Bread of Heaven and a nice cup of tea!
‘I have no hesitation in saying Llandovery is about the pleasantest little town in which I have ever halted in the course of my wanderings’ George Borrow, Wild Wales, 1862.
150 years on and that still holds true, however much of today’s character derives from its past and this itinerary explores the lives of two key religious figures that played a major role in history of Llandovery – Vicar Prichard and William Williams Pantycelyn.
There is a story that sixteenth century Vicar Prichard’s clerical career did not get off to a great start being better known for his skills in the pub than in the pulpit. However, this all changed following a revelation after getting the publicans pet goat drunk. When the goat refused an opportunity to repeat the experience, he realised that the animal possessed more wisdom than he and from that day became a model of sobriety and a stalwart of the Puritan movement. He is best remembered now, not only as an excellent parish priest, but for his writings published as ‘Canwyll y Cymry’ translated as ‘a Welshman’s Candle’ which contained verses on religion and morality and was as famous as ‘Pilgrims Progress’ in its time. The 14th century Llandingat church is his burial place and is only a short walk from the town centre.
Anyone who saw the recent wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – might not have realised they were listening to a little bit of Llandovery’s history. ‘Bread of Heaven’ ("Guide Me Oh thou Great Jehovah"), favourite of royal weddings and Welsh rugby terraces alike, was penned by William Williams of Pantycelyn. Williams Pantycelyn along with Howell Harris and Daniel Rowlands, was one of the leaders of the Welsh Methodist movement. A powerful and influential preacher he published over 90 volumes of work and was Wales’ most celebrated hymn writer. What is less well known is that in order to support his preaching journeys, he was also a tea merchant! He is remembered in Llandovery, both in the Pantycelyn Memorial chapel on the High Street and also at his tomb in the church of Llanfair-ar-y-Bryn on the northern edge of town. His descendents still farm at Pantycelyn farm 5km east of Llandovery and it is possible to visit.
At the end of your travels – why not return to town for an early pint – or a nice cup of tea and some Bara Brith.
Where Welsh language and its culture are given a central place