Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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WATKINS , JOSHUA ( 1769 or 1770 - 1841 ), Baptist minister ;

believed to have been born in Llangynidr (Breck.) — he was one of the trustees of the first Baptist meeting-house at that place in 1794 ( D. Jones , Bed. Deheubarth , 655), and he may have been the son of the Howell Watkins , at whose house the Baptists used previously to meet (op. cit., 811). But the Llangynidr Baptists were formally members at Llanwenarth , and it was there that Joshua Watkins was baptised in 1789 (op. cit., 658) and began to preach ( 1790 ). He conducted missions in Llangynidr , Tredegar , and as far as the outskirts of Rhymney . In 1793 he went to live at Carmarthen in order to help his friend M. J. Rhys (q.v.) with the Cylchgrawn Cynmraeg , and there is a somewhat doubtful story (see J. J. Evans , Morgan John Rhys , 33-4) that the two were compelled to flee the town; however, he returned home when the Cylchgrawn expired. On the 28 March 1796 he was ordained minister of Penuel , Carmarthen . He was obviously a zealous missionary , for he not only greatly increased the size of his congregation but started churches at Ferryside , Kidwelly , Porth-y-rhyd , and elsewhere. But his theological views were no more in accord with the higher Calvinism of the west than were those of M. J. Rhys ; he was drawn into the controversy which, in 1799 , led to the schism in the Baptist denomination , and that year he and his church seceded from the Particular Baptists ; in 1801 we find him (his name being wrongly given as ‘ Joshua Mathias ’) appealing to the Assembly of the General Baptists in London on behalf of the small denomination in Wales ( Whitley , Minutes of the General Baptist Association ). But Watkins belonged to that section of the General Baptists whose unorthodoxy would not go beyond Arminianism , and he was appalled at the Unitarian leanings of some of his Welsh fellow-ministers; accordingly, in 1805 , he and his congregation rejoined the Particular Baptists . He was warmly welcomed; his name appears immediately in the lists of festival preachers ( Traf. Cymd. Hanes Bed. , 1942 , 16), and he is found working with his former opponent, Titus Lewis (q.v.) , to re-establish causes like Tŷ Coch ( Llangynog ), 1806 , which had lost their congregations. He was exceedingly popular for the rest of his life. J.T.J. (ii, 609) says that he had a shop in the town — possibly a bookseller 's; in 1809 he was a printer and publisher , at first in partnership with others, but from 1810 on his own account. He d. 22 June 1841 , ‘at the age of 71’ says Ser. G. ( 1841 ; 223), while J.T.J. says that he was b. in 1769 . He had a son who was a doctor ; the latter's widow was the second wife of H. W. Jones (q.v.) , minister of the Tabernacle , Carmarthen .

Sources:

  • D. Jones Hanes y Bedyddwyr yn Neheubarth Cymru , 1839 , 444-5;
  • Trafodion Cymdeithas Hanes Bedyddwyr Cymru , 1930 ;
  • Ifano Jones , A history of printing and printers in Wales to 1810, and of successive and related printers to 1923 , 1925 , 209;
  • and other references given above.

Author:

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

Published date: 1959