Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"the backward and pagan county of Radnorshire"

The Religious Census of 1851 would certainly have added weight to the view of mainstream non-conformist Wales that Radnorshire was a pagan county. The bare figures show just 50% of the population attending a place of worship on 30th March 1851 compared with 105% in devout Cardiganshire.* Even the heathen city of Cardiff managed a 70% turnout. Only the Rhayader district 72% shows a degree of religiosity, while Presteigne 49% and Knighton 37% are firmly in the camp of the damned.

The figures have to be treated with a degree of caution however, because they are based on Registration districts not the administrative county boundaries - it's a difference that continues to catch out researchers today. Ten Radnorshire parishes were counted in the Builth district 61% and nine with Hay 65%. Meanwhile the Knighton district contained seven English parishes while Presteigne contained fourteen Herefordshire parishes including the town of Kington.

The figures from the 1910 Report on Religious Bodies in Wales have been published on an administrative county basis and these show little difference between Radnorshire, 40% of the population shown as being a member/communicant of a religious body, and neighbouring Breconshire 44% and Montgomeryshire 45%. Yes Radnorians still lagged behind the Cardis 64% but were well ahead of Monmouth 24% and Glamorgan 31%.

Radnorshire was no doubt a less chapel frequenting county - in 1910 the Anglicans on 41% of the religious still outnumbered the Baptists on 36% - but was it quite as pagan as the 1851 figures might suggest?

*The figure was arrived at by comparing the number of worshippers with the population, of course some attended more than one service and would be counted twice.

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