BEVAN, Llewelyn David (1842-1918)


BEVAN, Llewelyn David (1842-1918)
congregational divine
was born at Llanelly, Wales, on 11 September 1842. He was the son of Hopkin Bevan, an actuary, his mother was the daughter of a congregational minister, and ancestors on both sides of the family had been well-known preachers. Bevan was educated at University College school, London, and London university, which he entered in 1858. He graduated B.A. and LL.B. with first-class honours, and entering the congregational ministry in 1865, became assistant minister to Dr Thomas Binney at the King's Weigh-House chapel, and in 1869 pastor of the Tottenham Court Road chapel. Under his ministry the congregation steadily increased and the building, one of the largest churches in London, was often crowded. In 1870 Bevan married Louisa Jane, daughter of Dr Willett, and somewhat later became lecturer in English language and literature at New College while still retaining his pastorate. He also stood for the London school board and won a seat in spite of much opposition. In 1874 he visited America and for two months ministered at the Central church, Brooklyn.
Bevan, though still a young man, had allowed himself to undertake so many responsibilities that he began to feel the strain of them, and his time was so taken up he had little opportunity for even keeping up his reading. He was offered the Collins-street Independent church at Melbourne, and the Old Parkstreet church at Boston, but declined both. In 1876 he went to the Brick Presbyterian church, New York, one of the most important churches in the city. But though successful in his work, in 1882 he returned to London, having accepted a newly-established church at Highbury Quadrant. There he had one of the largest congregations in London, with a men's meeting numbering four hundred. He kept up his interest in social questions, and four times was offered a seat in the house of commons. One of these included his native town, and had he accepted, he would have been returned unopposed. He felt honoured by these requests, but it would have been impossible to be a member of parliament and also keep up his ministry, in which he was doing excellent work. In 1886 he was for the third time offered the pastorate at Melbourne and decided to accept it, largely because he felt the change would be good for his growing family whose health often suffered during the winter months.
At Melbourne Bevan found a large church with an attendance of well over one thousand, two mission churches and a large number of societies. To these he added a literary society and introduced the holding of a mid-day service every Thursday. At the centennial exhibition held in 1888 he was chairman of the jury of education, which entailed much work, and he also kept up his interest in social questions. When the London dock strike occurred in 1889 he preached the sermon when the Congregational Union and the Trades Hall council united in a religious service at the town hall, Melbourne, at which the collection on behalf of the dock labourers came to £80 0s. 1½d. He was much pleased when the council of the Trades Hall presented him with a box containing the odd three halfpence. But again he found there was no end to his employments, and in 1891 was glad to have the opportunity of revisiting England to attend the international Congregational council, of which he had been elected one of the four vice-presidents. Returning to Australia Bevan shortly afterwards found Melbourne plunged in the financial troubles that followed the breaking of the land boom. With his usual energy he joined in the movement to help the unemployed, and he also endeavoured to popularize his church by inviting discussion after the services. During the federation campaign he spoke in favour of it at many centres. At the time of the first federal election in 1901 he was asked to contest Corangamite but declined to do so. As the years went by his church began like other city churches to suffer from the exodus to outer suburbs, and he felt that possibly a younger man was needed to cope with the changed position. In 1909 he accepted the post of principal of Parkin Congregational College, Adelaide. He was now 67 years of age and believed he could do better work in a less strenuous field of action. The college was for young men preparing for the Congregational ministry, and Bevan's wisdom, knowledge and wide experience of life, fitted him admirably for his new work. He died at Adelaide on 19 July 1918. His wife survived him with three sons and four daughters. There is a stained glass window to his memory at the Collins-street Independent church, Melbourne. He was given the honorary degree of D.D. by the university of Princeton. His eldest son, Rev. H. L. W. Bevan, was a missionary in China, his second son, David J. D. Bevan, was for some time judge in the Northern Territory, Australia, and his third, Louis R. O. Bevan, was a professor at the university of Pekin.
Bevan was a striking figure with a ruddy countenance and leonine mane of hair, which in later years was snow white. He had amazing energy, charity and optimism, a catholic outlook on life, and great powers as an orator and preacher.
Louisa J. Bevan, The Life and Reminiscences of Llewelyn David Bevan; The Argus, Melbourne, 22 July 1918; The Register, Adelaide, 20 July, 1918; The Advertiser, Adelaide, 20 July, 1918.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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