William Penfro Rowlands
William Penfro Rowlands was born on the 19th April 1860 in Llys y Frân, a small village in Pembrokeshire in Wales. He was a composer and also a schoolteacher too. He adopted ‘Penfro’ as his middle name in honour of his native country.
He was a talented musician from an early age and at age 17, he became the precentor of the Calvinistic Methodist Chapel at Gwastad. He gained a teaching post at Pentre-poeth Boys’ School and stayed there until 1881, when he moved to Morriston. He also became the precentor of the Bethania Calvinistic Methodist Chapel and later the same post at the Tabernacle Independent Chapel between 1892 and 1919. Here he conducted the large choir at Morriston United Choral Society regularly for many years.
Rowlands also played in many churches. He is most well-known for composing the hymn tune Blaenwern, which he wrote in 1905 and which was arranged for brass band in 2008. He named the piece after Blaenwern Farm near Tufton. This is where Rowlands was sent to stay with the family, who were friends. He was ill and it was thought that the fresh air here would help him recover. He named this tune in their honour.
It is often used as the setting for Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. This is popular at weddings, including that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton and at the blessing of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles. Furthermore, in October 2005, it was voted as one of the top 10 favourite hymns in Britain.
William Rowlands died on the 22nd October 1937 in Swansea. He is buried in the city’s Morriston Cemetery and a memorial stone was unveiled close to where he was born in 1998.