Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nicholas, Thomas (1820-1879)

NICHOLAS, THOMAS (1820–1879), Welsh antiquary, born in 1820 in a small thatched house near Trefgarn chapel, not far from Solva, Pembrokeshire, was educated in Lancashire College, Manchester, and in Germany, where he took the degree of Ph.D. He became a presbyterian minister, and in 1856 he was appointed professor of biblical literature and mental and moral science at the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen. In 1863 he settled in London, resigning his professorship, and thenceforth, with the aid of Sir Hugh Owen, Lord Aberdare, Archdeacon Griffiths, Rev. David Thomas, the editor of the ‘Homilist,’ and others, he promoted a scheme for the furtherance of higher education in Wales on unsectarian principles. As a result of this effort the University College of Wales was founded in 1867, when a building at Aberystwith was purchased. Nicholas is said to have secured promises of subscriptions amounting to 14,000l. He was one of the governors, and drew out a scheme of education. He had made a special study of the educational institutions of France and Germany. In the autumn of 1878 he revised the English edition of Baedeker's ‘London’ as it passed through the press. He also projected a ‘History of Wales,’ which he did not live to complete. He died unmarried at 156 Cromwell Road, London, on 14 May 1879.

Besides pamphlets and other publications, Nicholas was the author of: 1. ‘Middle and High Class Schools, and University Education for Wales,’ 1863, a work which exerted great influence on educated Welshmen. 2. ‘Pedigree of the English People,’ 1868; 5th edit. 1878. 3. ‘Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales,’ 1872, in 2 vols. 4. ‘History and Antiquities of the County of Glamorgan and its Families,’ 1874. He also edited, with notes and a biographical sketch, Matthias Maurice's ‘Social Religion Exemplify'd,’ 1860, 8vo.

[Brit. Mus. Cat.; Athenæum, 1879, i. 662–3; Academy, 1879, i. 477; Men of the Reign; London Echo, May 1879; Baner ac Amserau Cymru, May 1879; Times, 16 May 1879.]

J. A. J.