Trevecka (or Trefeca), Powys

Trevecka, in the parish of Talgarth, Breconshire, was the birthplace of Howell Harris. In 1752 he partly demolished his home and began a building project with a view to establishing a Christian community there, modelled on those of the Moravians. By 1755 the 'Trevecka Family' numbered over 100 and when John Wesley visited in 1763 he described it as 'a little paradise', but later referred to some of the preachers it produced as upstart trouble-makers. After Harris's death it went into decline and from 1842 the buildings housed a theological college which moved to Aberystwyth in 1906. They were then used as a preparatory college for mature students but are now a centre for lay and youth activities.

In 1768 the Countess of Huntingdon also established a college at what is now College Farm. John Fletcher was its President and Joseph Benson its second Headmaster, until the dispute over Calvinism resurfaced in 1770. Following the Countess's death the college was transferred to Cheshunt, Herts. In 1905 it moved to Cambridge, where it was amalgamated with Westminster College in 1968 and survives as the 'Cheshunt Foundation'.


John Wesley's Journal:

March 1756: 'Before I talked with him myself I wondered H. Harris did not go out and preach as usual. But he now informed me he preached till he could preach no longer, his constitution being entirely broken. While he was thus confined, he was pressed in spirit to build a large house, though he knew not why or for whom. But as soon as it was built, men, women, and children, without his seeking, came to it from all parts of Wales, and, except in the case of the Orphan House at Halle, I never heard of so many signal interpositions of divine Providence.'

August 1763: 'Howell Harris's house is one of the most elegant places which I have seen in Wales. The little chapel, and all things round about it,are finished in an uncommon taste; and the gardens, orchards, fish-ponds, and the mount adjoining make the place a little paradise. He thanks God for these things, and looks through them. About sixscore persons are now in the family; all diligent, all constantly employed, all fearing God and working righteousness. I preached at ten to a crowded audience…'

August 1772: 'About noon, at the request of my old friend Howell Harris, I preached at Trevecca, on the Strait Gate, and we found our hearts knit together as at the beginning. He said, "I have borne with those pert, ignorant young men, vulgarly called students, till I cannot in conscience bear any longer. The preach bare-faced Reprobation, and so broad Antinomianism that I have been constrained to oppose them to the face, even in the public congregation." It is no wonder they should preach thus. What better can be expected from raw lads of little understanding, little learning, and no experience?'

August 1775: 'Being desired to give them one sermon at Trevecca, T turned aside thither, and on Thursday the 17th preached at eleven to a numerous congregation. What a lovely place! And what a lovely family! still consisting of about sixscore persons. So the good "man is turned again to his dust!" But his thoughts do not perish.'

July 1779: 'In this, and many other parts of the kingdom, those striplings who call themselves Lady Huntingdon's preachers have greatly hindered the work of God. They have neither sense, courage, nor grace to go and beat up the devil's quarters in any place where Christ has not yet been named; but wherever we have entered as by storm, and gathered a few souls, often at the peril of our lives, they creep in and, by doubtful disputations, set everyone's sword against his brother.'

  • John Wesley, Journal, Standard Edition, vol 5 p.25
  • WHS Proceedings, 12 pp.41-45
  • Griffith T. Roberts, Howell Harris (1951) pp.63-71
  • Edwin Welch, Cheshunt College, the early years (Ware, 1990)