The Welsh Revival Welsh Revival The Welsh Revival 1904
Welsh Revival 1904

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WESTERN MAIL, Dec 9th 1974

The Welsh Revival Goes Worldwide

J. Edwin Orr

About This Article

During his visit to Wales in 1974, J. Edwin Orr, then Professor of the History of Revival at Fuller Seminary, Pasedena, California, preached to a packed congregation at the Tabernacle Baptist Chapel, the Hayes, Cardiff. He wrote this interesting fascinating article for the Western Mail.

Inside Moriah Chapel
The Welsh Revival Goes Worldwide

The famous explorer, Sir Francis Younghusband, trekked down to Wales to interview Evan Roberts, who refused to see interviewers, but Dan Roberts, for his brother, told the distinguished General that the Revival would spread throughout the world. Instead, it fizzled — or did it?

A popular English biographer recently wrote that “the Welsh Revival subsided, like all revivals since the days following Pentecost, leaving a clear mark upon Wales and its people. England did not blaze,” A few years ago, the veteran Welsh missionary, Caradoc Jones, said the same thing, reflecting a popular Welsh opinion; but Britain did blaze, and the fire spread throughout the world,

The latest Welsh authority on the subject, Tom Davies, devoted whole paragraphs to demonstrating that the Welsh Revival was a religious expression of the peculiarities of the Welsh psyche. In this he echoed the words of a British historian who cited “the latent malaise and excitement in Welsh national consciousness.” As early as 1906, a French psychiatrist propounded the same notion.

That Welsh national temperament affected the peculiar development of the Welsh Revival none can doubt. But to make this a major factor is foolish. How are critics to explain the fact that at the same time the same manifestations “in power equal to the Welsh Revival” were occurring among Yorkshiremen in Hull? Or that special trains were running to the prayer meetings in Nuneaton, in the Midlands? Or that congregations were overwhelmed with excitement in Bristol in the West? Or that the streets of Motherwell, in Scotland, were packed wall to wall? Or that the excitement filled churches and emptied taverns in Lurgan, in Ulster?


The fact is that Britain experienced a revival of religion unparalleled In the 20th century. In some cases Welsh evangelists carried the fire; in others, British visitors to Wales caught the flame. The London Methodists declared, “Happily there is no need to use the phrase ‘the Revival In Wales.’ There is a movement in London, the Midlands, the North and the West,” and Scotland . . . . and Ireland . . . . and elsewhere.

The Bishop of St. Asaph told a conference of bishops that he had just come front a town In Salop where he had confirmed 950 new converts in a single church. The Church of England very largely supported the Revival. In St. Paul’s Cathedral, Cosmo Lang, later Archbishop of Canterbury, urged the Church of England to seek “oil for their lamps.” The Bishop of Rochester convened 150 clergy, who vented their feelings in singing Revive Thy Work, Oh Lord.

Only samples of events can be presented. In the town of Wigan, “the Holy Spirit descended on crowds of more than 5,000,” typical of happenings in Lancashire, in Bradford, in Yorkshire, 2,000 attended a single prayer meeting, with blessings unknown since Wesley’s time. The scenes in the mining towns of the North-East matched those in Wales, with the same peculiar phenomena.

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In Nottingham, as in Neath, there was “no leadership, no advertising, simply fellowship, praise and prayer, testimony and decisions,” and in a tiny town nearby there were 386 convents, including degraded drunkards. Churches in Birmingham reported a “movement unprecedented.” In Worcester, a densely packed mass of men, women and children responded. Thousands of marching witnesses in Gloucester were attacked in the streets by mobs from the taverns.

A single district of Bristol reported 3,000 conversions. Devon and Cornwall reported great revivals. Overcrowded services were held in Southampton, led by two young Irishmen, Frederick and Arthur Wood—whose son Is Bishop of Norwich today. Torchlight processions marched in the streets of Ipswich, and revivals swept East Anglia. Extraordinary meetings were reported in Greater London.

A team of Welshmen visited Glasgow, and soon Scottish towns were reporting revivals — 5,000 enquirers received counsel in the Tent Hall alone. Joseph Kemp, of Edinburgh, returned from Wales to see a revival begin that was still unabated after two years. In Fifeshire, converts were baptised in the cold mill burn during a snowfall—Baptists really were on fire; but the Church of Scotland reaped the major harvest.

In Ireland, the Presbyterian General Assembly acknowledged the awakening as the greatest since 1859. An awakening swept the Isle of Man, backed by the churches and by the Bishop of Sodor and Man.

What was the secret? The evangelist Gipsy Smith stated, “This great movement in Wales is whetting the appetite and making men examine things.” The Scot John McNeil added, “Audiences are easier to get together than ever they were.”

What were the results? The Baptists increased nearly 20 per cent. in England and Wales; the Congregationalists almost 10 per cent.; the Presbyterians 12 per cent.; the Methodist connections passed the million mark in active membership; the Free Churches passed the Church of England in communicants. The various denominational journals ran special columns of revival news, from Anglican to Salvation Army. There was a notable restraint upon social vices everywhere. Profanity and drunkenness were lessened, and illegitimacy showed a percentage decline.

Those who attribute the Welsh Revival to Welsh oddness cannot explain why the same kind of movement swept the Scandinavian kingdoms. Bishop Berggrav told the writer that the greatest movement he had ever seen was that under Albert Lunde, “the Evan Roberts or Norway.”

Norway’s parliament licensed laymen to offer communion to the great numbers of new converts. The Lutheran Home Mission In Denmark supported the opinion that there had not been “a winter like it since Christianity came to our country.” In Sweden and Finland, there were awakenings: in Germany and many another European country significant revivals.

Christians in the United States were electrified by the news from Wales, and the first similar outbreak occurred in a Welsh church in Pennsylvania where the pastor received 123 converts In January 1905.

Of the million converts won in the United States, only instances can be given here. The ministers in Atlantic City reported only 50 adults left unconverted in a population of 60,000. In Portland, Oregon, on the opposite coast, 200 department stores closed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for prayer, and “business was practically suspended.” In Paducah, In the South, the First Baptist Church in a couple of months took in 1,000 new members and its pastor, an old man, died of overwork.
The largest American Protestant denomination spoke of “Signs of the revival of the public conscience which . . . elected governors, senators, assemblymen, mayors and county attorneys of recognised honesty and independence.” Washington Gladden — the “father of the social gospel”— was satisfied that the general awakening was creating a moral reformation. In universities, as many as 25 per cent. were meeting for edification. Everywhere the influence of the Welsh Revival was noted. It was the same in Canada, and in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Wales provided the fuse, not the fizzle.

Were the Welsh the only oddities in a sensible world? In England, the influence of Welsh events provoked fervent prayer meetings, confession of wrongs, ardent testimony and dramatic conversions. In Scandinavia the Lutheran theologians decried the informality of the Welsh movement but the same things happened there.


Everything reported as “peculiar” in the Wales Revival was found in Missouri, where great throngs attended services. “Pulsations that have stirred Wales” reached the crowds in Melbourne. In New Zealand were repeated “many of the salient features of the wonderful Welsh Revival.” Phenomenal meetings in the South African towns were “an echo of the Revival in Wales.”

There was no glossolalia (speaking in tongues) during the first two years of the Welsh Revival, but the visit of a pastor from Los Angeles carried the fire to that metropolis where zealots of the movement experienced glossolalia; and from Azusa there, the Pentecostal movement rapidly spread until today it is a major force In Christendom with 20 million adherents. A visitor from Los Angeles took a spark to Waunllwyd in South Wales, and there began Welsh Pentecostalism.

Some stuffy churchmen frown on “sectarian” religion, but the World Council of Churches has ardently courted the Pentecostal denominations.

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