Peregrine Phillips

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Peregrine Phillips  Pembrokeshire Puritan Preacher.

Peregrine Phillips was born 1623 was  the son of the vicar of Amroth who declined to read the “Book of Sports” and so therefore did not conform to the established Church of the Day. He was educated at Oxford and then was appointed curate to his Uncle at Kidwelly. These were troubled times as the country was torn apart by the Civil War from 1652 to 1658. In 1653 at the age of 20 he took holy orders and was inducted to the rectory of Llangwn and Freystrop where the eloquence of his preaching in both Welsh and English soon attracted the attention of the local gentry with more Puritan leanings.

Although he did not relinquish the Rectorship of Llangwn and Freystrop as far as I could ascertain he was preferred to the parish of Monkton by Sir Hugh Owen, Cosheston by Sir John Meyrick and Pembroke, St Mary’s by Sir Roger Lort. As J. T. Rees says in his "History of Protestant Nonconformity in Wales" (1861). Pluralism  was very common and many members held more than one Parish. At one time the Vicar of St Mary’s Pembroke actually lived in the Midlands at Stoke and the parish was served by a curate from Hundleton.

During the Second Civil War, when Cromwell was besieging Pembroke Castle, the Rev. Peregrine Phillips was living in the vicarage at Monkton. It must have been quite an unpleasant time for him as some of the siege cannon were sited in the Vicarage garden and the maid attending the cow had to do so with bullets and cannon balls flying over her head. Food was short and Cromwell’s soldier’s were not fussy so they searched Peregrine Phillip’s vicarage for food but he had hidden his flour in his bolster and they failed to find it.

At the end of the siege on Sunday July 16 1648, Oliver Cromwell invited the Rev. Peregrine Phillips, Vicar of Monkton, St. Mary's, and Cosheston, to preach before the officers under his command. Phillips must have known to most of them as living at Monkton he would see them every day. We don’t know what his text was although had he been preaching to those who searched his house one of the ten commandments comes to mind. Most authorities say it was to the officers he preached but one says it was to Oliver Cromwell and his troops, a very large congregation indeed.

His sermon was so impressive that he was invited onboard the ships preparing to sail with Cromwell’s army to Ireland.

During the Protectorate (1652 to 1658) Peregrine Phillips was a strong supporter of the the ruling governments religious policy. A very skilled preacher with very strong beliefs’ he preached both in English and Welsh both in many Churches but also before the Justices of the Assizes  at Cardigan , Haverfordwest  and Carmarthen.

It was probably around July 1656 that he relinquished the churches of Cosheston Monkton and St Mary’s as it was then that the Commonwealth ordered the uniting of the parishes of Llangwm, Freystrop and Rosemarket.

One incident led many to believe that divine providence was with him.

He was riding home late at night when his horse, with him on it, plunged into a deep coalpit at Freystrop and fortunately became wedged in the narrow shaft a few feet down. His cries for help were heard by the grandson of a local deaf woman who contacted Captain Longmans the mine proprietor.

The restoration of 1660 brought big changes to his life. He refused to conform to the Act of Uniformity of 1662 which would have meant following the order of service laid down in the Book of Common Prayer. He was ejected from his living and from the Established Church. But he was not the only one in the area.

The Vicar of Llanstadwell, John Luntley, a strong supporter of Peregrine Phillips was also removed from his living because he refused to comply with the act of Uniformity and he is recorded as returning to his former trade of hatter. He with Peregrine Phillips and four others from Narberth were prosecuted for refusing to attend the parish church. (A John Luntley is recorded in 1668 as establishing a non conformist church at Nolton. His trade was given as “the Miller”.)

Sir Herbert Perrot of Haroldston, a supporter of Peregrine Phillips gave him accommodation at Dredgeman Hill farm which Phillips converted in 1665 into an Independent house church. One of the congregation was Richard Meyler of Haverfordwest and Peregrine Phillips also preached at meetings held in Richard Meylers house in Market St Haverfordwest. This developed into a group called the Green Meeting of 50 to 60 people meeting in a small room on St Thomas’s Green of which Peregrine Phillips was the pastor.

Peregrine Phillips still had problems with the authorities but support from many others.

According to Protestant Dissenters in Wales 1639 - 1689 - by Geraint H. Jenkins;

a Brawdy husbandman appalled by the manner in which the Magistrates treated Peregrine Phillips, the Congregationalist minister, declared in 1684 that "he cared not a turd for any Justice of the peace."

At the age of 67 Peregrine Phillips was indicted with Marcus Bolton of Steynton one of his supporters, for his religious beliefs.

The following year Peregrine Phillips died and is buried near the pulpit at Haroldston Church. It seems a fitting resting place for someone who spent all his adult life preaching.

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