DISSENTING COMMUNITIES IN MONMOUTHSHIRE 1639 -1715 by G. W. J. Lovering In the nineteenth century, when Nonconformity became such a powerful force in the religious life of the county, it was often assumed that the movement had its origins in the Methodist Revival of the eighteenth century. But in fact Dissenting communities had been ineradicably established by the end of the previous century, and their formation over a comparatively short period of years comprises a remarkable episode in the history of the county. The advent of Nonconformity in the county was all the more remarkable as Monmouthshire before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642 was certainly not fertile ground for radical ideas of any description. An innate conservatism in the county made it unreceptive to the new religious, political and economic ideas that had found favour elsewhere. A traditional, almost feudal, loyalty to the leading families remained and determined the allegiance of most countrymen to the Royalist cause in the Civil War. There was a persistent loyalty to the Roman Catholic faith in the county throughout the century; medieval ideas like that of divination and the survival of rural customs that had their origin in pre-Reformation days were evidence of a lingering culture of the past. It is unsurprising that when, in the 1630s, Archbishop Laud insisted upon the full ritualistic details of the Prayer Book there was little opposition in Monmouthshire; the Laudian church service was far more acceptable to the conservative countrymen of Gwent than the Calvinist innovations favoured by the Puritans, who by this time were already a growing influence in the nearby city of Bristol. At this time Monmouthshire countrymen continued as faithful adherents of the parish church. It was an instinctive, if somewhat passive, allegiance and it continued despite the many abuses that existed within the established church. These were particularly evident in the diocese of Llandaff, one of the poorest in the kingdom, and the first of the seventeenth-century bishops, Francis Godwin (1601-17), was 'much discouraged' by the many abuses that had their origin in the manipulation of church revenues mainly for the benefit of local landowners. Lay tithe ownership the Morgans of Llantarnam shared the income of eight parishes had long been an integral feature of the system, and it was accepted by the senior clergy, including Godwin, who largely depended upon it for their own maintenance. Pluralism, non- residence and a lack of adequate preachers, against which contemporary Puritans inveighed, were an inevitable part of the system, and examples can be found of parishes in the charge of curates with incomes of less than £10 p.a. Some of the