The Mills family 2
A family in its time

by Ronald E. Morris


A musical family
The significance of the Mills family of composers is not so much that their work was better than that of other composers and literary figures - although they accomplished more in the field of Welsh congregational singing and choral music than any other family - but that it was as a family that they made such a contribution over successive generations. They were a kind of dynasty in these fields. One can speak of the contribution of one composer, such as Ieuan Gwyllt, or of the two Ambrose Lloyds, but here one has an entire family making its contribution over three generations with successive Richards and Johns excelling within a limited cultural area as composers of hymn tunes, anthems, in printing and publishing and in literary pursuits.

Llanidloes around the 1830's (with the railway added later). Essentially this is the town in which Henry and his sons grew up.

County Archives Office

  In the first half of the 19th century they, more than anyone else, were pioneers in the task of educating ordinary rank and file people in the understanding and appreciation of music, particularly anthems and hymn tunes, and to emphasise its place in chapel worship. They organised evening classes, travelled long distances in Wales, themselves composed hymn tunes to meet the need, got collections of hymn tunes collated and published.
  Following in the wake of the great Methodist religious revival, which turned a somewhat carefree and unfulfilled people into a sober-minded one intent on improving their spiritual condition and cultural attainment, the Millses of Llanidloes played an unique part.
  Their contribution in fostering serious musical and literary activity among a disadvantaged working people was remarkable. Eventually it led on to the great male voice and mixed choirs of the latter half of the last century. Llanidloes became for a period one of the most important musical and literary centres in Wales. They had no patron in the Established Church and in the gentry: their patrons were the mass of Welsh people anxious to improve their cultural standards, contributing readily with their limited time and scanty premises.
  "Welsh hymns and their tunes" by Luff, an Englishman , now precentor of Westminster Abbey, brings out the essential features of the almost DIY character of 19th century Welsh cultural effort.
  There are 8 pages on the Mills family. Use the box links below to view the other pages.