Open main menu

LLEWELYN, THOMAS (1720?–1793), baptist minister, was born about 1720 at Penalltau isaf, in the parish of Gelligaer, Glamorganshire, being fourth in descent, it is said, from Thomas Llewelyn of Rhegoes near Aberdare, who, according to Iolo Morganwg (1746–1827), translated a portion of the Bible into Welsh about 1540, that is twenty-seven years before W. Salesbury's was printed (see Malkin, South Wales, i. 297). After following in youth the trade of a tailor, he entered when about twenty a collegiate school at Pontypool, Monmouthshire, in order to qualify himself for the baptist ministry. He continued his studies at Bristol, under Bernard Foskett, and in London, and after his ordination acted from about 1746 to 1770 as tutor at a seminary for the training of candidates for the baptist ministry. He was presented with the degree of M.A., and afterwards with that of M.D., by the university of Aberdeen. In 1768 he published ‘An Historical Account of the British or Welsh Versions and Editions of the Bible,’ London, 8vo, in which he dealt trenchantly with the want of bibles in Wales, and urged the need of increasing the number of copies of the edition of the Welsh Bible then in the press, issued in 1769. In the last year Llewelyn published ‘Historical and Critical Remarks on the British Tongue, and its Connection with other Languages, founded on its State in the Welsh Bibles,’ London, 8vo. A translation into Welsh of the ‘Historical Account’ was printed in ‘Seren Gomer,’ then a weekly newspaper, in 1815, while both works were republished in one volume immediately after the author's death in 1793, under the title ‘Tracts Historical and Critical,’ Shrewsbury, 8vo. The critical portions show Llewelyn to be a good classical scholar, while the results of his historical researches have been utilised by all subsequent writers on the history of the Welsh versions of the Bible (e.g. Thomas Charles in his Geiriadur; David Owen (Brutus) in Allwedd y Cyssegr; and William Rowlands in Y Traethodydd). In both of these pamphlets Llewelyn successfully appealed for assistance in enlarging the supply of Welsh bibles, and with the money thus raised, supplemented by a liberal donation from Llewelyn himself, who had made a wealthy marriage, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge printed twenty thousand copies of the Welsh Bible.

In 1776 Llewelyn took a prominent part in the establishment of a baptist mission for North Wales. He was one of the first members of the Gwyneddigion Society of London, and was its president in 1775. He was also a great supporter of the School for Welsh Girls, now located at Ashford in Middlesex. He lived for many years in Queen Square, Bloomsbury, and appears to have died in August 1793 (Seren Gomer for 1855; cf. Hist. of the Baptist Assoc. 1795, p. 69); he was buried in Bunhill Fields in the grave, according to family tradition, of Isaac Watts.

[Memoir by the Rev. W. Roberts in Seren Gomer for 1855, pp. 385–9, and 433–9; Joshua Thomas's Hanes y Bedyddwyr; Richards's Cambro-British Biography (death erroneously stated in 1783); Owen's Cambr. Biog. (death wrongly placed in 1796); Leathart's History of the Gwyneddigion, p. 14; Foulkes's Enwogion Cymru, s.v.]

D. Ll. T.