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Hercules Davies Phillips

Hercules Davies Phillips
Hercules Davies Phillips

Born in Bridge Street, Knighton, 25.10.1869, the third son of John and Elizabeth Phillips. He attended a local junior school and boys school both governed by the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church. In his early teens, he worked for the wife of the vicar, Mrs. Ricketts, a breeder of poultry and many of her birds on prizes at poultry shows. Later, he helped his father in the stable and garden of Dr.H.O.Brown. At the age of sixteen, Hercules was apprenticed to D.C.Davies, printer & stationer, High Street, Llandrindod Wells. His employer also published a local paper and although an apprentice printer, Hercules accepted the responsibility of a journalist, and travelled to neighbouring towns and villages including Builth Wells, Llangamarch Wells, Rhayader, Penybont, Knighton and many other villages in the locality.

Hercules had been confirmed in the Anglican faith at St. Edward's Church, Knighton and when he arrived in Llandrindod Wells in 1886, he attended Holy Trinity Parish Church. The Rector was Archdeacon De Winton, but Hercules felt ignored by clergy and parishioners, possibly because many visitors attended the services during the summer months. Some months later, he was invited to attend a Calvinistic Methodist Sunday School and there he met many other young men. When Hercules became active in chapel affairs, the minister encouraged him to conduct services at the chapels in local villages, Howey, Gwystre, Llandewy, Penybont, Heartsease, Tanhouse, Cwmgaist, Yardro, New Radnor, walking to many of them, possibly a round trip often miles. Later, the minister suggested to he should consider the calling and Hercules began to study Greek and Latin in preparation for admission to Trefecca College, but certain doubts delayed his decision.

In 1891, before reaching his decision; Hercules met a Quaker Home Missioner who had recently moved into Llandrindod Wells. B.J.Elsmere began a Bible Class in the lower assembly room of the market hall in High Street when Hercules was living in Caxton House. After discussing his concerns with him, Hercules resigned from the Calvinistic Methodists and joined the Quakers. He became interested in Quakers because a friend had recently joined the meeting at the Iron Room, Penybont, a meeting under the leadership of John Owen Jenkins, a farmer at Llwynmellyn, Crossgates. This was also the year that John Owen Jenkins gave the land to build Greenfield Chapel the year Hercules completed his apprenticeship and offered a permanent post with Mr. D.C. Davies with a good salary. Within a year, the Quaker Bible Class in Llandrindod Wells took the lease for the lower assembly room and began regular meetings for worship. They met on Sunday and Thursday evening and seven young friends of Hercules joined the Quakers.

B.J. Elsmere returned to Swansea in 1897 and Hercules Phillips was accepted from training as a Quaker Home Missioner. He attended a course in Northfield, Birmingham and returned as missioner to Llanyre Quaker Chapel and Llandrindod Wells, with the responsibility of raising money to build a meeting house in Temple Street. With two meetings, he began his Sunday with a morning meeting in Llandrindod Wells, returning to his home in Montpel1ier Park for lunch and in the afternoon, walking three miles to the Llanyre Quaker Chapel, where a congregation sang from Sankey and Moody hymn books. He walked home for tea and in the evening, conducted another meeting in town, often leading a service at 8.00pm for staff and patients of the local cottage hospital.

During the week, the evening activities in Llandrindod were Band of Hope, Christian Endeavour Society and a Bible Class. At Llanyre, a meeting for worship and a house meeting at a farm near Gwystre. It was hoped that Uandrindod Wells would become the centre for a Quaker Revival in Wales and many famous Quakers came to speak at public meetings, but membership began to decline from 1914. Hercules also had a concern for social issues and served on many committees, he retired from journalism in 1939, but continued to support both meetings. In his final years, he was taken to and from the Quaker Chapel at Llanyre by taxi until his sudden death in 1944.

Trevor Macpherson


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