HAD you walked through the hills of Llanbedr in the mid-19th century you may well have crossed paths with a remarkable man.

John Price was born in Bethlehem in Carmarthenshire in 1810 but would die known as the Llanbedr hermit.

As a young man he showed academic promise and impressed enough at Queens College in Cambridge he was awarded a degree of Master of Arts in Classics.

It is said he had been rejected by woman he had fallen in love with during his time as curate in Lancashire which affected him deeply and he treasured the letters from his unrequited love.

In 1859 he arrived in Wales as vicar of Llanbedr and Painscastle in the Wye Valley.

He arrived to discover the parish church in ruins and a small congregation with a majority of native people nonconformists.

County Times: Aberedw Hill. Picture: Geograph.

Llanbedr Hill. Picture: Geograph.

John seemingly struggled in his new surroundings and just two years later he abandoned the village and took to the hills to live as a hermit, living in a small wooden hut in the hills.

However poor fortune followed him with his hut burgled and burned down which forced John to move to a stone dwelling in the hills.

It was said John spent weeks running through the hills looking for his treasured letters from decades earlier.

John had not abandoned his parishioners and he endeared himself to many by paying for his meals upon house visits.

County Times: Aberedw Hill. Picture: Geograph.

Llanbedr Hill. Picture: Geograph.

However parishioners had no desire to rebuild the parish church and John instead became a travelling holy man, officiating weddings held on the side of highways for the poor and homeless

John also held special morning services for tramps and vagrants and gave six pence to any who would attend church service at Llanbedr.

Soon Llanbedr Church pews became known for its unwashed and unshaved congregation who were well provided for by their vicar who installed stoves inside the church to allow them to cook and eat during service.

Sadly as he aged his eyesight began to fail and the vagrants had made the most of his ill fortune.

As John had paid couples to get married at services conducted by himself many had married multiple times in order to receive five shillings a time from their almost blind vicar.

It appears John had not cared and was happy to host all vagrants into his home.

Such benevolence made John a beloved figure and eventually vagrants had come to politely refuse his charity.

In 1872 the clergyman Francis Kilvert visited the hermit vicar at his home at Cwm Ceilo where a poem hung on the wall stating 'A little health, a little wealth, A little house of freedom, And at the end, a little friend, A little cause to need him.'

County Times: The restored St Peter's Church at Aberedw. Picture: Geograph.

The restored St Peter's Church at Llanbedr. Picture: Geograph.

Three years later the hermit vicar of Llanbedr had fallen asleep and been burned badly after falling into a fire at his home but struggled on with his duties.

His years of hard work seemingly paid off when work began on restoring Llanbedr Church in 1879 with money raised by parishioners who had been so moved by the vicar's dedication over half a century.

County Times: The grave of John Price at Aberedw Church. Picture: Geograph.

The grave of John Price at Llanbedr Church. Picture: Geograph.

The hermit lived to be a ripe old age and is recorded in the 1881 census as living chicken shed at Pen Cwm.

In 1895 the vicar of Llanbedr died in Talgarth where he had been conveyed by friends who were forced to cut his clothing from his body which had not been removed for years.

Typically his final words had been thanks to those who had helped him and fittingly he was buried at Llanbedr Church.