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Cymry Lerpwl

A329: The Making of Welsh History 2023

By Margaret Sadler


This entire course of study
of which this Dissertation is part
is dedicated to my daughter
Lindsey Mae Sadler
(27th August 1981 - 6th July 2021)
Posthumous MA graduate
at the

Institute of Historical Research

London University


Chapter 1 Introduction

Chapter 2 Building the Welsh communities

Chapter 3 The Welsh Language and cultural traditions In Liverpool

Chapter 4 Conclusion

List of illustrations



Chapter 1 Introduction

‘For generations, people went away from home because that was the only way to sustain the home and family. Emigration and exile, the journey to and from home, are the very heartbeat of Welsh culture.’ (Davies, R, (2015) p.170).

While the port of Liverpool was an assembly point for those emigrating to world-wide destinations, it was also a popular destination for many Welsh immigrants in search of employment and a better standard of living. Lord Mostyn in 1885, made the comment in his inaugural address to the Liverpool Welsh Association that, ‘Year after year, Liverpool becomes more than ever the metropolis of Wales.’ (Cooper, K J, 2011, p.155). But, before 1885 there had been centuries of a Welsh presence in Liverpool. The research, undertaken for this dissertation, will give an account of the pioneering spirit, which was not just limited to the people emigrating across the world, but also accompanied those tentative steps of Welsh migrants experiencing Liverpool as an urban frontier town during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Rees suggests that, ‘Welsh Methodism has known well the venturesome pioneering spirits in Liverpool…. those who came to settle on Merseyside amply displayed the spirit of adventure and enterprise.’ (Rees, D B (2021) p.17). To get to Liverpool wasn’t easy, but for the link by sea on the sloop named Darling which ran from Holyhead through the Menai Straits to Liverpool, between 1781 and 1897. Alternatively, people would have to walk most of the way, taking a ferry across the River Dee from Flint to Parkgate

then walk to Eastham to take the ferry across the river Mersey, all this dependent on good weather. (Rees, D B (2021), pp.25-26). To have reached their destination following such a journey, displayed the pioneering spirit and proved the determination of the Welsh migrants to succeed. They also brought their much-needed labour force to a growing city and thriving port.

Initial research will focus on the foundation and expansion of the Welsh nonconformist communities, together with their language, their traditions, and unique culture. The Welsh population had a reputation for hard work, as Picton observed, ‘On the whole they are an industrious, steady and sober race.’ (Picton, J A (1875) Vol.2 p.353). This solid reputation was welcomed and sought after by the many established Welsh building firms in Liverpool. The contribution the Welsh building firms made to the nonconformist communities in Liverpool will be discussed further in the next chapter. The Welsh Architects and building firms played a significant role in enabling the Welsh speaking population to meet and worship together in their own chapels and also enabled the overall expansion of the Welsh communities throughout the city. The initial question, therefore, to be addressed within this dissertation is: ‘To what extent did the Welsh nonconformist chapel communities contribute to Liverpool’s heritage?’

Based on the facts the research will disclose, the evidence will show that not only did the Welsh migrant population bring their pioneering spirit and enterprise to Liverpool, but also made a lasting contribution to the landscape, and cultural heritage of this great city which, in part, is still evident in the twenty-first century. In order to do that, it has been necessary to delve into the archives of Liverpool’s substantial history, alongside the history of nonconformity and uncover the pieces of relevant information where both those lines cross.

Many historians have contributed in the past to the subject of migration, and Welsh migration in particular, including Colin Pooley, Dr. D Ben Rees, R Merfyn Jones, Kathryn Cooper, Gareth Carr, Pryce, Drake, Jenkins, and many more that are not mentioned here, many of whom will be referred to through the pages of this dissertation. But there has to be a starting point. The aim, therefore, is to discover the various contributory factors that led to the first Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel being built and the subsequent increase in Welsh nonconformist chapels in Liverpool and the communities that grew up around the city.

It has been suggested that in their new cultural setting, many became more aware of their Welshness which was not possible in their homeland. ‘To be Welsh in Wales was unremarkable: to be Welsh in Liverpool was to be visible, and to be conscious of that position’ (Jones and Rees, (1984) p.34). Therefore, if indeed there was an enhanced sense of pride in their Welshness, the second question to be addressed is: ‘in what ways did that Welshness project out of the migrant communities to make a lasting impression on the Liverpool urban environment?’

The success of the Welsh building firms was dependent upon good quality raw materials and the availability of skilled and unskilled labour. It was, therefore, essential for the firms to maintain the established links with the suppliers of raw materials back in the Principality that they could rely on and also for the necessary labour required to undertake demanding building schedules.

The research has revealed that the Welsh chapels were by no means the first nonconformist churches in Liverpool. The first Methodist chapel in the city was of the English Wesleyan denomination. It was also the first Wesleyan chapel to open in the north-west of England; it was opened in Pitt Street in 1750, very much a dockland area (dmbi on-line). According to Rees, John Wesley was no stranger to Liverpool and preached at the Pitt Street chapel many times to huge congregations, often at 6 o’clock in the morning (Rees, D B (2021) p.27). Pitt Street chapel near the river Mersey, welcomed many Welsh newcomers before the Welsh Chapels began their long history in the city. This aspect of the English Wesleyan Chapel welcoming Welsh newcomers will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter, as it leads into the process by which the first Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel was built.

Liverpool in the late eighteenth century was an overcrowded urban city with an increasing population. Immigrants arrived not only from Wales, but many thousands from Ireland, particularly during the 1840s because of the famine following the failure of the potato crops in that country, (Picton, J A (1875) Vol.1 p.499). Newcomers also came from Scotland and many other European countries, adding to the cosmopolitan atmosphere of this urban city and thriving port. Alongside the benefits in the urban towns through the many avenues of available employment, there were also obvious risks as there were in other urban/industrial towns in England and Wales. Risks were symptomatic of the influx of migrant populations living in overcrowded, squalid accommodation.

The Welsh migration story is a fascinating one. The extensive contribution made to Liverpool by the people of the Principality seems to have almost been forgotten, apart from by the historians and the descendants of those pioneers that migrated to Liverpool in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Through hard work, traditional cultural values, and their pioneering and venturesome spirits they gave so much to the city that has been referred to as the ‘Metropolis of Wales.’ (Cooper, K J (2011), p.155).


Chapter 2    ‘The building of the Welsh communities’

The majority of the Welsh people that migrated to Liverpool were from the rural counties of north Wales, taking with them their traditional rural Welsh culture, unique language and religion which, with the nonconformist chapel at the centre, held the communities together. But it should be remembered that, during the Georgian period, when urban town populations were growing rapidly, the port of Liverpool became an extremely overcrowded, cosmopolitan city, at that time, without one Welsh nonconformist chapel. The history that led to the building of the nonconformist chapel communities in Liverpool, is discussed below.

During the late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century many of the migrants arriving in Liverpool would have been accommodated in court dwellings. Commonly called back-to-back court dwellings were three story buildings consisting of tightly packed small rooms, approximately 10’ 6” wide and deep. There were six or eight similar buildings surrounding a courtyard 10’ – 15’ wide accessed by a narrow alley-way. Each court would back on to the next, densely populated, without running water, each court housing possibly 25 or more families, would be serviced by one shared toilet and a water standpipe in the centre of the court. (Stewart, E J (2019) p.7). A typical room is pictured above. The photograph taken at the Museum of Liverpool is part of the court dwelling reconstruction.

According to Carr, the court dwellings were introduced into Liverpool through the speculative owners of the large Georgian town-houses vacating their homes for sub-letting and making the gardens at the rear of their properties available for further building projects. (Carr, G (2014 p.8). This practice provided the owners with a lucrative rental income, at the same time providing business for the building firms, employment opportunities and in turn, much needed accommodation for the ever-increasing migrant population.

The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Pitt Street, referred to in the previous chapter, was mentioned in terms of being a welcoming community for many Welsh nonconformist migrants arriving in the city. The chapel was surrounded by court dwellings and a number of the Welsh Methodists from the courts attended that chapel.

According to Rees, one such member was William Llwyd from Flintshire. Llwyd, along with some of his Welsh speaking friends, also from north Wales, were hopeful that they would have a chapel of their own at some point in the future, where they would be able to hold services entirely in Welsh. First, Llwyd and his friends met in his home until there were so many people wanting to join them that larger premises had to be found. The only large space that could be found nearby to accommodate the meetings was in a local warehouse. The warehouse was owned by ‘Billy the Ragman,’ the title indicating his occupation. According to Rees, the warehouse was a very unpleasant place where people drowned in the Mersey were laid out in their coffins, (Rees, D B, [2021] p.28).

William Llwyd was a humble early Welsh migrant, confirmed in his faith and determined to maintain his Welsh heritage. He was instrumental in inviting preachers from his home area in Wales to come and preach to the Welsh nonconformist community that had grown up around the Wesleyan chapel to help uphold the faith of all the Welsh members of the congregation of the Pitt Street Chapel. William Llwyd had built up such a reputation that when he died in 1810, more than one thousand people attended his funeral (Rees, D B (2162) p.28).

A Welsh visitor arrived at the Pitt Street Chapel after walking from Anglesey. The visitor was Owen Thomas Roland, a blacksmith and lay preacher, escaping persecution from the clergy on Anglesey. For a short while he became another Welsh exile in Liverpool. Although Roland spoke very little English, he was warmly welcomed by the Pitt Street congregation, and encouraged to preach to the many Welsh monoglot members that worshipped there. He preached on the banks of the river Mersey, and according to Rees, the beginnings of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist cause in Liverpool can be linked to one of the sermons he preached at that time. (Rees, D B (2021) p.27).

Artist’s impression of Pall Mall Chapel 1787

The Revd Thomas Charles, from Bala, was another pioneering Welshman of eminent renown, who visited Liverpool on several occasions. According to Rees, he made the dangerous crossing from Eastham to Liverpool on the ferry, which almost cost him his life on one occasion, when a storm arose. (Rees, D B (2021) pp.28-29). On a visit during 1785, Charles visited the warehouse where William Llwyd had held his meetings with his Welsh speaking friends. Charles was impressed by the faithfulness of the Welsh exiles, but distressed that the only place they had to meet to worship in Welsh, was in the dreadful warehouse, described above. When Charles returned to Merionethshire, he made it known what terrible conditions the Welsh people in the heart of Liverpool had to endure in order to hold a Welsh nonconformist service. Charles used his considerable network of many contacts to begin raising funds for the Welsh community in Liverpool to purchase a piece of land on which to build a chapel. Thanks to the money collected throughout Wales for this cause, the first Calvinistic Methodist Chapel was opened in Pall Mall, Liverpool on Whit Sunday in 1787. (Rees, D B (2021) p.29). According to the Dictionary of Welsh Biographies (DWB), Thomas Charles of Bala, began his life as an Anglican Clergyman, but favoured the evangelistic approach of the Calvinistic Methodists denomination. In 1784 Charles was formally enrolled as a member of the Methodist Society. Charles was instrumental in the provision of Welsh Bibles, and also initiated the continuance of the circulating schools originally developed by Griffith Jones and Bridget Bevan (DWB). Charles was Influential in Wales, and was primarily responsible for establishing the Welsh Sunday schools for both adults and children. In 1806 Charles was in Liverpool to open the second Calvinistic Chapel in Bedford Street. According to Rees Charles preached three times on that occasion once in Welsh and twice in English. He also emphasised the need for a day school in Pall Mall. One of Charles’ supporters in Liverpool, Peter Jones, a teacher, who was also known within the Welsh communities as Pedr Fardd (hymn writer) following the opening of the school, continued to teach Welsh, English and history there for thirty-three years (Rees D B ((2021) pp44-45). Roland, Llwyd and particularly Charles were all contributory factors in the initial establishment of the Welsh nonconformist communities in Liverpool, or more precisely according to Rees, the establishment of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist denomination in Liverpool. There is another important contributory factor in the development and expansion of the Welsh nonconformist chapels, that will be touched upon in more detail presently. That is the contribution made by those that built the chapels and subsequently the housing developments that followed.

But, during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-centuries, at the time when Charles, Roland and Llwyd were promoting the Welsh nonconformist cause in Liverpool, the court dwellings undoubtedly provided similar living conditions to the squalid overcrowded conditions found in any urban/industrial town during that period in England or Wales. These conditions and the constant increase in the Liverpool population, brought great health risks. According to Picton, during the spring and summer of 1832, Liverpool was struck, in common with many towns in the country, with a cholera epidemic. The first recorded case was on 4th May, and the disease continued through the summer until autumn of that year. Almost 5,000 people contracted the disease and there were 1,523 fatalities. (Picton, J A (1878) Vol 1, pp,443-444). The port did not close during that period, and it was recorded that the migrant ship Brutus sailed for Quebec on 18th May with 330 passengers. Following the outbreak of cholera on board on 28th May, the captain eventually had to turn back to Liverpool following the death of some members of the crew and passengers. A total of 97 people died on board. (Picton, J A, (1878) p.444). After ten years conditions had not improved. Carr informs us that in 1841 it was estimated that 56,000 people, approximately one-fifth of the population of Liverpool, were still living in the squalor of court dwellings. (Carr, G (2014 p.8)

In 2018 the National Museums Archaeological Department undertook an excavation in Pembroke Place, Liverpool to uncover some of the original court dwellings that were prolific around that area during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Because of their findings, they were able to produce a reconstruction of a court dwelling which is situated within the Museum of Liverpool. (Pictured here)

The Liverpool town authorities did what they could to enforce the newly introduced sanitary and housing bye-laws but it was a slow process. (Carr, G (2014 p.8) In 1842 the Liverpool Building Act was introduced. The Act stipulated that there should be a minimum width of fifteen feet between dwellings within the new courts, with a requirement of ventilation space for any property that was two rooms deep. The Sanitary Act followed in 1846 prohibiting more than eight houses in any one court, (Carr G. 2014 p.9). The Act was amended in 1864 requiring that courts should open onto a public highway at each end being at least twenty-five feet in length. These new rules meant that the design of housing, in order to be as profitable as the court dwellings, had to change. This endeavour resulted in the archetypical ‘terraced streets’ some of which are still standing in Liverpool today. Their enterprise in the building trade was also often admired: ‘while the city council has been peddling for years with the question of artizans dwellings, this enterprising firm of Welshmen have solved it.’ (Pooley, C G (1983) p.298)

It is not possible here, to relate a complete history of the many Welsh building firms that were in existence in Liverpool during the late eighteenth-century and through the nineteenth century. In touching on this aspect of Welsh migration history, it has been necessary to be discerning. One Welsh architect that was one of the most prolific and talented that migrated to Liverpool was Richard Owens. Owens not only designed and built several of the nonconformist chapels in Liverpool, he also provided more than 250 chapels in both England and Wales. (Jones, J R (1946) p.97). Owens originated from Caernarfonshire and moved to Liverpool in the 1840’s to pursue his trade as a joiner. He joined the firm of Williams and Jones, surveyors and estate agents where he acquired some understanding of land and building development. Also, through his own initiative became a night-school student at the ‘Mechanics Institute’, in Mount Steet, Liverpool and studied to become an architect. He achieved this goal and opened his own office in Everton Village, Liverpool, when he was just thirty-years-old. It was the start of a long relationship with the city and the nonconformist chapel communities in both England and Wales. (Jones, J R (1946) p.97).

During the second half of the nineteenth century the Liverpool township boundaries were being pushed out from the overcrowded centre into districts such as Kirkdale, West Derby, Everton and Toxteth Park. But the building firms may not have prospered so well and easily, if the supply chain and business links had not been maintained with the north Wales was a rich source of labour for the ever-fervent employment market in Liverpool. Prior to the development of new transport systems, better roads, and railways, the main transport and business links between north Wales and Liverpool were via coastal navigation routes from Beaumaris and Amlwych in Anglesey straight into the port. These Welsh raw materials were of the best quality, Owens insisted upon, particularly for the many nonconformist chapels he was responsible for in both Liverpool and Wales, which numbered some 250 in all. Owens’ first chapel in Liverpool was built in Fitzclarence Street in Everton (pictured above), but was destroyed during the bombing of the second world war. (Jones J R (1946) p.98) Owens also designed other buildings in Liverpool, warehouses in the dockland area, and also a most prestigious office building, Westminster Chambers in Dale Street, not far from the Town Hall. Originally designed for the firm of David Roberts, Son & Company that became the established headquarters of Owens’ firm for the next eighty years until the firm of Richard Owens and Son was taken over by H A Noel Woodall architect in ‘January 1969. While working on the Mynydd Seion chapel, in Abergele, north Wales (pictured above). Owens was in contact with the Liverpool-based land surveying firm of David Roberts & Company, which became one of the leaders in Liverpool’s house building industry. In collaboration with David Roberts, Owens was responsible for the design of more than 10,000 terraced houses in Liverpool, some of those houses in Toxteth are still in existence today and commonly known as the Welsh streets. (Carr, G (2014 p.11) Each street has a Welsh name. (pictured here) Wynnstay Street, Voelas Street, Rhiwlas Street, Powis Street, Madryn Street, Kinmel Street and Gwydir Street. The fact that the Beatles’ Drummer, Ringo Starr was born in No. 9 Madryn helped when the local residents petitioned for the streets to be retained under the threat of demolition some years ago, (Rees, D B (2021) p.162) Many of them underwent major modifications in recent years but they remain a monument to the contribution made to Liverpool by Welsh builders. Hugh Owen, Richard Owen’s son, born in 1862 continued to manage the family firm of Richard Owen & Son, until his death in 1942. Hugh was an Associate member of the Liverpool Architectural Society and his firm remained associates of David Roberts, Son & Company, for which Hugh was the surveyor. Together the firms were responsible for much of the outskirts of the city of Liverpool and like his father, Hugh was the architect of many nonconformist churches in north Wales and in Liverpool. (Jones J R (1946) p.98).


The physical aspect of building the Welsh communities was just one part of the Welsh contribution to Liverpool. The Welsh language, and traditional culture thrived within the nonconformist chapels. Some of these elements of Welshness became part of every-day life in Liverpool, and will be discussed in the following chapter.


Chapter 3      ‘The Welsh language, and cultural traditions in Liverpool

Within the close-nit Welsh communities in Liverpool, the Welsh language thrived. As Picton wrote, ‘Everton is the Goshen of the Cambrian race …. A large part of its population is from the Principality. Placards in the Welsh language may be seen on the walls and Welsh newspapers in the shop windows.’ (Picton A J, (1875) Vol 2 p353) Picton’s volumes were published in 1875, but at the beginning of the nineteenth century, an eleven-year-old, John Jones, born in the Conwy Valley moved to Liverpool and was apprenticed to the printers, Joseph Nevetts & Co in Castle Street. Through the years he worked hard and became manager and by 1832 when Joseph Nevett died, the company was taken over by the Welsh-speaking John Jones. According to Rees, Jones was a friend of Pedr Fardd, the hymn writer, also known as Peter Jones, the teacher at Pall Mall school, featured in the previous Chapter, he was a supporter of the Revd Thomas Charles. Several Welsh periodicals and newspapers were published in Liverpool through the 1830s that did not last, but in 1843 a talented Welshman, the Revd William Rees, known by his bardic name, Gwilym Hiraethog moved to Liverpool. In collaboration with John Jones produced Yr Ymserau (The Times) according to the description given in the Welsh Libraries collection, it was the first Welsh newspaper to become successful. It became really popular when the editor, John Jones, began publishing a series of essays in the paper entitled 'Llythyrau 'Rhen Ffarmwr' (Letters from the old farmer). The essays were written in a Welsh rural dialect and concerned with current issues and troubles that appealed to ordinary Welsh people. (Welsh Library Collections on-line).

During the period of time covered by Picton’s history, other aspects of the Welsh language and culture continued to flourish, not only in Everton, but also within the Welsh chapels around the city. The Welsh tradition that was a constant within chapel life was music, as it had been throughout the history of nonconformist chapels, and the Calvinistic Methodist revival lead by Howell Harris (1714-73) in the Principality. (Jenkins, G H (2007) p.163).

From earliest times the music of Wales was recognised as being unique to the Principality. Giraldus Cambrensis (c1146-1223), known as Gerald the Welshman and archdeacon of Brecon. Gerald was a traveller and a keen observer and interested in every aspect of Welsh life. Gerald was appointed by the Government of Henry II in 1188 to tour Wales and write an account of their habits and cultural activities (Pugh, N. 2007) pp.17-18). According to Gerald:

‘They do not sing in unison like other inhabitants of other countries, but in many different parts so that in a company of singers …you will hear as many different parts and voices as there are performers’ (Giraldus Cambrensis, (1188) Bk1, Ch. XIII, p.145)

Giraldus describes Welsh choral singing, which has survived in many different guises through the centuries. It was certainly part of the Welsh culture in Liverpool, through the Welsh chapel choirs, and the talented musicians that had been in the right place at the right time to encourage and nurture the continuance of Welsh choral singing.

John Ambrose Lloyd

In 1830 a very talented fifteen-year-old boy from mold, north Wales, called John Ambrose Lloyd, had come to Liverpool to join his brother Isaac. At that time Isaac was a schoolmaster and editor of the Liverpool Standard and his brother John, had come to join Isaac in his school to gain experience to become a teacher. The Lloyd brothers were the sons of a Baptist local preacher from Mold, in north Wales, who had migrated to Warrington. (Pugh, N (2007). Soon after John arrived, Isaac was appointed editor of the Blackburn Standard and left Liverpool to take up his new appointment, but John stayed in Liverpool and became an assistant schoolmaster at a private school. Following that initial teaching experience, he was appointed to the staff of the Picton school and in 1838 Lloyd was appointed one of the teachers at the Mechanic’s Institute. (The school was later to become, the Liverpool Institute for boys, in Mount Street). (NLW, biography). When his brother Isaac left Liverpool in 1835, John joined the Tabernacle Congregational church, where Lloyd’s cousin, the Revd William Rees was a member, and also a keen musician (NWL biography). Lloyd had joined the Liverpool Philharmonic Society where he met several keen musicians with fine voices. Lloyd and Rees, along with the friends Lloyd had made at the Liverpool Philharmonic Society, gathered at Lloyds home every week for singing practice. Together Lloyd and Rees were instrumental in establishing the first Welsh Music Society. This group became known as the Liverpool/Welsh Choral Society, under the leadership of John Ambrose Lloyd. (Pugh, N. (2007, p.24). At that time, Lloyd would not have had any idea how valuable his short contribution was destined to become, within the history of the union between Liverpool and Welsh Choral singing. Employment hopes for Lloyd did not work out the way he had hoped in Liverpool and in 1848 he accepted the post of manager of the north Wales branch of the tea merchants, Woodall and Jones. Because of the travelling involved it became necessary for Lloyd to leave Liverpool, first a move to Chester followed by another to Conwy. John Ambrose Lloyd was just one of the many talented Welsh people associated with the nonconformist chapels in Liverpool, who had made a short, but vital contribution to upholding Welsh culture in the Liverpool urban environment. (Rees, D B (2021) p.100).

No record can be found of what happened to Lloyd’s choir following his departure, but according to Pugh, there were several attempts to gather choirs together from the nonconformist chapels in Liverpool, throughout the 1860s. (Pugh N (2007) p.27). In 1880 the Calvinistic Methodist Chapels united to form a large choir with Mr John Parry as its conductor. The choir gave regular concerts at various venues, including St. George’s Hall. The Douglas Road Welsh Chapel had a talented precentor, Sam Evans. Evans formed and trained a mixed voice choir of 150 at Russell Road chapel and some years later Evans became deputy conductor of the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union (Pugh, N (2007) p.25).

During the same year (1880), a seven-year-old boy called Harry Evans was appointed organist of the Dowlais Congregational church in south Wales. Dowlais, at that time, was considered to be the music centre of the south Wales valleys, where every aspect of musical talent was encouraged. According to Pugh, the boy’s musical talent was such that the congregation of the chapel paid for him to have piano lessons. Harry Evans was considered to be a prodigy, and through the succeeding years, through study and hard work he achieved the degree of Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO). Evans then became the accompanist of the Dowlais Choral Society and gained experience conducting large choral events with full orchestral accompaniment.

Harry Evans
                           26 Princes Avenue

Evans went on to form a male voice choir of 100 that would compete in the 1900 Eisteddfod held in Liverpool. This preparation for the Eisteddfod took precedence over everything in Evans’ life. The Male Voice Choir from Dowlais took first prize out of eleven choirs that participated in the competition, and the only choir during the whole of the Eisteddfod won by competitors from Wales. (Pugh, N (2007), pp.49-50). In 1902 Harry Evans was appointed Chorus Master and Principal Conductor by the founders of the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union, and as the Liverpool choir became a more important part of Evans’ life, he moved from Dowlais to his new home at 26 Princes Avenue, in Toxteth, Liverpool, a very fashionable part of town in the early 20th century. The house has been well restored and is now several apartments. Also, at that time he was appointed organist and choirmaster of Great George Street Congregational Church. According to the detail recorded in the Dictionary of Welsh biographies, as well as being the conductor of the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union, in 1913, he also became the musical director at Bangor University College and in the same year, local conductor and registrar of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society. This appointment recognised his great talent as a conductor, and it also meant that he was able to share his talent, not only with the Welsh people in Liverpool, but with the wider spectrum of English musicians in the city.

The Liverpool Welsh Choral union that had its beginnings many years before with John Ambrose Lloyd, was destined to continue for many years with very talented Welshmen as choral conductors and famous Principal conductors, such as Sir Malcolm Sargent, and Maurice Handford and Patrons include William Mathias, CBE, and Karl Jenkins OBE from 2005 until the present. (Pugh, N (2007) The Liverpool Welsh Choral Union is still actively performing regularly at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool, and at many other venues. The most recent concert held at the Yoko Ono Lennon Centre, within Liverpool University complex on 10th June 2023, included works by Mozart and Haydn. (

Mixed-voice and male voice choirs were only two of the classes included within the Eisteddfod programmes, held at various destinations in Wales and of course, in Liverpool, in 1840, 1844, 1900 and 1929. (Pooley, C G (1983) p.299). Brass bands, poetry, and essays, were some of the classes included from nation-wide participants. The Transactions of the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales, Liverpool, 1884, edited by William R Owen, gives complete details of the entire proceedings of that Eisteddfod. Also, the lengthy introduction by the editor, was in praise of the Eisteddfod in Liverpool, and its value to all Welshmen. Owen also expresses the view that it would be interesting to trace the rise and progress of the Welsh nationality in Liverpool, and expresses hope that, ‘some trustworthy and enlightened historian may be found to undertake the task,’ (Owen, W R (1885) p. xvii). Every item that was adjudicated within the 1884 Eisteddfod was published within the volume.

The Welsh newspapers such as Y Cymro, produced in Liverpool printed articles and notices in both Welsh and English. The English-language Liverpool Mercury also provided space for Welsh news, which as Pooley suggests helped to unite both the Welsh and English communities (Pooley, C G (1983) p.299). It provided the reports of events held within the network of clubs and Eisteddfodau which served the working-class Welsh communities. The North Wales Chronicle of Saturday 20th September 1884 reported on the National Eisteddfod in Liverpool. The lengthy report in English, paid tribute to all the choirs taking part in the ‘Great Choral Competition,’ which was won by the choir from Bethesda in north Wales, for the third successive year and given the prize of £200.

According to Rees, by the early twentieth century most chapels held their own Eisteddfod, along with various other organisations. The Red Dragon eisteddfodau was set up not only to strengthen the Welsh language in the city but also to bring poets and writers together. The resulting eisteddfodau encouraged national competitors and renowned adjudicators. (Rees, D B (2021) p.220). Successful businessmen in the city were invited to be presidents of the Red Dragon eisteddfod. One such president was William Lewis, head of the Liverpool based Pacific Steam Navigation Company. The Welsh students at Liverpool University held their own eisteddfod, as did the Lewis’s department store. (Rees, D B (2021) pp.215-219). Other cultural organisations grew out of the Eisteddfodau, and the Cymric Male Voice Choir stemmed from that festival. The sixteenth Annual Concert of the Cymric Male Voice Choir was advertised on page 4 of Y Cymro dated 1st March 1900. The concert was to take place at Hope Hall in Hope Street, Liverpool on the evening of 3rd March. The fact that it was the choir’s sixteenth annual concert, would suggest the choir came into being in 1884, the year of the second National Eisteddfod in Liverpool.

The Liverpool Welsh National Society was formed to serve the increasing number of middle and upper-class Welsh businessmen and professionals that had made their homes in the city. The all-male list of officers of the society included: The Rit. Hon. Lord Mostyn, as President; vice Presidents included His Imperial Highness Prince Louis-Lucien Bonaparte; Lord Aberdare, Lord Boston, and many other Lords, members of parliament, professional people, professors and other people of note. (Library of Wales, Journals LWNS (1885) p.iii). The rules of the society were designed to promote the following: The National interests of Wales; The social intercourse between Welshmen in Liverpool and the welfare of Welshmen in general; Literature, science and art, as it is connected with Wales; The formation in Liverpool of a library of Celtic literature. The list continues, basically to provide for the cultural needs of the upper- classes of Welshmen of the city. No women were included. The annual dinner was to be held at the Adelphi hotel for one-hundred gentlemen. (LWNS), (1885 p.iv). The tickets for the annual dinner to be held on St. David’s Day in 1900 were priced at 5s/6d each for both ladies and gentlemen, and advertised on 1st March 1900 in the news paper Y Cymro. By the turn of the century all levels of the Welsh population were catered for in terms of places of worship, suitable housing, and cultural activities. The Welsh population had settled successfully in the English urban environment and in doing so had contributed a unique chapter into the social and cultural history of this great city.

Chapter 4     Conclusion

The research undertaken on the subject of Welsh migration to Liverpool has proved to be a fascinating journey of discovery. The various avenues of research followed, have led to revealing an almost forgotten, but substantial part of the history of Liverpool. Several examples of the bricks and mortar of that history still remain in Liverpool to be admired and are referred to within the text above. The building projects undertaken in Liverpool during the nineteenth century were the initiative of Welsh building firms that employed Welsh labour and created Welsh communities. The new housing developments were a response to the overcrowding and terrible living conditions created during the late eighteenth-century when court dwellings were introduced into the city. At that time in Liverpool, as with many other urban industrial towns in England, overcrowding was caused by the influx of migrants from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and from many European countries arriving through the port.

By researching the building and expansion of the nonconformist communities in Liverpool, many other facts were uncovered in relation to the housing shortage at that time, the overcrowded conditions of the court dwellings providing a breeding ground for disease, hence the cholera outbreak in 1832, and the efforts by the city to correct some of the faults. New by-laws were brought into effect regarding the size of the courts and ventilation to make healthier living conditions. It was inevitable that a solution had to be reached and at the same time as the Welsh builders were providing chapels for Welsh services, they were also providing the housing solutions for the ever-expanding city. As Pooley suggested in Chapter 2 above, while the city council has been peddling for years with the question of artizans dwellings, these enterprising firms of Welshmen have solved it.’ (Pooley, C G (1983) p.298).

But, the initial aim of this dissertation was to chart the expansion of the Welsh nonconformist communities throughout the city. It purported to do this by giving an insight into the people involved in the initial establishment of Welsh nonconformist chapels in Liverpool, and how their endeavours resulted in the first Welsh Calvinistic Methodist chapel being built in Pall Mall in 1787. Among the people involved in the conception of the Pall Mall Chapel, were in fact the Welsh migrants that were welcomed into the Wesleyan chapel built in Pitt Street, in 1750 where John Wesley had preached. They included William Llwyd, who lived behind the chapel, probably in one of the infamous court dwellings. There was also the blacksmith, lay preacher who walked from Anglesey, Owen Thomas Roland, who preached to the Welsh members of the chapel on the banks of the Mersey. It was the desire and hope of those people that inspired the Revd Thomas Charles from Bala to initiate raising the funds to build the first Welsh Calvinistic chapel in Liverpool, in Pall Mall, then the second in Bedford Street a little south of the city centre. From that time through the nineteenth century the Welsh chapels and the communities became more prevalent throughout the city. The information detailed in chapter II above provides evidence of the contribution made by the Welsh architects and builders that provided the foundations for the Welsh communities to exist in Liverpool and enabled the communities to thrive using their unique Language and engage in the cultural activities that are reflected in the details given in Chapter III above.

Research into the more aesthetic side of Welsh history in Liverpool played a significant part in answering the initial question posed which was, ‘to what extent did the nonconformist chapel communities contribute to Liverpool’s heritage?’ A balanced assessment of the information gathered suggests that the Welsh communities throughout the late-eighteenth and nineteenth century maintained their Welshness, through the continued use of their unique language, and their various cultural pursuits. The great Liverpool historian, James Allanson Picton records the fact in his famous publication, Memorials of Liverpool, as he writes, ‘Everton is the Goshen of the Cambrian race, there are chapels where the services are conducted in the Cambrian tongue, and there are Welsh placards on the walls and Welsh newspapers in the shops.’. (Picton J A (1785) p.353). One of the traditional Welsh cultural activities that was a constant within the nonconformist chapels was music. Research revealed each chapel had its own choir, depending on the precentor, some of the choirs were larger, or better than others, some chapels had musical organisations that grew out of the chapel choir, as the details above will attest. Male voice choirs were, and still are a great tradition in Wales, as well as mix-voiced choirs that also grew out of the nonconformist chapels.

The chapels were the hub through which all the Welsh chapel communities in Liverpool were linked, and it was through that communication system that it was possible to unite choirs from various chapels to gather voices together to produce a choir of a sufficient standard to participate in Eisteddfods that were held, at local and national level, in Liverpool. There was one choral group that appeared during early nineteenth century that proved to be a catalyst for a combination of Liverpool/Welsh endeavour, that was the Liverpool Welsh Choral Society, that eventually became the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union, that has survived the test of time through the years of its metamorphosis to what the choir is today in Liverpool.

The research undertaken in order to answer the question: to what extent the Welsh nonconformist chapel communities contributed to Liverpool’s heritage, is revealed through the facts stated above. There is still much of the evidence of the nineteenth century Welsh contributions to Liverpool that are still visible in the city today. The recently modernised Welsh housing in Toxteth is a wonderful tribute to the Welsh people that built the original homes. Several of the Welsh Chapels are still being used, if not for worship, or worship in the Cambrian tongue, they have been converted into luxury apartments. In terms of the cultural side of the contribution, the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union is still performing in the City, their latest concert is detailed in Chapter III above. There is no doubt that further research could record the eventual process of the Welsh communities becoming more Anglicized as generation followed generation within Liverpool. But the research undertaken for this dissertation demonstrated the sentiments expressed by the Revd Dr D Ben Rees, when he wrote, ‘Welsh Methodism has known well the venturesome pioneering spirits in Liverpool …those who came to settle on Merseyside amply displayed the spirit of adventure and enterprise.’ (6,901 words)

List of Illustrations

1. Photograph of a Court dwelling single room. Part of the
Court dwelling reconstruction at the Museum of Liverpool
(my own photograph)

2. Pitt Street Chapel (early nineteenth century street map)
Liverpool City Archivists Department Liverpool central Library

3. Artist’s impression of Pall Mall Chapel 1787
– c/o The National Library of Wales (Public domain)

4. Court dwelling reconstruction Museum of Liverpool –
Used with permission of the Museum staff - My own photograph.

5. Fitzclarence Street Chapel, Everton

6. Mynydd Seion Chapel, Abergele
Personal licence - Coflein Digital Asset Management (

7. The Welsh Streets, photographed following the redevelopment of
the area of the original streets as listed in the text. (My own photograph)

8. Portrait of John Ambrose Lloyd,
https%3A%2F% (Public domain)

9. Photograph of Harry Evans, Evans%2C_Dowlais.jpg (public domain)

10. Photograph of 26 Princes Avenue, taken 15th May 2023 - my own photograph.


Primary sources Liverpool Street maps and Ordnance Survey maps, Trade and local street directories for England and Wales from the 1760s to the 1910s.

Advertising|1900-03-01|Y Cymro - Welsh Newspapers ( Cymro March 1st 1900. Advertisements The Cymric Vocal Union (Male Voice Choir) on p.4 and for the Liverpool Welsh National Society, Annual Dinner on p.8. North Wales Chronicle, The National Eisteddfod at Liverpool. (20th September 1884)

Roberts, J., (1959). CHARLES, THOMAS (1755 - 1814), Methodist cleric. Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Retrieved 14 May 2023, from

Re: Richard Owens, Architect, Liverpool.

Directory of Methodism of Britain and Ireland Transactions of the Liverpool Welsh National Society 1885.

Secondary Sources

Carr, G, (2014), Lecture delivered at the Festival of Welsh Builders,

Cooper, K J, (2011) Exodus from Cardiganshire – Rural-Urban Migration in Victorian Britain, Cardiff University of Wales Press.

Giraldus Cambrensis, “Of their Symphonies and Songs”, Bk.1, Ch. XIII, A Vision of Britain Through Time (Oxford, 1997), The Description of Wales by Gerald of Wales, First Preface, To Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury. P.145.

Jones, J R (1946), The Welsh Builder on Merseyside: Annals and Lives. Published by J R Jones, Menlove Avenue, Liverpool. (Liverpool City Archivists Department)

Jones, R M and Rees D B (1984) Liverpool Welsh & Their Religion, Modern Welsh Publications Ltd, Allerton, Liverpool and Llanddewi Brefi, Dyfed.

Picton, J A, (1875), Memorials of Liverpool, Historical and Topographical Including history of the Dock estate; Topographical Vols 1 and 2. Reproduced by ‘Forgotten Books’ (2018).

Pooley, C G, (1983), Welsh migration to England in he mid-nineteenth century, Journal of Historical Geography, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp.287-305.

Pryce, W T R, (1994) From Family History to Community History, p.49, Cambridge University Press, The Open University.

Rees, D B (2021), The Welsh in Liverpool: A Remarkable History, published by Y Lolfa Cyf, Talybont, Ceredigion SY24 5HE.

Stewart, E J, (2019) p.7 Courts and Alleys A history of Liverpool courtyard housing, Liverpool University Press, 4 Cambridge Street, Liverpool L69 7ZU.

Liverpool/Welsh Choral Union, concert information 2023.