Two groups of dissenters
The parish register for the years 1633 to 1719 for the parish
of Llanafan Fawr in north Breconshire is now missing, but it
was transcribed by local historian David Lewis Wooding. The register,
compiled by the incumbent William Williams and his successors,
his son William Williams, and then by Howell Griffith, records
two groups of "Anabaptists" in the area. By this term
the vicar probably meant to indicate a dissenter under sentence
of excommunication, rather than a strict adherent of the sixteenth
century European sect.
The first group was associated with a Thomas Evans of Pentre
in Llysdinam (then a part of Llanafan Fawr parish). He had been
the Puritan incumbent of the parish of Maesmynis who was ejected
The second group used to meet at the house called Tanybwlch in
Llanafan Fawr, which was the home of Evan and James Thomas. When
Evan died his brother continued leading his small group.
No milk for the children
After the 1662 Act of Uniformity, non-attendance at church
led to excommunication and harsh fines. Henry Gregory, an Arminian
Baptist of Llanddewi Ystradenni, had his last cow confiscated
by the authorities, thus depriving his children of milk. Excommunication
meant that nonconformists could not be buried in hallowed ground.
The body of the daughter of a Puritan itinerant buried in the
parish churchyard at Llanfihangel Brynpabuan was exhumed and
buried like a common criminal at the crossroads during this period.
The Parish Register records burials wherever they may be and
it would seem that James Thomas of Tanybwlch provided a small
burial ground for his flock. Secular courts could also punish
dissenters, but the "Anabaptists" seem to have avoided
major civil persecution. The Act of Toleration of 1689
allowed freedom of worship to licensed groups, and both of these
groups continued under license.
The origins of both these groups may lie with the ministry
of Vavasor Powell who preached in the
area during the Commonwealth, and was arrested at a house near
Builth as early as 1640. Local tradition claims Tanybwlch as
the scene of this arrest.