A Glamorgan Family
|Reverend Roger Howell continued|
|Early life||Characteristics||Ministry||Marriage||Children||Name index|
There appears to be much anecdotal evidence that Roger established a school of theological study at Nantmoel. At present, there are no clear dates as to when this school was in existence - possibly it was after his father's death in 1809 when Roger took possession of Nantmoel. Land Tax records show that Roger Howell took up residence at Nantmoel from 1808 - apparently just prior to his father's death - as John was still named as the proprietor. By the following year, Roger (described on this record as Reverend) was the owner proprietor. Historian, Islwyn Davies (see Links) has described how more concrete evidence of this school is demonstrated in the biographical records of the ministers who received instruction there. One of these was Roger's future son-in-law, Daniel Evans of Gwrhyd Isaf, a former member at Carmel, Gwauncaegurwen, who later ministered at several chapels in Carmarthenshire.
Other pupil ministers recorded in "Hanes Eglwysi Annibynol" include Richard Jones, Talgarth; Evan Watkins Llangadog; William Williams Hirwaun, Herbert Herbert, Newton Nottage; Daniel Griffiths, Neath. There were also at least 7 ministers who emigrated to America, namely: Daniel Jones, Bradford Pa.; Thomas Edwards, Pittsburgh Pa.; Rees Powell, Radnor, Delaware; John Jones, Cincinnati, Ohio; Lewis Williams, Carbondale, Pa.; E. B. Evans, Hyde Park, Pa. and William Hopkins. In Evan Watkins' obituary published in the Congregational Yearbook of 1880 it states:
"His training for the work of the ministry he received at
two private schools, the one at Baran, conducted by the
Rev. R. Howells, and the other at Swansea."
Roger's entry in "Oriel Coleg Presbyteraidd" states that he kept a school for years and gave free instruction to boys preparing for the ministry:
"Bu am flynyddoedd yn cadw ysgol, a rhoddai addysg yn
rhad i'r bechgyn fyddai yn paratoi ar gyfer y
It is also suggested that a general school was kept at the Baran chapel from around 1805 which later transferred to Nantmoel Uchaf. In "The History of Pontardawe", J.E. Morgan describes Roger as "...minister and schoolmaster in the Baran" and another example comes from a letter, signed "Once a Pupil", that was submitted to the Cambrian newspaper on 9th August 1872. The author of the letter is contributing to a discussion that has been taking place on the "Etymology (meaning) of Swansea"
"I remember when I was a boy at school, at Nantmoel,
our Tutor - the late Mr. Howell - used to explain the
meaning of different words to us; amongst others the
Rees and Thomas also make reference to this general school and describe how it was a lifelong pleasure for Roger to make education available to children and young people in the neighbourhood even though his comfortable personal circumstances meant that he had no financial need to do so. They offer the opinion that in this mountainous (and thereby isolated) district he did as much good as a schoolmaster as he did as a preacher. They also reveal that after graduating from Carmarthen College, he was employed for a period of time as a tutor to the children of Swansea banker, J. Haynes. There are several references in the Cambrian newspaper in the early 1800s to a George Haynes of Swansea who is described variously as a banker, treasurer and solicitor.
I haven't been able to find any photographs or likenesses of Roger, but the passages in the "Oriel Coleg Presbyteraidd" and "Hanes Eglwysi Annibynol" respectively, offer similar, physical descriptions:
"Yr oedd yn ddyn o ymddangosiad tywysogaidd, yn syml ac addfwyn yn ei holl symudiadau."
(He was a man of princely appearance, simple and meek in all his movements)
"O ran ei ymddangosiad corphorol yr oedd Mr. Howell yn ddyn nodedig o hardd, o faintioli
cyffredin, o liw goleu, ac o edrychiad siriol a mwyn.
(In his appearance, Mr. Howell was exceptionally handsome, of average stature, fair colouring and a pleasant and amiable demeanor.)
They also give insight to his abilities and character:
"Yr oed yn un o ysgolheigion goreu ei oes"
(He was one of the best scholars of his day)
"Er ei fod o ran ei amgylchiadau bydol yn dirfeddianwr, yn gymharol gyfoethog, ac yn
rhagorach ysgolhaig na phedwar-ar-bymtheg o bob ugain o bregethwyr ei oes, yr oedd
mor ostyngedig a diymhoniad a'r iselaf yn mysg ei frodyr.
(Although his circumstances were such that he was a landowner, comparatively wealthy and more scholarly than most contemporary preachers, he was so humble and unpretentious in the midst of his brethren.)
"O ran ei dymer yr oedd yn anghyffredin o garuaidd ac addfwyn, ac o ran ei ymddygiad nid
oedd un dyn mwy boneddigaidd a dirodres yn rhodio y ddaear"
(With regard to his temperament he was unusually affable and gentle and as to his behaviour there was no man more gentlemanly and unassuming to be found.)
Roger Howell wasn't known as a particularly talented preacher, but his sermons were considered educational, offering his congregations food for thought. He seems to have led a very active professional life, taking part in many ministerial meetings and ordination services for new ministers. In addition to his teaching and ministry at Baran, Roger is also known to have played a part in 1822 in establishing Carmel chapel at Gwauncaegurwen, when a body of members left the mother chapel of Cwmllynfell to establish a cause closer to home. He shared the ministry of this chapel with Rev. Phillip Griffiths of Alltwen. He was apparently also influential in the later founding of Saron chapel at Rhydyfro, an offshoot of the Baran.
Roger's philosophy as a minister might perhaps be summed up by a statement attributed to him by Haydn Morgan of Trebanos in the pamphlett "A short history of Gellionnen and Baran" (in NLW):
"Where the Church is there is never dissension".
In the year prior to the founding of Baran Chapel, on 5th July 1804, Roger married Sarah Elizabeth Price at Llangyfelach Parish Church. Sarah is described in the marriage record as being of the Parish of St. Mary's, Swansea. An examination of the parish records at Swansea offers a few possible candidates for her parents: such as William and Margaret Price. It is probable however that her parents did not actually worship at St. Mary's, but like Roger and his family, were also Non-conformists, belonging to a chapel or dissenting house in Swansea. In fact, it may be possible that Sarah's family were originally from Llanelli as Roger's memorial biography states:
"Yn y flwyddyn 1804, priododd a Miss Sarah Elizabeth
merch Mr. W. Price, Penyfan, Llanelli."
Sarah was apparently born on 24th July 1774 and baptised on 2nd September at St. Mary's church, Swansea. She died on 17th July 1844, a week before her 70th birthday, but little else is recorded about her life.
Baran chapel records have not been made publicly available so there are no records of the baptisms or burials that Roger officiated at. Some of the baptisms that took place at Baran might have included those of his own children born in the early years after his marriage. By the time of the first census of 1841, only Roger's son, John was still residing with his parents at Nantmoel - giving no clue as to the existence of any other children. Evidence that Roger and Sarah also had 5 surviving daughters only came from Sarah's will of 1844, in which she bequeathed her personal belongings to be shared amongst them. Following the custom of the day, if Roger had not died before her, Sarah would probably never have made a will. Although she provides her daughters' Christian names in the document, Sarah gives no clues as to their married surnames. I had originally discovered that my 3x great grandmother, Sarah Bowen was Roger and Sarah's daughter through her marriage record at Llangyfelach parish church. This proved to be the only way (alongside some guesswork) to track down the other daughters. The censuses then allowed me to chart their respective families and descendants - in some cases up to the present day. Following Huw Robert's recent aquisition of the Howell family bible, which has provided the exact dates of births of Roger's children, it is now clear that 2 other children, Mary (1806) and Roger (1808) apparently died in infancy. Roger and Sarah's surviving children were: