Saturday, 18 November 2017

"WHEREVER A SAINT HAS DWELT"

“For wherever a saint has dwelt, wherever a martyr has given his blood for the blood of Christ, there is holy ground, and the sanctity shall not depart from it though armies trample over it, though sightseers come with guide-books looking over it.”

So wrote T S Eliot in "Murder in the Cathedral", his play about the murder of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.
The Gunter Mansion, Cross St, Abergavenny
St Philip Evans
St David Lewis
If Eliot is right, then the Gunter Mansion on Cross St, Abergavenny, is indeed "holy ground" for here, not one but two, martyrs dwelt! Thomas Gunter, who had built a secret chapel in the attic of his Cross St mansion, kept two Jesuits at his home at a time when being a Catholic could mean death. His uncle, Fr David Lewis, and Fr Philip Evans, both stayed at Gunter's where they said Mass and tended to the spiritual needs of the Catholics of Abergavenny and surrounding area. Falsely accused in the fictitious Popish Plot, the two priests were martyred in 1679.  In 1970, Fr David Lewis and Fr Philip Evans were canonised by Pope Paul VI.

The Friends of Gunter Mansion are attempting to restore this important historic property.  To this end, they have opened a Pop-Up Exhibition in part of the old mansion.  It is open from 10:30 - 4:00, every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.  Entry is free (although donations wouldn't be refused).  Come in and meet the volunteers and, keeping Eliot's words in mind, learn about the courageous Gunters and the Saints who have dwelt in this venerable old building.
The Pop-Up Exhibition in part of the historic Gunter Mansion

Sunday, 5 November 2017

"REMEMBER, REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER"

Fireworks over London
“Remember, remember, the fifth of November” Ah yes, Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot!  Indeed we do remember. Tonight, bonfires will burn and fireworks will thrill children and adults alike as we celebrate the failure of the infamous Guy Fawkes and his friends.  More than 400 years after the event, we still remember so let’s have a brief look at what we are remembering.

In Tudor and Stuart times, conditions were very hard for Catholics in this country.  The imposition of Protestantism, the Pope’s imprudent excommunication of the Queen in 1570, Catholic plots, and various rumours of plots, were all making life intolerable for those who wished to adhere to their Catholic Faith. 

King James I/VI
When Queen Elizabeth I died, Catholics had a glimmer of hope because the new King, James I, had seemed more sympathetic to their plight.  Unfortunately, the King’s actions soon proved this to be a forlorn hope.  The majority of Catholics made the best of things and quietly got on with living in dangerous and harsh circumstances.  However, there were some who, fed up with living so long under such brutal laws, decided to act.  One result was the disastrous Gunpowder Plot, which is the name given to the conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November 1605.  In truth, the origins of the plot are unclear.  For generations historians accepted that it was an attempt to re-establish Catholicism in England.  In recent times, some historians suspect that the affair was the work of agents-provocateurs who wished to bolster the State religion and discredit Catholics in general and the Jesuits in particular.  If this is the case, then they certainly found an enthusiastic patsy in Robert Catesby.  Although Guy Fawkes is the name we all remember, he wasn’t the leader of the band.  Robert Catesby was the main instigator and he was joined by others, including Thomas Winter, Thomas Percy and John Wright.  Fawkes was recruited because of his expertise with explosives.
Catesby and Fawkes with their co-conspirators
In short, the plan was to blow up the Houses of Parliament on the day of the state Opening when the King, Lords and Commons would all be present.  To this end, 36 barrels of gunpowder were placed in a cellar beneath the Houses of Parliament.  Fawkes was to light the fuses resulting in the buildings, King and members all being blown to Kingdom Come.  Fortunately for King and Parliament, an anonymous letter had been sent to Lord Monteagle, a Catholic, warning him to stay away from Parliament on 5th November.  He showed the letter to the King and, on 4th November, an initial search was made of Parliament.  At midnight, the cellar was thoroughly searched and Fawkes was found with the gunpowder.  He was immediately arrested and the plot foiled.  Upon the realisation that the plot had failed, the conspirators tried to flee. 
Guy Fawkes being interrogated
Some died in the attempt and the others were captured and, most probably, tortured in the Tower.  On 27th January 1606, they were tried in Westminster Hall for high treason.  All were convicted and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, the usual punishment for treason.  Within a few days the sentences were carried out. They were also beheaded and dismembered.  Then, to deter any others who might be planning plots of their own, their heads and quarters were displayed at various points around London.

In 1605, after the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, the King passed the ‘Thanksgiving Act’.  This Act specified that every year on 5th November special church services were to be held in thanksgiving to God for the thwarting of the murderous plot.  This annual commemoration continued for two centuries.

A "Horrible Histories"
influenced take on
Guy Fawkes
In order to make history more interesting to young people, it is sometimes presented in a lighter, more humorous way.  Perhaps that is acceptable if it manages to convey the facts and awaken interest but really, there is nothing humorous about the Gunpowder Plot.  Its success would have brought immeasurable death and destruction.  Its failure brought increased persecution and death for Catholics as well as centuries of mistrust, suspicion and discrimination.  It was in the light of such plots that Titus Oates found fertile ground for the spreading of his vile fabrication,the Popish/Oates Plot, more than sixty years later. 
St David Lewis S J

Due to the Oates Plot many innocent Catholics were imprisoned, executed or died from harsh treatment in prison.  Abergavenny born Jesuit, Fr David Lewis, was one of the victims.  He was executed at Usk on 27th August 1679.  His grave, in the churchyard of Usk’s Priory Church, is still a site of popular pilgrimage.

So there you have it, briefly.  Yes do “Remember, remember, the fifth of November”.  Enjoy your fireworks and your bonfire but be careful and stay safe!      

Thursday, 26 October 2017

SAVING THE GUNTER MANSION


The Gunter Premises on Cross Street, Abergavenny have for too long been neglected but at last something positive is happening. The Welsh Georgian Trust has purchased the building and a group of interested people, the Friends of Gunter Mansion, is dedicated to restoring the property and saving it for posterity.

The Gunter Mansion, Cross St, Abergavenny (Photo J D Smith)
To learn more about this very worthwhile project, just follow these links:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/GunterMansionAbergavenny/about/?ref=page_internal

The A Board outside the Pop-Up Space (Photo J D Smith)

The Gunter Project Pop-Up Space (Photo J D Smith)
Just who were the Gunters and why is their former home so important?

James Gunter, born circa 1519, was the son of Watkin Gunter and Gwenllian Llwyd. James was descended from the Gunters of Tregunter, Breconshire, and it was his grandfather who had first settled at Abergavenny.  In 1536 he was admitted to Gray’s Inn where he trained as a lawyer.  About 1544, James married Ann Westcott.  In 1554 he was elected to Parliament as the Member for Monmouthshire. 

In partnership with his cousin, Richard Gunter of Oxford, James Gunter speculated in monastic lands, both as an agent for others and also on his own behalf. At the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, Abergavenny’s Benedictine Priory Church became the Parish Church and Gunter purchased the Priory and its demesne. 

King Charles I
James Gunter died in London in 1558. The Gunter family continued to live at the Priory for five generations and, in July 1645, his descendant, also named James Gunter, entertained no less a personage than King Charles I after the King’s escape from the Battle of Naseby.

Sometime around 1600, James Gunter’s grandson, Thomas Gunter, purchased part of the Priory lands and constructed a house (the Gunter Mansion on Cross Street). Little did Thomas know the vital part his mansion would play in the history of Abergavenny and of Catholicism!

Plaque on Gunter House
(Photo J D Smith)
Thomas Gunter’s son, Thomas, was a prominent Abergavenny lawyer and justice of the peace.  He was also a staunch Catholic.  This Thomas Gunter furnished a secret chapel in the attic of their home on Cross Street.  Here the Catholics of the area came to hear Mass and to receive the comforts of their forbidden religion. 

Thomas kept two Jesuits, his uncle, Fr
Fr David Lewis
(Photo J D Smith)
David Lewis, and Fr Philip Evans.  Fr Lewis was Abergavenny born and had links with many of Abergavenny’s leading citizens. The secret chapel was obviously not so secret because rabid priest hunter, John Arnold, reported its existence to Parliament. Mr Greenhaugh, the Vicar of Abergavenny did likewise. They described the
“mark of the Jesuits” on the outside of the house and reported the comings and goings of the Catholics who attended services in the Gunter chapel

Fr Philip Evans
(Photo J D Smith)
At the height of the Titus Oates Plot in 1678, both priests were arrested.  David Lewis was captured at Llantarnam and Philip Evans at Sker House.  In the summer of 1679 they were martyred for the treasonable offence of being Catholic priests and saying Mass. 

In October 1970, Frs David Lewis and Philip Evans, along with 38 others, were canonised by Pope Paul VI.  The group is known collectively as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

So, why save this wonderful old building? Certainly its association with the prominent Gunter family and with two saints of the Catholic Church affords it great significance.  It is a little known but very significant part of not only Abergavenny’s history but also of the nation’s history.  As well, its attic chapel, where two brave and holy priests provided for the religious needs of their fellow Catholics, should surely be of major import to Catholics everywhere.
Inside the Pop-Up Space (Photo J D Smith)
To keep up to date with this exciting project, remember to visit the links below.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

ST RICHARD GWYN


On this day in 1584 Richard Gwyn became the protomartyr of Wales. 
ST RICHARD GWYN

Richard Gwyn (White in English) was born in Llanidloes in Montgomeryshire, Wales, about 1537.  Richard studied at both Oxford and Cambridge and eventually returned to Wales and became a schoolmaster in Wrexham and then in Flintshire.

Richard and his wife Catherine had six children.   Richard was a church papist i.e., outwardly conforming to the Protestant religion while secretly holding to the Catholic Faith.  His minimal attendance at Protestant services was noted by the Bishop of Chester who urged him to conform more wholeheartedly.  The  pressure grew and Richard eventually gave in.

One day as Richard emerged from a Protestant service he was attacked by a murder of crows.  He was so shaken by this event that he returned to the Catholic faith and ceased all attendance at the Established Church.

Of course it was soon noticed that Richard was no longer attending the services which were demanded by law.  In 1580, he was arrested and committed to Ruthin Gaol by Justice Pilson.  For three months he was held there in chains.  At the next assizes he was brought to the bar and offered the chance to have his crime forgiven if he would attend just one Protestant service.  Richard refused and he was returned to prison.

After being tried and remanded several times, Richard was brought to trial in Wrexham on 9th October 1584.   Witnesses testified falsely against him and Judge Bromley ordered the jury to find him guilty.  He was found guilty and condemned to death. 

Two days before his execution, Richard was offered his freedom if he would conform to the State Religion.  He refused!  Thus, on 15th October 1584, Richard Gwyn was hanged, cut down while still alive, disemboweled, beheaded and quartered. His head and one of his quarters were displayed atop of Denbigh Castle.  The other quarters were displayed in Wrexham, Howlet and Ruthin.

THE MARTYRS' BANNER

Pope Paul VI, on 25th October 1970, canonised Richard Gwyn and thirty-nine other martyrs.  They are known collectively as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Friday, 7 August 2015

ST DAVID LEWIS: PILGRIMAGE 2015

THE ANNUAL PILGRIMAGE IN HONOUR OF ST DAVID LEWIS WILL TAKE PLACE ON SUNDAY, 30th AUGUST 2015.  THE CEREMONY WILL COMMENCE AT 3:00 pm WITH BENEDICTION AT THE CHURCH OF SS FRANCIS XAVIER AND DAVID LEWIS, PORTH-Y-CARNE ST, USK.  PILGRIMS WILL THEN PROCESS TO THE MARTYR’S GRAVE AT ST MARY’S PRIORY CHURCH, USK, FOR A SHORT SERVICE. FOLLOWING THIS SERVICE, ALL ARE INVITED TO RETURN TO THE PARISH HALL FOR LIGHT REFRESHMENTS.


The Church of SS Francis Xavier and David Lewis,
Porth-Y-Carne St, Usk

St David Lewis was a Jesuit priest who was falsely accused of taking part in the Popish Plot.  The Popish Plot was spawned in the disordered brain of one Titus Oates.  Although the so called plot was a figment of the imagination of the despicable Oates, terror and suspicion swept the country and many innocent people suffered and died.  Among those executed for their faith was Abergavenny born Fr David Lewis S J, (alias Charles Baker).

St David Lewis depicted in a stained glass window in the
Catholic Church at Abergavenny
Fr David Lewis laboured on the Hereford-Monmouth border for more than 30 years.  His kindness to all merited him the designation “Father of the Poor”.  Amidst the mayhem of the Oates Plot, he was arrested as he prepared to offer Holy Mass at Llantarnam, Cwmbran on 17th November 1678.  At that time, the law of the land deemed it High Treason to be a Catholic Priest and to say Mass in the country.   Having been found guilty of High Treason, Fr Lewis was condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered, the usual punishment meted out to those convicted of the crime of High Treason.  On 27th August 1679 he was taken from his cell in Usk Gaol and dragged on a hurdle to a place knows as the Coniger and there executed for his faith, his priesthood, and for the Mass.  The site of the Saint’s execution is near the Catholic Church in Porth-Y-Carne St.
 
The plaque marking the site of the execution of St David Lewis
The martyred Jesuit was given a decent burial, an indication of the esteem in which the priest was held by all classes.  His butchered remains were reverently carried in procession to the Priory Church of St Mary, Usk, where the incumbent was Phineas Rogers, and interred in the Churchyard, just outside the west porch.  Fr David Lewis S J was the Last Welsh Martyr.
 
The grave of St David Lewis, just outside the west
porch of the Priory Church of St Mary, Usk
In October 1970, Fr David Lewis, along with his kinsman, Fr John Kemble, and thirty-eight others, was canonised by Pope Paul VI.  Collectively, this group of men and women, who gave their all for their faith, is known as THE FORTY MARTYRS OF ENGLAND AND WALES.   

The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales

Thursday, 26 June 2014

THE WORLD'S ONLY WELSH JESUIT?

 
The  World's Only Welsh Jesuit?
My thanks to Joseph F Wakelee-Lynch, Editor of LMU, the magazine of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, for sending us this article by the only WELSH Jesuit in the world!  This is the link to the  article  which, I think, you will find very interesting.  You might also be as surprised as I was to learn that there is ONLY ONE WELSH JESUIT  in the world!  Anyway, follow this link  http://magazine.lmu.edu/archive/2014/my-take-ties-bind-us to learn about this Welsh Jesuit and his work.
 
 
 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A CATHOLIC CHURCH, A BOYS GRAMMAR SCHOOL AND A MASONIC LODGE


The Masonic Hall in St John’s Street, Abergavenny, occupies the site of an ancient Roman Catholic Church.  The Church, St John’s, began life as Abergavenny’s Parish Church.    A curfew bell in the tower was rung each evening to warn residents that the town gates were closing for the night.   Although the original building was taken down and rebuilt, the tower, which dates from the 14th century, still remains.   





The 14th century Tower

 
By the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-1541) more people were attending the Priory Church of St Mary so the Priory became the Parish Church.  At the request of the people King Henry VIII gave the tithes from the priory to establish the King Henry VIII Grammar School in the redundant St John’s Church.



 
King Henry VIII Grammar School opened in 1542. When the school opened it had 26 pupils, all boys, between the ages of 7 and 14.  The school’s first Headmaster, one Richard/Nicholas Oldsworthy, was appointed by the King himself.  Oldsworthy was said to be “learned and instructed” and had an M A degree.  A description of the necessary qualifications for a 16th century Headmaster might cause us to smile or perhaps even gasp!   It was pointless to apply unless you were “A graduate of one of the universities, not under seven and twenty years of age, skilful in the Greek and Latin tongues, a good poet, of a sound disposition, NEITHER A PAPIST NOR PURITAN, of good behaviour, of a sober and strict conversation, no tippler or haunter of alehouses, no puffer of tobacco and, above all, be apt to teach and severe in his government”.  Would any of you like to apply?
The main purpose of the school, as outlined in the Letters Patent, was the teaching of Latin Grammar.  The teaching was to be the responsibility of a master sufficiently versed in Latin.  He was to receive an annual salary of £13 6s 8d.  An usher or assistant master was also appointed and received an annual salary of £6 13s 4d. 
Grammar Schools in the 16th century accepted boys from the age of seven and they usually attended for six or seven years.  In summer the school day began at 6:00 am and continued until 11:00am.   The afternoon session was from 1:00pm, ending at 6:00pm.  Due to winter darkness, things were a little easier in winter.  Classes didn’t begin until 7:00am with the usual break at 11:00am.  Back again at 1:00pm, classes broke up early – at 5:00pm!    Just as today, the boys looked forward to their school holidays.  Twice a year they enjoyed a break of about fifteen days!
The boys had to supply their own candle and slate and they spent their days in the study of Latin grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, poetry and astronomy.  If a boy misbehaved, he was put into a basket and hoisted up to the rafters.  Here he remained for the rest of the day. 







A Naughty Boy in a Basket!

King Henry VIII Grammar School, Abergavenny, can claim many prominent Old Boys.  The school numbers among its former pupils Dr David Lewis, first Principal of Jesus College, Oxford, Dom Augustine Baker, Benedictine writer and mystic, and St David Lewis, the Jesuit Martyr. 


 
St David Lewis was born in Abergavenny in 1616 to Morgan Lewis and Margaret Pritchard.  Margaret Pritchard was a devout Catholic but her husband conformed to the new Established Religion.  Eight of their nine children were brought up as Catholics.  Morgan Lewis ensured that their youngest, David, was brought up in the Protestant Religion.
Morgan Lewis was Headmaster of King Henry VIII Grammar School and his youngest son attended his school.  Since Morgan’s wife was a Catholic and there were a number of recusant children attending the school, Morgan and the school came under suspicion of being a centre of recusancy in Monmouthshire.   William Herbert of Coldbrook was not a particularly influential member of Monmouthshire society so it is quite likely that his ties to William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, account for his election for Monmouthshire in 1626.  Mr Herbert, known to be a ‘godly Protestant’, was nominated to committees for bills to direct the true conformity of popish recusants.  He was the Member of Parliament who alerted the Committee of Religion to the suspicions of popery surrounding Morgan Lewis.  Subsequently, questions arose in the Parliament of 1626.  However, Morgan was reported to be “very conformable” and he and his career were able to survive the questioning.
This building housed the King Henry VIII Grammar School until 1898 when a new school was built at Pen-y-Pound.   The former Catholic Church, turned Grammar School, became a Masonic Lodge.
Holy Trinity Church in Baker St, Abergavenny, is a pretty and welcoming church erected and endowed by Miss Rachael Herbert in 1840.   Miss Herbert was the daughter of Charles Herbert who made a fortune as a dealer in iron in Abergavenny and was a descendant of William Herbert.  Although a relatively ‘new’ church, Holy Trinity has some very interesting historic links.
 
The stone slab of Holy Trinity’s present altar was originally that of the ancient parish church of St John.  It was discovered by Iltyd Gardner and Fred Gardner walled up in a chimney breast of the old Cow Inn in Neville Street.  





The Former Cow Inn




The Plaque on the former Cow Inn, Neville Street

The Gardners presented this valuable piece of Abergavenny History to Holy Trinity Church.  The consecration marks, roughly cut, are still visible in the stone. 


The original Altar Stone from the ancient Church of St John,
in Holy Trinity Church, Abergavenny

In the sanctuary of Holy Trinity one can see an early English piscina. This piscina was found in the wall of the north transept of the old St John’s Church and presented to the church by the Worshipful Master and Brethren of the St John’s Lodge of Freemasons.
 
The Piscina from St John's Church, in Holy Trinity Church, Abergavenny
Catholic Church; Boys' Grammar School; Masonic Lodge.  If only this building could talk!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

MORE FROM HANNAH ON THE CWM LIBRARY

THE CWM
Hannah Thomas is still finding some extremely interesting facts about the Jesuit College of St Francis Xavier at the Cwm.  Her blog, The Cwm Jesuit Library at Hereford Cathedral,  is a mine of information and any history buffs out there would be doing themselves a great favour to look in to her latest posts.  You will find some riveting reading there.  Here is a link to her latest post.  Click here and treat yourself!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

BETRAYAL AND ARREST AT LLANTARNAM, CWMBRAN


On this day 335 years ago a good and innocent man was betrayed by so called friends.  This act of treachery was perpetrated on the Welsh Jesuit, Fr David Lewis, as he prepared to celebrate holy Mass at Llantarnam, Cwmbran.  In those sad and turbulent times it was against the law to practise the Catholic Religion in the country.  It was deemed high treason to be a Catholic priest, to remain in the country and to celebrate Mass.  However, Fr Lewis, along with many other courageous priests, remained and tended to the needs of the harassed Catholics the length and breadth of the poor benighted country. 

The Church of St Michael and All Angels, Llantarnam, Cwmbran.  This ancient church is opposite the spot where St David Lewis was arrested on 17th  November 1678.  The Public Footpath which runs beside the church is believed to have been in use for hundreds of years.  If this is correct, then it is quite possible that St David Lewis tread this path on his visits to Llantarnam Abbey where he lived for a time with his relatives, the Morgans, and said Mass in their private chapel for the Catholics of the surrounding area.

 
John Arnold of Llanvihangel Court was a Justice of the Peace and a Member of Parliament.  Although he was a staunch adherent of the new State Religion and an avid priest hunter, Arnold had always shown friendship towards David Lewis and the Jesuit seems to have trusted the man and believed the friendship to be genuine.  Sadly, John Arnold was not to be trusted and on Sunday, 17th November 1678, the perfidious Arnold sent his goons to arrest the hapless priest.  The following is an account of the arrest, written by Fr Lewis himself:
 
“After my full thirty years poor missionary labours in South Wales, on Sunday morning, a little before day, being the 17th November 1678, I was taken by six armed men sent by Mr John Arnold and Mr Charles Price, until then my two very good friends and acquaintances. I was taken in a little house in the parish of St Michael-Llantarnam in the County of Monmouth. From thence by the soldiers, together with such church stuff of mine they there found, carried I was to the house of Mr Charles Price in Llanfoist”



This plaque at the Old Post Office (now a private house) was erected in 2007.  
The plaque marks the site where St David Lewis was
arrested on 17th November 1678.

 
On 27th August 1679, after a fixed trial and nine months of incarceration, Fr David Lewis was slaughtered at Usk.  His only crime was to be a Catholic priest who said Mass.  History records for us that the charge against the priest was “David Lewis pro Sacerd Roman”, that is “David Lewis for being a Roman Priest”.   We also have the words of Judge Atkins, the trial judge, who stated; “It is enough that you have exercised the functions of a priest in copes and vestments used in your Church, and that you shall have read Mass and taken Confessions.   HE THAT USES TO READ MASS COMMITS TREASON!”
 
In October 1970, Pope Paul VI canonised the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.  The Welsh Jesuit, Fr David Lewis, was among them.  Today, on this 335th anniversary of the arrest of St David Lewis at Llantarnam, let us be inspired by his heroism, bravery and faithfulness and pray for our Christian brethren in various parts of the world who are still suffering persecution for the sake of their Christian faith.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

ANNUAL PILGRIMAGE IN HONOUR OF ST DAVID LEWIS

St John Kemble and St David Lewis were kinsmen.   David Lewis was a Jesuit priest and John Kemble a secular priest.   Both priests served the Welsh Mission in a time when to be a Catholic was to risk much but to be a Catholic priest was to risk all!   During the Titus Oates Plot the cousins were arrested, tried and convicted of High Treason. To be a Catholic priest and to say Mass was considered High Treason! They were sentenced to the usual punishment for High Treason, to be hanged, drawn and quartered.   On 22nd August 1679 eighty year old Fr John Kemble was executed at Widemarsh Common, Hereford. Just five days later, on 27th August 1679 David Lewis was executed at Usk. He is the LAST WELSH MARTYR. 
 
On 25th October 1970, Pope Paul VI canonised John Kemble and David Lewis along with thirty-eight other Martyrs. Collectively they are known as The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
 

 

This year, the Annual pilgrimage in honour of ST DAVID LEWIS will take place on SUNDAY 25th AUGUST 2013.
3:00 p m: Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at Catholic Church of St Francis Xavier and St David Lewis, Porth-y-Carne Street, Usk.  Following Benediction, pilgrims will process from the Church to the grave of St David Lewis in the churchyard of St Mary's Priory Church, Usk.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT!

Just thought you would enjoy this photo.

ANNUAL PILGRIMAGE IN HONOUR OF ST JOHN KEMBLE, 2013


ANNUAL PILGRIMAGE IN HONOUR OF ST JOHN KEMBLE – 2013
 
 
The Martyrdom of St John Kemble
 
This year, the Annual Pilgrimage in honour of St John Kemble will take place on SUNDAY 18th AUGUST 2013.  The pilgrimage begins with pilgrims setting off from St Mary’s Catholic Church, Monmouth after the 9 a m Mass at approximately 10 a m.   If you are planning to join this part of the Pilgrimage, be sure to take a packed lunch and suitable clothing!
Meet at 3 p m for readings and prayers at the Martyr’s grave in the churchyard at Welsh Newton.
Return to St Mary’s Church, Monmouth for Benediction at 4:15 p m.  Refreshments will be served in the garden following Benediction.
It is not compulsory to complete all stages of the pilgrimage and you are welcome to join the pilgrimage at either event.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

AN UNEXPECTED DISCOVERY

A recent visit to pretty little Grosmont provided us with an unexpected discovery.  
 
Gravestone of Charles William/s and Joan Baker
 
 
Details of the Gravestone, displayed to the left of the stone. 
 Is this where the Gabb branch of the family originated?
 

Grosmont is a village located near the Welsh/English border.  Not far from Abergavenny, Grosmont is a small village but, as well as pretty, it is full of history.   As we explored the ancient parish church we came upon a memorial of particular interest to  this blog.  The Church of St Nicholas was built around the 13th century but it was restored in the mid 19th century.  We spent a good hour or more exploring its many interesting features.  We were saddened to learn that part of a medieval crucifix which had been displayed in the church was stolen recently. 
 
St David Lewis, to whom this blog is dedicated, was born in Abergavenny into a large and prominent family.  Like families today, his family was a mixture of Catholic and Protestant members.    Descended from Lewys Wallis, a Protestant Vicar of St Mary's Priory Church, Abergavenny, David was brought up in the Established Church by his Anglican father, Morgan Lewis.  However, David's mother, Margaret Pritchard, was a Catholic and she brought his eight siblings up in the Catholic faith.
 
When he was about sixteen years of age, David spent some time in Paris and, while there, he converted to Catholicism.  After the death of his parents in 1638 David entered the English College in Rome where he commenced studies for the priesthood.  Several years after his ordination, Fr Lewis joined the Jesuits.  He was eventually assigned to the English Mission.   Because of the Penal Laws against Catholics, which were in force at that time, he worked under the alias of Charles Baker.  After more than thirty years of serving the Catholics of South Wales, Fr David Lewis was arrested at Llantarnam on 17th  November 1678.  He was imprisoned first in Monmouth Gaol then later transferred to Usk Gaol.  Found guilty of being a Catholic Priest and saying Mass, which was considered High Treason, he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.  On 27th August 1679, Fr David Lewis S J was taken from his cell in Usk Gaol, tied head down to a hurdle and dragged along the River Path to his execution.  He was buried in the churchyard of St Mary's Priory Church, Usk.  In October 1970, he was canonised as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.  
 
We are always interested in any connection to St David Lewis and it was in the Church of St Nicholas at Grosmont that we found a lovely connection, a monument to a cousin of St David Lewis!  The old gravestone of Charles William/s and his wife Joan Baker is mounted on the wall at the rear of the church and details are given on a display to the left of the stone.  I was surprised and delighted to find that Joan Baker was a cousin of St David Lewis.  I have done a rough chart to show the relationship of the two.
 
This chart shows the relationship between
Joan Baker and St David Lewis
 
If you are interested in St David Lewis, you would find a trip to Grosmont rewarding.  If you aren't interested in St David Lewis, you would still find a trip to Grosmont rewarding!  As well as the ancient church you can explore the equally ancient castle and  the pretty, well kept village. You can then relax in the friendly atmosphere of  Gentle Jane's with a delicious cake and a steaming drink.  All in all, a visit to Grosmont is a pleasure not to be missed.
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