Wednesday, 17 November 2010


In 1678, the Popish Plot, also known as the Oates Plot, was spawned in the perverted mind of Titus Oates, who was encouraged and spurred on by his friend, Israel Tonge. It wasn’t long before the country was engulfed in the tide of anti-Catholic passion which it engendered.

The Superior of the Jesuit College of St Francis Xavier at the Cwm, Fr David Lewis (alias Charles Baker), had been living with relatives, the Morgans, at what is now Llantarnam Abbey. From here Fr Lewis ministered to the needs of the people, celebrating Mass in the Morgan’s chapel and administering the sacraments. Realising the danger of the Plot and fearing to put the family in jeopardy, the priest moved out of their home and into a cottage nearby. The cottage was adjoining the blacksmith’s forge opposite the Parish Church of Llanfihangel Llantarnam.

The Government offered a reward of £50 for the apprehension of any priest and to this John Arnold of Llanvihangel Crucorney added his own reward of £200. Arnold, a Justice of the Peace and Member of Parliament, was a fanatical priest hunter but he had always feigned friendship for Fr Lewis. Three hundred and thirty-two years ago today, 17th November 1678, Arnold’s true nature was revealed and Fr David Lewis S J took his first steps on the road to martyrdom.

It was a Sunday morning, about daybreak, and the Jesuit was preparing to celebrate Holy Mass. Six armed dragoons, sent by John Arnold, burst into the little cottage and arrested Fr Lewis. They confiscated all the altar furnishings and anything which they considered ‘popish’. With the prisoner, they set out for Monmouth, stopping first at the house of Charles Price at Llanfoist, where Price, John Arnold and Thomas Lewis, another J P, awaited their arrival.

Of his arrest Fr Lewis wrote: “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”

At about two o’clock in the afternoon Arnold and his clique led the priest away. Guarded by twelve armed men, Fr David Lewis was taken to Abergavenny and then on to Arnold’s house, Llanvihangel Court. Here they spent the night. Early the next morning Fr Lewis was taken, again under armed guard, to Monmouth Gaol where he was incarcerated.

The horror was just beginning!


  1. Hi Breadgirl,
    Very interesting and informative post with lovely photos.

  2. A great account and very moving. thank you Breadgirl.

  3. Hello Gwentman

    Thank you for your visit and your kind and encouraging comment. I notice that you have some beautiful and interesting photos on your blog, PHOTOS2PLEASEU,too. My husband takes my photos as I am a pretty poor hand at photography. He is very patient and obliging and I am very grateful to him.

    God bless you, Gwentman.

  4. Hello Richard

    Thanks for your visit and for your very welcome comment. Thank you too for taking the time to alert me to the fact that my comments box was not working properly. It seems to be O K now, thanks to you.

    God bless you, Richard.


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