Dr Thomas Price 1822 - 1888

Dr Thomas Price

Rev. Thomas Price, M.A., Phd was a preacher, lecturer, writer, Friendly Societies, promoter, politician, Leipzig University, etc.

He was the son of John and Mary Price of Maesyewper, near the hamlet of Ysgethrog, in the Parish of Llenhamlwch, and the valley of the Usk, about three miles below the town of Brecon. One of 6 children of parents of humble circumstances, without the advantages of education he commenced to earn his living as an early age by assisting a local farmer, yet before his death he had become one of the best known and popular men in the whole of Wales. Fortunately he became a page boy in the family of Clifton, of the Ty Mawr, Llanfrynach, to wait upon the young Misses Clifton who took great interest in the young lad and taught him to read English. He had already learnt to read Welsh in a Sunday School, dressed in the livery of this family, he was taken by them on visits to the seaside and the country, and even to the continent, including a visit to Rome. Through being thrifty he was enabled to save up £21 to pay for his own apprenticeship to Mr Thomas Watkins of the Struet Brecon, Painter, glazier and plumber.

His parents had been members of the Established Church, but through the influence of his master’s wife and some friends, Thomas became a Baptist and was baptized in the River Usk. He soon had opportunities to develop his talents through Sunday school, prayer meetings, and by holding meetings in the surrounding villages, he thus gained confidence. In the meantime he had become an expert painter, and with the money paid him as the end of his apprenticeship, he bought a new suit and set out to walk all the way to London a distance of 160 miles with a few shillings left in his pocket. He spent three days on the journey and had four pence left which he gave away in a missionary meeting, but had secured work in London. He devoted much of his leisure time to the acquisition of the more difficult and advanced departments of his calling. In a short time he began to feel the importance of intellectual culture, and sought to satisfy his cravings for knowledge, and to discipline his mental powers by hard study in the classes of a mechanics' institution. Here he learnt his first lessons in writing, grammar, history, elocution, and drawing.

During his four years stay in London, he took advantage of the opportunities afforded him to study at the Dr. Birbeck’s Mechanics Institute.During his residence in London he was a member of the Welsh Baptist Church, Moorfields. In the Sunday-school connected with this church he laboured as one of its most diligent and useful teachers. At this time also he commenced his course as a Christian minister by preaching among his countrymen resident in various parts of the metropolis. His talents and earnestness as a preacher were soon recognised, and his early labours were greatly blessed. It was, therefore, only natural that his friends should turn to him as one destined to devote his life aid labours to the service of God in the Gospel of His Son. At the earnest request of the church of which he was a member, he resolved to relinquish his trade, and to consecrate himself wholly to the work of the Christian ministry.
Passing through his college course with satisfaction to his tutors and credit to himself and under Dr Thomas, he left his Alma Mater, at the Christmas of 1845 after three and half years, having accepted the pastorate of the Baptist Church, Aberdare.

Rev Thomas Price as principal he accepted a call to Aberdare Welsh Baptist Chapel, then worshipping at Carmel Chapel, Monk St but better known as “Penpound”, he commenced here by the end of1845 and was ordained on the 1st Jan 1846 and remained here as his only pastorate for 42 years until his death on the 29th Feb 1888 at the age of 67 years. The number of members on his ordination was 91, including those in the Mountain Ash Branch of the church. Thomas Price arrived as a time were about to take place in the Cynon Valley. Up to this time Aberdare had depend upon its iron history but from now on the famous Aberdare Steam Coal came into is stride. Colliery after colliery was opened and the population was about 16,000 as his ordination increased to about 40,000 during his life time, while the production of coal went up from 400,000 tons to nearly 3,000,000 ton. The year after his arrival of the T.V.R. was opened to carry coal and iron to Cardiff, and a few years later the Vale of Neath Railway connected Aberdare to Swansea, while of his arrival had to depend on its Canal and tramways.

His abounding energy and skill organiser, Thomas Price was able to increase the numbers of Baptists in the Valley through opening Sunday schools and later erecting chapels in the surrounding villages as a great ratio than the increase in population. After releasing 121 members to form a church at Aberaman (Gwawr), 58 to form the English Church as Carmel, while the Welsh members entered their new chapel as Calfaria, and 69 to form the church as Mountain Ash, (Rhos), there still remained as Calfaria 1031 members.Then 163 members were transferred to form the new church at Abernant, 131 to Ynsyslwyd, 49 to Gadlys, together with others to form Heolyfelin. He also assisted the daughter churches to form at Cwmaman, Abercwmboi, Blaenllechau, Cwmdare, Llwydcoed and Glyn-Neath.
In 1848 he was appointed Secretary of the Baptist Sustentation Fund, and for a time was very busy in addressing meetings and correspondence for this purpose. He soon became well known in his denomination as a preacher as their important conferences “Cymanfaoedd” and was elected to important offices, especially son in Glamorgan.



In 1863 he was elected to the chair of “Cymanfa Bedyddwyr Morgannwg”, while in 1865 he filled the chair of the “Welsh Baptist Union” and for many years was a member of the Committee of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, the Baptist Foreign Missionary Society and the Home Missionary Society and the Ireland Missionary Society, the Baptist Education Board, the committee of the Baptist Colleges Pontypool, Haverfordwest and Llangollen. He often spoke from platforms at Exeter Hall, London and the big English towns, Liverpool, Plymouth, Manchester, Birmingham etc.
In addition Rev. Price became very popular as a lecturer throughout North and South Wales, on such subjects as:- The Crimean War, Indian Mutiny, The Collier and his Dangers, The Literary History of the Bible, Garibaldi, it is said that a sum of £4000 was paid off the debt of chapels through his lectures which often took 2.1/2 to 3 hours to deliver with illustrations from maps.

Inside Calfaria Chapel
Inside Calfaria Chapel

In personal appearance, Dr. Price is prepossessing. He is of average stature, well-built, rather inclined to corpulence, the very picture of robust health and vivacious spirits. His ruddy features and beaming eyes are always cheerful, and when animated in preaching or speaking was very expressive. He has been married, but is now a widower. Through his late wife he became the owner of a considerable mine and coal property in the Valley of Aberdare. He is also well supported by his church, and is, therefore, in easy circumstances, in such circumstances as we should like to see every Christian minister. His hospitality is large and generous, especially to the poor and aged of his congregation, who are often invited and welcome guests at his table, and by whom he is regarded, not only as their minister, but also as their wise counsellor and faithful loving friend. Several gifts presented by his church and congregation at various times prove the affection with which they regard him, find other testimonials, of a more public character, show the high position he occupies as a citizen in the confidence and esteem of his fellow-townsmen.

Dr. Price used the English language as appropriately and as fluently as his native tongue. As a preacher, a lecturer, and a platform speaker, he is in the first rank of Welsh ministers. He is always sensible, ready, energetic, full of Welsh fire, oftentimes humorous, racy, and eloquent. He is, moreover, a skilful debater and a powerful opponent in argument. Thoroughly evangelical in doctrine, and in his views of church polity and discipline a Nonconformist and Baptist to the backbone, he is yet a man of comprehensive charity. He is no ascetic at the same time; he has maintained a spotless reputation. He can joke, and joke well and yet he is a deeply serious and earnest man.

For many years, Dr. Price had taken an active part in spreading secular and sacred knowledge throughout Wales by the medium of the press. He was joint-editor of the Gwron newspaper, one of the best conducted papers in the Welsh language. He was the sole editor of the Gweithiwr, a cheap weekly periodical, having for its object the benefit of the working classes; and is still editor of the Seren Cymru, the weekly organ of the Welsh Baptists. He has, moreover, published seven or eight small theological works, and a number of Sunday school tracts. In all public movements in his own town and neighbourhood he has ever been among the foremost leaders. In 1842 he was elected a director of the Aberdare Gas Company, and in the same year was elected to fill the office of Poor-law Guardian. In 1854 he was appointed a member of the Aberdare Board of Health, and in 1857 was made a member of the Burial Board. In all these posts he has displayed a genial kindliness of spirit, great wisdom and energy, and untiring devotion.

As a writer he publishes as answer to the Rev: William Edwards book “Bapto a Baptiso in 1857” Juwbili Eglwys Calfaria Aberdar 1862” and Trem 1885-1886, together with addresses etc. He was better known as the co-editor of “Y Gwron” 1885-1860 and “Y Gweithiwr” 1859-1860 and “Seren Cymru” 1860-76, he also served a Finance Secretary to “Seren Gomer”1853-1859 and edited “Y MedelwrIeuane” and “Y Gwyliedydd”.

Rev. Thomas Price again took a most prominent part in political activities as a liberal both on the platform as through the press, particularly through the “Gwron”and “Seren Cymru” and “Seren Gomer”. His attack on the”Blue Books on Education” in 1847, and on the Rev. John Griffith Vicar of Aberdare are well known. He also fought the same gentleman on the question of the “Church Rates” and gave such rates the death blow in Aberdare. He took a prominent part in the struggle for “Vote by Ballot”, “Disestablishment” etc., and even issued as election address as a candidate for Brecon, but withdrew when another candidate altered his own address to incorporate the reforms advocated by himself. He took a most active part in the local government of Aberdare and in various public movements in the town. He was elected on Merthyr Board of Guardians in 1852 on the Aberdare Local Board of Health 1854-71, was Vice-Chairman of the Aberdare School Board 1870- on the Aberdare Burial Board 1858 was secretary of the Aberdare Reading Society August 1848, Treasurer of the Aberaman Building Society which wound up its activities without a penny out in its accounts in August 1848. He also took an active part in forming the Aberdare Gas Co. In 1848 and again in building the New Aberdare Market Hall in 1851/2 and was director of the “Glandare Woollen Manufactory Ltd” Aberdare Nov 1871 of which is stepson, Mr Edwards Gilbert Price was the Secretary.

No minister in Wales took so such a prominent part as he did in furthering the work of the Friendly Societies, particularly those of the Independent Order of Oddfellows “Odyddion” and the “Ivorites”, after filling the important posts of the I.O.O. in the Aberdare Valley and in Wales, he was elected in June 1865 at Worcester as Grand Master of the largest Friendly Society in the World, and was entertained to dinner and received numerous addresses in beautiful frames, costly presents , gold watches, tea services, a magnificent ‘centrepiece and candelabra’ etc, being the first Welshman to receive such signal honour. In the same was he or his daughter received numerous presents from the Ivorites for the great services he/she had rendered them. He also helped other societies such as “Alfred’s” and the “Foresters”.

He often presided or conducted eisteddfodau and was Vice-chairman of the Aberdare National Eisteddfod, General and Literary Committee. He was the first secretary of the Aberdare British School Committee which established the first British School in the Aberdare Valley in 1848 “Park School” better known as “Ysgol y Comin”.

He was Treasurer of the famous “Cor Mawr” with its headquarters as Aberdare under Caradog as its conductor in 1872 and 1873. (Below The South Wales Choral Union Officers)

Picture courtesy of the Museum of Welsh Life
Picture courtesy of the Museum of Welsh Life


He visited the United States and Canada on behalf of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1869, after spending three weeks in Ireland he had a wonderful reception in America and on his return to Wales.
He married 16th March 1847 to Mrs Ann Gilbert the youngest daughter of Thomas David of Abernant-y-Groes, Cwmbach, from whom he had a son who died infancy and a daughter Emily, his wife died September 1st 1849, but his daughter survived. They are all buried in a vault in the Calfaria Burial Ground.

Note:

Dr. Price baptized his congregation in the River Cynon at the bottom of Commercial St in Aberdare by the iron bridge that once spanned the river.

Dr. Thomas Price baptised 1596 people by his fortieth anniversary as minister.

Poem on Dr. Thomas Price (Carw Coch)
[On his return to Aberdar having toured America for 9 months]


Welcome gracious doctor,
from knowing old cheerful faces
to your home in the gentle heavenly town,
we praise thee

We hold out our outstretched arms,
Joyously to our elbows we shake (hands),
we offer obvious signs
of warm heartedness

and we further praise faultless kind Amelia
as she returns to her beloved country;
truly she is the subject of love, and a profound shield for her tender father

Plaque Calfaria Chapel
Plaque Calfaria Chapel

In memory of the late reverend Thomas Price. M.A. PH.D.
Who died on Feb. 2nd 1888 aged 67.

He had been a faithful, industrious and active minister of Calfaria Church for 42 years. He had been a successful leader with every goodly movement in the Aberdare Valley, in his own country and in other countries. He filled the most important circles socially and religiously, with honour both to himself and his nation. He excelled as a citizen, politician, literary man, lecturer, minister and preacher. He was a benefactor second to none, he loved everyone and he was universally respected.

His end was peace. ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.’

FUNERAL OF THE REV. THOS. PRICE, ABERDARE.
An Impressive Ceremony.


It may almost be said, without exaggeration, that the whole of Aberdare took part in the funeral o: Tuesday afternoon of the Rev Dr. Price, of that town. Neither was the mourning confined to the people with whom the late divine was more immediately connected, for ministers of the gospel and other friends from various parts of Glamorganshire attended in large numbers to pay a last tribute of respect to the deceased minister. Sometime before half-past two, the time at which it was announced that the funeral Cortege would commence its flow journey through the town, the blinds of the houses along the line of route and elsewhere were all drawn, whilst the local tradesmen partly closed their places of business in recognition of the mournful occasion. The afternoon was bright and fine, excepting when, at distant intervals, slight showers of rain fell, but not in sufficient quantity to drive homewards any of the vast concourse of people who at midday commenced to assemble on Cardiff Road, in the vicinity of Rose Cottage, until lately the residence of the deceased gentleman.

Here the funeral procession was drawn up, though not exactly in the order originally contemplated, as many of the processionists fell out of the positions allotted to them. Before the departure of the cortege for Calfaria Chapel, the burial-ground of which was to be the deceased's last resting-place, a service was held at the house. Here the Rev Basset Thomas read a portion of Scripture, and the Rev Thomas Jones, of Carmel, Aberdare, offered up prayer; after which the Rev William Morris, of Treorky, speaking from the doorstep, addressed a few appropriate words to the concourse of people waiting m the road. Next the fresh young voices of the male and female choir, led by Mr Theophilus Jenkins, were heard in an appropriate Welsh hymn, given out by the Rev William Harris. The coffin, covered by a heavy pall, was then borne from the house on the shoulders of several deacons of Calfaria Chapel, of which the deceased minister was pastor, and the processionists commenced their slow journey to the graveyard. Many ministers were present, and the various local public bodies were represented at the funeral, whilst a large number of the leading townspeople and representative men of the county attended as an individual mark of respect. Amongst them the following were noticed:

Mr Alfred Thomas. M.P., the High Constable of Aberdare (Mr D Davies), Mr R H Rhys. J.P., Dr Davies, medical officer of health, and Dr Lewis, his assistant; Mr Edwards, surveyor; Mr D Davies, J P., Mr Griffiths, architect; Mr Kenshole, solicitor; Mr T Williams, Gwaelodygarth, Mr Rees Evans, Aberdare Mr T H Thomas, Cardiff Mr D Davies, Glebeland Mr Charles, Trecynon; Mr Davies, draper, Tredegar Mr R C Jenkins, Llanelly; Mr J Prosser, Aberaman; Mr Benjamin Jones, Aberaman Mr Williams, Compton House, Aberdare; Mr Griffiths, Neath; Mr J Hodges, clothier, Aberdare; Mr Davies, Porth Hotel; W Thomas. Brynawel J L Thomas, Brynawel; Mr T Evans, jeweller; Mr Rees Evans, Cwmaman; Mr J Thomas, ironmonger, Dowlais Mr Howel, Gelly Isaf Mr Williams, Cambrian Lamp Works Mr Thomas, watch maker, Aberdare Mr Edmonds, Capcoch Mr Jenkin Howells, printer; Mr J Mills, Tarian &c.

The Baptists Churches of the valley were represented in the procession by their deacons, superintendents of Sunday schools, and members; after whom came the choir. They were immediately succeeded by the coffin, which was carried the whole of the distance to the grave. Behind the coffin which was covered with beautiful wreaths, were the chief mourners, some of whom occupied coaches, whilst others walked. They included Miss Emily Price, the deceased minister's daughter; Miss Sarah Price, sister of the deceased; Miss Kate Prothero, a niece; Mrs John, Cwmbach; Miss Richards, Cwmbach Mr and Mrs Price, Troedyrhiw; Mr J. W. Jones, Trecynon Mr and Mrs Philip Morgan, Trecynon Mr T. Morgan, Trecynon; Mr John Morgan, Cwmbach Miss Catherine Price, &c.

Several private vehicles brought up the rear, including the carriages of Dr Jones, Aberdare, and Mr D. A. Thomas, the recently adopted candidate for the representation of the Merthyr Boroughs. The streets through which the procession passed were thickly lined on each side by mournful spectators of both sexes and of all ages, many of whom did not attempt to conceal their grief. The choir sang a mournful dirge, whilst additional solemnity was lent to the occasion by the tolling of the passing bell, which rang out its measured knell as the cortege slowly wended its way along Cardiff-street, Merthyr Place, and Monk-street. Notwithstanding that the followers walked four abreast; the procession extended nearly the whole of the way from the late residence of the deceased gentleman to the chapel, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile. Calfaria Chapel was besieged, though in an orderly manner, by the vast concourse of friends and admirers of the departed one. The edifice boon became crowded, whilst a large number still remained outside of the doors.

In order to accommodate these, a second service was improvised at Carmel Chapel, on the other side of the road, and here Professor Edwards, of Pontypool, and Dr. Rowlands, of Llanelly, officiated. Even after the two chapels had become filled to overflowing, a great number of people had to remain contented with what they could see from the streets, as it was impossible to accommodate them. Calfaria Chapel was draped in a manner befitting the occasion. Hangings of crape hid the balcony-rail from view, the platform was lost in sable adornments, whilst knots of crape were tied round the pillars running along the aisles. The coffin, on being borne into the church, was placed exactly beneath the desk from which the lamented deceased had so often dispensed spiritual sustenance to his flock. Then the service commenced. The Rev P. Williams, of Tredegar, read a portion of Scripture, after which the Rev William Williams, Mountain Ash, offered up prayer, and then one of a specially selected collection of hymns was sung.

The Rev William Harris having spoken a few words on the subject of the life of the late Rev Thomas Price, the Rev R. Ellis Williams, on behalf of the Baptist Church at Cwmamman, of which he is pastor, read a letter of condolence and sympathy with the church and family of the deceased. Amongst others who spoke, Welsh being generally used, were the Rev J. Roberts, Rhydyfelin, Treforest; the Rev Nathaniel Thomas, Cardiff and Dr Todd, of London. The last two ministers, it may be remarked, were fellow-students of the late Dr Price at Pontypool College. In the course of his address Dr Todd, in alluding to the late minister, remarked. He was eminently a man of sympathetic soul open and frank-hearted as a child and by his power of sympathy and ability to enter into the experiences of others he drew them to him as by some magnetic force, and exerted over them a spell-like influence. The children in our houses hailed his entering them. and nestled in his embrace; budding youth found in him one who could keep their secret confidences, and guide them through their perplexities, and the aged and the afflicted appealed to him as one who could weep with them that weep.

The grave of Thomas Price
The grave of Thomas Price

For his heart was open to the manifold experiences which exercise others, and he could enter into fellowship with the subjects of sorrow or of joy. Hence the powerful bold which be obtained, the mystic influence which he exercised over men of various grades and minds of different types. The mechanic and the maidservant took to him their troubles, and the merchant and man of business consulted him in their difficulties. Parents and their offspring the labourer and the capitalist—men driving engines or sweltering before a furnace, and others standing at the helm of some great commercial concern, or sitting in the Senate House, and responsible for the affairs of the nation, took him into their confidence with the full assurance of his sympathy, and the certainty of his utmost aid." At the conclusion of the service in the chapel the coffin was slowly borne to the vault, at a spot close to which a tombstone records the last resting place of Mrs Price and other members of the deceased minister's family. The coffin was of solid, plain oak, entirely covered with black cloth. The lid bore a simple plate of white metal, on which was inscribed:—

The grave of Thomas Price
DR. THOMAS PRICE,
Aged 67

The service at the grave side was conducted by the Rev J. Lewis, of Swansea, and the Rev Dr Williams, Pontlottyn. A large congregation assembled in the burial ground, and, as the coffin was lowered into the vault, there were many, many sign of grief on all sides.

Rose Cottage
Rose Cottage


“Rose Cottage” 428 Cardiff Road Aberaman (by Geoffrey Evans)

Rose Cottage was probably erected in about 1847 as the marital home of the Rev Thomas Price (Price Pen-pound) of Camel, Aberdare and Calfaria Chapels, and Ann Gilbert of Abernant-y- Groes Isha. This late three storied detached house "much more the home of a prosperous professional man of a one-tine penurious Baptist Minister," was built with the David's money, of whom Ann Price was heiress. This came from the profits of coal mined on the Abernant y Groes Estate by Thomas Wayne and the David family, Ann Price died in 1849, and there after Dr Price lived in the house with his sister, stepson John Gilbert Price, and daughter Miss Emily Price. Dr Price died there in 1888 and during his lifetime Rose Cottage was "a haven for the destitute” Emily Price died in 1928.

In 1896 the house was occupied Mr H.D. Hudson, Excise Officer, who presumably had rooms there.

There is a tradition that Dr Price added the third floor to the house after the building of the house opposite in order to restore his view of the north side of the valley.

This house has a wide Victorian door, and an interesting door case, and fanlight. There are round headed windows to the rear of the property, and the chimney stacks are decorated with corbels. Unfortunately modern second storey bay windows with in appropriate glazing bars have spoilt the facade of the house. For many years Rose Cottage was occupied by a piano dealer, Mr Whitaker but as now reverted to private residence.