One of the three great Revivalists of the 18th Century, William Williams left an indelible mark on life, language and culture. His most famous hymn is still sung at Rugby Internationals and Royal Weddings and has become the second national anthem of Wales ….. “Guide me o Thou Great Jehova…” (sometimes referred to as “Bread of Heaven”.
William Williams was born at Cefn-y-coed, near Llandovery. He attended Llwyn Llwyd Academy and had intended to become a physician. However, on his way home in 1738 he stopped to listen to Hywel Harris preaching in Talgarth Churchyard and decided to become a clergyman.
By 1740 he had become a curate to Theophilus Evans at Llanwrtyd. There seemed to be some disagreement regarding his duties and Williams was never ordained as a priest, giving up his curacy in 1743.
By now his mother had inherited Pantycelyn and he joined her there. He became a travelling preacher and became known as William Williams Pantycelyn. He then married Mary Francis of Penlan and carried on travelling and preaching, travelling thousands of miles every year, which he did for the next 50 years.
Williams became Wales’s foremost hymn-writer, writing some of the finest lyrics in the Welsh language, and through his poetry and prose became part of the Methodist Revival. His descendants still live at Pantycelyn, Llandovery.
Built in 1886 to 1888 from public funds as a memorial to the Welsh Hymn writer William Williams Pantycelyn, this unusually elaborate Gothic building is Grade II listed and is thought to be the first Welsh Calvanistic place of worship into which works of art have been admitted. It attracts visitors from around the World.
The striking stained-glass window, in four lights : Isaiah and St Matthew in the centre lights, flanked by King David and Miriam, is a magnificent work of art. A highly carved Gothic Pulpit in Caen stone and pink marble has five finely carved reliefs in the panels of the life of Christ and one relief of William Williams. The Smith American ornate Harmonium was supplied by Dale, Forty & Company for a sum of £51 in 1891. There is also an oak Communion table and chairs which were presented by the natives of the Khasia Hills, Assam, India (the first mission field of the Welsh Calvanistic Methodists).
We could go on …… but why not just come and see for yourself? Access can usually be obtained and there is also a meaningful and inspirational service held on Sundays at 11am. Every service ends with a rendition of ‘Guide me Oh Thou Great Redeemer” (better known as ‘Bread of Heaven’), written by William Williams, and sung with gusto by the considerable congregation. Come along and be inspired.