Bevan, Rev'd James Alfred

The first rugby union captain for Wales, a man who has an international trophy named after him.

James Alfred Bevan, Minister, of St. George’s Church, Great Yarmouth and Welsh Rugby Union International, lived at 4 Alexandra Road, Great Yarmouth (previously St. George’s Church Parsonage).

James Alfred Bevan was born in 1858 in Australia. His father, who had emigrated, was a successful stage-coach owner living in Melbourne. Both James Bevan’s parents drowned in 1866 on a voyage from London to Australia when their steamer, London, foundered in the Bay of Biscay. Following his parents’ deaths, James Bevan was eventually brought back to Wales by his uncle.

Bevan played rugby union for Cambridge University.  In 1881, the England Rugby Union Board decided to host the first match against Wales. Bevan was appointed the captain of the Welsh team. The game was a farce and Wales were heavily defeated. 

The first Welsh team of 1881 that lost heavily to England at Blackheath with James Bevan (centre seated) captaining Wales. 10 of these players, including Bevan, never played for Wales again. Richard Summers played in that match and said of their outfit: "We played in ordinary, light walking boots with a bar of leather across the sole to help us swerve. Jerseys were fitted high at the neck with serge blue knickers fastened below the knee with four or five buttons. We changed at the Princess of Wales public house nearby."

The Welsh Rugby Union was founded shortly after the game. Bevan read Law at Cambridge University and became a solicitor in Bristol. He married Annie Woodall. Bevan was told that, if he wanted to marry Annie, he would have to give up smoking, drinking and hunting. This he did.  He also gave up his legal work and attended the London College of Divinity. Apart from the Woodalls, the catalyst for Bevan’s Christian conversion was an evangelical meeting held in 1886 in Bristol.  Bevan left the meeting under the intense conviction of sin.  He was ordained in 1888 and became the curate at Hampstead. Bevan spent most of his life as the incumbent  of  St. George’s Church, Great Yarmouth, from 1899 to 1936.  On the day that the newspapers announced Bevan’s death in 1938, Wales played Scotland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh.  A minute’s silence as a tribute to James Bevan was not observed.  It seemed that Bevan’s place in Welsh Rugby history had been completely forgotten. However, in 2007, a trophy was presented for the first time to the winners of the Australia versus Wales rugby union match. The trophy was named the James Bevan Trophy.  Bevan was an evangelical and a keen missioner and often led Christian missions.

Bevan oversaw a major restoration of the inside and the outside of St. George’s Church in 1932.  The roof repair was difficult, as the timbers had been largely destroyed by death-watch beetle. The roof was re-covered with copper sheeting.  James Bevan and his family lived at 4 Alexandra Road. The house was built in 1901 as the parsonage for the incumbent of St. George’s Church and remained so until 1936, when it became a doctors’ surgery.

James Bevan leading a Sunday school parade on Hall Quay. Unknown date.