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Radnorshire Society transactions


Vol. 65 1995

The Church of England in Radnorshire in the 1870s

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IN THE 1870s1
D T W Price
A few years ago I wrote a paper for the Kilvert Society Newsletter
on 'Some Powys Clergymen in the 1870s'2, and it occurred to
me that a general discussion of the Church of England in
Radnorshire in the 1870s might be of interest. My article in the
Newsletter had been sparked off by my finding the St Davids Diocesan
Directory for 1877, and that is also my chief source for this paper.3 (It
has a special interest for me in that I edit the current St Davids Diocesan
Year Book. The 1877 edition cost 1 shilling, Is 2d by post; the current
issue costs £ 2, £ 2.50 by post. It is actually cheaper now in real terms.)
I believe that the main point of studying History is simply for enjoy-
ment, but a study of History can also be useful in providing a contrast
with the present, a scale against which to measure and test what we
tend to take for granted, the assumptions of the present. We shall see
many contrasts and many similarities with the present as we explore
the state of things 120 years ago.
The Diocese of St Davids was of course much larger in area in the
1870s than it is today. It contained 406 benefices, covering the whole of
Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Breconshire, Gower
in Glamorgan, and all Radnorshire except Discoed, Evancoed,
Kinnerton, Knighton, Michaelchurch on Arrow, New Radnor, Norton,
Old Radnor, and Presteign. These Radnorshire parishes were in the
Diocese of Hereford. (Discoed, Kinnerton, Michaelchurch on Arrow,
Old Radnor, and Presteign are still in Hereford Diocese, and thus in the
Church of England. Evancoed, Knighton, New Radnor, and Norton
came into the Church in Wales in 1920 when Disestablishment took
effect.) Three of the most populated parishes in Radnorshire,
Knighton, Old Radnor, and Presteign, were in Hereford Diocese in the
1870s, and two of them still are.4
In 1877 St Davids was the second largest diocese in the Church of
England in area, 2.27 million acres. Only Lincoln, with 2.30 million
acres, was larger. St Davids was more than twice the size of the next
largest Welsh diocese, St Asaph, which covered about 1 million acres.5
Indeed St Davids covered almost half Wales, Communications were
poor in this huge sprawling diocese, and this may go some way in
explaining the independent attitude of many parishes. The arrival of
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