Fr Jones of Cardiff

PART 2: Around Wales

Whilst Fr Jones made such great accomplishments at St Mary’s and in Cardiff, there is much more to his life to tell.

Born in Ruabon, brought up in Llangwm, studied in Oxford, ordained in Bangor Cathedral, with his first and only curacy at Gwalchmai and his first Incumbency at Llanegryn, there is more to discover!

The second part of our tour leaves the hustle and bustle of a growing city to some quieter places throughout Wales.

Whether you discover them from where you are or are inspired to go and visit, we hope the next section will be as insightful as the first – and, as before, we shall have as our accompaniment, passages from his biography as well as other voices of the day.


Griffith Arthur Jones was born on July 16, 1827 and baptised in the parish of Ruabon, or, as he would probably have written it, Rhwabon

Although he only lived here for the first three years of his life, his diaries frequently records his custom for some years when he was Vicar of S. Mary’s, Cardiff, to arrange for an outing there with his curates to celebrate his birthday.

He was the only son and fifth child of the Rev. John Jones, Curate of Ruabon 1819-1830, and who was Rector of Llangwn from 1830 to 1872, and of Charlotte Harriett Jones who lived to over ninety, “and a very handsome old lady she was.” Besides Griffith Arthur, they had seven daughters, all of whom he survived.

Listen to Fr Jones’ words on Baptism in a small publication of his ‘Y Primer Bach: a handbook of Teaching, Devotion and Christian Practice” printed in 1870 (translated by Rhidian Jones).


AUDIO TEXT: “Baptism is an agreement. We promise God that we shall keep his commandments, and believe the true faith. He promises us the grace to keep the commandments, and faith to believe the credo. If we fail to keep the agreement God is no longer bound by his part of the agreement. Confirmation is the sealing of the agreement made at Baptism. Confirmation was established by the Apostles, as taught by Christ, and inspired by the Holy Spirit.”

Photograph: Eirian Evans, Wikimedia


His father, an Evangelical, devoted and hard working parish priest was Rector of Llangwm from 1830 and it was during this time that the young Griffith Arthur Jones went up to Oxford in 1846 to matriculate.

This year, 1846, was in one respect an eventful one at Oxford, for it was in February of this year that Dr. Pusey preached, for the first time after his suspension from the University pulpit, on “Confession and the Power of the Keys.” although it is likely to have been preached just before Fr Jones arrived but it was to Pusey that Fr Jones made his first Confession.

Just a few days after his ordination as Deacon, he records in detail the Christmas Services at Llangwm, and his diaries often makes particular reference to the quality of the singing or the hymns or anthems sung.

It seems to have been usual to begin Christmas Day with a service at 5 a.m. Almost the first entry in his diary (i.e. Christmas Day 1851, four days after his ordination) he describes this service:

“Service at 5 a.m. Read the Lessons and preached. A good Anthem, ‘Ae yn oed yn y wlad homno, etc.’ (There were shepherds abiding in the fields). Several Carols.”

He read the service again at 11, when the Holy Communion was celebrated, at which he assisted as deacon. There was service again at 6 p.m., at which he read the lessons and preached, and again carols were sung. He notes, “Large congregation all day, particularly at the early and late services.” On Christmas Eve the church had been decorated. He minutely describes the features of the decoration, which included “a large cross over the Altar about 3 feet by 2.”

“When we hear so much said about the deadness of the Church in Wales,” commented his biographers in 1907, “it may not be inopportune to note these circumstances of a country parish church in Anglesey more than fifty-five years ago.”

Listen to his biographers speaking about his love of music and when he fist became known as ‘Father’ Jones.


AUDIO TEXT: “Church music had a very large place in Griffith Arthur Jones’s mind. As an undergraduate at Oxford he seems to have started a singing-class, or choir of boys, some of whom owed much of their musical success in after years to his training. A very old friend of his was a former organist of Margam, who had known him as a choir-boy in those early days at Oxford, and whom he always called by his Christian name when he was quite on in years and father of a grown-up family.

It was, we think, first of all, from his lips that we heard our Vicar spoken of as Father Jones, an address which became very usual later on during his ministry at Cardiff, though his South Wales friends generally spoke of him as Father Arthur, a designation which was not common in Cardiff, except as borrowed from his more or less intimate friends.

PHOTOGRAPH: Shaun Butler,,_Church_of_St_Morhaiarn.JPG

Bangor Cathedral

Continually in his sermons as well as in private instruction of individuals for Confirmation or Communion, or in preparation for death, he taught the doctrine of Pardon through the Precious Blood by means of Sacramental Absolution.”

Arthur Jones was ordained deacon in 1851 after several years of study at Jesus College, Oxford during which time he was influenced by the Tractarians.

In his diary is a simple note : “Dec. 21, S. Thomas’s Day: Ordained Deacon by Bishop Bethel at Bangor Cathedral; 7 others ordained the same day. Mr. Trevor preached the ordination sermon. Dean Cotton, Mr. Trevor, and Mr. E. Pugh assisted the Bishop.” He was ordained priest the following year on the fourth Sunday of Advent

“He used to be fond of telling about his first Sunday in Oxford in 1846,” writes one of his former curates, “how he went to S. Mary’s in the afternoon to hear the University sermon; he had heard alarming things about the Puseyites or Tractarians; and when he saw the preacher ascend the pulpit in his doctor’s scarlet gown and proceed to describe in a very graphic way some historical event which had occurred at Rome, the young Welsh undergraduate remarked to a friend on coming away from the church that he supposed this was one of the followers of Dr. Pusey, and was astonished when told that on the contrary it was Dr. Stanley, who was very much opposed to the teaching of Dr. Pusey; and then he said he felt, “if this is one of the opponents, what must the Puseyites themselves be like?”

Listen to the words of one of his curates talking about the importance that Fr Jones attributed to the sacrament of Confession


AUDIO TEXT: Father Jones took the words of ordination in their plain grammatical sense, and supposed they meant what they said, and conferred the “power of absolution” or “power of the keys” on the priest. And he considered that this power was meant to be used for the benefit of the souls of Christ’s flock, not hid under a bushel, or wrapped in a napkin and buried out of sight. So he sought its application to his own soul-made his first confession in his college days at Oxford, to Dr. Pusey, and continued to seek the benefit of Absolution from time to time throughout his life, and did his utmost to influence all whom he could to use this wholesome practice and discipline. “It is good for everybody,” he would say, quoting the words of an old priest, to whom he had made the remark that “confession was so good for our young men.” “It is good for everybody,” was the reply, and this became a proverb with Father Jones. Continually in his sermons as well as in private instruction of individuals for Confirmation or Communion, or in preparation for death, he taught the doctrine of Pardon through the Precious Blood by means of Sacramental Absolution; and he exhorted to and encouraged the practice of auricular confession, and wished his staff of clergy to do the like.


He had learned the great secret in dealing with Welsh people – through their feelings – and could teach them Catholic truth in evangelical form.”

Gwalchmai was where Fr Jones spent his one and only curacy under the Rev Wynne Jones and he seems very much to have been left to his own devices there.

However, his curacy could have been more short lived than he anticipated. On Good Friday 1852, about three months after his ordination as deacon, Fr Jones received a letter offering him the incumbency of Llangorwen.

He writes about it in his dairy. “Much puzzled as to what I ought to do,” he writes. “On the one hand I have put my hand to the plough in this place. Papa and mamma, my sisters, my kind Rector, my people and all here oppose my leaving. On the other hand Daily Service is offered and a prospect of introducing Weekly Communion, a good Churchman as squire of the parish, and being the means of preventing the work which has been begun from falling off.”

There were many reasons why he would have been tempted to accept. The ‘good churchman and squire’ was Matthew D Williams of Cwmcynfelin who had paid the £3000 cost of building the church, consecrated just a few years earlier, in 1841. His brother, the Revd Isaac Williams, had been Newman’s curate for six years at the University Church of St Mary and at Littlemore, and the design of the the church of All Saints in Tirymynach was based upon St John Henry Newman’s own church in Littlemore. John Keble and Newman took great interest in its building, and the lectern and chandeliers were gifts from each of them.  It was a living example of how the liturgical ideas and theological beliefs of the Oxford Movement were beginning to be translated into architectural design, embodied in something permanent, and permeating throughout the Church of England.  The sanctuary’s stone altar was the first in Wales since the Reformation. However, he finally declined the offer.

As Vicar of St Mary’s, Fr Jones would have up to 34 assistant curates who worked for him. One of those Curates, his biographer, said, “In speaking of one who would doubtless have been regarded by many as a very thinly disguised Romanist, one would like to recall the fact that not only did he himself remain to the last a priest of the Anglican Communion, but that of the thirty-four assistant clergy who have served under him during his vicariate of S. Mary’s, not one has ever seceded.

One of those who was with him at Cardiff for eight years, the Rev. T. Rees, who became Vicar of Pontlottyn, wrote that “One of his noblest features was his kindness and sympathy with the younger clergy. He would cross the street to speak to a clergyman, whether he were a curate or a vicar.”.

Arthur Jones is already acquainted with its first vicar, Reverend Lewis Gilbertson, particularly through their work on the Welsh Psalter which they undertake with Reverend C.W. Heaton, but Gilbertson has now returned to Oxford as a lecturer and junior bursar at Jesus College.

Listen to the words of his Incumbent’s son who was eventually ordained himself and became the Vicar of Carnarvon, Rev. J. Wynne Jones:


AUDIO TEXT: My earliest recollections are of his company. We used to ride a donkey, commandeered for the purpose on Gwalchmai Common, to go to tea with him. As curate on p£8o a year he was very hospitable, and had always a good bottle of wine for his friends. His memory is still cherished at Gwalchmai and Llanegryn.

He was not averse to a day’s shooting when he came to see my father, but once got into disgrace as a sportsman with my brother, for he was crooning over some old Church music with the keeper instead of going up to the dogs, who were pointing.

He often came up to Aberdare in my time. When Bishop Ollivant forbade the wearing of birettas at the opening of Cwmbach Church, he put a red handkerchief over his head and said, “Ask the Bishop how he likes my biretta.” Bishop Ollivant came up, greeted him warmly, and never noticed the handkerchief.

The trouble the Father took with me when I went to Aberdare and his endless kindness I cannot forget as long as I live. He sent me his Easter and Good Friday circulars up to the last. He had learned the great secret in dealing with Welsh people – through their feelings – and could teach them Catholic truth in evangelical form. This I hope I learned from him.

PHOTOGRAPH: Robin Leicester,_Church_of_St_Morhaiarn.JPG


He was the very best of parish parsons, the font of charity and the best of fun, a better man, a truer friend, and one more universally beloved I suspect never lived.” (Mr Wynne of Peniarth)

Llanegryn in North-West Wales sits south of the Snowdonia Mountain range, providing a beautiful view across the Dysinni Valley, and it was here from 1857 that Fr Jones served as Vicar for sixteen years.

He desired to conduct the services of the Church with reverence and “his manner of celebrating showed anxiety that all present should also realise the Holy Presence.” He had introduced Eucharistic vestments and altar lights for the celebration of the Holy Communion, despite the widespread difficulties throughout the Church of England.   

He quickly established a choir, and Mr. Wynne of Peniarth, the local squire, provided the boys with surplices, making it the first surpliced choir in a parish church in the diocese of Bangor and which provided “sweet Gregorian music in all the services of the church,” said his friend, Rev Titus Lewis.

Plainsong was a passion of Father Jones’s, and by this time was already involved in work for a publication of a Welsh Gregorian Psalter. “He would sing out a plainsong melody,” goes his biography, and say, “Beautiful, isn’t it?” He would join with great gusto in all plainsong parts of the service; and would lament when he attended perhaps an elaborate service at some other Church where it was lacking, saying, “Yes, it was a beautiful Service, but no music to do a fellow good-no plainsong.”

“He would inveigh against so much florid music in the service, calling it “dance music.’ “We don’t want so much dance music in church,” he would say; and was delighted with a story in one of Father Nihill’s reports of S. Michael’s, Shoreditch, of a little girl, who had always been used to plainsong in church, and the first time she heard an Anglican Chant, “picked up her skirts and danced up the aisle!”

It was during this time that, through Mr Wynne, Fr Jones became friends with Fr Lowder, the well known priest of St Peter’s London Docks. He became a ‘zealous member’ of the Society of the Holy Cross which Lowder had founded, ‘and influenced many of his friends among the clergy to join that Society, in which he took a keen interest to the last days of his life.

Listen to the words of the Very Rev G Roberts, who became the Dean of Bangor, and who was Fr Jones’ successor at Llaengryn:


AUDIO TEXT:I always understood that the Church in Llanegryn was in a very depressed condition when he went there. The congregation was very small indeed, and the communicants very few.

Before he left, the Church had become a power in the parish. His first care was to improve the services, and he introduced a surpliced choir, a rare thing in those days in a Welsh country church. It was his ambition to make Llanegryn a centre of Church life for the neighbourhood around. With this object in view frequent special services were held, to which the clergy and laity of other parishes were invited.

Whenever anything new was brought into the little church it was made the occasion of a special opening service. He felt that every opportunity had to be seized to bring people to Llanegryn in order that they might see how the services of the Church ought to be conducted.”

Though he stood alone in North Wales in those early days in having Catholic Ritual, though others taught the Faith without its externals, he never evaded the unpopularity which it brought. I happen to know that the then Bishop of Bangor would have been glad to give him very high preferment as a dignitary but for his ritual.

Though he stood alone in North Wales in those early days in having Catholic Ritual, though others taught the Faith without its externals, he never evaded the unpopularity which it brought.


%d bloggers like this: