(History of the Welsh Independent Churches)
By Thomas Rees & John Thomas; 4 volumes (published 1871+)
English translations contributed by Jon Mein (Feb 2008)
SARDIS, St Issells parish
(Vol 3, p 123)
This chapel is within a few miles to the east of Tenby. Around the beginning of the present century, Mr R. Morgans, Henllan; Mr Jones, Trelech, and other Welsh Ministers would visit occasionally the English parts of Pembrokeshire and preach in homes and at the roadside, and everywhere they found people who would listen. They succeeded by these visits in winning over a few people in various areas to love and welcome the gospel. They visited this area, among other places. They were welcomed here by Mr Clement Phillips, a responsible farmer. This good man built a room near his house for preaching. After Mr Benjamin Evans settled in St Florence in 1804, he would come here fairly regularly to preach and a church was soon formed here. Mr William Thomas, a young man of the area who was won over to the faith through the ministry of Messrs Morgans and Jones when they visited the neighbourhood, was one of the first and most industrious members. He was urged to begin preaching and was of particular service to the cause when it was not strong here, and to new causes in various other areas. In 1809 Sardis chapel was built. This church remained under the ministry of Mr Evans, St Florence, until 1819, when the afore-mentioned William Thomas was ordained minister here. He was ordained on 19th May 1819. Messrs J. Bulmer, Haverfordwest; T. Harries, Pembroke; W. Warlow, Milford; J. Meyler, Rhosycaerau and W. Thomas, Tier's Cross, took part in the ordination service. Mr Thomas was ordained to be co-minister with Mr Evans in the whole area of his ministry; but he soon limited his services mainly to Sardis. He continued working here, and in Saundersfoot, after a chapel was built there, until his death in 1855. Within a year after the death of Mr Thomas, an invitation was extended to Mr D. Matthews from Elim near St Clears, and he is the minister here and in Saundersfoot up to the present. We do not know of anyone who was called to preach from here besides Mr William Thomas, the first minister and his son Dr David Thomas, Stockwell.
William Thomas. This good man and excellent preacher was born in a farmhouse named Vaston within three miles of Tenby in September 1782. The only educational advantages he received were for about two years when he was a young child at a school held by a Mr Williams, the parson of his native parish. As soon as he was capable of being of any useful service on the farm he was taken from the school. His parents were not religious but he was brought, somehow, to feel from childhood the importance of spiritual matters. When he was a child he would often go to the Parish Church and he noticed that the parson there would weep under the influence of the Word. About the year 1803 the opportunity came for him to go to hear the famous preachers R. Morgans, Henllan; Mr Jones, Trelech; John Evans, New Inn and John Rees, later of London; and his religious impressions were deepened so that he decided to join the Independent cause that had recently been established in the neighbourhood. In 1806 he began practising his gifts as a preacher and soon became an extremely useful and acceptable preacher. He was ordained, as we noted, in 1819 as minister of his mother church and continued to fulfil his office effectively until the end of his life. After his marriage he went to keep a farm called Hollybush. Soon he moved from there to a larger farm, called Hopshill, where he stayed for thirty years. Since he was not a wealthy man, and having a family of ten children, he had to work hard throughout his life. Still, in spite of all his labours with the things of this world, he preached four or five times every week and was of immense service to the cause of religion, not only in his own area but in surrounding areas. After a life of unending work, his career ended peacefully on 23 March 1855 when he was 73 years of age. On his deathbed he said, 'If anyone orates a funeral sermon for me he should not take as text "I have fought a good fight ..." but the words 'I consider everything as muck and loss as I win Christ'. On 3rd April, a large crowd gathered to escort the body of their old minister, and respectable neighbour, to the grave. He was buried by the side of Sardis chapel.
William Thomas, although he was not a scholar, was a notably able and highly talented preacher. He imparted gems of ideas which astounded and melted his listeners. Although his language was rustic and unadorned, his ideas were so original and excellent, and his way of putting them so molten, that his ministry was appreciated by the most cultured thinkers, as much as by the ignorant common folk. This arduous and modest minister was of great service to the cause of religion during his lifetime, and his name will be revered in the English parts of Pembrokeshire for years to come.
, St Issells parish
(Vol 3, p 124)
Saundersfoot is a populous seaside village a few miles to the east of Tenby. Most of the inhabitants are miners and fishermen. It was through the work of Mr W. Thomas, Sardis, and his son Mr David Thomas (now D. Thomas, D.D., Stockwell) who at the time was a tradesman in Tenby, that the cause was established and the chapel built in this place. Before the Nonconformists began to preach regularly here the inhabitants were proverbially well known for their ignorance and lack of religion. The chapel here was opened on 23 May 1838 when six sermons were preached by Messrs J. Davies, Glandwr; D. Davies, Zion's Hill; H. Davies, Narberth; T. Jones, Rosemarket; J. Evans, Hebron, and T. Jones, Laugharne. This church has been under the same ministry as Sardis from the beginning until the present day. Although the congregation is not large, the cause looks flourishing and has been, and continues to be, a great blessing to the place.
(Vol 3, p 125)
Reynoldston is the name of a parish about five miles to the south of Narberth. Although a succession of parsons had received a good salary for hundreds of years for educating the inhabitants, Mr Lingen, who was sent down by the government in 1847 to inspect the quality of education in Wales, said that this place was notable for its ignorance as late as that year. If there was occasional preaching by the Nonconformists years ago, there was no attempt to establish a cause here until 1866. In March of that year Mr Griffiths, minister of the church in Templeton, preached in the loft of a warehouse belonging to Mr John Griffiths, Reynoldston. Mr Griffiths encouraged him to return there, promising to give him a room for holding religious meetings every Sunday. Mr E. Griffiths accepted the offer. He soon succeeded in gathering a good congregation in the place and in establishing a Sunday school here. In 1867 a church was formed here. Various enthusiastic persons came to work with the cause from its beginning, such as John Griffiths, Reynoldston; Ebenezer James; John James; Miss John, Loveston, and others. To the great loss of the cause, Messrs J. Griffiths and E. James have died and other most industrious members have moved out of the area; but yet others have come to fill their place so that the young cause is alive and is likely to survive. Mr S. Morley MP offered a hundred pounds towards building a chapel here, but they couldn't get the land and so Mr Morley's generous offer was lost. However, T. H. Powell Esq. gave land and materials to build a schoolhouse here. A day school is held in this schoolhouse and religious services on Sunday. A congregation of about eighty comes there to listen every Sunday and the future looks hopeful. Mr Griffiths, Templeton, has been the minister here from the beginning. ( Gareth Hicks - 20 Feb 2008)