The University of Wales Trinity Saint David celebrates Founders’ Day


On Monday, November 19th, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) will mark the anniversary of it establishment by celebrating Founders’ Day – a day of activities focused on the University’s Lampeter campus.

Llambed / Lampeter

As the oldest degree-awarding institution in England and Wales after the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, UWTSD is immensely proud of its heritage and looks forward to celebrating the birthday of its founder - Bishop Thomas Burgess – with a lecture given by Emerita Professor Christine James from Swansea University.

During the annual J.E. Caerwyn Williams and Gwen Williams memorial event, the former arch-druid of the Gorsedd of the Bards, Emerita Professor Christine James will deliver a lecture entitled: The creative memory: recollection and imagination of the works of Gwenallt at the University’s Old Hall.  The lecture will be delivered through the medium of Welsh with simultaneous English translation.  It will start at 4pm and will be followed by a Choral Evensong and a sermon in the University chapel.

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David – or St David’s College, Lampeter as it was originally known - was established by Bishop Thomas Burgess in 1822 to provide a liberal education to members of the clergy and it’s his birthday on November 18th that the University celebrates.  

Traditionally, Bishop Thomas Burgess of St Davids has been honoured as the principal founder and benefactor of what was to become St David’s College, Lampeter.  Bishop Burgess was a significant figure in the cultural, religious and social history of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and his early career was concerned with advocating for the emancipation of slaves and evangelistic work among the poor, although his major scholarly contribution was in the field of classical studies.

The University’s creation seems to have been largely his idea, but over the years until 1822 when the foundation stone was laid, he gained the backing of some 130 other donors to bring that idea to fruition, including the support of the reigning monarch George IV.

Bishop Burgess

The Foundation Stone of St. David’s College was laid in 1822 and its first students were admitted on Saint David’s Day, 1827, but the College’s Royal Charter of Incorporation was not completed until 1828 when it was sealed by King George IV on 6th February of that year.  Indeed, the King was regarded as ‘The Royal Founder’ with his Coat of Arms adorning the tower of the St David’s Building.

There was a long list of notable benefactors including prominent landowners but some of the most interesting figures are those connected with banking, commerce, industry and agricultural improvement.  Many leading humanitarian campaigners can also be included on the long list of supporters, including William Wilberforce and Henry Thornton who advocated the abolition of slavery.

John Burgess, the bishop’s elder brother and another benefactor, was typical of the new commercial entrepreneurs - he was the founder of the London firm, Burgess & Son, the pioneers of mail-order trade in sauces, oils and pickles.  Others included Lord de Dunstanville; Lord Carrington; William Henry Hoare and Walter Wilkins – all of whom were wealthy and influential bankers.  Innovative industrialists were also eager to contribute, including Thomas Mansel Talbot; Richard Crawshay; Benjamin Hall; Lord de Dunstanville as well as Lord Carrington on his Llanfair Clydogau estate near the college. Lords Cawdor and Dynevor – both of whom made significant contributions to improvements in west Walian agricultural practice – were also keen to help establish the new educational institution.

From the outset, St David’s College, Lampeter was supported by the new ‘middle class’ - innovators, businessmen, industrialists. Their money underpinned it, and the breadth of their interests is reflected in the works which came to stock its library.

The students were encouraged to think widely and think globally – a necessity for the new generation of clergy, many of whom would serve in the burgeoning industrial towns of south Wales or in areas where new agricultural techniques were increasingly being employed. The college library was not just for them, but also intended to benefit local entrepreneurs, and it attracted the notice of scholars from further afield - even Prince Lucien Bonaparte, nephew of the Emperor Napoleon I.

Over the years the Lampeter campus of the University has developed a range of subjects and enjoys a reputation for undergraduate and postgraduate provision in a variety of subjects, including Religious Studies, Islamic Studies, Archaeology, Chinese Studies, Classics, History, Philosophy, Anthropology, and Creative Writing.