Monday, 21 January 2008

Aspects of Chartism: Dr William Price

Dr William Price (Llantrisant)

Reference code(s): GB 0210 WPRICE, National Library of Wales

Title: Dr William Price (Llantrisant) Papers

Biographical history

William Price[1] was born at Ty’n y Coedcae, the parish of Rudry, Glamorgan on 4th March 1800. He was the third son of the seven children of Rev. William Price and his wife Mary. He went to school in Machen. When he was thirteen, he was sent to Dr Evan Williams, surgeon, of Caerphilly. In 1820, Price went to study medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons. He passed the examinations of both the College and the Hall within twelve months. He returned to South Wales in 1823 and was a doctor in the Nantgarw, Treforest and Pontypridd area. As one steeped in Druidic lore, Price was a worshipper of Nature.

Later, he became interested in the Chartist movement and was appointed the leader of the Pontypridd Chartists. He had also been involved in the planning of the armed uprising Newport and was thus forced to flee to France. Price met John Masklyn, an English doctor friend of his college days and set up a practice. Price returned to Wales in 1840, took up residence in Eglwysilan and opened a practice combining a holistic approach with his version of Druidism. His first child was born of Ann Morgan of Pentyrch in 1841, and named her Gwenhiolen Hiarhles Morganwg (Gwenllian Iarless Morgannwh).

In 1860, he made his way to Paris again after a warrant was issued. Here, he was introduced to Pierre Joseph Proudhon, French philosopher of revolutionary bent. Price returned to Wales in June 1866, bought a practice in Llantrisant and established himself in Ty’r Clettwr. In December 1870, he met Gwenllian Llywelyn, from Clawddnewydd near Ruthun. On 18th January 1884, Price secured a place for himself in history. As the villagers were coming out of Church, they found him cremating the dead body of his five month old son, Iesu Grist. Cremation was illegal in the British Isles at the time, but his success in the court case paved the way for the Cremation Act, 1902. Before he died at the age of 92, he had fathered another son, Iesu Grist and daughter, Penelope Elizabeth. He died on 23rd January 1893, in Llantrisant, and his body was cremated, as he had instructed, on top of two tons of coal.

Scope and content

Deeds, 1697-1835, relating to properties in Bedwas and Maugham; correspondence, [c. 1825]-1884; financial papers, 1859-1896; pedigree of the Price family, compiled [c. 1865]; printed works written by William Price, [1838]-1871, including Y Maen Chwyf and Gwyllllis Yn Nayd; works concerning Price, [c. 1855]-1965, with press cuttings, [c. 1920]-1953; and miscellaneous ephemera relating to the Price family, 1859-1906.

[1] The following sources were consulted in the compilation of this description: National Library of Wales Minor Lists and Summaries, (1988); Meic Stephens Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales, Oxford, 1986; Cyril Bracegirdle Dr William Price: Saint or Sinner?, Llanrwst, 1997; John Cule ‘The Eccentric Doctor William Price of Llantrisant (1800-1893)’; Morgannwg: Transactions of the Glamorgan Local History Society, volume vii, (1963), pages 98-119; Islwyn ap Nicholas A Welsh Heretic: Dr William Price, Llantrisant, Aberystwyth, 1973; The Rev Dr John R. Guy ‘The Rudry Radical: Dr William Price of Ty’n Y Coedcae, Part 2’, Caerphilly, 6, (March 2000), pages 52-64; Brian Davies ‘Empire and Identity: the case of Dr William Price’, in David Smith (ed.) A People and a Proletariat : Essays in the History of Wales 1780-1880, London, 1980; National Library of Wales W. W. Price Biographical Index, volume xxii.

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