Dr. William Price (1800 � 23 January 1893) of Pontypridd, South Wales, was a physician and a famous eccentric, best known for introducing cremation to the United Kingdom.
He was a prominent Welsh Chartist and was forced to flee to Paris, France, after his part in the Newport Rising of 1839. He was an equally prominent Druid and exponent of 19th-century Druidic traditions, appointing himself as archdruid.
As a child, Price caused consternation by walking the hills naked. In later life, his list of eccentric behaviours included wearing a fox-skin headress, never wearing socks (which, he thought, were unhygienic), refusing to treat smokers, only accepting payment from patients he failed to cure, and washing every coin he received. He was also a vegetarian, saying that eating meat "brought out the beast in man".
He is remembered chiefly as the performer of the first legal cremation in the United Kingdom, which took place on 18 January 1884, when he attempted to burn the body of his five-month-old son, Jesus Christ Price (Iesu Grist Price in Welsh). The infant was the illegitimate son of Price, who was 83 years old, and his housekeeper. As part of his druid faith, William Price believed that burial was a sin against the earth and felt that cremation was a much better option, even though this was widely thought to be illegal in Britain at the time.
Price made no attempt to disguise his actions, and publicly declared that he would burn the body on a pyre of coal on a hillside overlooking Llantrisant. When he started to perform the Druidic lamentations, he was watched by a crowd who were largely opposed to him. Shortly after Price lit the pyre, the body was snatched from the flames and Price was arrested for illegal disposal of a body.
Price was prosecuted, but successfully defended himself. The judge at the Cardiff Assizes agreed that, under English law, an action wasn't illegal unless it was specifically proscribed: because the law made no explicit reference to cremation, the practice was therefore legal. Nevertheless, the case set a precedent, which led to the Cremation Act 1902.
Price did not believe in marriage, which he saw as the enslavement of women. However, shortly before his death, at the age of 92, he fathered a second son and a daughter with Gwenllian Llywelyn, his partner at the time.
Following his death in 1893, he was, of course, cremated on a pyre of coal, in accordance with his will. His funeral took place on 31 January 1893, on the same hillside overlooking Llantrisant. It was watched by some 20,000 people, most of whom were opposed to the cremation. The events made national news when they were reported in The Times the next morning.