Former home of Rev Thomas Charles, Bala
This was once the home of Thomas Charles (1755-1814), one of the most influential figures in the rapid growth of Methodism in Wales. The plaques on the frontage also commemorate the celebrated story of Mary Jones, who walked here to buy a bible from Thomas (see below). The Victorian drawing shows the frontage before it was remodelled.
Thomas was brought up at Pant-dwfn Farm, St Clears, Carmarthenshire. In his youth he admired the education reformer and preacher Griffith Jones, learning about him from a neighbour.
Following ordination in 1778, Thomas was a curate at various places until he met shopkeeper’s daughter Sally Jones while visiting Simon Lloyd, a prominent Bala Methodist. When Thomas married Sally, he settled in Bala because she didn’t want to leave her home town and the family firm. Her financial support freed him to work independently. He taught in schools and joined Bala Methodist Society. His preaching drew crowds of 2,000 people.
The Circulating Schools which had spread from their Carmarthenshire base inspired Thomas to start similar schools in North Wales, with some classes held in the forerunner of Capel Tegid, Bala. He trained the teachers in his home here, supplied them with books, inspected them and paid them £10 a year. Schools in each community ran for six to nine months, teaching reading and writing in Welsh.
Funding eventually proved a problem, but by then the mushrooming Sunday Schools had become more effective, and cheaper, places for teaching children to read. Thomas again provided teaching materials, and the popularity of Sunday Schools helped to fuel the spread of Methodism throughout Wales.
In 1800 teenager Mary Jones (pictured as imagined by a Victorian artist) walked barefoot from her home in Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, near Abergynolwyn, to Thomas’ home in Bala to buy a bible from him. She had saved money over many years for this. Her route was 42km (26 miles) long, and her determination to obtain a bible was held up as a shining example for generations. It inspired formation of the British Bible Society, which is still dedicated to providing bibles for all.
In 1875 a statue of Thomas was erected in Bala.
His former home here hosted a Barclays Bank branch for decades. After the bank closed in 2017, it became the Bala office of AgriAdvisor, a specialist rural firm of solicitors and advisors.
With thanks to Peter Stopp. Sources include the National Library of Wales
Postcode: LL23 7AD View Location Map