The Mills family 3
The beginnings of a dynasty

by Ronald E. Morris


Chapel involvement
Towards the end of the 18th century the Sunday School Movement got under way - founded and organised by Thomas Charles of Bala - a movement which in the almost total absence of day schools did more than anything else to educate the masses. It was during one of his visits to his Sunday school in the Llanidloes district that,. Thomas Charles heard the rather splendid singing voice of HENRY (1) or Harry, Mills - a young man in his twenties. He suggested that Henry Mills be put in charge of the congregational singing in Bethel, the Methodist chapel in Llanidloes, one of the first in Montgomeryshire. Here the singing was at a very low ebb. Apparently Henry Mills’ ability to play two or three musical instruments such as the fiddle, did not recommend him to some of the chapel elders who viewed musical instruments with considerable suspicion. Singing was to be plain and unaccompanied. However, Mills held the post of precentor at the old chapel until his death in 1820.
So began a tradition, carried on by his descendants, which for a period made Llanidloes one of the most important centres of music and singing in Wales. By the 1850's other centres became more important, centres of greater population such as the coal and iron industrial towns of South Wales and the quarrying districts of North Wales.
The noted hymn Hosanna by James Mills. It is still sung in Wales today. The hymn "Hosanna"
  Henry Mills (1), or Harry, was born in 1757 at a small cottage outside Llanidloes where he supplemented his agricultural work by hand loom weaving. He married twice and had a very large family. Two of his sons played an ever more important part in the development of congregational singing and choral music and in turn, so did three of his grandsons.
  James Mills (2) one of Henry's two sons, was born in 1790 and died in 1841 of typhus fever. James succeeded his father as precentor in Bethel Chapel where a choral society was established, as well as a weeknight class where the rudiments of music were taught. Some 60-70 young people attended this class after a long day's work in the flannel factories of the town. As well as directing these two enterprises, James Mills composed a number of anthems and hymn tunes, many of which appeared after his death in a volume entitled Y Cerddor Eglwysig (Church musician) which was published by his nephews John and Richard Mills (members of the third generation of Millses). One of his tunes has remained very popular to this day - the tune "Hosanna" (see above).
  James' son DAVID HENRY Mills settled in Liverpool and took an active part in the religious and musical life of that city, so populated by Welsh people. 
  There are 8 pages on the Mills family. Use the box links below to view the other pages.