Skip to main content

Revd John David Davies: Anglo- Catholic Pioneer, Woodcarver and Local Antiquary F. G. Cowley Revd John David Davies, rector of Llanmadoc from 1860 and rector of the consolidated livings of Llanmadoc with Cheriton from 1868 until his death in 1911, was perhaps the best-known cleric of Victorian Gower. A shy and retiring man who rarely left his parishes except to visit Swansea and was reputed never to have taken a holiday, he acted as host over the years to a stream of visitors from far and wide. There were many reasons for the interest he generated. He was a local pioneer in promoting the principles of the Oxford movement, was the first to espouse that cause in the old deanery of Gower and among the first in the diocese of St David's. Many sympathisers came down to Llanmadoc and Cheriton to learn about these new developments. Others, like the diarist Francis Kilvert, were merely curious observers, anxious to meet a cleric whose churchmanship was so different from their own. Davies's remote parishes were ideal holiday retreats for Anglo-Catholic priests like Arthur Stanton who, because of their extreme views, had fallen foul of the bishops and other authorities. But Davies was not only an exemplary Anglo-Catholic priest. He was a skilled carpenter and talented woodcarver who used his skills to adorn his churches and raise funds for their restoration. Few visitors escaped a visit to his workshop to inspect the new- fangled treadle fret saw and the array of carpentry and woodcarving tools which he was still using into his late seventies. It was matter for admiration that he had built his own boat and sailed it on Carmarthen Bay during the summer months. Davies was also a local historian and antiquarian, fascinated with the history, legend and folklore of his native Gower. His researches were mainly enshrined in the four volumes of A History of West Gower which appeared between 1877 and 1894. He was much in demand to talk about the antiquities of west Gower and to lead excursions to places of interest in the area. He composed Latin verse as a recreation and in the last five years of his life successfully learned Spanish.2 Davies has already claimed the attention of a number of local historians. J. D. K. Lloyd (then secretary of the Cambrian Archaeological Association) was related to Davies's mother's family and contributed a useful article on the family background to Gower, VI (1953). Dr E. D. Jones wrote a short account of his