Carmarthen Academy, later Presbyterian College, Carmarthen (1795-1963)

(Historical account to 1860)
 
In December 1794, on the recommendation of a committee formed to investigate the disputes at the academy at Swansea, the Presbyterian Fund Board decided that no good would come from the academy's continuance, and that it would be suspended from Christmas. In May 1795 a committee chaired by Andrew Kippis was appointed to go to Wales to find the best place to re-establish the academy, and in October 1795 the decision was made to return the academy to Carmarthen, where it had previously been based for many years. David Peter, a former student at Swansea and assistant to the tutor, William Howell, had been ordained as minister of Heol Awst (Lammas Street) Independent church, Carmarthen, in 1792, and he was appointed tutor with David Davies, minister at Llanybri, as co-tutor, at a salary of £50 each. The tutors agreed to reopen the academy at Christmas 1795, and by the end of 1797 they had eleven students. Both Peter and Davies were Welsh speakers, and the Board acknowledged this fact in appointing them.
 
The Board referred to the academy by a number of names: Carmarthen Academy, the academy at Carmarthen, the Welsh Academy, and the academy in Wales. It was not described as a college until 1828, and the preferred term remained academy for some years; the full name Presbyterian College, Carmarthen, seems first to have been used in 1847.
 
The academy was located in two rooms, a library and a lecture room, above Heol Awst schoolroom, and the Presbyterian Board contributed £50 to the cost of building the two rooms. Peter made it clear, however, that they belonged to Heol Awst church, and this was to create problems after his retirement in 1835. The Presbyterian Board, which did not pay rent for their use, intended to have a trust deed stating that the rooms belonged to the Board in perpetuity, but this was never executed. The books and apparatus were transferred from Swansea in December 1795, and in May 1796 it was agreed that £20 or £30 would be granted for improving the library.
 
The Board in London took a close interest in the activities of the academy in Carmarthen: it was responsible for appointing and paying the tutors, receiving the tutors' half-yearly reports, admitting students and awarding exhibitions, and sending deputations or visitations to examine the quality of the teaching and the students' progress and to award prizes. It made a concerted and to a large extent successful attempt over a period of many years to raise academic standards. It was also concerned with the role of the academy in promoting liberal religion and the Presbyterian interest in Wales, although at the same time it was aware that there were friendly relations between ministers of different denominations in the locality, that many of the students went on to serve Independent congregations, and that it was unrealistic, however desirable it might seem, to attempt to appoint only Presbyterians as tutors.
 
The tutorial division of labour can conveniently be divided into two phases, under Peter, to 1835, and under David Lloyd, his successor as senior tutor. Peter was orthodox doctrinally, but taught in a liberal academy that did not demand a confession of faith from its candidates. Such a situation caused him difficulties during the years 1801-02. He refused admission to several candidates because they were Unitarian, and the Unitarians were convinced that Peter had exceeded his authority. The candidates entered other academies. The Presbyterian Board, however, was glad of the co-operation between students of different persuasions. David Lewis Jones, who was appointed classics tutor in 1814 after the dismissal of David Davies, was, theologically, an Arian. The Board was very appreciative of Peter's contribution to the academy at this time, and in 1814 voted £50 to acknowledge his extraordinary services. In the same year it was agreed to increase the salaries of the two tutors, Peter responsible for theology, and Jones for classics and mathematics, to £100 p.a. After Jones's death in 1830 there was difficulty in finding a permanent replacement: John Thomas of St Clears, Carmarthenshire, who had previously acted as examiner, helped at the academy for the 1830-1 session; John Palmer, late of Trinity College, Dublin, was appointed classical and mathematical tutor in 1831 but only remained for a year, and Thomas again helped out in 1833. David Lloyd was then appointed as permanent classical and mathematical tutor. In 1835 Peter was asked by the Board to retire on the grounds of his ill health and the unsatisfactory state of the theological teaching. David Davies, minister at Panteg, Carmarthenshire, who had also previously acted as examiner, was chosen as theology tutor, and Lloyd took on the role of senior tutor until his death in 1863. It was normally the theology tutor who was the senior tutor or principal in academies, which explains why Davies of Panteg has sometimes been wrongly designated as such.
 
Beginning in 1798, regular visitations from London were arranged. The gap between these meetings varied; the annual examinations were held at midsummer, with triennial visitations, but in later years, in order to ensure closer superintendance of the academy, the Board sent annual deputations of two or more members. The ministers of different denominations would hold their own meeting, designated from 1826 'The Annual Assembly connected with the Presbyterian Board', and public preaching services were held, to which members of the deputation contributed. On the following two days, the deputation, assisted by one or two of the local ministers, examined the students orally, class by class, in all the subjects taught, awarded prizes, and held discussions with the tutors, after which they examined candidates for admission.
 
In the late 1820s there were anxieties about the preparatory training of the students who were being admitted, the curriculum, and the state of the library. In 1827 the Board agreed that candidates for admission should provide testimonials from two ministers that they had studied English grammar (particularly important for Welsh-speaking students) and were able to read Virgil in Latin and the New Testament in Greek, qualifications higher than had previously been required. In 1828 it was agreed that the tutors should provide an improved plan of study. Subjects to be taught by the divinity tutor for the first year of the four-year course were Hebrew and logic; for the second year Hebrew and divinity; for the third year Hebrew and Chaldee, divinity, biblical criticism, Jewish antiquities, ecclesiastical history, lectures on preaching, and natural philosophy; and for the fourth year Hebrew and Chaldee, and divinity. Authors and subjects to be taught by the classical tutor for the first year were Caesar, Sallust, Virgil, and Horace; the Greek testament; Xenophon; and algebra and geometry. For the second year they included Sallust, Livy, Virgil, and Horace; the Greek testament; Lucian and Homer; universal grammar, geography, lectures on history, and algebra; for the third year Cicero, Juvenal, and the Greek testament; and for the fourth year Cicero, Tacitus, and Terence. The students were divided into four groups: Senior Class, Second Class, Third Class, and Junior Class.
 
After Peter's resignation in 1835 the Board reluctantly paid rent of £15 p.a. for five years, first to Peter and then to John Breese, his successor as minister, for the lecture room and library above the school room in Heol Awst (Lammas Street). In 1840 a larger and more suitable home for the academy was found on The Parade, Carmarthen, for an annual rent of £30 for a twenty-one year lease, and tutors and students moved into the new location after midsummer. Lloyd had his own accommodation in the building for an annual rent of £10. In 1859 the Board agreed to purchase College House, as it was known, for £650.
 
From an academic point of view the most important development in the period under Lloyd's leadership was the decision to seek affiliation with London University. In 1841 it was agreed that the course of study and mode of examination at Carmarthen should be accommodated to the requirements of the University of London for matriculation and degrees. The tutors agreed with David Davison, the Board's representative and longest serving examiner, that if the institution were recognized as a college of the university this would enhance its reputation, increase the value of the education, and promote the cause of nonconformity in Wales. In 1842 the college was granted a royal licence to issue certificates for candidates for degrees in the University of London. Lloyd's salary was increased to £150 p.a. in 1845 to enable him to give up his grammar school. In 1846 it was agreed that a third tutor was needed to teach oriental and modern languages alongside the classics and theology tutors, and Samuel Coulter Davison was appointed to this post the following year. The course was extended to five years, arranged as follows: first and second years: classics and mathematics for matriculation with honours in the University of London; German, French, ancient history and ancient geography, logic; third and fourth years: classics and mathematics for BA degree with honours; Hebrew and Syriac; mental and moral philosophy; ecclesiastical history; German; fifth year: theology, historical, exegetical, and dogmatic; Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, German. In the early 1850s it became apparent that David Davies of Panteg was not teaching the theology course to a high enough standard, and he was encouraged to resign. His successor, Thomas Nicholas, spent six unhappy years at the college from 1856 to 1862; he fell out with Lloyd, and his teaching was also found inadequate. In 1856 Samuel Davison resigned; William Davies, who ran an important private academy at Ffrwd-y-fâl (Frood Vale) and who had acted as examiner for many years, was appointed tutor in Hebrew, natural philosophy, and mathematics, and there was some reapportionment of subjects between Lloyd, Nicholas, and Davies. In 1860 following Davies's death Stephenson Hunter was appointed Hebrew and mathematics tutor, and on Lloyd's death in 1863 he took over the classics department and was made principal.
 
Despite the problems caused by staffing changes and the persistent anxieties about the theological department, it is clear from the detailed annual examiners' reports from the late1830s on that there was considerable improvement in academic standards. In 1837 this improvement was attributed by David Davison to the increased vigilance of the tutors, the beneficial effect of prizes, and the strictness of the annual examination. From 1834 to 1857 the wealthy banker Lewis Loyd of Lothbury funded prizes of 5 guineas each for the best specified work in each class, to be spent on books chosen by the Board, and this was considered to be having a marked effect on the students' future careers and the circulation of books in the principality. In 1841 written examinations were introduced. In 1845 Davison reported that 'the Academy is progressive in all its Departments and consequently rapidly gaining a much higher estimation in public opinion' (PFB minutes, vol 11, 509). In 1850 he claimed that Welsh churches of all denominations were anxious to obtain students from the college as ministers.
 
The library was a recurrent cause for concern. The academy had at its inception inherited the books and apparatus from Swansea, but in 1826 the visiting deputation pointed out that grants previously agreed by the Board for improving the library had not been acted on. Repairing the old books and purchasing new ones were deemed essential. The tutors were to provide a catalogue of the current books, and the Board were to recommend new ones. In 1831 it was noted that little had yet been done by the Board in this regard, and the following year Coward's Trustees were thanked for a 'truly seasonable' donation of £50 for the Carmarthen library (PFB minutes vol 10, 225). In 1841 after the installation of the books in new shelves at The Parade a new catalogue was called for, and the importance of adding new books 'to enable the tutors and students to keep pace with the improved methods of teaching and learning which are so numerous both in languages and science' was stressed (PFB minutes vol 10, 331). The apparatus, which for years had been found deficient, was repaired in London in 1841 and returned to Carmarthen at the expense of James Gibson, a member of the Board. The tutors continued to lament the lack of modern books. In 1844 it was agreed to spend a further £100 on new books, and the following year the benefactor Lewis Loyd added a further £100. In 1845 the books and apparatus were insured for £300, and the following year it was agreed that students should for the first time have access to the library for an hour a day. In 1848 the library was judged to be in excellent order.
 
The tutors met regularly to consider the students' progress. Apart from the regular lectures, they met the students to listen to their reading of sermons and essays. Comments would be offered on the reading, grammar and content. During the late 1850s examples of the texts were Philippians 3:11; John 4:24; 1 Timothy 1:15, and Matthew 6:5-7. A student read an essay on 'The necessity, nature and advantage of unity', and one of the tutors believed that it was more suited for an anti state-church meeting than for a meeting at the college. A monitor would be responsible for arranging meetings, ringing the morning bell, and collecting fees from those who had broken the rules of the library.
 
In 1859 the local Independent ministers asked for an increase in 'extra' students, 'generally adults of earnest purpose with fair abilities but neglected education who desire to pass through a course of theological instruction for one or two years, to qualify them for the ministry among some of the humbler Churches of the Principality' (PFB minutes, vol. 13, 13). The tutors were anxious not to lower the college's reputation and scholastic tone, and it was agreed that there should be no more than six such students at the same time. The numbers of students overall increased: in 1847 there were sixteen students in the five classes, and though the following year the tutors thought the college could not hold more than twenty, in 1853 there were twenty-three, three of them English. Throughout the period Independents in South Wales flocked to Carmarthen, despite the existence from 1839 of the rival Brecon Independent College. That year the annual assembly of Welsh Independent Churches thanked the Presbyterian Board for its continued support of the college and agreed to the Board's proposal that in future they should contribute £10 annually towards the support of each student connected with them. In 1850 all the students in college were Independents, except for one Baptist.
 
Two of the students became prominent ministers in London: Thomas Rees was a leading Unitarian in the city, a member of Dr Williams's Trust and also of the Presbyterian Board, of which he was secretary for twenty-eight years; Caleb Morris was minister of Fetter Lane Congregational church. In Wales, Michael Daniel Jones followed his father as head of Bala Independent College. James Rhys Kilsby Jones was a forthright defender of the Welsh language. Others left for overseas mission work: the Independents John Evans (c.1789-1823) in South Africa, William Beynon in India, and Thomas Joseph in Tahiti.
 
On the death of the Unitarian Lloyd in 1863 his published obituary noted: 'One Tutor at least professing Orthodox views has always been appointed; and no difficulty has been felt on the score of theological differences in conducting a Classical, Mathematical, and Theological College accessible to all denominations, acceptable to all, and objectionable to none. In this respect we believe the Carmarthen College has been unique' (PFB minutes, vol. 13, 217).
 
The college closed in 1963, and many of the students joined the Memorial College at Swansea.
 
Noel Gibbard and Isabel Rivers

  

Archives

Details of the return to Carmarthen, the buildings, funding, tutors, students, and examiners' reports are in the Prebyterian Fund Board Minutes, vols. 7-13, Dr Williams's Library, MS OD74-80. The National Library of Wales holds the uncatalogued Presbyterian College Carmarthen Archives. These include 'An alphabetical Catalogue of Books belonging to the Presbyterian College Carmarthen 1820 with Rules to be observed by the Students'; 'Monitor's Book, 1849-1861'; 'Minute Book of Sermons and Essays, and comments of tutors, with list of students 1853-1863'. Other relevant holdings in the National Library of Wales are T. George Davies Papers, 2, No. 38, a volume containing records and reports relating to the administration of the college, together with lists of examination results, 1846-74, and W. T. Owen Papers, No. 6, 'Transcripts Presbyterian Fund Board, 1690-1848'. The Carmarthen Collection in Cardiff University Library contains c.2,000 books and scientific equipment from the academy, together with the catalogues of 1840 and 1846 and loan records for 1856-74.

 

Published sources

Davies, Dewi Eirug, Hoff Ddysgedig Nyth (Abertawe, 1976), 137-40, 144-53.
Evans, J. Tyssil, Cofiant a Detholiad o Bregethau Caleb Morris (Caerdydd, 1900), 38-44.
Hughes, R. Elwyn, 'Gwaddol Gwyddonol Coleg Caerfyrddin', Y Gwyddonydd, 31 (1994), 4-8.
Jeremy, Walter D., The Presbyterian Fund and Dr Daniel Williams's Trust: With Biographical Notes of the Trustees and Some Account of their Academies, Scholarships and Schools (London, 1885).
Jones, E. Pan, Oriel Coleg Presbyteraidd Caerfyrddin (Merthyr Tydfil, 1909).
Jones, D. E, 'Parch. Dr. David Lloyd, M. A.', Yr Ymofynydd (October 1901), 217-23.
Jones, R. J., The Unitarian Students at the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen, 1796-1901 (Aberdare, 1901).
Lloyd, Charles, Particulars of the Life of a Dissenting Minister (London, 1813, reprinted 1911).
Owen, Geraint Dyfnallt, Ysgolion a Cholegau yr Annibynwyr (Abertawe, 1939), ch.5, 75-87.
Roberts, H. P., 'The History of the Presbyterian Academy Brynllywarch-Carmarthen', Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society, 4:4 (1930), 333-64.
5:1 (1931), 24-42.
-----, 'The History of the Presbyterian Academy Brynllywarch-Carmarthen II', Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society, 5:1 (1931), 24-42.


Noel Gibbard and Isabel Rivers, 'Carmarthen Academy, later Presbyterian College, Carmarthen (1795-1963)', Dissenting Academies Online: Database and Encyclopedia, Dr Williams's Centre for Dissenting Studies, March 2012.