Friday, 27 November 2009


Having been arrested at Llantarnam on Sunday, 17th November 1678, Fr David Lewis S J, had been taken to the home of the fanatical anti-Catholic Justice of the Peace, John Arnold. The priest spent the night at Arnold’s home, Llanvihangel Court, in a room guarded by two “strong men”.

The next morning, Monday, 18th November 1678, Fr Lewis arose at 7 o’clock. Arnold paid him a short visit in his room where the two exchanged a few civil words. When Fr Lewis had his breakfast, he came downstairs and found the Magistrate and several constables loading guns in the Great Hall. It would seem that Arnold was almost as puerile as he was bigoted for he possessed a repulsive effigy of the Pope. Arnold referred to this parody as “his baby” and, before leaving the house, he invited the priest to view it. Fr Lewis diplomatically declined.

The party now set out on the final leg of their journey to Monmouth Gaol. When Fr Lewis realised that an armed soldier was to lead his horse all the way to Monmouth, he asked to be spared this humiliation. The Magistrate agreed and it was promised that instead, a constable would ride behind him while the remainder of the armed guard walked on either side of him. Once again, John Arnold showed his duplicity. As soon as the party had set off, Arnold sent a message to the Chief Constable that the lead was to be replaced on the horse’s head and that the prisoner was to be closely watched! The Chief Constable turned out to be an unexpectedly sympathetic man who ignored the order.

At last, Monmouth was reached and Fr Lewis was incarcerated at the town’s gaol. A friend paid 14/ a week for Fr Lewis to have a good room with a fire, candle, bed and linen. That morning, Monday 18th November, John Arnold had assured Fr Lewis that he would not allow the gaoler to subject him to “any incivility or severity”. It must have been a sad moment and the shattering of all illusion regarding Arnold’s friendship for him, when the gaoler showed the priest a letter written that very day by Arnold. The letter, dated 18th November, ordered that a strict watch be kept on the prisoner who was guilty of high treason! Fr David Lewis was kept a close prisoner and his confinement was so strict that he never left his cell. However, the underkeeper allowed friends to visit him during the day. For almost two months Fr Lewis was a prisoner in Monmouth Gaol.

In January 1679, the new High Sheriff, James Herbert of Coldbrook, decided to move the County Gaol from Monmouth to Usk. On a cold and snowy 13th January 1679, our saintly priest, Fr David Lewis S J, was transferred to Usk Gaol on Bridge Street. Here, he would await his fate.


  1. I don't know which post I am replying to, but I just re-read them all. What cruelty people are capable of perpetrating!

  2. Good Morning Elizabeth
    Thanks for your interest. Yes indeed, we are capable of great cruelty! When you look at what happened in Spain in the 30s, Germany & Poland in the 40s, and even certain parts of the world today, it makes you realize that we haven't improved much since the 1600s. Perhaps we just have to double our efforts at prayer. God bless you, Elizabeth.


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