Back to indexImages of Wales
 

SS Francis Xavier and David Lewis Church, Porthycarne Street, Usk, Monmouthshire

Denomination: Roman Catholic

Photography: Josephine Doe
Date: 3 May 2013
Camera: Canon EOS 400D digital
Dedication: St Francis Xavier and St David Lewis

Built: 1847
SS Francis Xavier & David Lewis ChurchSS Francis Xavier & David Lewis Church

Note 1: SS David Lewis and Francis Xavier Catholic Church, built in Porthycarne Street, in 1847, to a simple but charming Gothic design, is small but well proportioned. The main window depicts St Benedict and an unidentified Saint. The main altar is original but brought forward in the re-ordering of 1970. The side altar of Our Lady has particular charm, whilst the baptistry has a modern window depicting the Patron Saints. [Source: Usk Town website (accessed 7 Aug 2016)]

SS Francis Xavier & David Lewis Church

Note 2: The shrine (below) has a circa 18th Century copy of St David Lewis, shown with the rope and knife, the instruments of his death by hanging, drawing and quartering. [Source: Usk Town website (accessed 7 Aug 2016)]

SS Francis Xavier & David Lewis ChurchSS Francis Xavier & David Lewis Church
SS Francis Xavier & David Lewis Church

Note 3 (see below): Outside [the church] is the original gravestone (but not the grave) of St David Lewis, martyred here. The original dedication was St Francis Xavier. St David Lewis was added after his canonisation by Paul VI in 1970. [Source: Usk Town website (accessed 7 Aug 2016)]

SS Francis Xavier & David Lewis ChurchSS Francis Xavier & David Lewis Church
Above: Memorial to St David Lewis. The notice attached to the memorial offers the following information [photo below by John Ball, Aug 2016]:

Saint David Lewis 1616-1679

David Henry Lewis was born in Abergavenny in 1616. On a visit to Paris in 1635 he became a Catholic and was received into the Church by Fr. William Talbot S.J.
He was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on 20th July 1642 and entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Sant' Andrea, Rome, 19th April 1645.
Fr. David Lewis S.J. returned to Wales in 1648 and ministered to local people for the next 30 years. Love for his brothers and sisters in Christ was so great that they lovingly bestowed upon him the Welsh title: "Tad y Tlodion" - Father of the Poor.
He was arrested at Llantarnam on Sunday 17th November 1678, was tried and condemned for being a Popish Priest at Monmouth Assizes 28th - 29th March 1679.
SS Francis Xavier & David Lewis Church On Wednesday 27th August 1679 he was executed at Usk and buried in the graveyard of St. Mary's Priory Church. An annual Pilgrimage to his grave takes place on the last Sunday of August.
Father David Lewis S.J. was canonized Sunday 25th October 1970 by Pope Paul VI.
The adjacent Church was then re-dedicated to St. Francis Xavier and St. David Lewis.
Here [right] lies the broken gravestone which previously rested on his grave.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam
To the greater glory of God.
"He lived and worked in shadow, and gave His life in Glory."
Saint David Lewis, pray for us.

Note 4: The story of the martyrdom of David Lewis is recorded in Volume III of A History of Monmouthshire by Joseph Alfred Bradney, Mitchell Hughes and Clarke, London, 1923. A relevant extract from the section on Porth-y-carn pp. 35-37 is set out below:

Richard Vaughan Norman of Usk, clerk, purchased the property [site of Porth-y-carn House] for £315 [in 1775]. Norman died in 1797, and left his property to John Kemeys Gardner-Kemeys of Bertholey, who in 1805 sold it to John Haly, described as of Usk, clergyman. In 1828 William Gerard, catholic priest at Llanarth, and Joseph Hunt of Shortwood, co. Somerset, clerk,1 who held as trustees for the catholic denomination at Usk, sold the property to Thomas Reece, then of Llanvabon, with the exception of the building used as the catholic chapel with the house and garden attached. For many years the Catholics used this as a chapel until 1847, when the new chapel on the other side of the road was built. The old chapel is now [in 1923] the armoury of the local territorials.
Mr. Thomas Reece, who thus purchased the property, was an agent for Crawshay, the ironmaster at Cyfarthfa, and about the year 1835 built the house now standing. He came of an old family long settled at Longtown in Herefordshire, who claimed descent from Yr arglwydd Rhys (The lord Rhys), prince of South Wales, who was buried in St. David's Cathedral in 1196. His eldest brother Dr. Thomas Reece of Cardiff was an eminent physician, an antiquary of note, and friend of Sir Thomas Phillipps, the celebrated book collector. Thomas Reece died in 1852, and his widow resided here for many years after. On her death it was purchased by Henry Stafford Gustard, solicitor and clerk of the peace and county council. Some part of the land, including that on which the modern house stands, was common or reputed common, on which games were played by the townspeople. Thomas Reece obtained permission to enclose this. This was known as the Island, and is of historic interest, for here was executed David Lewis alias Charles Baker, the catholic priest. Some doubt is expressed in Vol. I., p. 178 of this work [Bradney] as to the site of the execution, but this arises from the word island, which is now applied to land on the west side of the river. There is no doubt that the island referred to as the place of execution is the ground now occupied by Porth-y-carn House. David Lewis was one of those who was mixed up with Titus Oates, Wm. Bedloe and others of doubtful reputation, besides being the head of a catholic seminary at the Cwm in the parish of Llanrothal in Herefordshire. He was tried at the assizes at Monmouth on 28 March 1679, the judge being Sir Robert Atkins, and the charge that of high treason, having passed beyond the seas and taken orders in the Church of Rome he had returned into England, where he had continued forty days contrary to the statute of 27 Eliz. Found guilty by the jury, he was taken back to Usk gaol, situate in Bridge street, from whence on 27 August 1679, he was brought out and drawn on a hurdle to the gallows erected on the island, where he was hanged. His body was then cut down and disembowelled, the bowels burnt, and the body buried near the south porch of the [Priory] church. Before being hanged David Lewis made a speech in Welsh and English, in which he maintained his innocence and expressed his forgiveness towards his accusers and prosecutors.2 An account of the trial was written and published by David Lewis himself.3 The witnesses against him were William Price; Dorothy James, who said she saw him celebrate Mass and heard him preach in English and Welsh; William James, husband of Dorothy; Maney Trott,4 a dwarf; Roger Sayes;5 John James, who had been married by David Lewis; Katherine Thomas; . . . . Cornelius; Richard Jones; Anne Williams; Anne James; Katherine Cornelius; Elizabeth Jones; Charles Edwards.
In an account of himself, David Lewis says that after thirty years of missionary labour in South Wales he was arrested in a little house at St. Michael-Lantarnam on Sunday, 17 Nov. 1678, by six armed men, and was then taken to the house of Mr. Charles Prices6 at Llanfoist; where he found Mr. Thomas Lewis of St. Pierre, Mr. John Arnold7 (of Llanfihangel Crucorney); that he was taken that night to Mr. Arnold’s house, where he stayed the night and was well treated. The next day he rode to Monmouth escorted by armed constables, and was lodged in the gaol there. On 13 Jan., 1678/9, he was taken to Usk, and remained in the gaol there until his trial.

Footnotes:
1. Though so called, I think he was a catholic priest.
2. For further account of him vide Vol. I., pp. 125 and 178; also The Families of Baker and Baker Gabb, by Richard Baker Gabb, p. 79 et seq.
3. A | NARRATIVE | OF THE | Imprisonment and Tryal of Mr. David Lewis, | Priest of the Society of Jesus | Written by himself.
4. Trott says that he had been in exile with king Charles II., and at the restoration attended the king at Whitehall, but had left the Court because he was in danger of his life among the courtiers.
5. For his pedigree, vide Vol. II., p. 95.
6. Vol. I., p. 861.
7. Vol. I., p. 219.


Below: The area behind the church contains several impressive gravestones.
SS Francis Xavier & David Lewis Church


Back to indexImages of Wales