Jones, Thomas (1819-1882) (DNB00)

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JONES, THOMAS (1819–1882), ‘the Welsh Poet-Preacher,’ born at Rhayader, Radnorshire, on 17 July 1819, was son of John Jones (d. 1829), a commercial traveller. After attending the village school at Rhayader, he was apprenticed about 1831 to a flannel manufacturer named Winstone at Llanwrtyd; in 1837 he obtained work at Brynmawr, first as a collier and then as a check weigher, and in 1839 removed to Llanelly, Carmarthenshire. He then commenced preaching among the Calvinistic methodists, but in 1841 he joined the independents. After attending during the following three or four years a private school at Llanelly, he was ordained first pastor of Bryn Chapel, near Llanelly, in July 1844, but in 1845 removed to take charge of the churches of Hermon and Tabor, near Llandilo. In 1850 he settled as pastor of Libanus Church, Morriston, near Swansea, and as ‘Jones Treforris’ became known throughout Wales for eloquence and originality. He also lectured on such subjects as ‘Mahomet’ (published in 1860), ‘The Elevation of the Working Man,’ and the ‘Martyr of Erromanga.’ In September 1858, after much hesitation, he accepted the pastorate of Albany Chapel, Frederick Street, London (N.W.), the most cultured nonconformist congregation in London. Jones's new hearers received him with enthusiasm. He removed in 1861 to a larger church, called Bedford Chapel, near Oakley Square, where he ministered with the highest success till December 1869. The poet Robert Browning, who was a seat-holder in Bedford Chapel, says that Jones attracted listeners by the ‘outpour of impetuous eloquence’ and his ‘liberal humanity.’ Owing to failing health he returned to Wales, and in January 1870 undertook the charge of the new congregational church at Walter's Road, Swansea. He was chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales in 1871–2. In order to benefit his health he held the pastorate of the Congregational Church at Collins Street, Melbourne, from May 1877 to May 1880. After his return to Swansea he resumed the pulpit at Walter's Road in 1881, and filled it till his death on 24 June 1882.

Jones attained a unique position as a popular preacher in Welsh, being often classed with William Williams of Wern (1781–1840). But his fame mainly rests on the eloquent and undogmatic sermons preached by him in English at Bedford Chapel, where he avoided a strictly ‘popular’ style.

Jones himself published a few pieces of Welsh poetry. A series of his sermons appeared in ‘Words of Peace,’ Melbourne, 1877–1878, and another in the ‘Sunday Magazine,’ London, 1883. ‘The Divine Order and other Sermons and Addresses by the late Thomas Jones of Swansea, edited by Brynmor Jones, LL.B., with a short Introduction by Robert Browning,’ appeared London, 1884, 8vo. Besides Browning's ‘impressions,’ the volume contains a portrait and a short memoir by his son, the editor. A small volume of selections entitled ‘Lyric Thoughts of the late Thomas Jones, with Biographical Sketch, edited by his Widow,’ was published in London in 1886, 8vo. Jones was twice married. By his first wife he was father of Judge Brynmor Jones and Principal Viriamu Jones of University College, Cardiff.

[Biographical Sketches in The Divine Order and Lyric Thoughts, ut supra; The Cambrian (Swansea) for 30 June 1882; Times, 27 June 1882, p. 10; Rees and Thomas's Hanes Eglwysi Annibynol Cymru, v. 111–20; Great Modern Preachers, pp. 41–55 [by the Rev. William Dorling], London, 1875, 8vo; Congregational Year-Book for 1883, pp. 292–5; Life of Robert Browning by Mrs. Sutherland Orr; information kindly supplied by His Honour Judge Brynmor Jones.]

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