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Theological Colleges attended by Welsh ministers and priests

The original concept was to discover which theological colleges Welsh nonconformist ministers and Anglican church priests attended and was based on the perusal of the individual entries in The Dictionary of Welsh Biography, 1941-70, Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 2001 (up to the surname Jones). The numbers included against the individual colleges listed below represent the frequency that people listed in DWB studied there; quite a few of these were in England, many ministers also went to an university (details not extracted), others didn't appear to have attended any theological college (or university) at all.

Until the first reasonably-permanent theological college was founded at St Bees in 1816, candidates for the Church of England's ministry would usually study for a degree at one of the universities (which was generally regarded as an adequate training for ordination), or else they would be assessed on the basis of whatever form of schooling or private study might be prescribed by ordaining bishop (such non-graduate candidates were sometimes referred to as 'literates').  Up to the 19th century, nonconformists were largely excluded from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.  This encouraged the development of varying types of dissenting academy

The background notes have subsequently been greatly expanded by introducing material from other quoted sources.
I am especially indebted to Aidan Jones for providing me with most of this supplementary data (with much of the major revision of Dec 2004 to the Anglican Church section being based on the booklet by Nicholas Groves).

Additional material was subsequently introduced from The Dictionary of Welsh Biography, down to 1940, Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1959. This is again on the basis of material up to the surname Jones only.

The various colleges are grouped in sections relating to particular towns, it is possible  that some of the descriptions and statistics as extracted from DWB actually refer to the same place.

It should be remembered that basic information about careers of the clergy may be obtainable from printed sources, such as Crockford's Clerical Directory for the Anglican churches (issued in many editions since 1858), or from the generally less-detailed year books of the nonconformist denominations. Collections of ordination papers from the ancient Welsh dioceses can be found in the National Library of Wales. Obituary notices might appear in many types of publication. A few major universities and public schools have published parts of their older registers. Nevertheless when reference is made to the archives of particular theological colleges, it should NOT be assumed that these will necessarily include records of individual students.

Archives Hub, a national gateway to the archives of UK universities and colleges, offers additional details for a number of the larger institutions mentioned below.  

Family Tree Magazine, February 1999, included an article by John Titford on "Registers of Denominational Higher Education: Nonconformists", which contains many bibliographical references to different dissenting academies, mainly in England and Wales, and sometimes including lists of students.  

The data is contained in these separate sections;

Historical Background to the Anglican church

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The Church in Wales, that is the four Welsh dioceses which since the Norman conquest had been firmly placed under the authority of the archbishop of Canterbury, was notoriously poor ... the burden of poverty fell on the unbeneficed and underprivileged mountain clergymen.  They were the products of poverty-stricken countryside where there was a void between the gentleman and the peasant ... those who presented themselves for ordination from the one class, who had the means to go to one of the universities, usually stayed in England where the prospects were better. Those from the other class were usually too poor to avail themselves of the meagre educational facilities that lay nearer at hand.  

Yet many of these literate persons were men of considerable ability, as Bishop Lloyd of St Asaph reminded the archbishop of Canterbury in 1686:
"But yet of those whom I have ordained, the graduates have not always been the best scholars.  I have more than once seen them shamefully outdone by men that never saw the university, and I have never ordained any but them that could perform the exercise required by the thirty-fourth Canon of the Synod of 1603. "

This canon required that every ordinand should either be a graduate or at least be able to preach a discourse in Latin on one of the main articles of the Faith: there were also to be letters testimonial from heads of colleges or from three or four devout ministers.  In 1685 Archbishop Sancroft got the bishops to agree to a number of articles relating to ordinations and institutions: no man should be ordained who hath not taken some degree of school in one of the universities of this realm.  Bishop Lloyd [of St. Asaph] objected to it, but he agreed when the saving clause was added:
"unless the archbishop, in some extraordinary case, and upon the express desire and request of the bishop ordaining, shall think fit to dispense with this particular."  
Lloyd then told the archbishop that the regulations were not practical in the Welsh dioceses:
"We have a great many more cures of souls than we have graduates in this country; and as most of the people understand nothing but Welsh, we cannot supply the cures with anyother but Welshmen."

Of the Welsh dioceses, Bangor was exceptional in having a majority of graduates amongst its ordinands, the ordination lists in the registers of the bishops of St David's tell their own story.  In the first half of the eighteenth century, about a third of those ordained were graduates, but later the proportion was very much smaller.  Of those admitted to deacon's orders 1750-1799, forty-five were graduates and six hundred and eighty were literates.  Another thirty-seven had been at Oxford or Cambridge, but had not taken a degree, the literates were men who had been educated in the local grammar schools.

Owain W Jones in The Mountain Clergyman: His Education and Training (included in Links with the Past: Swansea & Brecon Historical Essays, pp. 166-167, edited by O W Jones & David Walker, Llandybie,1974).  


Although the English clergy were by no means monochrome in their educational or social backgrounds, they were the product of different educational processes to a far lesser extent. Alan Haig [in The Victorian Clergy, London & Sydney, 1984] has shown that in the province of Canterbury in 1865 (excluding the four Welsh dioceses) 78 per cent of ordinands had been educated at Oxbridge and only 3 per cent were literates; the remaining 19 per cent had been educated in a variety of newer institutions.  In the province of York, 46 per cent had been to Oxbridge and 4 per cent were literates, with the remaining 49 per cent educated elsewhere.  In Wales, however, the picture was very different: 25 per cent were Oxbridge educated: 20 per cent were ordained as literates and 55 per cent had been educated elsewhere - the majority would have been at Lampeter . Moreover, it appears to be the case that the Welsh ordinands were generally older than their English equivalents, in Wales obtaining ordination was a long haul and it was often embarked on as a second career after the youthful years had been spent in teaching or in trade.

Frances Knight in The Education of Welsh Ordinands in the Rowland Williams Era and Beyond (included in The Welsh Journal of Religious History, vol. 1, Bangor, 2006).  



Historical background to Dissenting academies

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Here are some snippets  from A History of Carmarthenshire by Sir John Lloyd, 1939, which outline the early history of these academies ;

And some further quotations of background relevance ;

By W G Evans, contributor to Cardiganshire County History Vol III p548-9, 1998

And by B Nightingale in The Story of the Lancashire Congregational Union, p51-53, 1906)

Nonconformist  theological colleges in Wales --- statistics are those mentioned in DWB (either edition).

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In the Carmarthenshire Methodist ministers context there is a list of ministers and when/where they were ordained from taken from the book Hanes Methodistiaeth Sir Gaerfyrddin (The History of the Methodists in Carmarthenshire). By Rev James Morris. Published 1911  Translated by Ivor Griffiths, 1994.
See the section on the first page, Part 1, headed  'Ordination Year of the Ministers of Carmarthenshire' which covers the period 1811 - 1910


Abergavenny Academy

Baptist College, Abergavenny



Aberystwyth Baptist College

Aberystwyth Theological College/United Theological College; opened 1906, closed 2002

College of the Welsh Independents 

Jasper House Academy, Aberystwyth


Ammanford: Gwynfryn Academy/Watcyn Wyn's School



Bala Theological College (Calvinist Methodist)

Bala Independent College/Bala Congregationalist College

GORFF 28 1984





(see also under BALA and BANGOR)



Bangor Baptist College/Bangor Theological College/North Wales Baptist College

Bangor Congregational College/Bangor Independent College (1886)




Memorial College/Congregational College/Independent College, Brecon

(see also under Trevecca College, Breconshire)

Christ's College, Brecon - the public school, founded in 1541

  Brecon teacher training college


Brynllywarch, Glamorgan - see below under Presbyterian College, Carmarthen


Cardiff: Cardiff Baptist College/South Wales Baptist College



Presbyterian College, Carmarthen

Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Carmarthen




Glandwr School, Pembrokeshire



Haverfordwest Academy

Haverfordwest Baptist College


Llangollen: Baptist College


Llanfihangel Genau'r Glyn


Llanfyllin - see under Wrexham Academy, Newtown Academy


Llansawel (Carmarthenshire): Ffrwd-y-fal


Llanuwchllyn - see under Bala


Newtown: Newtown Academy


Neuadd Llwyd Academy, near Aberaeron


Oswestry - see under Brecon Memorial College?  



Pontypool Academy

Pontypool Baptist College

Trosnant Baptist Academy (near Pontypool)


Pontypridd Academy



Swansea Academy/Swansea Independent Academy

Swansea: Memorial College (Congregational)

Swansea teacher training college, 1849 - see under Brecon


Trevecca College, Talgarth, Breconshire


Usk Divinity School



Wrexham Academy

Wrexham: John Hughes's School

Nonconformist theological colleges in England --- any statistics are those mentioned in DWB (either edition).

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These entries are not entirely in alphabetical order, those for particular towns have been grouped together.

The London and Manchester areas have their separate sections at the end of the main run.




Nonconformist theological colleges in Scotland

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(in addition to the various Scottish universities, which have traditionally prepared students for the ministry)

Free Church College, Edinburgh, founded 1843


Scottish Congregational College/Scottish College, Edinburgh  

Hope Terrace, later Inverleith Terrace, Edinburgh.  Successor to a theological hall originally established in 1811.  The missionary and Olympic athlete Eric Liddell (portrayed in the film Chariots of Fire) was a student there in 1924-25.

"Today the institution is known as the Scottish United Reformed and Congregational College, or The Scottish College.  In 1995, the stock of the College library was amalgamated with the stock from the library of St Colm's College (Church of Scotland) and the Theological College Library of the Scottish Episcopal Church (formerly at Coates Hall) to form the United SCOC Library." [from Archives Hub ]


The Anglican church---theological colleges (mentioned in DWB and other sources.)

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Anglican theological colleges are generally listed in previous editions of Crockford's Clerical Directory. The 1910 edition shows none in Wales apart from Lampeter - but many Welsh would, of course, have studied in England or elsewhere.

"In these Colleges candidates receive their final preparation for ordination.  Before the 19th century various attempts were made to establish theological collages in England, notably by Matthew Sutcliffe, Dean of Exeter, in 1609, by G Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury (d1715) and by T Wilson, Bishop of Sodor & Man, in 1700; but nothing in the way of a permanent foundation was accomplished.  In 1816 St Bees' College was founded by G H.Law, Bishop of Chester, for non-university men, and in 1825 the Church Missionary Society started a college at Islington for those of its candidates who were not graduates.  Neither of these colleges has survived, St Bees College closing in 1895 and the Church Missionary College, Islington, in 1915."

"Queen's College, Birmingham, was founded in 1828 for medical and theological students, and in 1934 was reconstituted for theology alone. Chichester Theological College was established in 1839, and after that date others followed rapidly."

(The above two quotations based on " Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church", reprinted 1961.)  

Around a hundred such institutions in the UK are briefly described in the booklet Theological Colleges: their hoods and histories, by Nicholas Groves, published by The Burgon Society in 2004 .
Many of these colleges were short-lived, most being Anglican church foundations, commencing with St Bees, Cumberland, in 1816.  However, a small number of nonconformist foundations are also mentioned.  
Some of the longer-established or better-known colleges include:


In more recent years several dioceses have established non-residential training schemes for future ministers.  







St David's College, Lampeter ; DWB entries ---15  in period 1827-1910.

Became part of the University of Wales in 1971.
Specific training for ordination, based at Burgess Hall, ended in 1978.


Llandaff church training college at Abergavenny; DWB entry --- 1 in c 1850s

This single entry noted in DWB (but see first paragraph of this page)   probably relates to Rev David Howell, Dean of St David's (died 1903).  
According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, he "passed through the Llandaff Diocesan Institute, Abergavenny. He was ordained deacon in 1855."

Further clarification of what this particular institution comprised is given by Canon Owain W Jones in his history of St Michael's College.  He begins by quoting from Alfred Ollivant, Bishop of Llandaff (1851):   

"'In Wales ... there was a void between the classes of gentleman and peasant' ... Candidates for ordination from the one class, who could afford to go to one of the ancient universities, generally stayed in England ... Those from the other class ... had to be provided with some other means of training.  The dioceses made use of their grammar schools.   In Llandaff, 'divinity classes' were established in the grammar schools at Abergavenny and Cowbridge ... The Bishop of Llandaff admitted that until the middle of the century he had been mainly dependent on his divinity classes for his ordinands.  It was not until the death of the headmaster of Cowbridge in 1850, and the resignation of the headmaster of Abergavenny in 1855 that he had closed those classes."  [O W Jones, 'St Michael's College, Llandaff, 1892-1992', pp 5-6]   


Llandaff: St Michael's & All Angels' Theological College

Founded 1892 by Miss Olive Emma Talbot, who gave 7,000 to form the nucleus of an endowment fund, is intended primarily for the benefit of those who, having passed through their course, either at one of the Universities or at St David's College, Lampeter, desire to receive a year's additional preparation for the Holy Orders.  The college was removed from Aberdare to Llandaff in 1906, into buildings which provide for 32 students.( Kelly's Directory of South Wales, 1910)  (see Aberdare below)



In Reference Wales by John May (1992); 1892 St. Michael's College founded originally at Aberdare; later moved to Llandaff (see above). (St. Michael's is still the Theological College of the Church in Wales)


The Church Hostel, Bangor.

Not a separate college, but an institution proposed in 1884 by the Bishop of St Asaph in order to provide Bangor students with "a comfortable home under Christian influence". Despite some opposition from the nonconformists, the hostel was established in Princes Road in 1886; In The University College of North Wales 1884-1927 by J Gwynn Williams


St Bees Cumberland; DWB entries --- 3 in period 1820s-1867


Ystrad Meurig

Additional notes re other non-theological schools in Lampeter;

Schools/colleges in Hawarden, Flintshire not mentioned in DWB;

The situation in the other three ancient Welsh dioceses (apart from St David's) :

"Candidates for ordination from the one class who could afford to go to one of the ancient universities generally stayed in England, where the benefices were more remunerative.  Those from the other class [i.e. the less well-off] ... had to be provided with some other means of training.  The diocese of Bangor was the exception.  Those ordained in the first half of the nineteenth century were all graduates.  The other dioceses made use of their grammar schools.  In St Asaph, men were ordained from Ruthin Grammar School until the college of St Bees [q.v.] was opened in 1816.  This was reasonably accessible from North Wales by sea.  In Llandaff, 'divinity classes' were established in the grammar schools of Abergavenny and Cowbridge.  In St David's, similar classes were set up in a number of schools.  The biographer of Bishop Burgess stated that he licensed divinity classes at four grammar schools, Ystrad Meurig, Lampeter, Carmarthen and Brecon; but there is evidence that he accepted certificates from headmasters of other schools.  Haverfordwest had a divinity class, and certificates were accepted from a celebrated school at Castell Hywel [q.v.], near Llandysul, until Burgess found that the headmaster was a Socinian."

"The products of these schools were the 'literate persons' who figure largely in the ordination lists of this period.  It must be said that many of them were men of considerable ability.  As early as 1686, Bishop Lloyd of St Asaph wrote: 'But yet of those whom I have ordained the graduates have not always been the best scholars.  I have more than once seen them shamefully outdone by men that never saw the university'.  Later bishops in Wales would have nodded assent."   

"It was hoped that a new age had dawned when St David's College, Lampeter, was founded in 1827.  The grammar schools in the diocese of St David's lost their divinity classes immediately.  However, the Bishop of Llandaff admitted that until the middle of the century he had been mainly dependent on his divinity classes for his ordinands.  It was not until the death of the headmaster of Cowbridge in 1850, and the resignation of the headmaster of Abergavenny in 1855 that he had closed those classes."  [O W Jones, 'St Michael's College, Llandaff, 1892-1992', pp.5-6]

The Roman Catholic Church --- theological colleges

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Bible Colleges in Wales

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The following are not traditional theological colleges but they offer a different form of religious-based training:


St. David's College, Lampeter

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Begun in the year 1822 & opened March 1st 1827, is an extensive quadrangular structure, erected chiefly by the exertions of Dr Thomas Burgess, Bishop of St David's from 1803 to 1825; George IV while Prince Regent, gave 1000; a grant was also obtained from Parliament of 6000, the remainder being chiefly collected through the instrumentality of the Bishop. The College, which is incorporated by Royal charter, has the power of conferring the degrees of B.A. & B.D. & has attached to it scholarships & exhibitions of the annual value of over 590, being one of 50, two of 21, six of 20, & others ranging in value from 18 6s 8d to 8 5s. yearly. The value of the scholarships is partly realised to students by giving them the use of furnished rooms, attendance & dinners in Hall.  An Affiliation Studentship Fund has been formed with the view of assisting deserving students, who wish to avail themselves of the Affiliation Scheme to the Universities of Oxford & Cambridge, & a sum of 100 a year is also set apart for this purpose, from the W Dillwyn Llewelyn Trust, endowed by Sir John T. D. Llewelyn, of Penllergare, the studentships being known as the "Dillwyn Llewelyn Memorial Studentships." The college has been admitted by the Universities of Oxford & Cambridge to the privileges of an affiliated college. (A) Affiliation to Cambridge ---Students who have resided three years at St. David's College, & have obtained honours in its final examination, are excused from the previous examination at Cambridge, & are allowed to graduate after two years' residence only, on condition of their taking a tripos examination. All who have not passed in algebra at Lampeter are allowed to do son at Cambridge. The algebra in ordinary responsions does not qualify. (B) Affiliation to Oxford --- the principal advantage of affiliation to Oxford is that it allows a student who obtains honours either in moderations or in the second public examination to take his degree after two years' residence, instead of at least three, &, in the case of some honour schools, practically four years' residence. Affiliated students in all cases have to take honours both at Lampeter & Oxford. Those students who proceed after two years at St. David's College obtain the status of junior affiliated students, and are exempted from responsions, but have to pass moderations or take one of the equivalent examinations before proceeding to their final honour examination, & in all cases have to show a sufficient knowledge of Greek. Those students who proceed after three years obtain, like graduates of other universities, the status of senior affiliated students at Oxford, are exempted from moderations as well as responsions, & take only the final honour examination, but (unless they take Literae Humaniores or Theology) have to pass a supplementary examination in Greek. Legal Education : In pursuance of the powers obtained in the "Solicitors' Act, 1877", the Lords Justices have ordered that those who have passed the responsions examination of St. David's college shall be exempted from the preliminary examination. The library contains about 50,000 volumes. Visitor, the Lord Bishop of St. David's.

Principal & Professor of Greek & Theology & Senior Bursar, the Rev. Llewellyn John Montfort Bebb D.D. formerly Fellow, Tutor & Vice-Principal of Brasenose College, Oxford.

Phillips' Professor of Physical Science & Professor of Mathematics, Arthur William Scott M.A. Trinity College, Dublin.

Professor of Latin, Senior Tutor & Librarian, Rev. Geo. Woosung Wade D.D. of Oriel College, Oxford.

Professor of English & Philosophy, Hugh Walker LL.D. of Balliol College, Oxford & Glasgow (Junior Bursar)

Professor of Theology & Hebrew, Junior Tudor, Censor & Precentor, Rev Edmund Tyrrell Green M.A. of St John's College, Oxford

Professor of Welsh & Steward, Rev. Evan Lorimer Thomas M.A. of Jesus College, Oxford.

Lecturer in Mathematics, Rev. Benjamin Davies M.A. Worcester College, Oxford.

Lecturer in History, Arthur Harold Dainton B.A. Jesus College, Oxford.

Lecturer in Theology & Parochialia, Rev. Cecil Cryer M.A. St John's College, Oxford.

The College School was opened in 1884.


The Principal & Professors of St. David's College, The Mayor of Lampeter & Mr J. E. Harford.

Head Master: Rev. William Llewelyn Footman, M.A. of Jesus College, Oxford.

Assistant Masters:

Classics, C. H. Firbank, B.A. Lond. Rev Richard Humphrey Richards B.A. Jesus College, Oxford; J.R. Evans, Lond. Univ & William Lewis

Mathematics & Science, Rev. David Jones M.A. of Lampeter & Jesus College, Oxford.

Drawing, W. Lewis

Rifle Shooting & Physical Drill, H. Baldwin

Manual Instruction, G. A. Richards.

Kelly's Directory of South Wales, 1910


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