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A Clergyman's Library, Revd David Davies, rector of Cliddesden cum Farleigh 1813-1841

The sale of books belonging to David Davies at his death provides an insight into the life and interests of a nineteenth-century rural clergyman. History, language, travel, poetry, memoirs, essays – volumes one would expect to find on any educated gentleman’s book shelves are there, alongside books indicating Davies’s Welsh roots, a possible link with Gloucestershire and an interest in the Masonic movement.

            Medical volumes remind one of a clergyman’s role in ministering to the physical as well as the spiritual needs of his parish; frequently the parson was the only source of local help and advice in times of sickness. It would seem that Davies was a bee keeper and was interested in geology, though why, a married man, he had Essays on Old Maids is something of a mystery.

            Sermons predominate in the library; at least fifty authors some of which were multi-volume editions. Clergymen were expected to study and the number and range of Davies’s sermons, lectures and discourses indicate that he followed this edict. Paleys’ A View of the Evidence of Christianity,[1] first published in 1807 was ‘vastly influential’ with its exposition of Natural Theology and its ‘argument from design’.[2] John Townsend’s Three Sermons[3], addressed to old, middle aged and young people, Village Preacher (3 vols.)[4] and Village Lectures[5] suggest that Davies attempted to preach sermons that could be understood and appreciated by all in his country congregation.

            David Davies never intended his library to be sold. In his will, proved on 4 February 1841, six days after the sale on 29 January 1841, he left all his books and his manuscript sermons to a nephew by marriage, the Reverend George Louden Hanson, a vicar in Swansea and one time curate in Cliddesden, along with instructions for their delivery to him.[6]

            The will states that Davies held property in Burnham (on Sea), Somerset, including an old lighthouse and that he left a legacy of £5 to his lighthouse keeper. He also left £50 in trust for the school at Cliddesden, £30 to the society for the support of clergy widows established in Winchester and £20 for the poor and deserving of Cliddesden and Farleigh. A quiet country rector in some ways, an unusual character in others. Sadly, he was blind by the time he made his will.


[1] William Paley, A View of the Evidence of Christianity,  2 vols., 1807.

[2] Nigel Aston, ‘Rationalism, The Enlightenment and Sermons’, The Oxford Handbook of British Sermons 1689-     1901, ed Keith Francis & William Gibson, Oxford, 2012.

[3] John Townsend, Three sermons addressed to old, middle-aged and young people, London, 1797.

[4]The Village Preacher, a collection of short, plain sermons by a Clergyman of the Church of England, London, 1822.

[5] William Palin,Village Lectures on the Litany, London, 1837 (and other titles).

[6] PROB/11/1940/346, HRO, 10M57/C89.


Content derived from research undertaken as part of the Victoria County History project