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History of Bishop William Morgan

A visitor is sitting on a small, arched bridge in the countryside at y Mawr Wybrnant, Conwy. She is looking towards a stone building which has smoke coming out of the chimney.
A visitor at Ty Mawr Wybrnant | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Bishop William Morgan had an impact on the Welsh language and the way that Welsh people were able to learn the Christian faith. Learn how his skills were ideal for the huge challenge that lay ahead.

Who was William Morgan?

William Morgan was born in Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant in around 1545. He was the second son of John ap Morgan and Lowri who were farmers and tenants of Maurice Wynn of Gwydir Castle near Llanrwst. The family must have been well thought of as the young William was sent to Gwydir Castle to be educated alongside the landlord’s children.

A keen scholar

William later went on to be educated at Cambridge University, spending 10 years studying to gain his Bachelor and Master of Arts, a Bachelor of Divinity and Doctor of Divinity. He was quite a scholar as he also completed a study of Greek and Hebrew languages.

Queen Elizabeth I

A message circulated from Elizabeth I to have the Bible translated into Welsh. William Morgan set to work on this epic challenge that took him a long 10 years to complete.

His work was completed in 1588 with an estimated 1000 copies of the original 1588 Bibles being printed.

A selection of the remarkable collection of Bibles that have been donated to Tŷ Mawr over the years will be on display in the farmhouse. We are in the process of doing more research into these collections and improving the way we interpret them.

Visitors looking at a display case at Ty Mawr Wybrnant, birthplace of Bishop William Morgan in Conwy, Wales
Visitors looking at a display case at Ty Mawr Wybrnant | © National Trust Images / Arnhel de Serra

A Bible for the people of Wales

Welsh people had never been able to, nor allowed to worship in their own language. King Henry VIII had ordered that only English Bibles be used in Wales. Before that all religious services had been carried out in Latin.

The translation marked a very important moment in the history of the Welsh language and in the history of Christianity. After the Acts of Union in 1536, Welsh had been denied official status and had been banned from the spheres of law and administration.

Important part of Tudor life

William Morgan's book is claimed to be the most important publication in Welsh as it reinforced the status of the language. In Tudor Britain the Bible was an important part of everyday life.

It was often the only text that most ordinary people would have seen. William’s work gave the Welsh people easy access to biblical teachings and created a standard version of written Welsh for the first time.

Rose in the garden on a rainy day at Ty Mawr Wybrnant, Conwy, Wales
Rose in the garden at Ty Mawr Wybrnant | © National Trust Images / Arnhel de Serra

By the following century Wales had one of the highest levels of popular literacy in Europe. This achievement was largely down to the translation of the Bible into Welsh.

William Morgan House, Cardiff

In 2019 a new government building was named in honour of Bishop William Morgan. Being named ‘William Morgan House’ you can find this important building in the Capital of Wales at Central Square, Cardiff.

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