Monday, 5 October 2009


Catholics in the 16th and 17th centuries could be prosecuted, imprisoned, or even executed simply for being Catholics. Much the same as today, families in the 16th and 17th centuries had Protestant members and Catholic members. Such was the Gunter Family of Abergavenny.

James Gunter, of a Breconshire family, was a London lawyer who speculated in Abbey lands. In 1546 he bought the Abergavenny Priory and its demesne. Robert Gunter was his son. Robert’s elder son was Walter Gunter of the Priory who, in July 1645, entertained King Charles I when he visited Abergavenny. Walter represented the Protestant branch of the family. Robert’s second son, Thomas, was a Catholic. His house in High Street was sequestered for recusancy in 1648. He was allowed to remain in his house as a tenant because of his age (approximately 79) and poverty. Some sources say his wife was Mary, a sister of St David Lewis. Thomas Gunter’s son, Thomas Gunter Junior, was an attorney who lived in a mansion on Cross Street. Another prominent Catholic Gunter was Richard Gunter, a capital burgess of the town and brother of the recusant Thomas Gunter. A Mary Gunter (Waun Mary Gunter Farm) had her farm and lands confiscated because of her Catholic faith.

Thomas Gunter Junior was probably a nephew of St David Lewis although some say he was a cousin. A staunch and fearless Catholic, he had a chapel in the attic of his home on Cross Street. Witnesses claimed that more people attended Mass there than attended services at the established church. Two priests who were known to say Mass at Thomas Gunter’s were the Jesuits, Fr Philip Evans and Fr David Lewis. Both priests were martyred for their faith in 1679 and canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Thomas Gunter’s house on Cross Street was a fine large house, fitting to one of his family and position. Originally, the back of the property faced Cross Street and the other side, facing Priory Lane, was the front, with a large court enclosed by thick walls. In his deposition to the House of Commons in 1678, John Arnold, vicious priest hunter, stated that he had seen the “mark of the Jesuits” on the outside of Gunter’s property. The Vicar of Abergavenny, Mr Greenhaugh, said “there is a publick mark of the Jesuits on the outside of the building, which is directly towards the Parish Church.”

The last of the Gunters to live in the Cross Street house was a Walter Gunter who was known to be living there in 1717. Over the years, the large house was divided into four smaller ones. In 1908, Mr & Mrs Foster, the owners of the end house, were carrying out alterations when an amazing discovery was made. When the workmen began to demolish the partitions dividing the rooms in the attic, they discovered a secret room behind the end room in the north end of the house. On the sloping ceiling was a beautiful fresco depicting the ‘Adoration of the Magi’. This was most likely the altar piece and would have had the altar positioned below it. Mrs Foster had the painting photographed by Mr Bailey the Photographer, of High Street, Abergavenny. She then had the fresco carefully removed and, in an attempt to preserve it, had it placed behind glass and framed. For many years the painting was in private hands but, thankfully, it is now on display at Abergavenny Museum. The “mark of the Jesuits” was found here, too. The letters I H S, within rays and surmounted by a cross, were clearly visible above the window looking out onto Cross Street.

When the attic floor boards were removed, a quantity of papers was discovered. The dates on the papers ranged from 1674 to 1697 and some bore the name of Thomas Gunter. The writing on one of them said “Thomas Gunter, Attorney at Law”. These manuscripts are now in the possession of Abergavenny Museum.

On closer inspection of the outside of the old house, they found traces of a staircase leading from the chapel down into the garden. However, the “mark of the Jesuits” referred to by John Arnold and Mr Greenhaugh could not be found.

Today, shops occupy Thomas Gunter’s grand mansion on Cross Street. The only reminder of the good and heroic people who lived and worshipped there is a blue Local History Society plaque on the front of the building. If one goes to the back of the building, at the pine end of the house, it is still possible to see, just above the roof of the adjoining property, part of the lintel of a doorway. This was the entrance to the attic chapel at the top of the outside staircase of which traces were found in 1908. If you are able to disregard the Satellite Dish, it is almost possible to picture the Catholics of Abergavenny climbing that staircase to attend Holy Mass celebrated by St Philip Evans or St David Lewis. An awesome thought indeed!


  1. I am related to the great grandmother on my mothers side was Minnie Matilda May Gunter Tadley. Her line goes back through Aldermaston, then Kintbury and to Wales. Back to Sir Peter Gaunt d'Or(Sir Peter Gunter) A Norman knight born 1034/5. Known as "The Knight of the Golden Glove"..His crest was 3 gauntlets argent. Anotehr decendent was Col. George Gunter of Racton who aided King Charles II escape England after the Battle of Worcester....The gunter family line is na interesting one indeed.

    1. I am a descendant of Sir Peter Gunter (Gaunt d'Or) and have the family tree researched by my aunt, and my family have the family crest which displays the 3 golden gloves - as you say the Gunter family line is an interesting one and I may be able to add a little detail regarding the various branches for you. The documents trace our line back to 1066 when Peter Gunter came over with William the Conquerer. Peter Gunter was a Norman knight and companion of Bernard Newmarch who defeated Rys Tewdr in 1092 and gave his "barons" land in Brecknock. there is a John Gunter (1370) of Gilston who married Margaret, daughter of Gwilym ap Rees Lloyd and a Roger Gunter who paid subsidies in Racton in 1327 and 1332.

      The line of Roger passes to John of Pitney and Racton (c1405) who married elizabeth daughter of John Middelney then to roger who married Jane Pitney of somerset and Racton ob1436 who had 3 sons Giles whos son Edmund used a 3 gauntlet seal, William - hier to his brother sold Racton to John of Chilworth and John of Pitney and Racton ob 1474 who married Elizabeth, widow of Richard Hungate. Their daughter Margaret was the widow of Thomas Trougton then married John o fchilworth from the line of William of Giston.

      John Gunter follows through to William of Gilston (1400) who married Maud gr ap Owen gethin
      They are linked to three children -
      1)Howel of Gilston, 2) William who married Margaret daughter of Richard Knaston and 3)John of Chilworth surrey and Racton who married Margaret ( widow of Thomas Troughton (1525).

      William and Margaret (ne Knaston) had a son Hugh (1470) who was made heir to Racton by John of Chilworth. His son John of Gilston and Racton (1500) married Mary, daughter of Thomas Cooke of Rustington - her daughter Joan married Edward Banister.

      John of Gilston and Racton had a second marriage to Jane daughter of Henry Ayleward - coheiress of Compton Isle of Wight and there are the following issue named in 1530 Arthur of Racton (1537-1576)3 further sons John, William and Henry and 2 daughters Constance and Mabel.

      John of Gilston and Racton had a 3rd marriage to Jane, daughter of sir John Tirrel of Gipping sufolk who was the widow of Edward Lweknor and they had a son Jasper who married Emma Tyll of Chichester and Earnley.
      This son Jasper had a son Richard who married Mary Hewes of Cowley in Birdham and of Aldingbourne and Almodington and thier son Thomas (1611-1696) IT IS STATED IN THIS DOCUMENT THAT IT IS ALMOST CERTAIN THAT THOMAS THE ROYALIST HELPED COL GUNTER AT THE TIME OF THE ESCAPE OF KING CHARLES II

    2. Col Gunter 1618-c1661 descends from Arthur of Racton who married Margaret daughter of Stafford of Bradfield Berks. their son sir George (1563-1624 was Sherrif of Sx and Sy 1608 who's will is held at Chicester. His first wife Ursula daughter of Johne Bailey of Arreton IoW had a son John (1594-1624 (predeceased his father) who married Joanna daughter of sir John Knight of Chawton Hants. Thier sons was Col George Gunter who with Thomas the royalist assisted the escape of King Charles II.

      I have more - but the lines are wide and convoluted but basically the lines I have follow like this
      1070 - Peter Gunter of Tregunter, Brecknockshire
      1100- William
      1130 - William
      1170 - Philip
      1200 - William
      1230 - John
      1270 - Richard
      1300 - Watkin married heiress of Gileston by Talybont
      1330 -william of Gileston
      Jenkin 'hen' of Gileston which line continued to 1700
      1370 - William of Scethroc
      1400 - Lewis
      1430 - William
      1470 - Watkin of Porth y Parc Abergavenny
      1500 - James of Abergevenny Priory
      1550 - Robert of the Priory
      Walter of the Priory which line continued to 1750
      1600 - Richard of Monk Street Abergevenny
      1630 - Richard of Uske
      1670 - Richard of Cross Street Abergevenny
      1700 - James of Cross Street
      James of 'Gunters' London
      Robert whose line the Yorkshire gunters came to an end in the male line in 1980
      1730 - James
      1770 - William of Abergevenny
      1800 - John Gunter of Fulham (1788-1856) - he had 4 sons John, William Edward and Howel
      John had a son John William and his son Rolf was the end of this male line
      William had a son Howel William Hector who had 3 sons had Geoffrey, Charles and Edward
      Edward had a son Francis who's son Peter ended that male line
      Howel had Oswald who was my Grandfather. My father Peter Cedric had two sons Peter Mark and Christopher Howel.
      Peter Mark has a son Jamie and Christopher Howel as a son David Gunter.

      I have details of the female connections but this is enough to be going on with for now. I hope you find it interesting

    3. Susan
      Thank you very much for all of this wonderful information & for taking the time to share it with us. We receive many queries re the Gunters. Quite an interesting family!

  2. Hello Koczar Koenig
    It is wonderful to hear from you. According to our information, which, I admit, is scant, Thomas Gunter was related to St David Lewis. If this information is correct, it is possible you are also related to St David Lewis. In any case, I am very pleased to hear your news. If it is at all possible, I should like very much to hear from you again. Is there some way I could contact you, e g, e-mail or some other way. Thanks for looking in and for your extremely interesting comment. God bless.

  3. I have been researching my Gunter ancestors, who appear to have remained in the Welsh borders for hundreds of years. My GGGgrandfather was Phillip Gunter of Much Birch, only a few miles from Abergavenny, who married Mary Tylor in 1801. My branch of the Gunter family have largely remained devout Catholics right up to the present day.

    1. I am also researching the gunter history, but have come to a stop at his death 1851, cannot find his parents. It would appear that phillip and Mary had 12 children, where my line follows the son Thomas, then James, then George Henry, and to Charles Kippest my father, can anyone help please.

    2. Good luck with the research, Sorry I can't help further. I hope someone out there will be able to give you some help.

  4. Hello Helen
    How lovely to hear from you! Family history is an interesting subject. One never knows what will turn up in the family tree. Thank you for visiting my blog and for your very welcome comment. God bless you, Helen, and all your family.

  5. Hi breadgirl & Helen.
    If you would like to email me your most welcome.
    my email is

    Koczar (Paul)

  6. Hi Koczar

    It's great to hear from you again! Perhaps you and Helen are cousins - you both may even be distant relatives of St David Lewis. I hope you will let me know if you ever find that you are related to the Last Welsh Catholic Martyr.

    Even if you just drop in to say 'Hello' from time to time, it will be nice to hear from you. Any relative of brave Thomas Gunter is a friend of mine! God bless you.

  7. I am Evan Gunter; a relative to Thomas Gunter, my father recently visited the Gunter mansion. I look forward to traveling to see it one day for we are direct decedents of Thomas Gunter. This page has been helpful. thank you for posting this
    -God bless

  8. I am researching possible connections to the Gunter family, and wondering whether you have a Esther Gunter (AKA Easter) married to a William Jones, dob abt 1805 at Llanvapley where they lived.

    Also, can breadgirl and Helen contact me please with view of same info

  9. Hello Evan & Debbie
    I am sorry I haven't replied sooner but things have been a little busy for us for the past months. However, I hope to be back to normal with my blogging now and I am very grateful to you both for your comments.

    Evan, I am delighted to hear from a direct descendant of Thomas Gunter. What a brave and faithful man he was! I am pleased you found this page helpful and I hope you will get to visit Abergavenny very soon.

    Debbie, it is nice to hear from you but I am very sorry I am unable to help you out with any information on Esther Gunter or William Jones. However, you could perhaps try contacting Koczar (see comments above).

    Thank you both again, and God bless you.

  10. Hi Susan and Breadgirl,
    My name is Mark Thomas Gunter, I live in the Forest of Dean on the English side of the Wye, about 20 miles or so from Abergavenny. There are several lines of Gunters in the Forest of Dean, not all related. My fathers family hail from the village of Clearwell on the western edge of the Forest near the Wye valley. My great great grand father came to the Forest from Wales back in the 1800's i'm not sure from Where exactly but would like to find out particularly if we are related to the Abergavenny families. It's also interesting how there are so many Gunter families in the Forest of Dean who appear not to be related.

  11. I am Forest born Timothy John Gunter - I believe Abergavenny Davies' and Gunters are linked to Wonastow Church in Monmouth where a coat of arms is on display and a link with martyrdom. I believe a relative stated there was a link to Gunter of Racton/Col Gunter as mentioned in Pepys diary. However I have never researched this myself. My Grandfather was Howard Roy Gunter and his forefathers were all Royal Woodsman. If anyone can find any links it would be fascinating

  12. Hello Susan, My mother was Eleanor Gunter born in 1908. She was the Daughter of Howel Edward Gunter. Howel came to New Zealand around 1900. He had a half brother named William from his father's second marriage. William had a son Geoffrey. Geoffrey gave our family a copy of the family tree when my aunt visited him in Sherborne. and we have a photo of the coat of arms. From memory Howel's father was Edward. But in any case we are descended from John Gunter of Fulham. I would be interested to see your copy of the coat of arms. The one I have is not like the ones I have seen on the internet. This has a plain black shield with a white chevron dotted with 18 elongated drops of gold. On top of the shield is a stags head in profile with one half red and the other half black. The 3 gauntlets have misshapen thumbs looking like a dogs head, a horses head, and Hmm. Underneath the shield are the words Val y gallo which I guess is olde French. My mother said it means "as well as you can" but I think "Do your utmost" sounds better. The derivation of Gunter from Gants d' Or is also noted. I notice that some Gunters speculate that the Gunters come from Germany. Wrong of course. My brothers and I speculate that :
    (1)Pierre Gants d' Or was a mean blighter who got rich by beating people up. (drops of blood turning to gold (ransom)) Perhaps he and or his descendants were in the crusades.
    (2)The 3 most important things in his life were his horse, his dog, and his ****.
    (3) The red and the black represent Wales and the Black Mountains.
    I note that in Bernard d' Nue Marche's lists of knights, Sir Peter always comes first, and also he was awarded the biggest acreage of land.
    When I visited Abergavenny and Talgarth there were very few locals who knew any local history. Try as I might I couldn't find Llanigon, although I did find some huge brick walls which could have belonged to the garden of a gracious home. I found Tregunter, though, but only got to see the barns and the footprint of the old home at a distance.( the farmer wouldn't let me on the land because of the foot and mouth scare.) The Gunter Arms in Fulham was a disappointment as it has been modernised.
    I would be interested in knowing more facts about Sir Peter (was his name Pierre?)


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