James Davies (1765-1849) was schoolmaster at Devauden and played an important part in the development of the village during the early nineteenth century. 

 

He spent over thirty years as schoolmaster in Devauden during which time he was responsible for establishing the school and chapel. He gained a reputation for making many sacrifices and enduring personal hardship in order to help the poor in the community. The school itself was dedicated to the educating the children of the poor which at that time was remarkable in itself.

A book entitled "The Life of James Davies - A Village Schoolmaster" by Sir Thomas Phillips was published in 1850 is available from Google Books (click here to read the book). This book gives a detailed account of James Davies activities in Devauden and the surrounding area. There is also a review of the book in The Gentleman's Magazine from 1851 which includes the facts and excludes the sermons. It sums James Davies up with the phrase "apostle of philanthropy". Sir Thomas Phillips himself is most famous for his defence of the Welsh language and culture during the nineteenth century. He was also mayor of Newport during the Chartist Uprising in 1839.

The following illustrations appear in the book. 

James Davies

Interior of Devauden Chapel
Interior of Devauden Chapel

 

Interior of Devauden School
Interior of Devauden School

 

 


James Davies

provides a copy of "A Brief Memoir of James Davies, Mater of The National School on Devauden Hill, Monmouthshire" by James Ashe Gabb. Click here to read this book.

The following extract is taken from an autobiography by the Rev. Francis Busteed Ashley, Vicar of Wooburn from 1847 - 1885.

"I used frequently to visit Chepstow, St Arvan's and Tintern Abbey for the purpose of sketching....While stopping at St Arvan's, I went to Devauden, and made the acquaintance of James Davies. His life is a remarkable instance showing what the grace of God can effect. He had been in the very lowest possible condition of life, but on his conversion devoted himself to doing good. He collected children, opened a school, and taught in it himself; next he built a school-house at Devauden, a rather wild and neglected district, and I have seen him there amidst 180 children teaching them most successfully. When the children went home he used to put a smock frock over his coat and take a wheel-barrow to collect manure for his garden. He tilled his bit of land often by moonlight , and was so prospered with that and by his pigs that he frequently gave £ 5 or £ 10 to Missionary and Bible Societies. I painted his portrait full size in oil on the spot, and it is now in the Working-Men's Club at Wooburn. He was the means of rescuing Devauden from darkness, and before he died he had built a church and parsonage there. Dissenters sometimes tried to induce him to join them, but he used to say "While I can work eighteen hours a day in the Church of England, I do not see any need to change."

The book was published in 1889. Thanks to Brian Wheals who posted extracts of the book on the Wooburn History Website.

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