Born 24 August 1631; his father came from Briton Ferry in Glamorgan, migrated to London, where he tended the king's gardens in Whitehall; there young Philip came into contact with Charles I's two sons and with archbishop Laud. His foster-father was Philip, 4th earl of Pembroke; in 1643 he became one of Busby's pupils at Westminster school; in 1647 he entered Christ Church, Oxford, with a scholarship. Thus the whole atmosphere of Henry's early life was unmistakably Anglican; for all that, he became a convert to the Presbyterian way and outlook, seeing no hope of a relaxed and liberal Episcopalian system. After graduating B.A. (1651) and M.A. (1652) he was appointed tutor to the sons of judge John Puleston at Emral in English Maelor, and preacher at Worthenbury chapel in the parish of Bangor Iscoed; he became attached to the presbytery nearest to him in Shropshire, Bradford North, and in September 1657, he submitted to Presbyterian ordination. Unfortunately, those days of religious anarchy were not very auspicious for the full working of the Presbyterian system, and Henry saw no objection to entering, like Baxter and others, into voluntary associations in north-eastern Wales with Independents, and even with men of Anglican affiliations. But the Restoration of 1660 laid a dead hand not only upon voluntary associations but upon classical Presbyterianism as well; before the end of 1661 Henry was turned out of Worthenbury by the act known as 12 Charles II, cap. 17 (not under the Act of Uniformity of 1662). As a silenced Puritan preacher he had to suffer in the days of persecution; and his diaries testify to the many schemes resorted to, some comparatively innocent, others depending upon discovering loopholes in the laws, to evade the disabilities of the Clarendon Code. He held out bravely until the Indulgence of 1687, except for the short interlude of freedom in 1672-5. As a high-principled Presbyterian he had little sympathy with declarations of indulgence or with conditional toleration; in 1672 he never asked for a licence to preach, but accepted one to preach at his own house at Broad Oak when it was obtained for him by one of his friends; his opinion about the Declaration of 1687 implied that 'God's intention was to do good by it.' When Toleration came in 1689 he felt somewhat peevish because he had to travel outside English Flintshire to secure the necessary certificate. His troubled journey came to an end on 24 June 1696. The Diaries leave the impression of a man somewhat too scrupulous about cases of conscience, but of his standards of life there can be no doubt - he was a Christian gentleman of unimpeachable piety.
His second son, who was born at Broad Oak, 18 October 1662, became more famous in Wales than his father because of his commentaries on the Old and New Testaments which were published 1708-10, in five volumes, bringing the work down to the gospel of S. John; he had completed Acts before his death, ready for the sixth volume (other divines became responsible for the Epistles and Revelation). A Welsh epitome of the whole work was published at Carmarthen in 1728, and a larger translation in four volumes was published at Swansea, 1828-35. Of less ambitious works of his, several were translated into Welsh, some by James Davies (Iaco ap Dewi, 1648 - 1722). A rich collection of the various editions of Henry's works is lodged in the Salesbury library at Cardiff University College. He had been a student at Nonconformist Academies, and had entered Gray's Inn in 1685. It was at Chester, and in the Presbytery of that county, that he did his great work as author and preacher. He moved to Hackney in 1712, and died on a visit to Nantwich, 22 June 1714.
Published date: 1959
The Dictionary of Welsh Biography is provided by The National Library of Wales and the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies. It is free to use and does not receive grant support. A donation would help us maintain and improve the site so that we can continue to acknowledge Welsh men and women who have made notable contributions to life in Wales and beyond.
Find out more on our sponsorship page.