Monday, 12 October 2009


In January 1679, the new High Sheriff, James Herbert of Coldbrook, decided to move the County Gaol from Monmouth, where Fr David Lewis was imprisoned, to Usk. On 13th January, Fr Lewis was taken to Usk by the Head Gaoler and the Under Sheriff. It was a terrible day for travel, snowing heavily and bitterly cold. The group stopped at an inn in Raglan to warm and refresh themselves. While there, Fr Lewis received some news which must have caused him great sadness. Fr Lewis wrote; “Whilst I was in Raglan, a messenger came to the door of the inn, desiring to speak with me on urgent business. A very good friend of mine, one Mr Ignatius alias Walter Price, lay dying about half a mile away. He had undergone much hardship from hunger and cold and lay dying. He desired to see me. But I was quite unable to perform the friendly duty, as I was under the actual custody of the officers. So I only sent him my true and best wishes for his soul’s happy passage out of this turbulent world to an eternity of rest.” Fr Price, S J, died the next day.

Usk Gaol, or Old Bridewell, was situated on Bridge Street. This site, 28 Bridge Street, was opened in the mid 1600s and served until Usk Prison was built about 1842.

When Fr Lewis was imprisoned at Usk, the gaol was crowded with Catholics. Among them was Jane Harris who had sheltered a priest and been betrayed by her butcher. Fr David Lewis would have known most of them and it must have been a comfort to them to have among them a well loved priest.

Fr Lewis was tried at the Spring Assizes in Monmouth on 28th March 1679. He was found guilty of being a Catholic priest and of saying Mass. This was considered High Treason and he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. In April he was summoned to London, along with Fr John Kemble, for interrogation about the fictional Popish Plot. No evidence could be found against him and he was sent back to Usk Gaol to await his execution.

On 27th August 1679, Fr David Lewis was taken from Usk Gaol and drawn on a hurdle to a place known as the Coniger where the sentence was to be carried out. The actual site of his martyrdom is believed to be where Porth-Y-Carn House stands today. After the execution, Fr David Lewis S J, who was known in the area by his alias, Mr Charles Baker, was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s Priory Church. Every year on the Sunday nearest to 27th August, a pilgrimage takes place to the martyred priest’s grave.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails