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Welsh History Review


Vol. 9, nos. 1-4 1978-79

Richard Davies and nonconformist radicalism in Anglesey, 1837-68 : a study of sectarian and middle-class politics /

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mobilize informed opinion are therefore fundamental to our under-
standing of constituency politics, and for this reason closer attention
must be paid to the character and composition of what may be
termed the 'ruling elite', that is, a 'cohesive power-wielding group,
which is consistently able to sway others to its opinions'. For under
its aegis the Liberal ascendancy in Anglesey was forged and fashioned
as the centre-point of political power. Precisely who were the leading
personalities in Anglesey, what occupation they followed and to
which denomination they belonged, on what issues they provided
local initiative and with what success, will be the keynotes of this
study in relation to the life of Richard Davies. But to understand the
man it is essential that we consider, first of all, his family background
and the radical-dissenting milieu in which he was nurtured.
He was born in 1818, the third son of Richard Davies (1778-1849),
a shopkeeper of independent yeoman stock in the small, bustling
market town of Llangefni in the heart of Anglesey. Like his older
brothers, John and Robert, he enjoyed an assured, comfortable
middle-class upbringing, and after a period in the local National
School he was apparently sent-as was the developing social fashion
-to a private establishment at Chester. Richard Davies snr., the
father of this remarkable family, was an upright, independently-
minded, God-fearing Methodist with strong radical convictions and
a superb nose for business.9 As a trustee of Capel Dinas, the first
Methodist chapel at Llangefni (erected in 1806), and later deacon
and advocate of Sunday Schools, his name was closely identified with
the phenomenal advance of Calvinistic Methodism in the county at
the turn of the century.10 On a personal level, Davies was regarded as
a stern, authoritative character; more especially, he had the grit to
disregard the autocratic whims of the Rev. John Elias, the 'Methodist
Pope'. According to one source, he had opposed Elias on the question
of Catholic Emancipation in the Anglesey Presbytery in 182911-no
mean feat in view of the strength of local anti-Catholic feeling at that
7 The definition used by Anthony Giddens in his preface to Elites and Power in British
Society (Cambridge, 1974), p. xiii.
8 Born in 1807 and 1816 respectively; there were also three sisters.
Information on Richard Davies, snr. has been gleaned from Y Drysorfa, 1849, p. 361;
Parch. John Pritchard, Methodistiaeth Mon (Amlwch 1888), pp. 179, 212-13, 251 'Asiedydd',
'Hanes Dechreuad Methodistiaeth yn Llangefni', Y Llusern, 1891, pp. 112-13, and A. Lax,
Mynydd-y-Gof, or The History of a Welsh C. Methodist Family (London, 1905), p. 44.
See D. A. Pretty, Two Centuries of Anglesey Schools, 1700-1902 (Llangefni, 1977),
pp. 35-43.
11 W. P. Wheldon, 'Charles Pierce of Bryn-y-M6r, Bangor', Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas
Hanes Methodistiaid Calfinaidd Cymru (Hydref 1958), XLIII, 67.
11 E. A. Williams, Hanes M6n yn y Bedwaredd Ganrif ar Bymtheg (Llangefni, 1927),
pp. 78-79.
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