1617-1670. Welsh Puritan divine and activist. He was born in the hamlet of Knucklas in Radnorshire. He seems to have been educated at Oxford and served for some time as a schoolmaster at Clun, where he was converted under the influence of Walter Cradock's preaching and Richard Sibbes's Bruised Reed. By 1640 he was actively engaged in a vigorous preaching mission along the borders of Radnorshire and Brecknock, and as a result he came into conflict with the authorities.
With the outbreak of the Civil War he withdrew to London and in 1644 became Puritan vicar of Dartford, Kent. He participated in some of the military campaigns, but in 1646 he was authorized as a preacher by the* and named a preacher in N Wales by the Committee for Plundered Ministers. His status among the Puritan leaders is suggested by the fact that he preached before the lord mayor of London in December 1649 and before the House of Commons in the following February. He reached the zenith of his influence after his appointment as an approver under the Act for the Better Propagation of the Gospel in Wales, and he dedicated his uncommon energy to the task of making this Act successful. He saw it as a providential opportunity to make the Gospel known to the people of Wales, and in order to overcome the difficulty posed by a shortage of preachers, he devised the method of appointing itinerant preachers to serve fairly large areas of the country. His activities brought him the fierce hatred of his Anglican critics and accusations that he had misapplied the funds of the church in Wales to his own benefit. But the evidence points to his innocence. The Act was discontinued in 1653.
Like many other Puritans, Powell was a millenarian and believed in the early return ofto begin His personal reign upon earth. It was his millenarian activities that brought him into conflict with Cromwell's Protectorate, which he interpreted as a betrayal of Christ's sovereignty. He initiated a campaign in Wales against the Protectorate which culminated in the petition, “A Word for God” (November 1655).
With the collapse of the Puritan ascendancy, he became a marked man and was imprisoned in April 1660. Except for a period of eleven months in 1667-68 he spent the remainder of his life in jail. Some of the manuscripts that he wrote at this time are a moving proof of the way in which his fiery spirit continued to support the ideals of happier days while his concern for tolerance deepened. After his recapture in 1668 he was brought to trial and imprisoned in the Fleet, where he died. He was buried at Bunhill Fields. He was the author of some thirteen published works. His redoubtable character, tireless energy, and indomitable courage put him in the front rank of Welsh Puritans.