Rev Wm Batten Death & Funeral

Death and funeral of Rev W Batten Wesleyan Minister, Llansantffraid yn Mechain

Despite his healthy appearance, his sprightliness and the bodily strength right up to the last week of his life, we have to record the death of the Rev. W. Batten, the oldest minister in the Wesleyan denomination, which occurred at Llansantffraid, September 1st, in his 86th year and in the 61st year of his ministry.

He was taken ill on 24th August; therefore, his illness was only of the short duration of eight days. We have no accurate record of the date of his birth, but the registers of Whitchurch in the Vale of Clwyd state that a child ‘William Beaton’ was baptized on 16th February 1779. Much has happened since that time when Williams, Pant y Celyn and Ann Griffiths were enchanting the old Methodists, the Bible Society had not then been established, Calvinistic Methodism was then still in its infancy, the country was in a wretched state and the works of the Welsh bards undermined the efforts of those who sought to promote Christianity. John and Charles Wesley were flourishing, and Wesleyan Methodism had begun to blossom.

The Sunday school had not then been accepted by the church generally and not one per cent of the present chapels had been built when the boy William first opened his eyes. John Wesley had been buried some 13 years before Mr. Batten began his public ministry, but the Wesleyan cause had been established and ‘Little Bryan’ as the old people described him – Rev Bryan Jones, Mathafarn – and Rev Owen Davies were seeking members when Mr. Batten began to preach.

In 1803, when in his prime – aged 25 years – Mr. Batten began the important work of his ministry and in 1804, or as he preferred to call it ‘The Great Year’, he preached his trial sermon in the presence of Rev Owen Davies, the Chairman of the North and South Wales District. Although one would have expected the young candidate to feel apprehension the Rev Owen Davies had no doubts regarding his ability, because in the gallery, opposite the pulpit, sat an aged character whose ‘well done’ was the most that anyone could expect, indeed equivalent to a licence granted by the Courts of the Bishop of St Asaph. The old man we refer to was about 65 years old, of a rustic appearance, with a striking and unusual countenance. His eyes were fixed on the young preacher throughout his sermon and his rapt attention showed that he was assessing what he heard with great deliberation. It was not surprising that the presence of the old man wearing a white linen cap sitting at the front of the gallery should be more disturbing than that of the district chairman – he was none other than * Twm o’r Nant. At the close of the service and the young preacher fearing the criticism of the famous poet, was about to leave the chapel in a depressed state of mind, whereupon Twm o’r Nant approached Mr. Batten and putting his hand in a fatherly way upon his shoulder said, ‘Well done my boy, keep up the good work’. The words were but few and may have seemed of little value, but the tone of voice in which they were delivered and the friendly touch of the bard were of great encouragement to the young man and he immediately felt himself to grow in stature having made his mark as a preacher.

Soon after this he was appointed to the Circuit which extended from Denbigh to Rhayadr and at that time there were only four chapels – Denbigh, Ruthin, Llanidloes and Rhayadr.  His zeal, perseverance and warm ministry earned Mr. Batten a high placing, not only among his own flock but also among the other denominations, indeed those from all strata of society consistently paid the greatest respect to the old patriarch. He fulfilled his preaching engagements to the end of his long life and occupied the pulpit up to the Sunday before his illness when he preached with much fervour and unusual effect on the text ‘The sower went forth to sow’ Matthew XIII v3. But alas his constitution was not strong enough to withstand the attack of pleurisy on Wednesday 24th August which confined him to his bed. To the end he was perfectly content, and the prospect of death did not disturb his peace of mind. Among his last words were, ‘I shall be content when I awake before your image. All is well, all is well.’

Thus, our old friend departed peacefully

The Funeral

On September 6th, there gathered, without specific invitation (by request of the deceased) as is usual in the neighbourhood, and despite the inclement weather, a large concourse of mourners.

At 2 pm, following a prayer and the reading of a psalm by the Rev. W.H. Evans, Llanfair, a lengthy procession formed in the following order – Ministers and friends in 16 carriages, mourners mounted and on foot, members of Llansantffraid Chapel, the hearse and relatives in carriages. Slowly the cortege moved on to Bwlch y Cibau Chapel where the family grave is located. En route, signs of mourning were manifest and the several women and children at the roadside looked on sadly as their old friend and father was carried to his eternal rest. At the Bwlch, many other friends and admirers had come to pay their last respects to his mortal remains.

In the chapel, The Rev. S. Davies, Llanrhaiadr read portions of the 90th Psalm and from the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 15. Following a prayer, the hymn, ‘Drawing towards Eternal Life’ was sung. The Rev T. Aubrey then addressed the congregation and the Rev J L Richards, Llansantffraid offered a prayer. This was an impressive oration by Rev Aubrey, an old friend and fellow labourer in the vineyard speaking under great emotion with the remains of his old companion lying before him.

At the graveside, the burial service was read by Rev Aubrey and all present sang the hymn ‘My friends no longer seek for peace’.

It will not be easy to forget the sad scene as the mortal remains of our old father were lowered to the earth to join his dear ‘Aili’ and children.

We cannot conclude our report without recording the fact that on the day of his burial, every family in the township showed the greatest respect towards the late Rev W. Batten on the day of his interment. Although he was a nonconformist minister, the church bell was tolled throughout the day showing the high regard in which the Wesleyan minister was held in the community. 

*Thomas Edwards, bardic name Twm o’r Nant, is one of the best-known names in Welsh literature. 

There was also a piece from (Histories) held by University of Wales and this was also printed in Welsh and I have had this translated by Howard of Montgomeryshire Genealogical Society.  I would also like to thank Hilary his wife for the emails with regards to this piece of work.  The account below is remarkably similar however, it does give one or two more facts and both accounts tell us the sort of man the Rev. William was.

Grave Stone of Alice Batten

Inscription reads:

Sacred to the memory of beloved wife of Rev. William Batten

who died July 19th 1861

aged 60 years

The Obituary

Obituary of Mr William Batten

On the 1st September, Llansantffraid, Llanfyllin circuit, the Rev. William Batten in the 86th year of his age, and the 61st of his travelling ministry, of which he spent 21 years of the above.  He was the youngest Wesleyan minister in Wales.  Mr Batten was a man of cheerful nature and very friendly, of this he kept until his last days.  He spent his whole ministry in constant hard work, but nobody ever heard him complain he was tired.  As a minister he was powerful, fiery, and very effective.  He was possessed with an exciting gift in his preaching and was popular; in his day he was very successful in winning many souls.  Over the time he was overseer, he showed that his care and his love for the cause of the Lord stayed strong in his breast.

A big loss is felt for him in this district as well as for his public labours.  On Wednesday night, the 24th of August he went to the meeting of the  ‘committee’ ( probably a meeting of chapel elders) in the chapel, that same night he was struck ill; and the second Thursday after that, after only a week and a day, he breathed his last.  The following Tuesday a big crowd of respectable men gathered to accompany his remains to the cemetery in Bwlch y Cibau. 

In the mournful procession there were eighteen vehicles beside the numerous horses and the hearse carrying ministers, preachers, leaders, church leaders and noted friends from the circuits of Llanfyllin, Llanrhaedr and Llanfair.  Before starting from the home, the Reverend W. H. Evans read and said a prayer.  At Bwlch-y-Cibau chapel the Rev. Samuel Davies read appropriate pieces from the scriptures; then the Rev. T. Aubrey gave an appropriate and effective speech, then he called on the Rev J. L. Richards to pray.  After this we moved to the cemetery, where the mortal remains of the once lively Father Batten was laid in the grave the service was terminated in the usual manner by Mr Aubrey. “The Fathers, where are they?”