GRIFFITH, George (1601-66)

GRIFFITH, George (1601–66)

cons. 28 Oct. 1660 bp. of ST ASAPH

First sat 20 Nov. 1661; last sat 2 Mar. 1665

b. 30 Sep. 1601, 3rd s. of Robert Griffith of Carreglywd, Anglesey and Anne, da. of Owen ap Hugh Griffith of Gwynwnog. educ. Worcester Sch.; Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 1619, BA 1623, MA 1626, BD 1632, DD 1634. m. Jane, da. of Thomas Cobbe (Corbet) of Grange, Hants, 1s. 5da.1 d. 28 Nov. 1666; will 16 Nov. 1666, pr. 2 Jan. 1667.2

Rect. Newtown, Mont. 1631–2, Whitford, Flint 1632–4,3 Llandrinio, Mont. 1633–66 (deprived 1650?-60), Llanfechain, Mont. 1633–4, Llanymynach (Llanymynerch), Salop 1634–66, Llanrhaiadyr ym Mochnant, Mont. 1660–6; preb. and adn. St Asaph 1632–60; chap. to John Owen, bp. St Asaph, 1634; proctor, Convocation 1640.

Likenesses: oil on canvas by unknown artist, Christ Church, Oxf.

As archdeacon, personal chaplain of Bishop John Owen (whose daughter married his brother) and the incumbent of three Montgomeryshire livings before the civil wars, George Griffith was no stranger to the diocese of St. Asaph when he became its bishop at the Restoration. A ‘kinsman’ of Humphrey Henchman, bishop of Salisbury and later of London, he was born into an Anglesey gentry family of a pronounced clerical tradition.4 In 1650, under the terms of the Act for the Propagation of the Gospel in Wales he lost all of his livings except for Llanymynerch. In 1652 he engaged in a public disputation with the Independent Vavasor Powell, which he extended into a series of tracts on forms of worship and ecclesiastical government.5 By the time of the Restoration he had acquired a reputation for ‘keeping up the offices and ceremonies of the Church’, and keeping a correspondence with ‘the orthodox’ in London.6 Probably close to Gilbert Sheldon, shortly to become bishop of London, in the autumn of 1660 Griffth was elevated to the bishopric and consecrated on 28 Oct. together with Sheldon and others in Westminster Abbey. With a meagre diocesan income of less than £280, he was permitted to hold Llanrhaiadyr, Llnymynach, Llandrinio and the archdeaconry in commendam.7 He had an extended family for which to provide and a loan agreement of 1663 revealed that he had given over £600 to support his nephew John during his minority.8 At the time of his death, he bequeathed some £800 to his immediate family.9

Griffith attended the Savoy conference in 1661, where he proved an active participant in debates on the canons of 1640 and revisions to the prayer book. His parliamentary career was brief but active: he took his seat in the House of Lords on 20 Nov. 1661 at the readmission of the bishops and thereafter attended the session almost constantly. He was also present at the remaining three sessions held before his death for more than 90 per cent of sittings. He was named to some 30 Lords’ committees on a wide variety of topics, both ecclesiastical and economic. During the 1663 session he held the proxy of William Roberts, bishop of Bangor, from 7 Feb. 1663 until the prorogation. Throughout the autumn of 1661 and spring of 1662 Griffith also attended Convocation where, on 13 Dec. 1661, he was appointed to assist in the copying of the prayer book manuscript; on 5 Mar. 1662, together with bishops Richard Sterne, archbishop of York and Henry Ferne, bishop of Chester, he was appointed by Convocation to consider the parliamentary amendments to the prayer book.10 During the passage of the Uniformity bill in 1662, Griffith, together with the other Welsh bishops, was given the task of translating the prayer book into Welsh. Historians of Welsh devotional literature have concluded that he undertook the greatest share of work on the edition eventually published in 1664. He also contributed to a translation of the 39 Articles published in the same year, as well as working on refinements to the translation of the Bible into Welsh.11

In the summer of 1662 Griffith undertook his primary visitation of the diocese. By the following February he had returned to Westminster for the start of the next parliamentary session, attending the House until the prorogation at the end of July. In the spring of 1664 he was present at every stage of the first Conventicle bill until it received the royal assent on 17 May.12

By 1666 Griffith was too ill to attend the House and his proxy was registered in favour of George Hall, bishop of Chester on 10 Sept. 1666. On 16 Nov., 12 days before his death, he composed a brief will naming only three family beneficiaries. With several of his children already provided for, Griffith appointed his son Thomas as his sole executor, bequeathed to him the bulk of his property and gave his two unmarried daughters cash bequests of £400 each. Although his dean, Humphrey Lloyd (later bishop of Bangor), would later hint that in 1634 the bishop had been involved in a property transfer of dubious legality, the charge is almost impossible to substantiate and is possibly a reflection of Lloyd’s own career ambitions.13 Griffith died on 26 Nov. 1666 and was buried in the choir of his cathedral.14


  • 1 Esgobaeth Llanelwy, i. 229.
  • 2 TNA, PROB 11/323.
  • 3 T. Richards, ‘The Whitford Leases’, Trans. Hon. Soc. of Cymmrodorion (1924–5), p. 58.
  • 4 Durham UL, Mickleton & Spearman ms 10, f. 2; G.M. Griffiths, ‘Restoration St. Asaph: The Episcopate of Bishop George Griffith, 1660–1666’, Jnl. of the Hist. Soc. of the Church in Wales, xii. 9.
  • 5 Griffith, A Bold Challenge of an Itinerant Preacher (1652); Griffith, A Welsh Narrative Corrected (1653).
  • 6 D. Lloyd, Memoires of the Lives, Actions, Sufferings and Deaths (1668), 600.
  • 7 CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 322.
  • 8 HMC 5th Rep. 422.
  • 9 TNA, PROB 11/323.
  • 10 Kennett, Register and Chronicle, 508; Cardwell, Synodalia, ii. 640–2, 644–5, 658, 661, 665; G.M. Griffiths, ‘Some Extra Diocesan Activities of Bishop George Griffith of St. Asaph’, NLW Jnl. xii. 300.
  • 11 G.H. Jenkins, Literature, Relig. and Soc. in Wales 1660–1730, p. 201; NLW Jnl. xii. 300.
  • 12 Jnl. of the Hist. Soc. of the Church of Wales, xii. 11; LJ xi. 604–21.
  • 13 Richards, ‘Whitford Leases’, 57–58; Bodl. Add. C 308, f. 125; Add. C 304a, f. 95.
  • 14 Ath. Ox. iii. 756.