Lord Griffiths of Burry Port visited Llanelly House on Friday (Mar 17) to attend a lunch with the Llanelli Boys Grammar and Graig Comprehensive Association.
Born in Llanelli in 1942 Leslie John Griffiths he attended the Llanelli Boys Grammar School, Cardiff University and Cambridge University before going on to become a Methodist minister and life peer in the House of Lords as The Right Honourable The Lord Griffiths of Burry Port where he sits with the Labour Party from 2004. He spent most of the 1970s serving the Methodist Church of Haiti, where he was ordained, before returning to Britain to serve in ministries in Caversham, Loughton, Essex and Golders Green. In 1987 Griffiths completed a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. In 1994, Griffiths became one of the few people to be elected President of the Methodist Conference whilst still a circuit minister. Since 1996 he has been superintendent minister at Wesley’s Chapel, London. He was created Baron Griffiths of Burry Port, of Pembrey and Burry Port in the County of Dyfed in 2004.
During his visit Lord Griffiths entertained the former pupils with a fascinating talk on the links between John Wesley and Llanelli. Some of those links are present in the buildings and names associated with the town including the Methodist Church in Hall Street. John Wesley is said to have taken a guinea from his pocket and given it to Mr. & Mrs. Henry Child as the first subscription towards the building of the first Methodist church in Llanelli. According to historians, this event took place on Wesley’s last visit to Llanelli which was in 1790. Lord Griffiths was also shown an oil painting of John Wesley, which sits in the collection at Llanelly House.
Following the two course lunch a replica John Wesley AKA Rev Eldon Phillips entertained the pupils with his impersonation of the great man. He asked if any in the room were ripe for conversion and told tales of his journey to Llanelli and getting stuck in the sands while fording the river Loughor.
The talk by Lord Griffiths was extremely entertaining and educational. He emphasised many of the historic links through a succinct timeline.
Along with Wesley and Sir Thomas Stepney, Henry Child who had joined the Methodist Society in 1769, played an important part in the commercial development of the town and indeed the growth of the Methodist movement in Llanelli. The Methodist Movement is said to have been brought to Llanelli by Wilfred Colley who was butler to Sir Thomas Stepney of Llanelly House.
In 1792 ‘Wind Street Chapel’, Llanelli’s first Wesleyan Chapel was built in the garden of Henry Child’s house in Thomas St. It has been claimed that for many years it became the only place of English worship within a radius of 16 miles.
Reverend James Buckley, a disciple of Wesley arrived in Llanelli about 1795 under what can be described as distressing circumstances. During his fording of the Loughor Estuary he got into great difficulties and was swept nearly a quarter of a mile downstream. Fortunately he was rescued and arrived at the safe haven of Mr Henry Child’s house and under the care of his daughter Maria who later became the Mrs Reverend James Buckley! This union between Maria and James Buckley helped to ensure the continued growth of the Methodist church in Llanelli and of what was to become Wales’ oldest brewing establishment – Buckley’s Brewery.
At the end of his talk Lord Griffiths was presented with a limited edition print of Llanelly House by the artist John Wynne Hopkins. Lord Griffiths thanked the Association for their warm welcome. The Association is now looking forward to visiting Lord Griffiths at The House of Lords later this year.
The Association is also striving to reproduce old photos and items of interest from the Grammar School online via their Facebook page, Youtube channel and website.
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