Griffith Jones (early 1684 – 8 April 1761) was a Welsh minister of the Church of England and a promoter of Methodism. He is best known for his work in organising circulating schools in Wales to spread literacy.
Jones was born in 1683 or 1684 at Penboyr, Carmarthenshire, and christened on 1 May 1684. Griffith's father was John Ap Gruffydd and his mother Elinor John. Later in life, he married Margaret, who was described as a charitable and pious woman. He died on 8 April, 1761, aged 77, at Madam Bevan's home in Laugharne, where he had resided since his wife's death. Both were buried in Llanddowror church.
After village school, Jones became a shepherd, but then with the goal of becoming a clergyman he entered Carmarthen Grammar School. About 1707 he applied for ordination, and, according to John Evans of Eglwys Cymyn (1702–1782), was rejected more than once, but owing to the influence of Evan Evans, vicar of Clydeu, Pembrokeshire, he was at last ordained by Bishop George Bull as a priest in 1708. He was appointed in 1716 rector of Llanddowror, where he remained for the rest of his life.
Jones was an enthusiastic member of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, and in 1731 he started circulating schools in Carmarthenshire in order to teach people to read. The schools were held in one location for about three months before moving (or "circulating") to another place. The language of instruction in these schools was the language of the people, Welsh. The idea was met with enthusiasm and by his death, in 1761, it is estimated that over 200,000 people had learnt to read in schools organised by Jones throughout the country.
Jones taught people to read that they might know those things that were necessary for their salvation – the curriculum at his schools consisted only in the study of the Bible and the catechism of the Church of England. But in doing so he created a country with a literate population with a deep knowledge of the Christian scriptures. This in turn is believed by many to have played a key role in making the people of Wales ready to accept Methodism.
Jones is often thought of as the forerunner of Methodist ideas in Wales. He was a powerful preacher and he would preach in the open air, as later the Methodists would do, and bring upon himself the censure of bishops for preaching at irregular meetings. He lent his critical support to the Methodist revival, and was associated with the early leaders. Daniel Rowland was converted through his preaching.
His work was sponsored by the wealthy philanthropist Bridget Bevan, who continued to manage and support the schools after Griffith's death.