Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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PHILIPPS , Sir JOHN ( 1666? - 1737 ), of Picton Castle , Pembrokeshire , religious, educational, and social reformer

son of Sir Erasmus Philipps (see under Philipps family of Picton ) and his second wife Catherine Darcy (d. 15 Nov. 1713 ) daughter of Edward Darcy by his wife Elizabeth , daughter of Philip Stanhope , first Earl of Chesterfield . The year of his birth is not known. According to the inscription on his monument in S. Mary's church , Haverfordwest , he d. ‘ January 5, 1736/7 , in the 77th year of his age.’ This suggests 1660 , which cannot be correct, as his father married for the second time on 1 Sept. 1660 , and Sir John was the second child of this second marriage. He entered Westminster School as King's Scholar in 1679 ; as the usual age for this was about 13, it appears that he was born c. 1666 . He was at Trinity College , Cambridge , 1682-4 , and was admitted to Lincoln's Inn , 21 Jan. 1683/4 . His age is not mentioned in the registers of any of the above nor in that of the House of Commons . He left Cambridge without a degree and was not called to the Bar . A letter from Sir Erasmus to him at Cambridge suggests that he was extravagant in his expenses and warns him to have ‘ no more foolish frolics ’ ( N.L.W. Picton Castle MSS. , 30 April 1683 ).

Little is known of his subsequent career till 1695 , when, in Dec. of that year, he was returned Member of Parliament for Pembroke borough ; he held the seat till 1702 . He re-entered Parliament and was Member for Haverfordwest till 1722 . His father d. 18 Jan. 1696/7 , and on 12 Dec. 1697 , Sir John , as 4th baronet , m. Mary , daughter and heiress of Anthony Smith , a rich East India merchant . She d. 18 Nov. 1722 , leaving three sons and three daughters. His sister Elizabeth 's daughter m. Sir Robert Walpole in 1700 .

From 1695 to 1737 Sir John was a leading figure in all the religious and philanthropic movements of the day — the Society for the Reformation of Manners , the S.P.C.K. , the S.P.G. , the East India Mission , and the Holy Club . He kept in constant touch with such religious reformers as A. H. Francke , A. W. Boehme , J. F. Osterwald , John and Charles Wesley , and George Whitefield , who was maintained by him for a while at Oxford . He was elected a member of the S.P.C.K. a month after it was founded, and remained its most influential member till his death. He made Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire the chief centres of the Society's work in Wales , founded twenty-two schools in the former county and several in the latter, and was chiefly responsible for the success of the early undertakings of his brother-in-law, Griffith Jones , Llanddowror (q.v.) , husband of his sister Margaret .


  • Registers of Westminster School, Trinity College, Cambridge, Lincoln's Inn;
  • S.P.C.K. Manuscripts ;
  • S.P.G. records;
  • N.L.W. Picton Castle Manuscripts at the National Library of Wales ;
  • L. Tyerman , The Life of the Rev. George Whitefield (London, 1876-77) ;
  • L. Tyerman , The Oxford Methodists Memoirs of the Rev. Messrs. Clayton, Ingham, Gambold, Hervey, and Broughton, with biographical notices of others (London, 1873) ;
  • Thomas Shankland , ‘The Charity School Movement in Wales’ in The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion , 1904-5 ;
  • Thomas Shankland , ‘Diwygwyr Cymru’ in Seren Gomer , 1901-3 ;
  • J. J. Evans , Cymry Enwog y Ddeunawfed Ganrif (Aberystwyth, 1937) ;
  • M. G. Jones , The charity school movement a study of eighteenth century puritanism in action (1938) ;
  • W. M. Williams , ‘The friends of Griffith Jones’ in Y Cymmrodor , 1939 ;
  • D. Salmon , ‘The Good Sir John Philipps’ in The Western Telegraph , 29 May 1941 ;
  • Mary Clement , Correspondence and minutes of the S.P.C.K. relating to Wales 1699-1740 (1952) ;
  • The S.P.C.K. and Wales, 1699-1740 the history of the S.P.C.K. in Wales from its foundation to the early years of the Welsh Methodist movement (1954) ;
  • T. Kelly , Griffith Jones, Llanddowror pioneer in adult education (1950) .


Mary Gwendoline Ellis, M.A., Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959