Thursday, 25 October 2012




Today we celebrate the Feast of The Six Welsh Martyrs of the Reformation.  The Six Welsh Martyrs, who were canonised by Pope Paul VI on 25th October 1970, are:
St Richard Gwyn was born about 1537 in Llanidloes, Montgomeryshire. He was a teacher and a married man. He and his wife, Catherine, had six children. He was executed at Wrexham on 15th October 1584. St Richard Gwyn is the protomartyr of Wales.
St John Jones O F M was born at Clynog Fawr, Caernarvonshire around the year 1530. He entered the Franciscan Convent at Greenwich and, at its dissolution in 1559, he went to the Continent and was professed at Pontoise, France. He died for the Faith at Southwark on 12th July 1598. At his execution, he had to wait an hour because the hangman had forgotten to bring the rope!

St John Roberts O S B born at Trawsfynydd, Merionethshire, was the first prior of St Gregory’s, Douai. He was sent upon the English Mission in December 1602, arriving in England in April 1603. He was probably the first monastic to enter England since the Reformation. He was executed at Tyburn on 10th December 1610.

St Philip Evans S J was born in Monmouth in 1645. He entered the Society of Jesus on 7th September 1665. He was ordained at Liege and sent upon the English Mission in 1675. He diligently and joyfully served the area of South Wales for four years before his arrest at the house of Christopher Turberville at Sker, Glamorganshire on 4th December 1678. He was martyred at Cardiff on 22nd July 1679. He was thirty-four years old.
St John Lloyd was Brecon born and studied at Ghent and Valladolid. He was ordained a priest at Valladolid in 1653. He returned to Wales and laboured in Brecon and Monmouthshire for 24 years. In November of 1678, he was captured at a house at Penllyn, Glamorganshire. He and St Philip Evans shared a cell at Cardiff Castle until their martyrdom at Cardiff on 22nd July 1679.

St David Lewis S J was born in 1616 at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire. He attended the local Grammar school where his father, Morgan Lewis, was headmaster. Ordained in 1642, David entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1645. He returned to Wales and, based at the Cwm, he served the Catholics of the area for 34 years. He was arrested at Llantarnam on 17th November 1678 and martyred at Usk on 27th August 1679. St David Lewis was the last Welsh martyr.


(Tune Hyfrydol or Blaenwern)
Came a time upon our nation
when the faith of Rome was banned.
Christians found their hearts were broken,
torn apart throughout our land.
Thus a traitor to the nation
anyone who loved the Pope.
Christians stood in condemnation.
Who could bring them any hope?
Men who trained  as priests for Cymru
came from Europe’s shores ere long.
Traversed far and wide our nation,
come to keep the Old Faith strong.
Saying Mass and heard confession,
priests of God , their only crime
was that laws of England’s kingdom
made such treason, at that time.
David Lewis, priest of Monmouth
gladly in Usk met his end.
As at Cardiff, Philip Evans
with John Lloyd, his holy friend.
From the north did Saint John Roberts
die for Christ, a Martyr true,
and Franciscan, Saint John Jones,
from the noose to heaven flew.
With these priests, to Rome so loyal,
one more Saint of Wales did die.
Richard Gwyn, the edict Royal
did at first its ways comply.
But this man, of Wales a teacher,
taught us now the better way.
He renounced the Royal churches,
chose with Rome alone to pray.
Time hath passed upon our nation,
the Old Faith no longer banned.
Other Christians, once oppressive,
now as friends beside us stand.
*This is not a day for gloating,
Or for raising ancient wrong,
but a day for celebrating
loyal Saints whose faith proved strong.*

Monday, 8 October 2012


 This is Part 2 of a two part post about 'The Pot and Pineapple', the Gunters and St David Lewis. Please click here to read Part 1.
The Adoration of the Magi, found in the Gunter Chapel and now on display in Abergavenny Museum
Over the years, the Gunter Mansion was divided into four smaller houses. The location of Thomas Gunter’s Chapel faded from memory.  In 1908 Mr and 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 another room.  On the steeply sloping ceiling was a beautiful fresco depicting the “Adoration of the Magi”.   Mrs Foster had the good sense to realize that they had stumbled upon something of importance.  After consultation with several local historians, it was confirmed that they had found Thomas Gunter’s seventeenth century chapel.  As well as the “Adoration of the Magi”, believed to be the altar piece under which the altar was positioned, other paintings and markings were discovered.  Above the window overlooking Cross St, there was the “mark of the Jesuits”, the letters I H S within rays and surmounted by a cross.   On another wall, a strange drawing of a man and a woman with a heart placed at the feet of the woman and the inscription “T G his mark” were clearly visible.  Mrs Foster engaged the services of the Photographer, Mr Bailey of High St, Abergavenny, to take pictures of the ceiling and other paintings and drawings which adorned the walls of the little room.  In an attempt to preserve the fresco of the Magi, Mrs Foster had the painting carefully removed and placed under glass in an oak frame.  For many years this treasure was in private hands but, fortunately, it is now on display at Abergavenny Museum where it can be viewed and appreciated by all. 
The remains of the entrance to
Thomas Gunter's  attic chapel
At the time of the renovations, the remains of an outside staircase leading from the garden to the chapel were also discovered.  The addition of an adjoining cottage had blocked this entrance.  From the back of the house, it is still possible to see in the pine end of “The Pot and Pineapple” part of the lintel of the door to the attic chapel.
Thomas Gunter's Chapel as it is today
Today history collides at 37 Cross Street!  Downstairs, “The Pot and Pineapple” caters for the discerning sweet tooth while upstairs Thomas Gunter’s chapel languishes almost forgotten.  Previous occupiers of the shop probably used it as a storeroom so now it bears little resemblance to a chapel.   However, one can still see the wall on which Thomas Gunter left his initials.  I said “almost” forgotten because Amanda, the young proprietor of “The Pot and Pineapple”, although not the owner of the building, is very aware of its place in Abergavenny's long history.
The wall on which Thomas Gunter wrote his initials

Amanda kindly allowed us access to the former chapel.  It was an amazing experience just to stand quietly in that room and remember Thomas Gunter, St David Lewis, St Philip Evans, and the brave and faithful people who so long ago risked all for their Catholic Faith. Many words could describe my feelings. Humbled, overawed and overjoyed are just three of them. 
Cautiously we descended the narrow stairway that brought us back to the twenty-first century where Amanda and her son were tending to some customers.  Amanda chatted with us for a short while and, as well as a pleasure, it was enlightening because she is very knowledgeable about the historic location her shop occupies.   


The Pot and Pineapple, 37 Cross St.
Thomas Gunter's Chapel was located
behind the little window in the gable.
We are extremely grateful to Amanda for her kindness to us in the midst of her busy day.  We came away with some interesting facts about the Gunters.  Oh yes, and with some very tasty Liquorice Allsorts and Liquorice Torpedoes!  On my next visit to “The Pot and Pineapple” I think I will try Chocolate, or perhaps Chewing Nuts, or Pontefract Cakes, or Humbugs, or ?????

Sunday, 7 October 2012


This is Part 1 of a two part post about  'The Pot and Pineapple',  the Gunters and St  David Lewis. 


Abergavenny is as pretty as it is historic.  It is indeed a happy pastime to meander along its streets and enjoy the intermingling of old and new – modern shops housed in ancient buildings.  One such shop is the delightful little sweetshop, ‘The Pot and Pineapple’, on Cross Street.

This recently opened establishment, located at 37 Cross Street, is a traditional sweetshop with rows and rows of jars, stuffed with glorious sweets, lining its shelves.  It has the power to make one feel like a child again, clutching a few pence and wondering which treat to purchase!  Well, that is how I felt anyway. 

‘The Pot and Pineapple’ is located in one of the oldest buildings in Abergavenny, the ancient Gunter Mansion.  It is very pleasing to note that the young proprietor has maintained the Gunter connection in her choice of name, thereby keeping alive an important part of Abergavenny history. 

Several shops, numbers 37-40 Cross St, now occupy the Gunter Mansion.   This historic building was originally constructed in the early years of the seventeenth century and it was home to generations of the Gunter Family.  Walter Gunter, who was born around 1717, was the last of the Gunters to reside there.

James Gunter, Walter’s son, left Abergavenny and went to London.  In 1777 James became a partner in a food business named “The Pot and Pineapple” at 7-8 Berkeley Square.  “The Pot and Pineapple” had been established twenty years earlier as a confectioner’s shop by Domenico Negri.  By 1799 James Gunter was sole proprietor and the shop had become a chic Mayfair gathering place where the smart set would stop to eat ices and sorbets.  It must have been quite a sight as the shop’s waiters raced back and forth across the street delivering orders to ladies, who remained in their carriages, while the gentlemen lounged nearby enjoying their confections.  As well as ices and confections, Gunter’s was known for its beautifully decorated cakes.  James Gunter’s son, Robert, took over the business on the death of his father in 1819.  In the mid 1930s, the east side of Berkeley Square was demolished and Gunter’s moved to Curzon Street.  Gunter’s continued to delight its customers until its closure in 1956.
It is now necessary to go back several generations of Gunters to James Gunter’s ancestor, Thomas Gunter.  Thomas Gunter was born about 1627 into the Catholic branch of the Gunter Family.  Thomas, an attorney at law, lived in the mansion on Cross St which now houses “The Pot and Pineapple” and other shops.  He was a Catholic at a time in the history of this country when Catholicism was outlawed.  Those who tenaciously clung to “Yr Hen Ffydd”, “The Old Faith”, were known as “recusants”.  Recusants were subjected to harsh fines, imprisonment and, sometimes, even death.  Thomas Gunter was a staunch Catholic and a fearless man.  He is known to have said, “I kept a priest during Oliver’s time of severity, and I shall keep one now”.  He made good his promise! 
Thomas had an attic room in his house furnished as a Catholic Chapel and here the Catholics of Abergavenny would assemble for Mass and to receive the Sacraments.  Thomas kept two Jesuits, Fr Philip Evans and Fr David Lewis, who celebrated Mass and conducted weddings, baptisms and funerals in the chapel.  A report referring to this chapel said there was at Abergavenny “a public chapel for Papists adorned with the marks of the Jesuits on the outside, and such numbers flocked there that a hundred were seen to come out of it when not above forty attended the parish (Established) church”.  In his deposition to the House of Commons in 1678, the vicious priest hunter, John Arnold, stated that he had seen the “mark of the Jesuits” on the outside of Gunter’s property.  Mr Greenhaugh, the Vicar of Abergavenny, said “there is a publick mark of the Jesuits on the outside of the building, which is directly towards the Parish Church”. 
Fr David Lewis S J was either Thomas Gunter’s uncle or his cousin.  Most historians come down in favour of uncle.   The youngest of nine children, David Henry Lewis was born in Abergavenny in 1616.  David’s mother, Margaret Pritchard, was a Catholic and she raised eight of her children as Catholics.  His father, Morgan Lewis, was a Protestant and head of Abergavenny Grammar School.  Morgan Lewis had his youngest son, David, raised in the Established religion.  As a young man, David visited Paris and while there he was received into the Catholic Church.  In 1638 David entered the English College in Rome to study for the priesthood.  Several years after his ordination, he joined the Jesuits.  Fr David Lewis S J was sent back to his homeland but, after a short time, he was recalled to Rome.  About a year later Fr Lewis was sent again to the English Mission.  He returned to Wales and for more than thirty years he tended to the needs of the beleaguered Catholics in the border areas of Monmouthshire and Herefordshire.   Based at Thomas Gunter’s, he ministered to the Catholics of Abergavenny and the surrounding countryside. 

For a time, Fr David Lewis stayed with his relatives, the Morgans, at Llantarnam.  It was at a cottage in Llantarnam, during the mayhem generated by the Oates’ Plot, that the Jesuit was arrested.   On Sunday morning, 17th November 1678, Fr Lewis was preparing to celebrate Holy Mass when a group of armed dragoons burst in.  Fr Lewis was held first in Monmouth Gaol, then in Usk Gaol.  Convicted of being a Catholic priest and saying Mass (which was considered High Treason), Fr Lewis was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.  The good priest met his fate at Usk on 27th August 1679.  St David Lewis was beatified in 1929 and canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

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