The youngest of three sons, Howell Harris was born at Trefecca
Fawr in Breconshire in 1714. Poole claims that his father was
a "respectable farmer" while John Davies (in Brycheiniog
IX) asserts that his father was a Carmarthenshire carpenter.
Whatever the parents origins, Harris was clearly intended
for the ministry, and attended St Marys Hall, Oxford for
one term, but was refused Holy Orders. He opened a school at
his home in 1736, which he moved to Talgarth church the following
He began to tour the neighbourhood both alone and with others,
preaching and teaching the psalms to children. He became interested
in the idea of a religious community which not only worshipped
together but worked together. He read of the work of others like
the Moravian communities, who were experimenting with this concept.
Large groups gathered wherever he talked, and his reputation
Preaching to large numbers
In 1737 he was ejected from his post of schoolmaster and accused
of irregularities by the local vicar. He came to the attention
of George Whitfield and Daniel Rowlands who were engaged on similar
popular ministries and Whitfield encouraged him to continue even
though he was not ordained and his ministry caused alarm among
the religious and secular establishment.
Howell Harris continued his journeys throughout north Wales and
into England, speaking to large crowds. He was attacked on more
than one occasion and brought before the magistrates charged
with being in violation of the Conventicle Act. Harris
always insisted that he was a conformist, and therefore not subject
to the Act.
His evangelising around the country led to the formation of local
associations or societies, and Daniel Rowlands and he were regarded
as leaders of this Connexion. Harris made many visits to London
where he exploited his cultural connections with Welsh exiles
and built upon this. He was a skilled organiser and worked hard
to create order into the upsurge in public interest. He travelled
around local groups across England and Wales and helped them
to organise into Quarterly Associations.
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