Bishop Thomas (1613-89) Vicar of Laugharne (1639-44 & 1660-83)

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This was Bishop William Thomas of Worcester (1613-89), incumbent at Laugharne and Llansadurnen from 1639 until 1644. In that year he was famously ejected from the church at pistol point by the Cromwellian cavalry and later deprived of his livings. see Antiquities of Laugharne: Mary Curtis p 100 + Full text with further biographical info Throughout the Commonwealth period he kept a private school in the town, which continued until 1670. He was re-instated at the restoration of Charles II and remained as vicar until 1683 when he was transferred from his St Davids see. Thomas was rewarded for his brave loyalty by being immediately appointed precentor of St David's. He subsequently held the rectory of Lampeter Velfrey, Pembrokeshire and in 1661 was made chaplain to the duke of York. In November 1665 he was appointed dean of Worcester and after being presented in 1670 to the rectory of Hampton Lovett, in 1677 became Bishop of St. Davids. He continued to hold his deanery ‘in commendam' after leaving Laugharne when translated to the see of Worcester.

Bishop William Thomas PCC Will 1689

Biography by Peter Stopp from Laugharne History Group Newsletter January 2022

"Rev. William Thomas (1613-1689) Laugharne has been blessed with many talented people who made an impact way beyond the local parish. Among them, but less well-known, was William Thomas. In 1638 he married Blanche, became vicar to Penbryn and chaplain to the Earl of Northumberland who, fortunately, also gave him the living of Laugharne. He chose to settle in Laugharne and remained vicar here for 39 years, he and Blanche raising their 8 children in the rectory house – presumably then on the site of The Glen. But life did not remain quiet for him.

The country became mired in the Civil War and in 1644 the Parliamentary Army arrived to lay siege to the Royalists ensconced in the castle. The Cromwellian Cavalry is reported to have ejected Thomas from the church at pistol point and Laugharne became vicarless. The story goes, however, that on first arrival here the cavalry decided to go to the church to see if the priest still read the Liturgy and prayed for the king (Charles I, a Papist). When William, against the urging of his parishioners not to, insisted upon doing his duty, one of the soldiers snatched the book from his hand and, with a bitter speech, threw it at his head. However, the vicar bore this with such calm dignity that the soldier was seized with regret and his companions bore him away, enabling William to continue with the service. Now without the living here, William nevertheless remained, setting up a private school here to support his family, and presumably at the same time to educate his eight children.

He also published two religious tracts that must have established his credentials for, in 1660 when his living was restored under Charles II, he was also made precentor of St David’s and awarded a Doctorate. In the following year the living of Lampeter Velfrey was added to his income, he was made chaplain to the Duke of York (the future king) and also Dean of Worcester Cathedral. By 1670 he was seen by Bishop Lucy as his likely successor to St David’s diocese and the living of Hampton Lovett, Worcestershire, was also added to his responsibilities. It was common for the clergy to hold several parish livings and for the more able to also hold other posts to provide additional incomes. Typically, clergy would pay a local curate to conduct services.

The remarkable aspect of William Thomas’s multiple holdings was that in each locality and office he seems to have been held in really high regard, much respected for his wisdom and real care for ordinary folk. In 1670 two great changes occurred for William: his wife, Blanche and Bishop Lucy both died. William was appointed Lucy’s successor as bishop of this diocese, St David’s. He was the only Welshman to occupy that office in the whole of the seventeenth century and he supported the language by preaching in Welsh and authorising Stephen Hughes’ publication of Vicar Prichard’s Welsh songs and the more compact edition of the Welsh bible for home use that Stephen Hughes and Thomas Gouge published. "

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