Powys Digital History Project

Church and chapel
Howell Harris (1714-1773)


Early career
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.Howell Harris
Whatever the parent’s origins, Harris was clearly intended for the ministry, and attended St Mary’s 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 year.
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 grew.

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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