Thomas Charles

1755-1814. Welsh Methodist leader. Born at Longmoor in Carmarthenshire, and educated at Carmarthen Academy and Jesus College, Oxford, he underwent an evangelical conversion at Carmarthen under the ministry of Daniel Rowland.* He was ordained deacon at Oxford and served as a curate in Somerset and in Merioneth before casting his lot with the Methodist Society at Bala, Merioneth, in 1784. For the remainder of his life, Bala was to be his home. Charles's influence on Welsh religious and cultural life was immense. In the field of education he set up a system of circulating schools to replace the now defunct system initiated by Griffith Jones.* His pioneering work as organizer of Sunday schools was originally an extension of his day schools. The need to provide guidance for a new generation of readers made him into a writer. His little catechism (Yr Hyfforddwr, 1807) ran to some eighty-five editions before the end of the century, and his Bible dictionary which he began in 1805 was at the same time a popular and a scholarly work which became part of the furniture of every Welsh home.

It was the crying need for Welsh Bibles that compelled Charles to draw the attention of the Religious Tract Society to the matter in 1802, and from this initiative sprang the British and Foreign Bible Society (see Bible Societies). He himself was responsible for editing the version of the Welsh Bible for the society, and his work was based on an unsurpassed knowledge of the text of the numerous Welsh versions that had appeared since 1567. But above all he was the greatest leader of the Calvinistic Methodists* of Wales after the deaths of Williams Pantycelyn and Daniel Rowland, and it was he-albeit with the greatest reluctance-who finally led the Methodist Societies to break with the Church of England by ordaining ministers of their own in 1811 and so forming the Calvinistic Methodist Church of Wales. Through his work as educationist, writer, and religious leader, he was the foremost link between the first generation of Welsh Methodists and the men of the nineteenth century.

See D.E. Jenkins, The Life of the Rev. Thomas Charles, B.A., of Bala (3 vols., 1908).