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 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”
The horror was just beginning!