Born 15 March 1878 at Maes-glas, a smallholding near Tal-y-bont, Cardiganshire, son of Isaac Richards and Jane (née Mason). The family later moved to Ynystudur, near Tre'rddol. He received his early education at Tal-y-bont and Taliesin schools. He was a pupil-teacher for four years and, from 1897, was for two years a teacher at Alexandra School, Aberystwyth before entering the University College of North Wales, Bangor (1899-1903) where he graduated with honours in history under the well-known historian Sir John Edward Lloyd. He was appointed a school-teacher at Towyn (1903-05), Bootle (1905-11), and Maesteg (1912-26). Thomas Shankland urged him to research the history of Puritanism in Wales in Lambeth Palace Library, the British Museum, the Public Record Office, and the Bodleian Library. The results of his study were published in a number of comprehensive volumes, A History of the Puritan Movement in Wales, 1639-53 (1920), Religious developments in Wales, 1654-62 (1923), Wales under the Penal Code, 1662-87 (1925), and Wales under the Indulgence, 1672-75 (1928). As a result of this work he was recognised as the chief authority on the beginning of Nonconformity in Wales. He gained an M.A. degree of the University of Wales in 1914 and D.Litt. in 1924.
In 1926 he returned to Bangor as the librarian of his old college. He continued Shankland's work of collecting Welsh books and periodicals, and undertook'the task of classifying and cataloguing them. He then opened up a new area by obtaining for the library records of north Wales estates and preparing comprehensive and highly readable catalogues of them. Through the enormous labour of Thomas Shankland and Thomas Richards the Bangor college library became a first-class research centre for students of the history of Wales.
Thomas Richards had the gift of noticing people's idiosyncrasies and seeing the amusing aspect of a situation. He was unrivalled as a raconteur and a popular lecturer and broadcaster. He published several books besides those already mentioned and contributed articles to various works (77 articles by him appeared in DWB). He wrote many articles for periodicals on the history of churches and personalities, sport and other topics. He was a deacon at Penuel (B), Bangor, and was honoured as president of the Baptist Union of Wales in 1957. He received the Medal of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion in 1958 and an hon. LL.D. degree of the University of Wales in 1959. In 1912 he married Mary Roberts of Nantlle; they had two daughters. He died 24 June 1962 and was buried in Bangor City Cemetery.
Published date: 2001
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