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To view the Rhaglen yr Ŵyl/Festival Timetable and read the Winning Ode at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, Birkenhead 1917 on Yr Arwr ( Hero ) won by the the soldier poet Private Ellis Humphrey Evans, (known as Hedd Wyn )   -  click here


A brief history of the Liverpool Welsh

Who are they ?’ What have they done ?
Liverpool Welsh have been an integral part of the Liverpool scene since the heyday of the slave trade and the building of the docks in the last decade of the eighteenth century. Shipping became an occupation  that attracted men from Anglesey and Caernarvonshire and when the clever welsh poet and  Anglican divine Goronwy Owen  settled at St Mary’s Church, Walton in 1755 he loved coming to the waterfront to converse in welsh with the sailors from his native hearth of Anglesey. These men and women of Wales came in their thousands between 1760 and 1860 and in that period at least 16 Welsh speaking chapels and churches were built. By 1900 Liverpool had around 90 Welsh Chapels, Churches and mission halls to cater for the spiritual and cultural needs. By 1815, within Liverpool there was a Welsh town. The  Little Wales plaque to remember their coming  is on the right of Pall Mall north of Leeds Street junction and I usually take Welsh visitors to see it since it was placed there in the summer of 2007.

Though young and usually poor the immigrants were  men and women who were determined to make a better world for themselves, though the presence of the ‘press gangs’ in the town was to say the least an hindrance. Many of them were staunch young Calvinistic Methodists escaping from the persecution of the Anglican establishment, the local vicar and the squire in particular. They found comfort in an alien land as exiles.

Most of the exiles were involved in shipping and the building industries.  Some of them became  architects and hundreds of them established building firms . They were very involved in the growth of Liverpool from a small fishing village into a huge port and a cosmopolitan city by 1880. The Welsh, through these builders, such as Owen Elias and David Hughes, played their part in the extension of the city to Kirkdale, Anfield, Walton, Everton, St Domingo, Islington and Kensington. Townships such as Everton and Anfield became welsh in speech as Sir James Picton  informs us, Welsh in culture  and  prominent in the commercial and shopping world. The streets were often given Welsh names by the builders and not only in Toxteth, but all over the city. Young men  who arrived in Liverpool were given support by the Elders of the welsh chapels many of them large builders. Within two decades many of these  immigrants would have succeeded beyond all expectations. Their heritage is still around us, and a Welsh trail is very much needed to indicate where the welsh stores and companies were located.

 Medicine also attracted able young men as doctors and young women as nurses in the Liverpool Hospitals. The Anglesey bonesetter family of Evan Thomas were responsible, through him and his eldest son Hugh Owen Thomas and his wife’s nephew, Sir Robert Jones, for the growth of Liverpool as a centre for orthopaedic medicine. The  outstanding Welsh medical giants include Dr Robert Gee, Dr Thelwall Thomas, Professor Owen H.Williams,  Dr Goronwy Thomas, Dr Howell  Hughes  and Will Lloyd-Jones. Remarkable men of medicine from Liverpool served the Foreign Mission of the Presbyterian church of Wales in North East-India, in particular Dr Gordon Roberts and Dr R. Arthur Hughes. It was the Liverpool Welsh community  which   inaugurated this specific witness from 1840 till 1970.The University of Liverpool which educated these medical  parishioners attracted young students to study in Arts, Law and Science. Many of the notable men of letters in Welsh history taught at the different departments.  The Celtic department was well served by the poet J.Glyn Davies, a native of Toxteth, followed by  Idris Foster who later left for Jesus College, Oxford, Melville Richards, D Simon Evans and Dr Nicholas Williams. In History Professor W. Garmom Jones had a great deal of influence  while in Law Professor D Seaborne  Davies  was gifted  as a  speaker. The University of Liverpool as well as the John Moores University and the educational  provision in the schools of the city have been well served by the Welsh teachers

 Music is another sphere of culture  where the Welsh have been influential.  The Liverpool Welsh Choral Union has been honoured for its long and distinguished contribution by being given the Freedom of the City in 2013.  Welsh publishing has been  well documented and Modern Welsh Publications is still in existence and has its own website. The  eisteddfodic tradition  has a long and distinguished history from 1840 till 1990, and Welsh poets of distinction have laboured in Liverpool. Welsh hymns and Welsh tunes have been written and composed in the city and are still sung Sunday after Sunday.

 A great deal has been written on the Liverpool Welsh in the last 30 years and the Merseyside Welsh Heritage society is an important link in preserving for posterity the  rich and unique cultural life. The monthly newspaper called Angor is worth ordering for £10-50 a year, for it underlines the events that have happened and will happen among the Welsh communities.

Prepared for the Liverpool Welsh website on 14-2-2014 by Professor Dr D.Ben Rees.