( W. T. Rees , q.v.) in a biography of Ieuan Gwyllt (q.v.) , 1880 . But he also inherited his father's interest in scientific farming , having indeed worked much on his father's farm — ‘at bottom,’ it was said of him, ‘he was a farmer .’ He went to Canada to seek openings for Welsh emigrants. From 1892 till 1896 he was on the teaching staff in agriculture at University College , Bangor , and he lectured to farmers in the North-west Wales counties.


  • Blwyddiadur y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd , 1918 ;
  • articles by John Puleston Jones in Y Goleuad , 27 April and 4 May 1917 .


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

Published date: 1959