The Heritage Lottery History Project seeks to help the refocusing of the Cornerstone as a more active resource for the catholic story, rather than just a community centre and focus for centenary projects. These articles form part of the overall  ambition is to become a cultural heritage hub for the catholic legacy, based in the city and community. We will soon be able to tell more catholic heritage stories and they will be better understood and appreciated once cornerstone is set up and running by those whose interests range from casual to specialist.

Catholic History in the Diocese

The vicar of Allensmore near Hereford suddenly awoke from a deep sleep in the idle of the night of May 21st 1605.  He thought he had head a bell drifting in the wind from the fields surrounding the churchyard.  Looking out of his window he saw moving tapers winding in procession towards the churchyard.  Hurriedly he dressed and ran to investigate but he was too late.  Already a body had been placed in a grave (previously dug secretly that night) accompanied by the traditional Catholic symbols of bell, holy water and candles.  However, the vicar, Richard Heyns, recognised several of the participants and clearly knew exactly what had happened.

The dead person was Alice Wellington whom Heyns had excommunicated along with her husband Thomas, for their Catholic beliefs.  When Alice died, Heyns refused burial in church ground.  It was quite common practice for Catholics to receive such refusals but most vicars turned a blind eye to nocturnal burials shrugging their shoulders at Catholic practices carried out secretly.  In fact all over South-West Herefordshire from Sugas across to the Gwent border and on to Abergavenny and Monmouth, most churchyards can boast of Catholic burials at this time.  The church guide to St Maugham’s claims that such nocturnal burials continued long after this time up to the time when stone tombstones became common, the Catholic ones being marked I H S.

The Rev Heyns, however, was a staunch Protestant.  Outraged at Alice Wellington’s funeral he notified the Bishop of Hereford and the church’s legal authorities .  By 24th May Bishop Bennett had warrants for the arrest of two participants in the burial, sending a posse to Allensmore to effect his orders  He too was a staunch Protestant and was concerned that he was unable to root out Catholic practices.  There followed a series of arrests, escapes, attacks, melees, contra-melees, with neither sided gaining.

This was a farming a weaving community with Protestant and Catholic families inter-marrying, the Protestants shielding their Catholic relations and friends from ant-Recusant activities.  Many of the Catholics were yeoman farmers and artisan weavers. Others were lesser gentry who owned small estates and who maintained close ties with their less fortunate friends and relations.   In turn these gentleman had family connections with the greater Catholic landowners such as the Bodenhams of Rotherwas, the Morgans of Llantarnam and the Somersets of Rhaglen who became Earls of Worcester.  All of these and others became enmeshed in the events that followed.

The whole episode threw up a series of interesting questions, now probably unanswerable. Who was a convert Catholic and who wasn’t?  Who had confirmed and who hadn’t? Which members of your family could be trusted?  Was the apparently apostate, Fr Riche Griffiths really a double agent protecting the area’s Catholics from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Hereford?  Was Mass regularly offered at the isolated cottage called Darren close to the later Jesuit centre at Cwm?  Widespread use of Welsh aided the secrecy.  When Edward Somerset, the Catholic Earl o Worcester, was sent by James I to investigate all the rumours and complaints he found the whole area peaceful and conformist!!

At the beginning of James I’s reign, Catholics were hopeful that the harsh anti-Papal laws would be eased,  much to the dismay of staunch Protestants.  When he sent Worcester to investigate, James knew that Worcester was a staunch practising Catholic.  No wonder the earl found the woods, orchards and gentle valleys of this March land so quiet and harmonious.  Alas, all hopes were dashed by the Gunpowder Plot later the same year, which became a rallying call for all determined Protestants.

Meanwhile Recusants’ work continued.  A number of priests worked in South Powys, Gwent and the Southern Marches, including the saintly Roger Cadwaladr and the fiery Jesuit, Robert Jones.  At the same time Ambrose Griffiths’ family, originating in Flemingston in the Vale of Glamorgan, bought the isolated house, Cwm, in 1605.  Here with their priest brothers and cousins the family set up the famous Catholic centre.

The fully story of 1605 can be read in detail in Whitsun Riots, Roland Mathias, London 1665.  Other works to consult are R C Recusancy in Monmouthshire, Robert Matthews, Ph D Dissertation University of Wales 1996 and Recusancy in S Wales 1600-1840, Brian Norton M A Dissertation, University of Wales 1996.

This August meeting was held in Cardiff during July 10th to 13th 1915.  Included in the proceedings were a Civic Reception, Pontifical High Mass, a procession and a large general meeting in the now demolished Cory Hall.  The most serious wok was undertaken in many sectional meetings.  Many of the Welsh and English Hierarchy attended.  Of the major themes considered by the congress, I’ll mention just two: our own Bishop Cuthbert Hedley stressed the importance of receiving regular, hopefully daily, communion, as urged by Pope Pius X, and the call for Catholics trades unionists to halt the advance of Communism by advocating try Catholic Principles.

However, in my opinion as a local historian, most important was the very favourable welcome given to the Catholic Church from a town where intense hostility had been the norm up to ten years previously.  Our two daily newspapers led the surprisingly warm reaction of the local people.  In praising Hedley, the Western Mail declared that the Catholic Church made a full contribution to the moral and religious force of the town.  Priests were loved outside their own flocks throughout the town and hinterland where Hedley was regarded as one of Britain’s leading learned Catholics   The editor noted the peaceful approach of the church, especially at the meeting of Catholic Trade Unionists were delegates stressed that Catholics were not anti-Labour and working class aspirations but though that Socialism was not necessary for the working man and the labour movement.  It came as a surprise to South Welsh socialists to hear a number of Catholic bishops supporting working class men.

The South Wales Daily News, more inclined to a Liberal stance than the Western Mail, was equally as fulsome.  The editor believed the Congress was a tribute to Hedley who had laboured “without haste and without rest” leading the sixty thousand Catholics in the diocese.  He emphasized that Hedley’s leadership was a great success.  “Today the people of South Wales have forgotten the persecution  (towards Catholics) of the past, and they live on terms of tolerances and friendliness with their Catholic neighbour”.  Protestants may disapprove of Catholic thought, but in spite of the errors and blunders of her rulers the (Catholic) Church still remains one of the great facts of civilisation.” He added that a modernist pope could accomplish much for Christendom.

A very different attitude came from Vernon Hartshorn, the miners’ leader, who criticised Catholics for allowing priests to dictate on social and working questions which they couldn’t possibly understand.  Working men, he said, were competent to work out their own answers to secular questions. Nevertheless, perhaps without realising, he praised the church by believing that the growth of Catholicism in Wales and the debate on Socialism and the labour movement made Catholics the Socialist movement’s greatest enemy.

This congress was also memorable, when Hedley yet again confronted the hierarchy with the Welsh challenge, that Wales should at least be a province in its own right instead of being divided between a number of English provinces.  When at last the Vatican acknowledge Wales and restructured our church in Wales, Hedley had just recently died.

Today we are used to appeals by Survive Miva and other marvellous organisations to assist rural, far-flung missions with effective, modern transport.  Some years ago the head of a seminary Moshi, Tanzania and a nun who was a midwife drove the mission four wheeler out west of Kilimanjaro to visit isolated villages in the parish.  They came across a pregnant lady who appeared to have complications.  Imagine their consternation when she went into labour as they drove her back to Moshi through the bush.  The mother gave birth in the back of the car: both mother and child were fine.

A dramatic example it’s true but illustrative of modern missionary work.  Compare this with two anecdotes in our diocese from 200 and 150 years ago respectively.

Brian Norton’s research tells us that in 1798 Fr Roberts of Monmouth (was he a Franciscan?) decided that a horse was essential for his mission to North Gwent and West Herefordshire.  The mission’s total income was £22-10-00 per annum out of which the horse cost no less than £11-00-00 per annum.  He told Vicar-Apostolic Sharrock OSB that the cost was worth it for the horse saved the priest so much of the physical exhaustion that the priests daily faced in mountainous areas.

Another example is from Cardiff 1865 Fr Fortunatus Signini IC despaired of ever balancing his accounts to provide the schools and other institutions necessary for the rapidly increasing poor Irish population.  At this time churches came second to schools where Mass could be regularly offered.  Nevertheless he believed a mission horse was absolutely essential to reach the outlying areas of the mission which then included the Vale and the hills from Llantrisant through on resources that Fr Vilas I C plucked up the courage to stop strangers in the street for donations.  With the horse Fr Bruno I C Was able to keep in touch with dozens of poor Irish working on farms and in small mines north of Llanisien.  They stabled the nag close to St David’s later finding a more spacious home in Bedford Lane behind St Peter’s.

We are used to tales of poverty during the 1930’s, which remain vividly etched in people’s minds.  Yet the post World War One year’s especially 1921-4 were almost as critical for the working people.  It’s not possible in “Gleanings” to examine the whole problem of depression after Wold War One when thoughts of servicemen returned to a country changing form war to peace time industries.   So I’ll take one aspect, children’s footwear, as told to me by Cardiff people who lived through the period.

The first indication of the problem occurred in St Peter’s Magazine in October 1022 when James Mullins of St Peter’s Parish made a plea for “boots for bootless children.”  He asked that boots should be sent to St Peter’s School where staff would distribute them to needy families.

Many people were astonished at such a request wondering if there really were so many needy families.  In reply, James Mullins described a school visit he had made as part of his S V P work.  “The other afternoon we paid a visit to infants.  If it were possible for you to be present, you would then realise what those little ones must suffer during the day with cold feet.  How can it be possible for the children to learn under such conditions?”  He thanked people for their generosity saying that 140 pairs of boots had been given to needy children up to that time.  A few weeks later after a successful prize draw, James Mullins was able to purchase a further 123 desperately required pairs of boots.

I’m not sure whether he actually bought the boots or used the old method most schools and parishes uses.  At St David’s school for example, all children received a hands, nails and shoes inspection every morning.  Staff insisted that cleanliness prevented disease and even poverty.  Those in need of boots received a ticket exchangeable at given or a centre in Bridge Street.  The local council or the S V P picked up the costs.  A friend of mine was never so poor that he needed free boots for which he was very proud of his mother.  She was left alone with four sons and daughter, was dependent on “parish relief” as it was still called, but somehow the family survived with footwear hand-me-downs.

Three sisters, friends of my family, all of whom became teachers as, of interest, did three of their brothers, vividly remembered those times.  They all attended St Alban’s School where they same system operated.  Those deemed in need received theirs S V P tickets to be taken to Neville’s in Carlisle Street, managed in those days by “Pop Hogan”.  Or the families could redeem the tickets in a council appointed shop.

I wonder how many families who received assistance became aware that the boots were often easily recognised.  Sometimes shop owners punched the cheaper boots through the leathers to suspect them from poles.  Was any family too proud, I wonder?  Many of these boots, apparently, ended up in a pawnbroker’s within a few weeks: there really was a desperate need for food as well.  The S V P in St Peter’s described parishioners so poor that families shared means amongst neighbours’ children, going without themselves.

In all this gloom, Wilf Lashford of St Peter’s S V P told a humours story.  He opened his front door in answer to an apologetic knock to find a bedraggled mother.  “Does St Vincent live here?” she asked.

Do you feel part of a church community alien to Wales?  Certainly this is one of the most important criticisms levelled at Catholics in Wales for the last 150 years.  Historians tell us that the Reformation only very slowly changed peoples religious habits until the great Methodist Revival of the eighteenth century swept away the remnants of Catholicism from much of our country.  Hence, when we Irish came, our Catholicism in our adopted country was viewed as an alien religion.

In the 1840’s Bishop Brown had a two-fold policy in the diocese: priests of any language to serve and educate the often monoglot Irish-speaking newcomers in the big towns of the south, and Welsh-speaking priests to convert the rest of Wales to Yr Hen Ffyd.  When he opened the new St Mary’s, Newport, Brown regretted the lack of Welsh-speaking priests for otherwise “the sacred fire that so long had been hidden might have broken forth into a living flame”.  He managed to persuade a couple of Breton’s priests to serve in mid-Wales with little success at conversion for all Brown’s finances disappeared into the large southern towns.

By the 1890’s money and energy invested in the south resulted in a large, influential and English speaking Catholic Church alienated from the Welsh heartlands.  Now again some Catholics began to look at the rest of Wales to convert.  Note the emphasis at this time on “conversation”.  Journalist Hugh Tierney wrote a series of letters to the Tablet in 1891.  In a private letter he wrote, “To hear sacred subjects treated in English repels rather than edifies him (ie a Welsh person), to hear religious dogmas put forth in English spoken with an Irish accent  absolutely disgusts him….the Welshman is apt to look upon Catholicism as the Irish Religion… English priests may do a little:  priests from Brittany would do better if they came young to Wales; but an energetic Welsh priest would be worth a score.  Above all, no progress can be made among the Welsh in the absence of priests who speak the Welsh language?

A small group  of Irish and English laymen led by Irisman Fr John Hayde responded by founding the St Teilo Society.  They arranged public lectures to explain Catholic principles to the people of Cardiff and did for a time achieve some interest but the twin problems of Irish Home Rule and Catholics schools increasingly set the society to the sidelines.  Welsh, Irish Breton and even English speaking Hayde made many Protestant friends to become the most admired priest in Wales at the time.  He encouraged Bishop Hedley to invite Breton priests to Dyfed where they contributed to the sparse Catholic missions in the west.  Hayde also encouraged the society to publish a Welsh prayer book in 1899.  Non-Conformist critics called the prayer book “an assault” but Hayde cheerfully waded into the argument claiming that the Catholics needed to take Catholic teaching “into the enemy camp”.  Don’t be surprised by the language —it’s typical of public utterances in the decades leading to World War One, a consequence of Britain’s imperial armies.

There were a few Welsh speaking priests in Wales, the most prominent being Mgr Peter Lewis of Cowbridge whose father rented the stables in Merthyr and Rhymney where the first Masses were offered in those areas.   In his retirement in Nazareth House Mgr Lewis deeply regretted that he had largely ministered to the Irish rather than his own native Welsh speakers though he realised this was probably inevitable.  In North Wales Fr Henry Hughes established a small Catholic community at Abersoch and Ynys Sant Tudwal.  His mother was Irish but he spoke little Welsh at first Fr Hughes felt deeply about his mission which ended alas in apparent failure from illness and lack of finance.

Even Herbert Cardinal Vaughan was persuaded to turn his back on Wales.  He was very proud of his family’s very ancient Welsh roots even though they had lived for centuries a few miles across the border at Courtfield.  As a young priest he earnestly wished to found a Welsh language missionary society for Wales.  When he approached Cardinal Manning he was politely told that missions in the Empire were far more urgently required.  So Vaughan found the Mill Hill Fathers and was persuaded to lay aside the needs of Wales.

In a short article space allows only a brief mention of twentieth century initiatives. Most prominent perhaps is the Lamp Society funded mainly from England allowing Splott born Fr Pat Crawley to serve isolated Welsh Catholic communities.  Mention too of Y Clych Catholig and the Italian and Polish communities in Dyfed so many of whom speak fluent Welsh.

But in the south we remain something of an alien force, not looking back to Ireland so much today but looking towards Westminster rather than our own country and our ancient language and Catholic heritage, Yn Hen Iaith and Yr Hen Ffydd.  It’s strange how we Irish are so renowned for missionary activity throughout the workd yet in the country nearest to Ireland we have been quite indifferent.  Today we don’t seek to convert but we have very few Masses in Welsh, only one each Sunday in Cardiff, remaining content to worship, even ecumenically in English.

Perhaps our children who have every opportunity to speak daily in Welsh will began to experience Yr Hen Ffydd though Yr Hen Iaith.

Each Bishop has his focal point his Cathedral Church, Mother Church of the Diocese and the Centre of Convergence.  Here the bishop has his chair from which he teaches and leads the people to grown in Christ.  Here too the church is displayed through Mass and special occasions particularly the annual Chrism Mass.  So the local church is strengthened in love and commitment. (Pastores Gregis).

Let’s start in 1800 when our bishop of the Western District travelled from Bath three or four times a year to visit small congregations scattered along the Marches.  Most missions had tiny congregations of mixed Welsh and English speakers.  The largest of some 200 Catholics each were at Llanarth and Talacre where the Jones and Mostyn families supported the poor congregations. Others were small chapels barely maintained.  Most of Brecon’s handful of Catholics, monoglot Welsh, lived in the Senni Valley.  One was a farmhouse, Perthyr near Rockfield, an old Catholic centre.  In Swansea where there was an increasing Irish population (a hint of the deluge to come), the bishop managed to place a French refugee, Abbe Sejan, who built a new but poor chapel.  When he left in 1815 the missioner from Brecon re-assumed occasional visits when finances allowed.  Otherwise, apart from isolated families in Bangor, Welshpool, Newport and a few other places, Wales was bereft of the Hen Ffydd.

Priests received a pittance from their flocks, from various Jesuit and Franciscan funds and from the Benedictines in Bath.  They were indeed next to paupers, travelled long distances and were frequently homeless.  Many of these men lived and died in frightening loneliness and absolute poverty like Fr Williams of Brecon and Swansea who died alone surrounded by bills he couldn’t pay.   There are other not dissimilar situations. The bishops were helpless for they had neither men nor money to invest.

An interesting side-show at this time concerned Fr John Butler who was attached to Hereford in the 1790’s.  He became the 10th Earl of Cahir in 1786 and promised to pay for a Welsh priest at Leominster for North Gwent and Brecon.  Alas the plans came to nothing when Rev the  Lord Cahir, as he was known, suddenly died intestate.

By 1840 the spread of the missions and altered considerably when pre-famine Irish labourers sought work in newly industrialised Newport, Merthyr, Swansea, Maesteg, Pontypool, Rhymney and later, but above all, Cardiff.  Even in these pre-famine years Irish poverty shocked local Welsh people who jealously guarded better paid jobs.  This huge increase in the Catholic population severely increased the church’s problems for the current Bishop Brown and the impoverished clergy.

In 1840 the church authorities divided Wales from the3 Western District, including Herefordshire as the history, culture and population of West Herefordshire was largely Welsh, often Welsh speaking with close links to Gwent.  Our first bishop was the greatly admired Benedictine, Thomas Brown, who devoted the rest of his long life to Wales spending 40 years trying to establish a cathedral to draw the diocese into a single community.  His adjutor and successor, Bishop Cuthbert Hedley,was no less determined to achieve this but, like Brown, he too died before their quest was achieved.

Apart from Newport, the new Irish communities and missions (there3 were no official parishes until post World War One) sought the service of a priest but few were available and anyway the Irish were usually too poor to support one.  The best example is Merthyr where over 200 of the poorest Irish families undertook the meanest work for the meanest wages.  A number of travelling clergy offered occasional Masses and the Sacraments in dingy pubs and small workshops but none from Waterford to settle.  In spite of the goodwill of the people, Portal lived and offered Mass above a slaughter house, lived in starvation, moved the Newport, and on to Kent in England where he died just 31 years old.

Newport was exceptional in S Wales for the Jones family (a Herbert scion to which name they later reverted) of Llanarth gave much financial to Llanarth, Usk and the new church in Newport.  For this reason Brown and Heley often looked to Newport as a favoured site for the cathedral.  As Cardiff’s development overtook Newport providing the eventual cathedral’s site, I’ll give a few more details but ignoring all the very interesting religious and social developments here after 1840.

The chief landowner in Cardiff was the second Marquis of Bute, a good man in all that that adjective implies.  He built the first dock with his own money, leaving him in debt at his death.  But he was a devout Scottish Episcopalian who loathed poor Irish Catholics believing them to be feckless, demanding social support when there was no need. He did not want Cardiff full of unemployed paupers.

To be brief, the first attempt to built a chapel in Cardiff occurred in 1834 when Jeremiah Cairns of Yorkshire in England sought a lease from Bute to build a chapel for a dozen or so Catholic families.  Bute ignored the request.  There was a further request after Bute brought 200 Irish labourers from S W Cork to break a dock strike: 1,100 Irish suddenly settled in the town including woman and children.  Bute assumed they would move on as soon as the dock was complete in 1839.  Alas for him some 600 stayed attracting by the work the dock provided.   So 600 men, woman and children huddled under a tarpaulin at John Driscoll’s small potato warehouse in Custom House Street.  Daniel O’Connell himself became involved to harangue Bute in Parliament and in newspapers.  Yet still Bute refused to budge.

Catholics solved their problem when two Swiss Italians, Alesandro and Stephano Stouringhi leased land which they secretly handed over to thief fellow Catholics to build a chapel.  The debt was eased by Bishop Brown’s acquaintance with Mrs Catherine Eyre of Bath who donated £1500 to each new chapel in Cardiff and Swansea provided they were named in honour of St David.  This chapel was the fore runner of our present Cathedral.  Then came the deluge of starving famine victims.

Now we can return to Bishop Brown’s eager search for a cathedral site as a focus for the whole of our country and Herefordshire.  His task was almost impossible before the Irish came.  After the deluge of the famine years his task did become impossible for clergy were scarce and debts mounted into many thousands while the average wages for an Irish labourer in S Wales was 12/6 per week if he had full time employment.

The first development for a cathedral occurred when Mr Wegg-Prosser offered the church he was building in Belmont to Brown and the Benedictines as an Abbey and Cathedral.  This church opened in 1859 with a Cathedral Chapter mainly from the Benedictines domiciled there.  The old church of St Michael and All Angels.  Abergavenny became the diocesan pro-cathedral.  But this development is no way lessened Brown’s concerns.   Both Belmont and Abergavenny ministered to a few hundred Catholics while the vast bulk of Catholic population lay in Newport and Cardiff.  Abergavenny is 25 miles from Belmont, Newport over 40 and Cardiff a further 25 miles:  Belmont and Abergavenny were always stop-gap.  Brown’s title was Bishop of Newport but he rarely dwelt there.

At this time Newport, which was the largest of the3 We3lsh towns, had the fine new church in 1847, but lack of clergy remained the greatest problem.  Brown met Rosminian priests (Institute of Charity founded by BI Antonia Rosmini in Domodossola 1828) through Bishop Baines at Prior Park.  Brown increasingly admired the whole philosophy of this new order.  In 1847 and again in 1854 Brown admired the whole philosophy of this new order.  In 1847 and again in 1854 Brown offered Newport and Cardiff to these missionary Italian priests: imagine his great joy and relief when in 1854 just a few months before Rosmini’s death he received a letter from Rosmini stating terms before taking on Cardiff.  Rosmini asked for a long term commitment enabling the Italians to devote money to churches, school, libraries for adult education and other aspects of mission life.   Rosmini’s offer applied retrospectively to Newport. Brown could not believe his luck, willingly accepted and very quickly Italian missioners were active.  Their first man in Cardiff was an Irish speaker though his stay was short.  Thereafter the I C in Newport and Cardiff either supplied Irish speakers when they could or learnt Irish themselves.

It wasn’t long before Brown offered Pont Y Pool, Rhymni and other parishes but the I C refused, for it was a small order which took its commitment to Newport and Cardiff seriously as it does to this day.   Both Brown and later Hedley could have used Oratorians and their own Benedictines in these two missions.  However, both fully acknowledged that they wanted the IC in preference so exemplary was the Rosminian ministry to the poor Irish.

The Rosminian performance in Newport and Cardiff meant that Brown was even further from his dream of a Cathedral for Wales. In the 1860’s and 1870’s he examined the situation both St Mary’s, Newport and St Peter’s, Cardiff, but there was no way out.  The Rosminian’s had committed themselves long term to big churches, very successful schools, many chaplaincies to hospitals, prisons and even to the Catholic Marquis of Bute.

Brown must have been satisfied by his endeavours especially when the Franciscans served in the Gwent valleys and the Benedictines elsewhere.  Even if he had failed to build his Cathedral, when he died in 1880 the number of Clergy was rapidly increasing, the churches full, the school widely admired.

Cuthbert Hedley became adjutor 10 years before Brown died.  From Northumberland in England he became an enthusiastic Welshman conversing in Welsh to the inhabitants of Llanishen when he moved from Newport to Cardiff.  Yet his title remained Bishop of Newport.  He immediately began searching for his cathedral other than Belmont though he thoroughly enjoyed the high liturgies there.

As the Welsh Catholic population continued to increase there were schemes dividing our country between various English dioceses and therefore English cathedrals (see the Annual Directory).  Hedley consistently argued that whilst Glamorgan and Gwent were different from the rest of Wales, the country should remain one diocese or become a province.  Yet he still had no cathedral as the focal point of his own diocese yet alone a province.  He looked again at various possibilities having some hope in the new St David’s Cardiff built in 1887.  This church, now St David’s Cathedral, began life with Fr Stephano Bruno’s small fund when he realised that the original church was far too small for the town’s needs.  Bruno had some hope that any new church would become the new cathedral.  Hedley’s vision appeared no nearer.

During the Fifth Bishop’s Congress held in Cardiff in 1914, Hedley again urged the Welsh and English Hierarchy to accept his cherished plans but he appeared to fall on deaf ears in England and in the Vatican.  However, the local newspapers enthusiastically reported on the Congress events acknowledging that the object of the Congress was peaceful and extolling Hedley as Britain’s leading learned Catholic.  How attitudes had changed!!

Finally in Spring 1916 Vatican authorities proclaimed Wales a Province, led by an Archbishop, divided into two dioceses; Cardiff and Menevia.  The new St David’s in Charles St, Cardiff, became the Welsh Catholic Church.  Again local newspapers joyously welcomed the news as a true recognition of Hedley’s great work and a boost to Cardiff’s claims as a capital of Wales.

Sadly Hedley died just a few months before the news broke.

134 – 122 To Monsignor Thomas Joseph Brown, Bishop of Newport

(L 1469)

Stresa, 14 August 1854)

I am grateful to your Excellency for your benevolent expression of congratulations to me on the good outcome in Rome of the examination of my works.  I see this result as a gift from God and it leads me to hope that this kind Providence will watch over the Institute of Charity in the future and guard it from the harm I might bring to it without God’s special help.

I have considered what you kindly communicated to me your letter.  I understand your circumstances completely and also acknowledge the paternal benevolence you show towards the Institute of Charity. However, I would not consider it prudent to accept the mission of Cardiff on the condition of ceding it in due course.  The institute would not be able to become rooted in that island and give a good service to its prelate if it did not have stable foundations and had only a precarious existence.  This stability seems necessary to me in order that my brothers should feel obligated to aim at perfecting their mission or house.  They would need to be persuaded that only in extraordinary circumstances would they be obliged to abandon the wor5k.  With this persuasion they could bind themselves to incurring expenses to improve or enlarge the house, provide a library and other things.  These things might not be done if there were no certainty of continuity.  You will understand clearly the reasonableness of my reflection, especially when they refer to an Institute in formation that still lacks a solid foundation.  If your Excellency should decide to give the Institute responsibility for the mission of Cardiff, without exacting such a condition, I am certain that Father Provincial Pagani will give his full commitment and total zeal in your service and that of the good, Catholic population, the greater glory of God.

Renewing my sentiments of gratitude and filial devotion to your Excellency and imploring your blessing.

Your obedient service in Christ

Rosmini p.

In the 16th and 17th centuries family loyalties and feuds were a dominant force in Welsh Society.  Public brawling between tribal gangs had, by the 17th century, given way to more sophisticated forms of rivalry.  Up to the outbreak of the Civil Wars in 1642, Wales was reputedly the most Catholic part of Britain, but the upheavals caused by this conflict did more towards the extinction of Catholicism in rural areas that the Penal Laws.

It was in the Marches, especially in Monmouth and Hereford that recusants were found in greatest numbers.  The formed compact, well-organised groups living on amicable terms with most of their Protestant neighbours.  A harsh penal code existed, with a complex system of officials to enforce it but in areas where the gentry as a whole disapproved of Government policy the legislation tended to remain a dead letter.  In the Welsh border area some officials were actually Catholics, many were related to them and the majority sympathetic towards them. Most important was the patronage of the Somerset family of Raglan Castle, the Catholic Earls of Worcester, the richest and most powerful magnates of the south Wales area.

Early in the 17th century, with the financial backing of the Morgan’s of Llantarnam, a Robert James had established a Jesuit mission in Wales, with two members of the Order in South Wales and two in the North.  Later, Father John Salisbury, who lived at Raglan Castle, took a lease on Upper Cwm near Llanrothal on the Monmouth-Hereford border.  By 1622, he had amasses sufficient capital to establish to College of St Francis Xavier, its territory comprising the whole of Wales, together with the neighbouring counties of Gloucester, Hereford and Somerset.  In 1637 Father Salisbury’s successor, one of the Morgan of Skenfrith, bought 99 year leases on the Upper and lower Cwms, the nearby farm of Llangunville and two other farms.  The farms were intended to provide a source of income to finance the work of the Jesuits in Wales and beyond.  Later the properties were in the name of Robert Hutton, described as a merchant of St Giles-in-the-Fields, London, believed to be the alias of a Worcestershire priest or Jesuit named Hill.  Management of the Jesuit estate was entrusted to Peter Pullen, a local Catholic.

According to a contemporary account [A Short Narrative of the Discovery of a College of Jesuits at a Place called the Cwm in the County of Hereford, London, 1679], the Cwms were spacious houses with several entrances and secret passages between some of the rooms.  Underneath the buildings run extensive cellars, accessible both from inside and outside the houses – useful strong-rooms where valuables could be hidden.  From one room a tunnel run out into the neighbouring woods, in which there were many caves. Situated in a rocky, wooded valley, about a mile and a half off the old Monmouth – Hereford road, remote and secluded Cwm was an ideal meeting-place for Catholics on both sides of the Anglo-Welsh border.  Locals generally referred to the place of the Anglo-Welsh border.  Locals generally referred to the place of the Jesuit College, and priests knew that in times of persecution they could always shelter there.

In the 1640’s there were nineteen to twenty Jesuits in Wales but in 1670 North Wales became a separate district – the College of St Winifrid.  At this time there were 5-6 priests in Cwm, where Mass was said regularly in the chapel.  Their estates, mostly in the hands of the friendly Protestants under secret trusts, were said to yield around £300 per annum.  This covered running costs while the priests lived on alms.  Returns of 1625 refer to a couple of priests teaching Greek and Latin, but there is no evidence as to the whereabouts of this school, or whether it continued to exist.  The Jesuit College at Cwm had been known to government authorities since at least the Restoration (1660) and probably earlier.  The priests went about openly, unmolested.  Every Monmouth market was a common sight.  According to Jesuit records, the priests at Cwm by their ‘prudence of conduct and urbanity of manners’ [Henry Foley, Records of the English Providence of the Society of Jesus Vol V, p 8 London 1877}l, had lived peaceably among their neighbours, until this period of calm was shattered by the alarming revelations of Titus Oates in the summer of 1678.

During the 1670’s, when the euphoria of the Restoration had evaporated, ther were growing fears of militant Catholicism linked with despotic government, as exemplified by France under Lous XIV.  Skilful propaganda fanned anti-Catholic feeling.  In the south Wales area, the gentry were coalescing into two factions – on the one hand, those regarded as the minions of the Marquis of Worcester and therefore popishly inclined such as Henry Milborne of Llanrothal; on the other, those who opposed the great lord and had consequently been victimised.  Among the latter were John Arnold of Llanfihangel Crucorney, near Abergavenny and John Scudamore of Kentchurch, just over the border in Hereford.

After the Civil Wars had left Raglan Castle uninhabitable the Somersets established themselves upon their estates at Badminton in Gloucestershire, but still retained a dominating influence in practically in the whole of Wales.  Nevertheless, the loss of Raglan as a Catholic Centre was a major blow.  Far more serious was the conversion to Anglicanism of the third Marquis, who succeeded in 1667.  However, he was no persecutor – all other members of this family remained Catholic and the Worcesters remained at a centre of network of Catholic gentry and tenant farmers which included the leading recusant families of Wales.

In the spring of 1678 a number of local ardent Protestants, enemies of the Marquis, claiming to be alarmed at the growing strength of popery, presented the Commons with a detailed account of Catholic activities in Monmouth and Hereford [The Journals of the House of Commons Vol IV].  The moving spirit behind the report was John Arnold, whose family had been early and enthusiasatic supports of the Reformation.  For many years he had lived on friendly terms with his Catholic neighbours, but by the late seventies there is no dougt that this attitude had changed.  His chief collaborator was John Scutamore, whose family had with few exceptions remained Catholic.  Both appeared before the House of Commons to enlarge upon their already comprehensive narrative concerning priests, their harbourers and the encouragement given to them by lazy, popishly-inclined magistrates.  Cwm was mentioned, but in the entire body of evidence there was nothing to suggest political activity of any kind.  Nevertheless, in the then current climate, Arnold and his associates caused a great stir.

It was in this highly charged atmosphere that Titus Oates appeared to make his lurid allegations against Catholics, especially the Jesuits.  The plot which he claimed to have uncovered hinged upon the murder of Charles II in favour of his Catholic brother, James Duke of York.  All was being master-minded by the Jesuits.  Not only was much prevailing opinion receptive to such a story but certain politicians, notably the Earl of Shaftsbury, saw that it could be exploited to serve their own ends.  Nevertheless, interest in it might have fizzled out were it not for the disappearance of Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, the London Magistrate before whom Oates had made an affidavit.  Soon rumour had it that he had been murdered by Catholics.  Five days later, when Godfrey’s dead body was found in a ditch on Primrose Hill rumour became an established fact in the popular mind.  Oates was hailed as the saviour of the nation and from this point onwards anything reported against the Catholics, however, farfetched, was immediately believed.

Only one of the Jesuits at Cwm had featured in Oate’s narrative.  He claimed to have seen a papal bull listing those who were to hold positions of authority when their plot had succeeded.  The See of Llandaff was to go to David Lewis, Superior at Cwm.   A reward of £500 for the discovery of Godfrey’s murderer brought William Bedloe of Chepstow in to the public eye.  As a young man he had gone to seek his fortune in London where, he claimed, he had been led into evil ways by Jesuits.  A skilled imposter, imprisoned more than once for fraud and theft, he had – in fact – just been released from Newgate prison, when he heard of this opportunity to enrich himself.  AS it was most unlikely that even heard of Godfrey he had to do some hasty research before appearing in November to announce to the Lords that Godfrey had been murdered by three Jesuits.  One of these was supposedly Father Charles Prichard of the Cwm, also supposed to be Bedloe’s source of information concerning the murder  Prichard’s next victim was to be the Duke of Buckingham, for a time one of the King’s closes advisors.  The very next day a warrant was issued for these dangerous men – already, in the popular mind – unquestionably guilty.

Bedlow now vied with Oates in the weaving of fantasy.  He claimed to have been a trusted messenger of the Jesuits, while at the same time boasting that his friends were ‘Protestants since the world began’ [T Richards Religious Census 1676  pp 97-98].  He claimed to have carried letters from the Jesuits in Paris to some of the leading Catholics of Monmouthshire who were to hold a conference.  Their decisions would be reported by Mr Prichard – presumably, the Jesuit Charles Prichard.  Gradually, he claimed, he learned of the complex plans for risings all over Wales and some of this information came from David Lewis, it was from him for example, that Bedlow alleged to have heard that Charles Prichard was to murder the Duke of Buckingham.  A few days later he announced that he himself had been offered £4,000 to murder someone and insisted that Fathers Lewis and Prichard had often assured him that every Catholic of any standing in the Kingdom knew about the plot.

It is not difficult to imagine the consternation at Cwm when these allegations became known.  The Superior, David Lewis, was an Abergavenny man who had lived for many years at Llantarnam Abbey.  Although he made no attempt to conceal his Catholicism Sir Edward Morgan of Llantarnam was not only a Justice of the Peace but also a Deputy Lieutenant of the County.  Father Lewis also ministered at Usk and said Mass regularly at the house of Thomas Gunter in Cross Street, Abergavenny.  According to the 1678 Report, he also ministered to large congregations at the houses of Edward and Andrew Williams.  He was a man of considerable learning and eloquence, frequently preaching in both English and Welsh.

Born in 1637, Charles Pritchard was most probably the son of James and Elizabeth Pritchard of Blaen Llymon in Monmouthshire.   He became a Jesuit in 1663 and four years later returned as a missionary priest to spend the rest of his life ministering in the area.  Little seems known of his activity until he achieved national notoriety through Bedloe’s allegations.

Father Philip Evans was probably one of a Catholic land owning family named Evans of Llangattock Vibon Avel, just a few miles from Abergavenny.  His mother was a Morgan of Llanfihangel Crucorney  He had arrived back in South Wales only three years before the plot but in that brief period his charm and enthusiasm had endeared him to all.  He, too, said Mass regularly at Thomas Gunter’s House in Abergavenny and preached eloquently in English and Welsh to large congregations.  Christenings, weddings and burial services took place in what was virtually a public chapel adorned with the ‘marks of the Jesuits’ on the outside [The letters IHS surmounted by a cross and surrounded by rays, as of the sun.  This device was adopted by St Ignatius Lolyola as the seal of the Society of Jesus].  This emblem was probably removed during the persecution associated with the plot.  It was reported to the Commons that on Sundays and holidays as many as a hundred people had poured of this house, which then must have been considerably larger, when scarcely forty people had attend the great parish church opposite.  On several occasions the vicar of the church had complained about these blatantly ‘superstitious practices’ [journal of the House of Commons, IV p 467] but failed to enlist the co-operation of local magistrates in bringing about their end.  Presumably his exasperation helped motivate his contributions to Arnold’s report to the Commons.

Philip Evans also ministered regularly to crowds at Llantilio Pertholey, near Abergavenny, another local worthy who managed to combine being a Catholic with holding office as a Justice of the Peace.  Philip Evans also visited the Vale of Glamorgan saying mass at Sker House (near Porthcawl) where Christopher Turberville lived.

We have sketchy and sometimes uncertain details of some of the other priests once found at the Cwm.  Father John Archer had been at the College since 1651.  Although he is said to have died in 1674, he features in a list of Jesuits at Cwm in 1678.  Father Thomas Harris was alive in 1676 aged 81, and also featured in the same list of 1678 but he given as dead in 1680.  Both of these were Monmouth men.  Also in the 1678 list we find Father John Humphreys but according to other sources he had died in 1676 either at Watten in the Low Countries or in South Wales,  Father Walker of Ignatius Price, alias Harries, yet another man of Monmouth was probably the Jesuit known as Price on the list.  He is known to have frequented the house of William Pullen of Trewailod, and also a house at Clytho, near Raglan, where a couple of Milborne sisters lived.

We therefore, have perhaps as many as seven priests at Cwm, possibly all natives of Monmouthshire and bi-lingual  There were also some priests who may not have been Jesuits.  Three factors confuse the separation of Jesui9t and secular priests.  Firstly, the label Jesuit was often loosely applied to any priest, usually as a pejorative term. Secondly, many records – Jesuit and others – have been lost and those remaining are not always reliable. Thirdly, the circumstances of the time compelled priests to frequently use aliases – a further complication for the historian working at a remove of three centuries or so.

Father Hutton or Hills was a Worcestershire man whose name appeared on a lease at Cwm, but he does not feature in Jesuit lists.  He does, however, seem to ahve been in the area at the time of the plot persecution and helped at least one of the hunted priests.  When Cwm was searched a box of papers belonging to Father John Hall was found.  He seems to ahve been a secular priest, or the name could be another alias used by Father Hutton.  There was also a father Francis Draycot, who although he was often found at Cwm, is not found in any Jesuit list.  He lived mostly with the Barringtons of Winsley in Hereford, but also often visited the Milbornes of Llanrothal, and is generally believed to have been a Jesuit.  A Father James was said to have been one of the Cwm community, but nothing more is known of him.

The charges against Charles Prichard – murder and intent to murder – were the most serious allegations against anyone in the south Wales area.  From Bedloe’s description  of the man, inaccurate in every respect. It was obvious that he had never even seen the pries.  Anyone who knew him could not imagine a man of his ‘meekness and simplicity’ [Foley, Records S J Vol V p 876] in the rose of an assassin.  A reward of 80 gold crowns was opened for his capture and conviction.  For six months while armed pursuivants ransacked Catholic houses their quarry remained hidden in an unidentified house, probably in the vicinity of Monmouth where he is said to have ministered.  By day, he dare not dare move – not even all the servants of the house were aware of his presence.  After dark, he risked visiting other Catholic families.  Such conditions caused his health to deteriorate.  A fall one night precipitated his death in March 1680 and the early age of 43.  He was buried secretly in the garden.  The Jesuit Provincial letter for 1680 stated that during his 16 years ministry Charles Prichard had never left South Wales and could not therefore have been involved in a London murder.  But who at this time would accept the word of a Jesuit – one doubtless a liar and at best a manipulator of truths.

Arnold had already alerted the Commons to the existence of the Jesuit College in South Wales.  Then came the changes against Charles Prichard and less serious allegations against David Lewis. Obviously government action was inevitable against such a hot-bed sedition.  Realising the seriousness of their situation David Lewis immediately evacuated Cwm.  The community scattered.  Some were sheltered by courageous Catholic families, but the majority were forced to hide in the woods and the hill country in bitter winter weather.

Early in December 1678 further evidence about Cwm reached the Lords who ordered an investigation by the Bishop of Hereford.  Bishop Herbert Croft was a son of Herbert Croft of Croft Castle in Hereford.  The elder Herbert had been converted to Catholicism, upon his retirement  from public life he left Herefordshire to end his days as an oblate at the English Benedictine monastery of St Gregory at Douai. The son, too was converted and went to study for the priesthood at the English College in Rome.  While back in England on family business the son returned to the Established Church.  Having taken orders in 1644 he eventually became a Bishop of Hereford, frequently engaging in anti-Catholic polemic.  He died in 1691, thanking God who had saved him ‘from the darkness of popish errors and gross superstitions’ and restored him to the ‘true and ancient creed and apostolic faith’ of the Anglican Church [Anthony a Wood.  Anthenae Oxoniensis Vol IV Edited by Philip Bliss, London 1820 p 868]. Bishop Croft seems to have nursed a special grudge against the Jesuits – not surprising, perhaps, because according to Oates, he was to be murdered to satisfy a Jesuit decree that no apostate should be spared.

The Government proclamation ordered the arrest and trial of all priests was the signal which the no-popery crusaders of Monmouthshire and Herefordshire had been longing for.  Pride of place must go to Arnold, whose assiduity in hunting down priests amounted to a mania.  In addition to the Government reward, he offered a £200 reward from his own pocket for the conviction of any priest in Hereford and Monmouth.  As he led the raid on the Cwm just before Christmas Bishop Croft had the enthusiastic support of Arnold, Scudamore and Charles Price of Llanfoist.  Apart from one Peter Pullen and a few servants, the place was deserted.  Great quantities of books and papers were found.  Several cartloads were removed from a study, which had a concealed entrance and in a nearby pig-sty a further haul was found.

Having ransacked the buildings the search party fanned out into the woods where they found boxes of vestments, crucifixes and other religious objects. All books and papers were to be kept safely, probably at Kentchurch, until the Bishop could deal with them.  Evidently quite pleased with himself, he immediately informed the Lords and sought guidance about what should be done with the finds.  Of course, it would have been far more satisfactory of he had found the community in residence.  Also he was rather worried about what the Marquis of Worcester might think of him and wrote to ask the Bishop of London how the Lords had reacted to the news of the raid.

Just after Christmas, when the sizeable Cwm library had been delivered to croft, the Bishop was quick to seize the opportunity to add several volumes to the Cathedral library which he was restocking after it had been rifled by Roundhead troops.  The Government stipulated that the illegal Catholic books were to be burnt, and all retained as acquisitions were to be catalogued.  Included in the Cwm collection were works by leading Jesuits, several works of controversy, Catechisms, some books in Welsh recently printed and some in manuscript.  The Welsh language works incorporated in the Bishop of Hereford’s library, and many other books from Cwm, have long since disappeared.  However, 106 volumes still survive there their dates of publication range from 1544 to 1664.  Obviously, the original Jesuit library was much more extensive but even what remains shows that the Jesuits – in what was something of an outpost – were in touch with contemporary Catholic thought on the Continent.

Of far more interest to the Government was the collection of papers seized.  Obviously, it had been a disappointment when no sensational evidence had been uncovered documents relating to the work of the College.  The privy Council ordered that all title deeds to Jesuit property should be sent to Whitehall, but despite several demands nothing was received.  Finally, Bishop Croft was asked to find someone who would administer the estates at Cwm in the interest of the Crown.

Even before the raid too place, the Superior at Cwm was a prisoner in Monmouth Goel, having been arrested at Llantarnam on 17th November.  A collection of alter plate confiscated at the time fell into the hands of Charles Price of Llanfoist and despite repeated orders for its surrender, even from the treasury, he refused to part with it.  In April 1679, information concerning a plot to poison Oates and Bedloe caused consternation in the Lords.  Certainly, there were some who wished success to such a scheme but doubts its existence.   The Earl of Shaftsbury , now at the height of his political career, was vociferous in his demands for stringent measures to protect the national heroes.  Among those brought to London for questioning was David Lewis, who refused the offer of his life and great wealth in exchange from some startling new revelations.

David Lewis’s execution took place at Usk in August 1679, traditionally on a site across the road from the present Catholic church.  Contrary to official procedure, he was allowed to die by hanging and although the body was disembowelled it was not dismembered.  Instead, the body received honourable burial in the parish churchyard.  The regard in which he was held may be gauged by the strong popular feeling against the mode of death inflicted by law.  Both the Sherriff and the Under-Sheriff of Monmouthshire put themselves at serious risk by not insisting on it.  The Sheriff had already been rebuked by Shaftsbury and fined heavily after Arnold had reported him for continuously postponing David Lewis’s execution, hoping that efforts to secure a reprieve would succeed.

Snow was falling heavily on a bitter January day in 1679 when a party escorting David Lewis from Monmouth to Usk stopped for some refreshment at Raglan.  Here David Lewis heard that Father Price, a member of his community lay dying only half a mile away.  Three days later news reached Father Lewis that his brother priest was dead.  The elderly Father Price, who had served the area for thirty-four years, was hunted so assiduously for almost two months in harsh winter weather that he was forced to flee at night ‘from barn to barn, from cave to cave, even from hogstye to hogstye [Foley, Records S J Vol V p 902].  Seemingly  a Protestant relative of the priest was responsible for this relentless  pursuit.  There are reports that finding the site of Father Price’s grave he had it opened so that he could remove a cross from the body.  His identify is unknown, but Charles Price of Llanfoist is the most likely candidate.  Apart from the commonality of name he was amongst the most fanatical of priest-hunters and had an unmistakable streak of avarice.

In December 1678 Father Philip Evans was arrested at Sker House while being sheltered by Christopher Tuberville and taken to Cardiff Castle.  There he joined Father John Lloyd, a secular priest also arrested at Tuberville house – this time at Penllyn in the Vale of Glamorgan.  Both priests were executed; the full barbarous penalty being exacted; heads and quarters would have been displayed on the town gates.

The turmoil of the Plot had totally disrupted the organisation of religious orders, especially the Jesuits, who had been initially Oates’s prime target.  One of the Jesuit community at St Omer wrote that the English Province, with thirty five of its members either dead or in prison, was tottering.  Efforts to salvage what remained where hampered by lack of funds, and also by the fact that many Catholics who had formerly sheltered priests were now unwilling to do so.  Jesuits were presented as sinister figures gliding from one secret assignation to another, always scheming and involved in shady politics.  In times of national panic, the danger which they were deemed to constitute assumed enormous proportions in the popular mind.

Persecution at this time raged more fiercely in South Wales than in any part of the county outside London.  This was most probably due to the fanaticism of a small knot of magistrates involved in a personal vendetta against the Marquis of Worcester.  Of the Cwm community listed earlier, there may have been dead before 1678; two were executed, another two died as a result of hardship endured while evading capture.  All of these were local men, Welsh in language and culture.  They were not replaced.

According to the Jesuit Records  for 1679-80 there were in this area a Rector, Father John Parther Junior, an Englishman, and three priests, one of whom was Charles Prichard, with the following note after his name. ‘If alive, for it is reported that he is dead from his sufferings in England but it is not known for certain’ [Foley, Records S J Vol V p 883].  For a time Abergavenny was served by Jesuits but after 1688 it was rarely visited by a priest, after the execution of David Lewis a house in Usk where us used to say Mass was confiscated.  It is doubtful if the Vale of Glamorgan continued to be served.

Between its foundation early in the 17th Century and 1678 Cwm Priests had served thirty three known places in South Wales.  Although its lease did not expire until 1737 Cwm was not occupied by a Jesuit College again.  Catholics of the Monnow Valley lost a useful rallying point and place of refuge.   Most of the old house was demolished ion 1830 and the present house erected.  But underneath are cellars believed to have belonged to the earlier house.  The brevity of James II’s reign allowed only a partial recovery of the Catholic infrastructure, not sufficient to weather the storm of 1688.  ‘The Glorious Revolution’ with its air of finality, dealt a further heavy blow to the Jesuits, and indeed, Catholicism, in South Wales.

For many Catholics, especially in South Wales and of Irish ancestry, the Church, as we know it today, appears to have been re-implanted in Wales in the early nineteenth century.  We see about us the first Catholic churches build since the Reformation and think of the Church ‘returning to Wales’,  There was however, a golden thread of the Faith which still persisted, despite persecution over three hundred years, by the efforts of devoted priests and courageous laity.  The Faith did not die out, despite losing its churches and monastic foundations which had been built over the previous fifteen hundred years.

However, it must have accepted that for the bulk of the largely illiterate population, more concerned with the ever-present struggle against poverty and famine, conformity to the requirements of the State, embodied in the Monarch, was a simple action.  For many, their parish priests, who conformed and remained in post, or were ejected and replaced by men who would confirm to the State religion, continued to use the parish churches which they had used for centuries.  The rituals, early in the Reformation, were little altered by the establishment of the State church, which was supported by the majority of the gentry and landowners who would be subject to the seizure of their lands and property if they did not conform.  The ordinary people would be required to follow the dictates of their landlords and in Wales, in particular, there was a feudal loyalty to the Plas Mawr and of course the House of Tudor.  The low point in the survival of the Church is probably revealed in the report by Bishop Charles Walmsey, Vicar Apostolic of The Western District, which included Wales, to the Congregation de Propaganda Fide dated 5th October 1773.  He reported that only 750 Catholics remained in the Principality.

Propaganda Fide dated 5th October 1773.  He reported that only 750 Catholics remained in the Principality.

1“In Principatu Walliae sunt noem Sacerdotes, quorum quator in oppidis oratorio habent curantque Fideles degentes tuam in ipsis oppidis quam in locis vicinis et distantibus.  Alii quatuor in Families nobelium commorantes iis et aliis in circuitu inserviunt.  Computantor Catholici in hoc Prncipatu plus minus 750”

English counties are also given, showing Herefordshire with 190 Catholics.  An opportunity to reverse the development of the Reformation came with the accession of Queen Mary in 1553 but this was lost by the lack of a properly funded and organised mission into Wales.  The accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1558 sealed the decline of the Faith in the kingdom generally.  In Wales, opportunist Welsh gentry seized the chance of posts at Court and ensured that the requirements of the state church in Wales were enforced.  There was nevertheless stirrings within the community to keep the Faith alive.

2 In North Wales, Robert Gwyn, a convert to Catholicism, had been at Doai and was the leader of the secular priests in Wales.  He set up an illegal printing press in 1556-7 which produced the first printed book in Welsh and was devoted to producing religious works, in Welsh, for instructing in the faith.

3The allegiance of recusants to the crown was suspect and under examination since the authorities were concerned that there could be an invasion by the Catholic pwers of Spain and France or from Ireland.  There were Catholics, such as Morys Clynnog who was later to be instrumental in setting up the English College in Rome, who saw a return to the Faith only being achieved by such an invasion.  In the following century this plan was raised once again by the Gunpowder conspirators who plotted to bring such an invasion into Milford Haven and strike north to link up with Catholic gentry in the north of England.  Suspicion was further exacerbated by the Papal Bull of Regnans in Excelsis of 1570.  This ill advised declaration put Catholics into the position of traitors in the view of the authorities.

1 J H Whyte Recusant History Vol 9 1968

2Geraint Bowen, Welsh Recusant Writings, (UWP 1999)

3Alan Haynes, The Gunpowder Plot (Sutton Publishing 1994) p 27

Catholic practices remained despite all actions against the Church which caused concern to Bishops and Clergy of the State church.  In 1536 Biship Barlow of St David’s, an ex Augustinian canon who had been appointed to his see by Anne Boleyn, wrote of his diocese.

1”Yt hath be always esteemed a delicate Daughter of Rome naturally resembling her Mother in shameless confusion and lyke qualifies with other peverse properties and execrable malignities as ungodly ymage service, abominable ydolterie and licencious libertie of dishonest livings.   Popish pilgrimages, deceitful pardons and feigned indulgencies”.

2In West Wales the significant leadership was effectively destroyed with the execution of Rhys ap Gruffydd, head of the House of Dinefwr in 1531 but ther was still a catholic presence.  At the Great Sessions of 1586, Thomas Phillips and Richard Benson of Martletwy were presented and John Lowe of Minwear in 1607, all as recusants.  In 1621/2 the Tooleys of Arnold Hill and John Gwyther of Manorbier were presented for giving shelter to a priest.  The first seminary priest to be sent on the Mission was Father Lewis Barlow who was active from 1574 to 1587.  Ironically he was of the same family as Bishop Barlow of St David’s and lived in the peroty at Slebech which had been seized from the Knights Hospitaller by Bishop Barlow.

1 G Owen Early Modern Pembrokshire Vol 3 p 113

2 Prof J G Jones Early Modern Wales 1525 – 1640 (London 1985) p 50

During the Civil War the current owner of Slebech took a “corps” of his tenants to aid his co-religionist, the Earl of Worcester, at the siege of Raglan.  They were defeated by the Parliamentary forces and John Barlow spent the Interregnum in Herefordshire.  Sir John Vaughan of Gelloi Aur (Golden Grove) was said to maintain two hundred of his tenants who were all recusants.  While the figures of people actually presented at the Sessions do not appear to be great it must be remembered that these were those who had actually been presented and probably represented many more who would have been known as “Church Papists”.  These would have outwardly confirmed but remained true to the Faith as far as possible.

In South Wales the lesser gentry such as the Stadlings, Turbevilles, Carnes and Gamages retained and supported the Faith.  Most would eventually conform but the Turbervilles especially were constantly appearing in lists of recusants and goal files for sheltering priests.  Father Phillip Evans SJ who was to be martyred in Cardiff was taken at Sker House, a Turberville residence and Father John  Lloyd, who was to be martyred with hi was taken at Penllyn.

The Griffiths family of Llanvythin in Glamorgan were particularly active and moved to Monmouthshire where they lived at Llanrothal supporting the Jesuit seminary at Cwm.  They figured in lists of papists prepared for the Bishop of Hereford and several members of the family were ordained as Jesuits.  Their story has been covered in great detail by F Pugh in the Journal of the Glamorgan History Society Morgannwg.

1The death of Elizabeth in 1603 produced no remission of persecution but the Faith continued and even men who were brought to the scaffold remained true to the Faith while affirming their loyalty to the monarch.  An example of this was Father Phillip Powell a Benedictine, who was born at Trallong near Brecon.  He was arrested on board a ship the “Charles Trow” in Mumbles Roads in 1646.  He was sent to Westminster where he told his judges that he freely confessed to being a priest “but guilty of treason against the state I am not.”  He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 30th June 1646.

2 In 1603 the figures for recusants in Wales were 808 in a total population of 212,000 distributed in the dioceses of Banger, 32, St Asaph, 250, St David’s 145 and Llandaff, 381.  However, the mayor of Welshpool wrote to the Privy Council to list the steps he was taking to check the pilgrimages to St Winifred’s Well.  He reported that in 1629 a total of 1,500 persons visited the Well with 150 priests.  Obviously not all of the people attending the pilgrimage would be from Wales, but any would be.

1 Father MR Lewis, from Darkness into Light (Abergavenny) p 38

2 G D Owen Wales in the Reign of James 1 pp 66,77

In the early seventeenth century it appeared that Catholic traditions, as distinct from Catholic practices, remained strong in Wales.  The small Catholic minority was wrongly perceived by the state to be a possible danger, should invasion from the Continent or Ireland take place.  At the same time the language barrier and poor communications inhibited the spread of the new faith, Y Ffydd Season (the English Faith) from England.  The mission of the church was concentrated on  London, which was the trading and administrative centre of the kingdom.  Some Catholics persisted not only among the laity but also the clergy.  Canon Cunnane of Cardigan who in 1592 was hanged drawn and quartered in Cardigan for treason (a punishment used for traitors – as all Catholic priests were classified).  He was convicted of honouring the saints, praying for the dead, offering candles, celebrating Mass and observing Corpus Christi.  His ‘bad life’ included ‘evell instructing simple people.’  He left a wife and children.

1 Bishop Middleton and Bishop Richard Davies, both bishops of St David’s were concerned at the widespread attachment to Catholicism, especially in Carmarthenshire, but in reality, Recusancy  was a minor problem in the west with presentations at the Great Sessions of only 15 in 1624 and 14 in 1624.  These were only those actually presented, others would avoid arrest because of family or neighbourly connections.  At various places across South and West Wales the practice of the faith and the places at which Mass was celebrates is reflected in the place names and remains of the chapl.s  Two such are referred to by B Morgan Griffiths at Whitesands Bay dedicated to St Patrick and Capel-y-Gwrhyd, sixteen mies from St David’s on the Fishguard Road.  The Holy Water stoup was taken to St Non’s in 1934.  The Gwrhyd farm was the residence of the priest and at Caerforiog there was a chapel on the site of the modern farm.  At Newgale was the reputed Chapel of St Caradoc.  All these were in Pembrokeshire in the diocese of St David’s.

2 In Cardigan there was a chapel at Llafair Nantgwyn, called St Meugan’s which was destroyed by the orders of the Magistrates in 1598.  It was noted for its three healing wells which survive the names of three farms in the modern Church in Wales parish, Pistyll Meigna, Penlanfeigan and Dyffryn Meigan.

3 In Glamorgan at Margam, a notably Catholic district, there were three grange chapels between Aberavon and Margam.  Ur Hen Gapel (Cwrt Ucha) Llanbegeilydd (Ton-y-Groes) and Hafod Y Porth (Lanipad Farm) in the Ffrwydwyllt Valley.  In the Margam MS Mention is made of Capel-Papistiad at Margam and Capel Mair o Ben-y-Graig.

1 B Morgan Griffiths Catholic St David’s (Haverfordwest 1930)

2 D Miles Portrait of Pembrokshire p 48

3 J O Brien Old Afan and Margam (Port Talbot 1950) p89

1 From Dom Aidan Bellenger’s list of priests ordained in the years from 1558-1800 it is possible to extract the numbers of priests from Welsh Counties who returned to work in the Western District.  These would almost certainly be Welsh speaking and aware of the problems of Wales but of the 191 ordained only 53 returned in the seventeenth century and 178 in the eighteenth century.  No ordinands came from Cardiganshire.

Scarcely any Catholics remained in the Western counties of St David’s diocese but a slender remnant existed.  The recusant rolls list 10 from Carmarthenshire in 1606 and 11 in Llandeilo but priests visited across South Wales and a report in Foley’s.

2 Records says that Jesuits from the college of St Francis Xavier at Cwm in Monmouthshire travelled the Country.  Before the founding of the college secular priests were already on the mission, one of the first being Morgan Clynnog, the nephew of Morys Clynnog.  He returned to Wales from Rome in 1582 working in Glamorgan and Carmarthenshire and living with the Turbervilles at Penllyn.  He was reported as baptising a child in a chapel near Margam at which 160 people attended.  3 He was reported at the Carmarthen Sessions in September 1591 as having said Mass at the house of John Lloyd in Llandelio and the house of David Delahay at Llanegwad.  He established at Mass centre at Llandeilo Fawr which lasted into the eighteenth century.  With Morgan Clynnog were Father Phillip Williams S J who said Mass at the house of Thomas ap Owen in Cydwelli.  Father John Bennet S J lived with Barlows of Slebech and was said to have covered most parts of Wales on foot over a period of thirty five years despite poor health due to torture in his early years.  In November 1699 Father Samuel Davies ‘now and formerly a popish priest’ said Mass in the mansion of John Morgan of Llandeilo Fawr, administered the Sacrament to Mary Lloyd and Mary Price.  Father Roger Cadwallader, later martyred in 1610, spent 16 tramping the uplands of Wales with the minimum necessities to celebrate Mass contained in a pack on his back.  Several priests were reported doing the same from a base at the college at Cwm.

1 Dom Aidan Bellenger English and Welsh priests 1558-1800 (Downside 1992)

3 A Randall, Catholic Llandeilo (Carmarethn) 1987

2 H Foley, Records of the English Province of the Society Jesus p 333

1 In 1687 the Franciscans founded their mission in Abergavenny and there was an unbroken line of priests until 1812.  From here the Franciscans made a circuit of South Wales four or five times a year with establishments in Perthir and Sarnesfield in Monmouthshire.

2 The Civil War and the interregnum did not bring much relief to Catholics.  When Cardinal Mazarin tried to help the situation with a plea to Cromwell he was told that “I meddle not with any man’s conscience but if by liberty you mean to exercise the Mass….that will not be allowed of.”  The attitude of the Parliamentarians towards Catholics is well illustrated by an incident in the Bristol Channel on 23rd April 1644.  Captain Moulton of the ‘Leopard’ seized a ship bound from Ireland to Bristol.  Of the 3 150 people on board 70 were judged to be papists and thrown overboard to become ‘water rats’.

1 T Herrmans, Franciscans in England 1600 – 1850 (London 1898) p 89 134

2 T Richards Religious Developments in Wales 1544-1642 (London 1923)

3 J M Cronin St Peters Magazine 1924

In 1690 a Bill was put before Parliament to deport Catholics from South Wales to England but there is no evidence that this was carried out on a large scale.  Some were sent to Weisbech, one of whom was Father Anselm Turberville (alias Edward Baaswsett) son of Lewis Turbeville who had died in Cardiff goal. He escaped and sided in Glamorgan in 1685 aged 70.

That the Faith was still alive in the eighteenth century is shown by the comments in 1721 by Erasmus Saunders who published his “View of the State of Religion in the Diocese of St David’s” and complained of the persistence of Catholic practices as follows:

“For those lost mountainous parts where old Customs and Simplicity is most prevailing…but with those innocent good old Customs they have also learned some of the Roman Superstitions practiced in later ages such as many times in their Ejaculations to invocate not only the Deity but the Holy Virgin and other saints for Mair Wen, Iago, Teilaw Mawr, Celer, Celynog and others often remembered as if they had hardly yet forgotten the use of praying to them.  So that if we have not yet quite unlearn’d the Errours of our Popish Ancestors it is because the Doctrines of the Reformation begun about two hundred years ago in England, have not yet effectually reach’d us, nor is it indeed likely that they ever should without a fit and learn’d clergy”.

Evidence of the presence of priests active in Glamorgan in the reign of William III is revealed in an unlikely source.  Ann Matthew of Llancaiach was sued by her Protestant nephew on the grounds that she could not inherit under a will since she was Catholic.  Reference was made in evidence to Father John Hill S J and Father Davies S J who were both working in Glamorgan and had been at the house of Anne Matthews.

In conclusion we can say that although the Faith appeared to have been extinguished in Wales during the worst part of the Penal Times it did infact survive. While the immigration from Ireland obviously brought many catholics to Wales and in which the bulk of to-day’s community had its roots, the Faith was still here.  It is interesting to note that the Bishop of St David’s Bishop Samuel Horsley, facilitated the passage of the Toleration Act in 1791 and the Emancipation Act of 1829 when he spoke in the House of Lords and said:

“That Christian charity imposed a Christian duty to tolerate Christians of every denomination.”

It must also be remembered that the pre Reformation Church laid the foundations of the Christian country which is Wales.

Bibliography and books recommended for further reading.

Recovery, Reorientation and Reformation Wales 1415-1642 Sir Glanmore Williams Cardiff 1987.

Early Modern Pembrokeshire G>Owen

Early Modern Wales 1525-16540 J Gwynfor Jones (London 1994)

From Darkness to Light, M R Lewis (Abertillery 1992)

Civil War Tracts National Library of Wales

Cardiff Records J H Matthews (Cardiff 1900)

Troublous Times, Father J M Cronin St Peter’s Magazine 1924

Father in Faith Dom Aidan Bellenger (Downside 1991)

Catholic St David’s B Morgan Griffiths, Haverfordwest 1930

Portrait of Pembrokeshire, D Miles (London 1984)

Old Afan and Margam J O’Brien (Port Talbot 1950)

North West Catholic History

When in 1685 the Catholic James II and VII succeeded to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland, he became the leader of the English and Celtic Catholic communities with their diasporas on the Continent and in the colonies.  His accession strengthened the links between the English and Celtic Catholicism, and temporarily exalted them from subservience to ascendancy.

A minority amongst the English, Catholics were the majority of the Celts.  Out of five million English, a million Scottish and two million Irish, there were perhaps 60,000 English Catholics, 14,000 Scottish Catholics, and almost two million Irish Catholics, Jacobite Catholicism was largely Celtic and indeed Gaelic.  In 1688 James’s Catholicism was largely Celtic and indeed Gaelic.  In 1688 James’s English Protestant subjects rebelled in defence of their religion and liberties, whilst his Gaelic Catholic subjects rallied to him in defence of theirs but by 1691 the British Counter-Reformation had failed.1

James fostered his religion through his dominions.  Authoritarian in character, he admired the simple, lucid, French Classical Catholicism expounded by Bossuet.  His Catholicism was seen at its most splendid in the Chapel Royal at Whitehall.  Designed by Wren, it was decorated with paintings by Verrio and sculptures by Gibbons and Quellin. It was the setting for a liturgy with music by Locke and Blow sung y Siface.  The Baroque vision of the Catholic King ruling by Divine Right survives in Kneller’s portrait (in the National Portrait Gallery) and in Gibbon’s bronze statue (in front of the National Gallery)2

The Roman supervision of Anglo-Celtic Catholicism was confirmed.  Lying in Protestant territory, it came under the authority of the congregation of Propaganda and the responsibility of the Dominican Cardinal Protector Philip Thomas Howard, who shared with the king concern for Catholicism throughout the Stuart dominions. 3

James ‘s reign was of permanent benefit to the 60,000 English Catholics, including 40,000 in the north, half of these in Lancashire. He opened chapels, supported priests, promoted Catholics to office and secured the appointment of bishops as vicars apostolic. Although the Revolution of 1688 excluded Catholics from office, and temporarily closed the urban public chapels, the appointment of vicars apostolic provided a lasting organisation, and in Gother’s timely and Dryden’s enduring apologies English Catholicism produced its own version of Classical Christianity4.

The English Catholic diaspora on the Continent ebbed and flowed with the rise and fall of Catholicism at home. The clergy – seculars, Jesuits, Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Carmelites – and the nuns – Benedictines, Carmelites, Augustinians, Bridgettines, Franciscans, Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, and sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary – had houses from Lisbon to Munich and from Dunkirk to Rome, where the English college was re built in the Baroque style by the cardinal protector. During the ascendancy the clergy sent their members to England and after the Revolution, colleges and convents benefited by endowments and vocations from the exiled Jacobite court5.

The ascendancy encouraged the Anglo-Celtic diaspora in the colonies.  The Catholics in the Atlantic colonies, defended by the navy opened to Catholic officers, came the responsibility of John Leyburn, vicar apostolic of the London district.  Founded by its Catholic proprietors the Calverts, Lords Baltimore, Maryland, despite its Jesuits (who set up a college in New York) and Franciscans, contained only 4-5,000 Catholics in a population of 20-20,000.  Its Catholic government was overthrown y the Revolution but it remained the centre of American Catholicism.  Neighbouring tolerant Quaker Pennsylvania ha welcomed its first Catholic immigrant, Pastorius, the founder of Germantown.  The small Irish community forcibly settled by Cromwell on Jamaica was ministered to by an Irish Dominican (with faculties from the Spanish Bishop of Cuba) joined by the English secular Thomas Churchill.  St Kitts also held a few Irish.  James sent John Weldon as a priest to the Irish Catholic refugees from Virginia on Montserrat, where slavery and miscegenation produced a nation of Catholic negroes who speak an Irish brogue.6

In the Celtic peninsulas thrusting out into western seas Catholicism was becoming extinct because of the shortage of Celtic-speaking priests.  Cornwall’s language and Catholicism were both in decline, in contrast with its Breton twin whose language was the medium of Catholic revival. There were only 400 Catholics in Cornwall and Devon, and only two Cornish Catholics, Sir John Arundel and Peter Trevillien, were promoted to the bench.  John Bully was the priest on the Isles of Scilly; the vicar general of Conrwall, Edward Cary, resided in Devon; and the planned Franciscan residence on St Michael’s Mount was forestalled by the Revolution.7

The rapid decline of Welsh Catholicism and the slow decay of the Welsh language had already begun, through the collapse of the former was delayed by James’s rule.  With 2,000 Catholics (headed by the Herbert’s, earls of Powis) out of 360,000 Welsh, Catholicism had receded leaving Monmouthshire, where Jesuits and Franciscans opened chapels in Monmouth, as a Welsh Lancashire.  In North Wales Holwyell remained an important centre of pilgrimage for English as well as Welsh Catholics, and the King and Queen went there in 1686 to pray for a son. However, despite the nationalist scholarship of Catholic laymen like Thomas Sebastian Price of Llanfyllin, no provision was made for Welsh speaking priests, with the consequent decline of Catholicism in Wales as throughout the Celtic South West.8

In the Gaelic speaking Isle of Man (the feudal domain of the Stanley’s. Earls of Derby) Catholics, deprived of priests, had disappeared.  Ancient customs survived, and rumours of Irish Jesuits worried its Anglican bishop, ut no Catholic mission was sent to the island.  The extinction of Catholicism in Man contrasted with its survival in the other Gaelic lands.9

Strong in the Gaelic Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Catholicism was weak in the Calvinist English speaking Lowlands, where James’s efforts at conversation were futile.  Organised under a prefect in 1635 the Scottish mission of fifteen priests served 2,000 Lowland Catholics,  James annulled the penal laws, financed the mission, set up a chapel and press at Holyrood, and replaced Protestant privy counsellors with Catholics, but had little success, other than the conversation of the Drummond brothers, the earls of Melfort and Perth.  He also supported the Scottish secular colleges at Douay, Paris, Valladolid, and Rome.  Although the Scottish Benedictine abbeys at Ratisbon and Wurzburg sent missionaries home, the Scottish diaspora neglected the Gaelic Highlands which were dependent on Gaelic speaking Irish Priests.10

Scotland’s Gaelic Catholicism was encouraged by the King and the cardinal protector.  The 12,000 Catholics (headed by the duke of Gordon) amongst the 200,000 Highlanders were served by three or four priests, including Irish Lazarists sent by St Vincent de Paul.  Because of the shortage of native clergy, Cardinal Howard continued to sent Irish priests, and in 1687 there were six priests in the Highlands financed by the King.  The Catholics and those clans who feared the Campbell Duke of Argyle rallied to the Stuart cause in the Revolution, but dispersed after the battles of Killicrankie and Dunkeld in 1689, and the Campbell’s took revenge of the MacDonald’s at Glencoe in 1692.  The highland Catholic Gaihealtachd was defeated, but recovered.  In 16098 there were ten priests (eight Irish and two Scots) and two Catholic Schoolmasters in the Highlands, and by 1755 the Catholics had increased to 16,500, a growth only checked by the Clearances. Indeed, the Scottish and Irish Churches continued a single Gaelic Catholicism.11

In Ireland, the Catholic centre of James’s dominions, the Catholic ascendancy was temporarily complete.  Despite the Anglican Anglo=-Irish aristocracy and the 1000,000 Presbyterian Anglo-Scottish settlers in Ulster, the native Irish preserved their Catholic religion and hierarchy with their native language (which was used for Catholic printed books) and supported secular, Jesuit and Franciscan colleges and Benedictine convents on the Continent.  The appointment of Tyrconnel as lord deputy allowed Catholics to practise their religion freely, to take over the administration and the army, to re claim their land, and to re assert their national independence.  However, after the Revolution, James’s Irish army, defeated at the Boyne and Aughrim, surrendered at Limerick, in 1691.  Irish independence and the Catholic ascendancy were overthrown together. 12

Lancashire, on the eastern shore of the Irish sea was the pivot of this Anglo-Celtic Catholicism.  It contained about a third of English Catholics, and under James II the Catholic Lord Molyneux was lord lieutenant and Catholics dominated the county bench, and controlled the borough of Wigan.  During the Revolution there were some bloodless manoeuvres at the Protestant militia shadowed the retreat of Irish Catholic regular troops to Liverpool  for embarkation to Ireland.  After the Revolution Lancashire remained the centre of both English Catholicism and English Jacobitism. 13

The Anglo-Celtic Catholic ascendancy, conceived by James, fostered by Howard, and nourished by the Continent colleges and convents, flourished briefly in the British Isles and the Americans.  Only in the Isle of Man, Cornwall and Wales, did James fail to put new life into Catholicism.  In England Catholicism was invigorated, and the Revolution checked but did not destroy it.  In Scotland and Ireland, Catholicism and Gaeldom rose and fell together, but survived to put out new shoots across the Atlantic.


1. D.ogg, England in the reigns of James II and William III  (Oxford 1969) p 1 J Miller, Property and Politics in England, 1660 in – 1688 (Cambridge, 1973) pp 9 – 12; J Bossy7, The English Catholic Community (1975) pp 188-89; M MacCurtain, Tudor and Stuart Ireland  (Dublin 1972) p 179 R MacDonald, ‘The Catholic Gaidhealtachd’,  Innes Review, XXIX (I) (1978) p 57.

2. J A Hilton, “The Catholicism of the Ascendancy’, London Recusant, new series I (1981) pp 60-67 H Daniel-Rops, The Church in the Seventeenth Century (London, 1963) pp 234, 26067 M Whinney,Wren (London 1971) pp 156-58; G Bazin, Baroque and Rococo (London 1964) o 79 E S de Beer, The Diary of John Evelyn (London 1959) pp 857-59 M Hodgetts, ‘Recusant Liturgical Music’, , Clergy Review, LXI (4) (1976) pp 152, 154.

3. M E William, The Venerable English College Rome (London 1979) pp 44-45, 52-53

4. Miller pp 9-15, 19-40, 197-98, 239-48, 250-63, J C H Aveling, The Handle and the Axe (London 1976) pp 222-43, 322-23; Bossy and P Jupp, Essays Presented to Michael Roberts  (Belfast 1976) p 54 P Hemphill, The Early Vicars Apostolic of England  (London 1954)  pp 1-26 M Norman, ‘John Gother and the English Way of Spirtuality’, Recusant History XI (6) (1972) pp 306-19 Hilton LR, n s I pp60-67.

5. P Gilday, The English Catholic Refugees on the Continent (London 1909) p 40 Williams pp 47-48 Miller p 241 p 241 D Mathew, Catholicism in England (London 1948).  p 120.

6. L Goch  ‘Catholic Officers in the Navy of James II R,  XIV (4) (178) pp  276-80  Catholic  Encyclopaedia (15 vols, London 1907-12) II pp 228-29 VII p 132 IX pp 349, 757-59, IX pp 642-43 Archives of the Archidiocese of Westminster, Westminster series A XXXV pp 443-45 G Anstruther, The Seminary Priests(4 vols Great Wakening  1968-77) II pp 54-58 OGG p 20 H Foley, Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus (7 vols, London, 1877-89) VII pp 343 826m

7. W S Dempsey, ‘ The story of the Catholic Church in the Isle of Man (Birchley 1958) p 135 G Clark, The Later Stuarts(Oxford  1961) pp 409-10 H Daniel-Rope p 89 E Browning (English Historical Documents  (London 1953) VIII pp 413-14 Miller “The Catholic Factor in English Politics, 1660-1668” (PH.D theses, Cambridge 1971) p 367 E Estcourt and J O Payne, The English Catholic Nonjurors of 1715(London 1885, pp 22-23 AnstrutherII 37-38, 47 Miller.  Popery and Politics p 247.

8. Clark pp 409- 10 Browning, VIII pp 413-14 Bossy, English Catholic Community pp 98-100 C David, St Winefride’s Wel (Holywell, 1971) P Jenkins, “ A Welsh Lancashire

9. Dempsey, pp  132-37;  Clark p 410 E H Stemming, Portrait of the Isle of Man (London 1965) pp 49-50.

10. W J A  Anderson ‘Narratives of the Scottish Reformation@, IR VII (2) (1956) p 112; MacDonald IR, XXIX (1) p 57 ; Miller, Popery and Politics p 242; Ogg p 174 Clark, pp 274-76 Catholic Encyclopaedia XIII p 620 Dominicana (Catholic Record Society XXV  London 1925) p 82.

11. MacDonald IR XXXXIX (1) pp 57 60-63  Clark pp 277-78, 281, 410; D C Maclean, ‘Catholics in the Highland Isles, 1560-1689’, IR III (I) (1952), pp 5,11,13; Dominicana p 85.  A Bellesheim History of the Catholic Church in Scotland (4 Vols, Edinburgh 1890) IV pp 132, 135, 367; Ogg pp 268-69, 275-69, 275-876; Bossy, English Catholic Community, pp 297-98; J D Mackie, History of Scotland  (Harmondsworth 1669) p 294.

12. MacCurtain pp 177-82, OGG, pp 1, 247-59, Clark, pp 294, 302-10, 323; Catholic Encyclopaedia VIII p 159.

13. Hilton, “The Catholic Ascendancy in the North, 1685-88” North West Catholic History V (1978) pp 1-14  Hilton, “Wigan Catholics and the Policies of James II” NWCH, I (3) (1969) pp 97-110, Historic Manuscript Commission, Kenyon Manuscripts (London, 1894) no 635 J J Bagley, History of Lancashire (London 1961) pp 36-37

Denis Evinson

One of the beauties of studying Church history is that it may be approached from so many fronts – personalities, missionary endeavour, building history, church architecture, art furnishings and so on.,  Another aspect hitherto less well explored is that of patronage.  Here an attempt is made to examine the character of patronage as applied to church buildings, with its effect upon design and stylistic development

Following the Toleration Act of 1791, a wave of new churches emerged, financed by private committees, for in the absence of parochial organisation, priests were unable to elicit reliable support for building and maintenance from congregations that consisted mostly of the poor.  St Patrick’s, Solo, is a typical foundation of the time.  Here a former concert hall was rented (1791) and adapted as a church by a committee of Catholic laymen.1 It was managed by them until 1813, being then made over to the bishop.  In this and other contemporary Catholic chapels, a system of entrance charges operated, as in a theatre.

Corporate and individual patronage of this type persisted exclusively in Catholic works until after emancipation (1829) exclusively in Catholic works until after emancipation (1829) when congregations began to finance building arrangements.  Thus for forty years from 1791 to 1830, wealthy local Catholics built churches which they made available to the clergy for general use.  The churches for instance at Newport (18791) and Cowes (1796) in the Isle of Wight were both paid for by Mrs Elizabeth Heneage, and designed by Fr Thomas Gabb, and amateur architect; Mr Thornton, a wealthy manufacturer, paid for St Mary’s at Knaresborough (1790); Lady Fairfax gave the house and land at Ampleforth to the Benedictines exiled from Dieulouard (1802); and for the Duoai community Mr John Sone, a wealthy miller, gave Bishop Douglas £10,000 towards the..

Llanisien, or Llanishen, is now a huge sprawling suburb of in north –east Cardiff with a population of some 70,000 or so.  Sixty years ago, Llanisien had rural splendour.  There was a ribbon development but off the main roads farming flourished.  We were reared next to a farm: from the bungalow we saw only horses, cattle, hawfinch and sparrow hawks.  Now just three farms survive, all north of the M4; just a handful of the original 34 farms houses in the parish survive.  Today, St Isan’s parish church has a vibrant congregation which makes important contributions to the local community.  A semi-rural churchyard remains very popular for weddings.

But who was this man who today is called Isan by many?

There is only one fact definitely known of him: he would never have heard of the name Isan.  His name was Isien (pronounced “eeshen”).  The rest is conjecture.,  So what can we surmise of this patron of Llanisien and Llysfaen?

He was probably a monk, either a priest or lay brother, based at Llandaf or more probably at St Illtud’s European famous monastery at Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major).  Was he the monk, Yssen, who said beside the dying Illtud in 500 AD? Legend tells us that Isien lived at the end of the fifth and early  sixth centuries dying possibly in 527 or 537, his feast day is 16th December.

However, Isien is also associated with Llandennis, a mile or so to the south in what was then an isolated, marshy area, today lying just north of the mis-named Roath Park ) it’s in Llanisien!!).    Here there is an abundance of running water from the Nant Fawr a still active holy well and another possibly east-west  route t the ford at Llandaf.  Well do I remember my parents encouraging my brothers and me to bathe our eyes and faces in the sprint renowned for healing eye and skin diseases.  We frequently took kettle loads of water for family use.  In fact I regularly stopped to drink the deliciously fresh, cool water until recent years.  And what about that prominent mound north –west of the well?    Is it really hiding the remains of an ancient church  or just a clump of agricultural waste?  Believe me that it makes a great ramp for teenage cyclists!  In the 1890’s and the new road linking the recently built lake with Fid Las deliberately  skirted the well after much public agitation.

So which came first; the present site or Llandennis?

How did Isien become associated with the Latin name, Dionysius, and the Norman French, Dennis? Did the Normans change his name?  Or was it Bishop Bledri of Llandaf who encouraged Latin and parish reform in his diocese a century before the Normans conquest and called him Dionysius?  Much more likely it was Isien himself.  Pilgrimages to Rome were very common in his time.  Welsh and especially Irish Monks voyaged from Llanilltud Fawr to Padstow in N Cornwall, thence down the Camel and Fowey valleys and on to Britanny.  From  here the Irish peregrinate travelled all over Western Europe while the Welsh  spread the Faith in Britanny and the west of England. Legend said Isien Latinised his name in Rome.  Many other local monks did the same.  Eirwg became Melonious: both of his name’s survive in Cardiff East through the Latin / English St Mellon’s is alas more common that the original Llaneirwg.

There are other mysteries too.  Llysfaen, often Anglicised to Lisvane, though separate from but closely associated with Llanisien, has always been identified with St Denys?  Why did Llandennis and Lisvane have the Latin Norman name but Llanisien village and church retain the Welsh name as in Llanishen?  Why was the church dedication Anglicised to St Isan for the area was, until recent times, predominantly Welsh speaking.

So who was Isien?  Undoubtedly he was a humble monk most of whose life was spent praying and working in his monastery.  On a regular basis he visited our area to preach and, if he was a priest, to offer Mass in a wooden chapel long since vanished.

Herefordshire  has a long history of political and religious administration from Wales.  At the union of England and Wales many traditional Welsh lands were lumped into England simply for administration.  Within living memory there were Welsh speakers throughout western Herefordshire, some who could scarcely speak English.  When county boundaries were altered in the 1970’s several of the border parishes expressed a wish to join Wales — one held a successful  referendum but was denied.

It’s not possible to give a coherent history in this column but here are a few facts and anecdotes to show how the county has been linked with Wales for Catholic purposes.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century after the Whitsun Riots, (see a previous Gleanings) the Griffiths Family of Flemingston in the Vale of Glamorgan set up the Jesuit centre at Cwm in Herefordshire just across the Gwent border.  From here for the next 90 years or so the Jesuits planned the mission to Wales and the border counties.  The most well-known priests in the area were probably the saintly B1, Roger Cadwalladr, the fiery Robert Jones, S J  and Wm Powell, S J.  Just as these priests worked across the border, so many families had relations across the border.  The Vaughan’s of Courtfield, the Harvard’s, the Morgan’s and other families connected with relations and friends in Sarnesfield, Rotherwas, Bromyard, Sugwas and other places still associated with our diocese.

At the end of the seventeenth century the Vatican approved the total restructure of the mission to England and Wales dividing the two counties into four districts  The whole of Wales, Herefordshire and the West  of England were grouped at the Western District in Charge of a Vicar-Apostolic with Bishop status.  Our first over one hundred years various  Vicars-Apostolic or their co-adjutors lived and worked along the Gwent-Hereford border at Hereford, Llanarth, Monmouth and Perthir among other places until settling at Gath in the less hostile times in the early nineteenth century.

Fr John Scudamore, S J of Holme Lacy near Ross had relations in Pembridge near Skenfrith. In the mid eighteenth century he chose to spend eight years in the Vale of Glamorgan living mainly near Pyle.  When he became head of the Jesuit mission to Wales and the border he remained a frequent visitor to the very few remaining Catholics in the Vale, indeed he was the last priest to reside in the Vale until the Irish built with financial assistance churches in Cardiff (1841) and Bridgend (1858).

It seems that when Fr Scudamore left Glamorgan the Jesuit funds for the Glamorgan mission remained in the care of the resident priest at Hereford.  Fr William Horne, S J Was anxious to use these funds for Wales supplemented by any other funds he could find.  He formulated a plan to give the mission at Leominster to a priest who was willing to travel regularly to Cowbridge as a centre for S Wales.  Some of this case came from Fr John Butler of Hereford who had refused the Bishopric of Limerick in 1778 but became the 10th Earl of Cahir in 178, inheriting a small fortune.  Alas Fr Butler died suddenly and intestate that same year so the whole project fell through.  Incidentally Cahir (An Chanthair : the Stone Fort),  a famous Irish fort captured by the Anglo-Normans, is now a ruin on an island of the R Suir, Tipperary.

Fr Horne continued to administer the Jesuit funds from Hereford paying Fr Robert Plowden to visit the Vale two or three times a year even reaching Haverfordwest and Fishguard in the 1790’s and the early nineteenth century.

In 1840 Herefordshire joined Wales as the Welsh District led by Benedictine Biship Thomas Brown who, whilst officially residing in Bath, travelled extensively along the Gwent border and Herefordshire.  During the 1840’s with the arrival of the irish he needed to balance the total lack of priests in South Wales with a personal wish to establish a diocesan cathedral and chapter.  Difficulties arose when he planned to use St Mary’s Newport Col Vaughan of Courtfield offered an alternate site in Abergavenny and at the same time F R Wegg-Prosser proposed a site at Belmont just to the west of Hereford.  After much debate the latter site became the Welsh Diocese’ new Cathedral and Chapter in 1859 —–in England!!!

Funding for this building is intriguing.  In 1858 the Rosminians were collecting funds for St Peter’s Church, originally costing £2,000 but eventually totalling £6,000.  As the costs spiralled Bishop Brown felt under pressure for his cathedral.  In September 1858 the bishop wrote to Fr Asngelo Rinolfi, the Rosminians provincial, that he could allocate £100 to St Pater’s not from diocesan funds but out of the grant he received from the Propagation of the Faith in Rome for the new cathedral.  Brown refused to use diocesan money for either building.  Apart from the cash from Rome, funds for the cathedral came from the residue of Franciscan funds for S Wales which church law allowed him to use, from Benedictine sources and “….all I can scrape together destined for my own use.”

When St David’s, Cardiff, was raised to Cathedral status in 1916 we had the curious anomaly of diocese with two chapters, one in Wales, the other in England, Belmont’s chapter was finally dissolved in 1920.

When the hierarchy looked at diocesan boundaries in 1974 with parochial consultation, on-one wanted Herefordshire attached to an English diocese.  In 1989 – 91 when Mass times in the diocese were reviewed,, Archbishop Ward specifically requested the laity to consider the Herefordshire situation.  Only two people in Herefordshire shoe3ed dissent bur that than object, they were puzzled by the county’s inclusion in a Welsh diocese.  However, four or five objections from west of the border preferred English Hereford to be in England leaving the Welsh diocese to consider the needs of the Welsh Church seeking closer ties with our Welsh speaking fellow Christians.

And that’s how it stands at the moment!

Each bishop has as his focal point his Cathedral Church, Mother Church of the Diocese and the Centre of convergence.  Here the bishop has his chair from which he teaches and leads the people to grow in Christ.  Here too the Church is displayed through Mass and special occasions particularly the annual Chrism Mass.  So the local Church is strengthened in love and commitment.

Our first diocesan cathedral lay outside Wales in Belmont in 1859.  A recent Gleanings described the finance and building of the Abbey.  However, Bishop Brown remained dissatisfied.  In 1840 when he was installed as Bishop, Belmont was certainly close to where most Catholics lives, along the Marches and in patches in N Wales, but buy 1851 times had changed. Newport, 30 miles away, was the dominant town in Wales, closely followed by a rapidly expanding Cardiff over 40 miles away (almost a suburb of Newport wrote the bishop).  Not only did Brown want to increase the number of priests in these towns but he looked at first to Newport in particular fo ra site for a more central cathedral.

Even as Belmont was being build the Romanian priests in St Mary’s Newport, debated with Brown on the possibility of St Mary’s becoming a cathedral, or of a cathedral on another site in the town.  There were two problems. Firstly there was a shortage of priests to replace the Rosminians known officially of course as the Institute of Charity.  Secondly the exact status of the Rosminians in Newport had not been verified by the Vatican.  So the problem was temporarily shelved.

Ten years later Brown again looked at Newport and this time Cardiff as well fo ra cathedral site.  He believed he had no right to build a cathedral on any site within the boundaries of the Rosminians missions in Newport or Cardiff though he asked the Rosminian provincial for his conclusions.  However, the bishop insisted that he emphatically did not want the Rosminians to leave either town. In fact in the early 1870’s Brown vociferously opposed Bute’s attempts to bring the Oratorians to Cardiff reiterating that he fully supported the Rosminians.  He preferred the Rosminians to his own Benedictine Order because no priests ministered to the poor as well as the Institute of Charity.

Throughout this period one Rosminian priest, Fr William Lockhart, argued that the Institute should withdraw from Cardiff allowing the bishop to make St Peter’s his cathedral.  By this he hoped the diocese would take over the huge debt on St Peter’s enabling the Rosminians to open a much needed seminary in London and release clergy to undertake travelling missions and retreats.  Yet when Lockhart became Head Priest at St Peter’s for a few months in 1878 he completely changed his mind, realised the great achievements in Cardiff and Newport and became an enthusiastic supporter to retain the two churches for their potential.

In the early 1880’s the matter again came to the fore.  Cardiff was being divided between the diocese and the Rosminians.  Bishop Hedley had moved to Cardiff though still entitled Bishop of Newport.  Hedley, long an Auxiliary Bishop to the deceased Brown, was equally in favour of the Rosminians even over his own Benedictines.

He too was anxious to establish a more convenient site for a cathedral but emphatically did not want the Rosminians to leave Cardiff nor Newport.  There was a debate about St Peter’s again.  Hedley agreed that the diocese would take half the debt on St Peter’s.  Though he was eager to have St Peter’s for a cathedral, he knew the Rosminians would withdrawn. The final agreement saw the diocese taking St David’s and all parishes to the rest of Afon Taf, the Rosminians took St Joseph’s Penarth, and all parishes east of Afon Taf.  There was a hint of a cathedral built in Custom House Street but nothing came of this.  Thanks to money set aside by Fr Bruno I C, and with diocesan funds, a new St David’s the present building, was built in 1884 but without cathedral status.

“If you wish to do penance and prepare yourself for Heaven come to Cardiff without delay.  You ought to pity us as we deserve pity and compassion.”  So Fr Stephano Bruno IC , wrote to his Provincial F r Mario Rinolfi, IC , at the start of a coal strike in 1872, bringing misery to many poor families in Cardiff and the valleys.  Men struck when colliery owners reduced their wages  a bitter battle ensured affecting thousands who depended on the coal trade.  Fr Bruno, a long-serving friend of the poorest families and still a living legend in the city, repeatedly described the effects of the strike.  There was genuine starvation amongst hundreds of families, Catholic and all, who suddenly found themselves bereft of any income for food or rent.  Children, of course, were the ones who suffered most.

Bruno was Head Priest of the Cardiff mission, living centrally in St David’s, (now under the Cardiff International Arena) surrounded by Cardiff’s largest Irish community, though he administered the other large Irish Catholic communities, their churches and schools, in the surrounding suburbs.  At the time there were no parishes just one Mission.  When he wrote uncomplainingly, “from morning to night the bell is ringing”, the starving queued outside the presbytery.  Each week the priests handed out over 400 loaves day and night form their door.  Publicly minded people organised relief committees, each week Bruno received £25.00 for the worst affected 150 families in the mission.,  Given that the average Irish family of the time had 8+ members, about 1000 people benefit from this public donation.

But beyond these donations were private donations.  “ Collections are being made everywhere”. And he made it clear that Protestants were “exceedingly generous” to Catholics in trouble.  By April 1873 he feared that little more support could now be given for so many were afflicted by the strike.  Parish relief alone remained, meaning the dreaded workhouse.

The strike had other effects too.  For 35 years the priests and people had battled, and it was a battle, for our Catholic schools.  The same battle continues right down to our present times, of course.  Yet few people today realise the sacrifices our poverty stricken ancestors made for our schools.  Rosminian Fr Fortunatus Signini, hailed by the local press as “The Father of Catholic Schools” acknowledged as one of the greatest pastoral priests of 19th Cengrey Britain, always boasted that thinks to the generous poor Irish of Cardiff he never requested aid from the hierarchy’s Poor School Committee in London.

One of the most important sources of income for the schools was the weekly well organised house to house street collection but revenue suffered severely during the strike.  Children tended to stay away from school at this time so fees(pennies, of course, but only if you could afford them) sharply declined.  Furthermore, non attendance affected the government grant. Bruno particularly feared that if Catholic schools failed, Catholic children could be forced into the new Board schools.  “The School Board here is busy in securing sites to built godless schools”.  Unless new Catholic schools were built in Newtown and the Docks, Catholic children would attend these schools.

Bruno convinced Rinolfi that Protestant friends of our schools would cease subscribing when the School Board was set up believing that there was no no need for separate Catholic schools.  Happily his fears were groundless:  at the beginning he wrote, “ I am busy begging for the schools and thank God that I have succeeded wonderfully well.  I am not in danger of closing up for want of funds.  Or course the grant will be low this year as the children do not come to school….Protestants here have treated me kindly and give towards the schools generously.”.  However, he felt that some had a hidden agenda.  “Some of them of course expect a qui pro quo, “ that is they sought future electoral support.  Indeed in only two other British cities did Catholic votes count as much as in Cardiff.  A major theme of nineteenth century Irish Catholic votes count as much as in Cardiff.  A major theme of nineteenth century Irish history is the Home Rule and Catholic Schools issue.  In Cardiff the Irish ensured both the sitting MP and Council favoured both of these issues.  Hence many ambitious non-Catholics subscribed to Catholic causes.

At the end of May there was “great jubilation” throughout Cardiff and the Valleys when the strike ended and funding (and poverty) returned to normal.

Never forget the debt we owe our forebears who in their dire poverty bequested the right legacy of our Catholic schools.

Cardiff’s Landore Court was a small enclosed area on the east side of St Mary Street on the present site of the Queen’s Hotel.  The site sloped down to the marshy Afon Taf now traversed by Westgate Street.  Twenty eight, two up two down houses were crammed into a space just 160 feet by 1-00 feet.  Few had privies and these overflowed into the court.  Most residents used the four or five public privies which, often door less, disgorged effluent into the court’s open drains that were supposed to lead led into the nearby Taf, though usually they were blocked causing large stinking masses of water to collect.  Lack of alternative accommodation meant the poor were forced to live in places like this.  Furthermore, artificially high rents endured all houses were sublet causing each house on average to shelter twenty adults or children.  Over 530 persons crammed into this hell hole in any twenty four hours in the decade after 1847.  The results need little imagination to understand.

The situation begs a number of reflections.  In the 1830’s government encouraged local authorities to improve streets and drainage as towns grew.  These powers were non statutory.  Some towns took the new possibilities seriously but Cardiff’s small number of ratepayers was dilatory seeing no reason why they should pay for better roads and sanitation.  Hence, when the town’s population suddenly increased on the mid 1840’s Cardiff, like so many other towns, found itself in the middle of a severe social crisis.    Who was to blame for the excrement filled streets and filthy drinking water?  The easiest targets were the “low” Irish with their “disgusting” habits who crowded places like Landore Court.  For the next 20 years few looked for any other cause.  Not until the 1870’s were many people prepared to accept that the real problem was shortage of housing and consequent expensive rents that caused the poor to cram themselves into inadequate houses which were sub-let and subl-sub-let.

A second reflection concerns the death of Edward White, 4 years of age, in Landore Court during Nov 1845.  The parents left 6 children in the house while they worked.  Edward’s clothes caught fire but he was not seriously hurt.  His parents bathed him in flour and water but his condition worsened until he died.  Yet his parents never sought medical assistance —to us a baffling decision.  The coroner heavily criticised the other for she did seek financial aid for the funeral including a wake.   This inevitably led to withering invective from the local paper against Irish lack of intelligence and disgusting habits.

However, this incident could well reflect clash of cultures for in the south west of Ireland medical help was rare, self help the norm.  Furthermore as releigous education was severely hampered by persuection, Catholic practices often remained medieval absorbing pagen fol lore such as wakes with their games, keeping the body accompanied till burial.  Indeed a few years later a young Irish father attempted to bury his still born child “ at a crossroads” in Adamsdown. Hence the stress the church placed on education:  schools first, churches later.

Lastly an affray in July 1847 initially concerning a group of Irish woman in Llandore Court eventually involved a substantial proportion of the community.  The right old shindly started on Saturday evening and continued until Sunday afternoon with an interlude for Mass — a fact cynically noted by magistrates (and who came blame them?).  Drink Irish fought each other and the police but absolutely refused to support any police enquiries.  Again excoriating criticisms of the Irish followed.

Why the drink and why the fights?  Surely a clash of cultures exacerbated by local conditions? Just imagine living in these squalid conditions – sharing beds, suffocated by obnoxious smells, walking through effluent even in your living room. Drink was an important and natural way of coping.

And the Police? In Ireland any form of policing was always viewed as a repressive force rarely to be trusted.  Very few ever co-operated:  there are many examples of this in Cardiff.

The amazing fact is that the Irish, freed from the repression they experienced in Ireland, quickly integrated with the Welsh especially as living conditions improved.

What a pleasant kettle of fish the new converted Lord Blues stirred when he tried to give an Anglican church in Newtown, Cardiff, to the Catholics.  With Bute’s mother’s encouragement the Anglicans built the Welsh-medium All Saints in Tyndall Street, in an area overwhelmingly Irish and Catholic, many of them monoglot Irish speakers.,  AS one Anglican remarked, “…. chiefly Irish and entirely of the working class.”.  Yet Anglicans had high hopes of converting these Irish when All Saints became Cardiff’s third parish church after St Mary’s and St John’s.  Imagine their utter dismay when Bute presented a bill to parliament in 1871 to buy the church for the Catholics and, at his own cost, build a bigger Welsh language church elsewhere.

Opposition came from Evangelical Anglicans who objected to high church ceremonies.  They demanded a Welsh church for the 10,000 Welsh speakers of Cardiff, though they did acknowledge it could be better located.  They pointed out that this would be the first example since the Reformation of an Anglican consecrated church becoming Roman Catholic.  “The Welsh church in Cardiff will be hauling down the flag to Irish Roman Catholics on the one hand and to Welsh Non-Conformists on the other.”  The furore mounted as time for the bill’s reading drew nearer.  The town was full of petitions one which gained 1,600 signatures.  Mrs Mary Jenkins, stalwart All Saints’ parishioner, staged an all-night sit-in and prayer serve as a protest.

Yet the Catholic authorities were equally dismayed by Bute’s plans. Bute hoped to attract the Oratorian Fathers to serve the new parish.    The Rosminians who served the whole Cardiff mission were flabbergasted.  AS Bishop Brown pointed out to Bute, the Rosminians had been given responsibility for the area’s Catholics, were undertaking a superb job and were busily expanding the mission’s structures included a new large presbytery at St Peter’s to increase the number of priests attached to the mission.

Furthermore, All Saints’ was situated just 200 yards across the railway from St David’s.  The church’s long experience taught that two orders serving so closely to each other usually brought acrimony. Newly-converted Bute, used to deploying his own plans, had failed to negotiate with Bishop Brown and so found himself at odds with his co-religionists.

So here was a pretty kettle of fish indeed, especially when the local Irish boys inevitably threw stones at All Saints windows on a regular basis.  One group actually broke into the church and tried to set fire to it.  John Cody received a prison sentence.

However, Bute’s bill failed in parliament and the whole matter resolved itself peacefully.  Thanks to a financial grant from Bute the Catholics soon acquired a school chapel in Tyndall St Named St Paul’s.  A new church followed partly built by the parishioners themselves during a strike.  But St Paul’s has now been demolished in the redevelopment of the area in the 1970’s.

All saints fared little better but at least the congregation survives if in a different locations.  In the 1880’s Welsh services were transferred to St John’s .  By 1890 the building was up for sale to become a G W R depot for, later a garage and repair shop and finally a warehouse for Crompton Parkinson.  It was demolished in 1980.  In 1890 the congregation transferred to a new building in Howard Gardens .  Alas this was destroyed by a bomb and subsequent fire during World War Two.  Hopefully the congregations has now found a permanent place as Eglwys Dewi Saint in St Andrew’s Cres right in the heart of town – the church without a tower.

Mention Hopper’s Shop to a St David’s parishioner and the memories are sure to come flooding back.  For 62 years Messrs Harry and son, D Hopper served the community from the little general store on the corner of Little Frederick Street and Love Lane in the heart of Irish Cardiff.  In fact the building was destined for preservation as part of the Rapport complex but alas was demolished some 15 years ago.

Dennis Hopper insisted that, contrary to popular belief, his father was not a Frenchman or an Austrian.  In spite of his handsome, dark features, he was in fact born in Grimsthorpe, Lincs., some few miles south of Spalding.  He married Honora Donovan and became tenant of the Windsor Arms in David St in 1901.  He married Honora Donovan and became tenant of the Windsor Arms in David St in 1901.  Three years later they took the risk of buying the corner shop, though as the Hopper family increased in size the family home moved to Sandon Place.  Dennis and his wife, Peggy, took over the shop at the end of the Second World War.

Gas Mantles

“You name it, I sold it – from a needle to a haystack,” said Peggy.  “They called us little Woolworth’s.”  Food, pills, powders (esp. Steadman’s) for the babies who cried all night, corn plaster’s paraffin, stocks of fuel and gas mantles.  At the memory of gas mantles, both Denis and Peggy would raise their eyes heavenwards.

‘Ave y’ got a gas mantle, Mist’r ‘Opper?’

‘Ere y’are.  Now let’s look inside, there, look, nothing wrong with it, see?’

“It’s gorra ‘n’ ole innit!”

That happened all the time-kids would drop the gas mantles and the parents would send them back in hope.

Bicycle spanners, pumps, repair kits, tyres – he would go to Joe Gorman’s for bicycle tyres.  Gorman’s were in the old court behind Emeralda’s next to Noah Rees in Working Street.

From Noah Rees, he’d obtain huge blocks of salt a couple of feet ong.  He would cut them up and sell the salt at a 1 d per small block.

An ex- St David’s parishioner remembers the shop stacked tightly, every tiny space crammed with fuel blocks, a paraffin fuel tank, cups and saucers.  In the children’s sections there were marbles, jacks, whips and toys.

Home Made

One of Dennis’ earliest memories was peeling onions in the evenings after school.  He and his brothers were given 6 d per week for this by their dad.  They spent it at the Hippodrome cinema in Westgate Street.  The onions came from Brittany via “Johnny Onions,” a few hundred-weight by each special delivery.

They made their own vinegar.  Acetic acid from Jim Murray ( a very welcoming man and exceedingly respected throughout the district) – who owned Hagon’s in Hayes Bridge Road.  Then it was 16 bottles of water to 1 acetic acid with an addition of gravy browning.  The pickles onions were one of the Hopper’s most popular specialities.  Their pickled cabbage was also popular.

As a boy Dennis was up at 7.00 am every Sunday morning to wash large pop bottles.  The family made their own pop with the help of a large gas cylinder, and sold it at 1 d per large bottle.

Ice Cream and Toffee Apples

Their home made ice cream was yet another Hopper speciality.  Mam boiled the mild at the house in Sandon Place, and it was brought up to the shop in white buckets covered with clothes.  There was a freezer at the back of th shop where blocks of ice, bought in Pellet Street, were stored.  The boys poured the mild into the freezer and churned incessantly, it seemed, sweating profusely, until it was hard.,  It was sold at 1d per cup.

The cups were made of solid glass, circular below with a flat top.  Customers licked the ice cream scooped from a container and placed on the glass.  When the glass was turned, it was washed ready for the next customer.

But it was the toffee apples that Dennis enjoyed most of all.  He would buy a barrel of apples from Morgan’s in Custom House Street, He boiled brown sugar over the coal fire in the shop – a marvellous aroma pervaded the shop as the toffee was being prepared.

Dennis used to slice the wood from Nestlé’s chocolate boxes into thin strips to make the apple sticks. Sold at 1 d each, the toffee apples were amongst his most popular wares.

We Never Closed….

Rather like the well known theatre, the shop never closed – it was always full late at night especially when customers’ children were ill.  People just knocked and they were served, whatever the time.

Such late hours were against the law in those days.  Yet, while every policeman knew the shop was open, they never interfered. Dennis always had a screwdriver handy each evening or on a Sunday so that if a policeman did appear, Dennis could e examining or tightening a screw – but there was never a problem at all.  In fact the shop was only closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Round about 1930 Mr Harry Hopper began giving a Christmas drink to everyone who came into the shop – a choice of Sandeman’s port or whisky.  He was so dark of features that customers invited him to go “first footing” on New Years’ Day.

New Year’s Eve parties always started at the shop.   Every guest came in fancy dress and then made their way down to the house in Sandon Place where the parties continued into the early hours.

…Until the End

Alas, the shop closed in April 1966, victim of the redevelopment of the whole area.  Harry had died a few years previously, on the same day as Pope John, and they were buried ont he same day too.  Mr Hopper’s was a huge funeral.  He was carried through the streets to St David’s – a very popular man.

Denis and Peggy have now joined them : their kindnesses, stories and abundant good humour are just a memory and part of Cardiff’s Irish and Catholic history.

Blaenafon World Heritage Landscape is a wonderful evocation of South Wales’ past industrial and social history.  Tim McCarthy and his family is one of the central characters in the story as told in the Cadw guide, “Blaenafon Ironworks” by Peter Wakelin.  You can visit Tim’s family ‘s house in Engine Row at the ironworks, a small, two-up, two-down terraced cottage furnished in museum 1840’s style with straw mattresses, simple furniture and a few Catholic aids to prayer.  As it stands now the interior is clean and neat but imagination allows us to visualise it filled with a working man and woman, five children, and two relations.  Still no doubt it offered better comfort and privacy than a small single-celled cabin back home in Ireland.

Tim and his family worked as fillers of the insatiable furnaces.  For twelve hours a day he filled a two-wheeled barrow with ore, limestone and coke on a high, narrow terrace and pushed it across an unprotected bridge to the furnace top where he tipped the contents into the flames. Temperatures reached 300 degrees Celsius, the flames illuminating the landscape for over ten miles.  Tim worked seven days a week on alternating weekly twelve hour shifts: on change-over day it was the normal to work a twenty four hour shift every fortnight.  At least this enabled the family to hae an occasional free day together.

His unnamed wife and his older children, two boys, Tim probably 9 years old and Tom probably 7 years, were not exempt from work.  Working also for twelve hour shifts the two boys wandered the unfenced furnace tops undertaking odd jobs. Young Tom had ruptured himself but continued to work with the help of a wooden truss made by his father.  Tim’s wife would also be employed when available from domestic duties, perhaps smashing lumps of ore and limestone into smaller stones.

In fact there weren’t many Irish working in Welsh iron works nor coal mines but many became “navvies” on the tramway constructions.  Walk along Thomas Hill’s tramway most of which remains but you can’t walk through the mile long tunnel under the Blorenge, continue along the “Iron Mountain” trail from Pwll Du to Garnddyyrys and imagine the conditions endured by the navvies as they hacked the tramway out of the sheer rock face.  A warning – be careful as you traverse some sections especially if the ground is slippery.  Today there are at least tress to brak your fall, not so two centuries ago.

Two reflections tuck me on a recent visit.  Lime most of us, the Irish were renowned for love of homeland but in the nineteenth century so many Irish chose the harshness of places like Blaenafon to their previous lives.  Also how difficult it must have been for these people to practice their faith far from a church and obliged to work such long hours.

One of the problems facing mid-nineteenth century missioners to the valleys of S Wales was locating Catholics amongst the jumble of immigrants and tumble of new villages clinging to the hillsides.  Sometimes priests found the people, sometimes people found the priest.

On St David’s Day 1827 some Welsh lads attacked a small Irish Community at Gelli Gaer in the Rhymni Valley.  A Priest in Abergavenny, then served the northern valleys, only discovered the small enclave when he read about the incident in the Swansea newspaper, “The Cambrian”.  He trudged across the Blaenau of four valleys to offer Mass for them on St Patrick’s Day!!

A decace or so later when the Franciscans began their search for Catholics in the Gwent valleys, they came across a small Irish community in Varteg (properly Faerteg) on the bleak moors above Abersychan.  At first the Irish were hostile to the Dutch priest who found them, insisting ton an Irish speaking priest.  However, within a few weeks the Dutchman had won them over and before long a parish developed in Abersychan, now transferred to Tal Y Wain up the hill next to Varteg.

Can anyone identify these priests?

A converse example concerns a young Irishman from Cork whom we shall simply call Mile.  One night in the 1880’s in a bar Mike accepted the queen’s shilling.  The following morning he discovered what he had done, immediately left home and made his way to S Wales where he found work in Maerdy colliery right at the top of the Rhondda Fach.  To hide from the military he changes his surname.

Mike dutifully climbed the six miles across the mountain every Sunday morning to Mass.  When he married, it was difficult to take the children to Mass regularly even when a church opened in Ferndale miles down the valley.  Yet the family were all reared Catholics.

One of his sons, whom we shall call Paddy, led a life touched by social upheavals of the twentiet century. Losing his job at the pit in the 1920’s Paddy found himself regularly at the daily soup kitchen, yet determined to take all his changes to educate himself  He read voraciously in the miners library, learned to play the cornet and became conductor of the colliery band.  By now he had reverted to his father’s original surname and still walked a distance to Mass.

At this time Maerdy was better known, of course, as Little Moscow for here Communism gained quite a stronghold.  Whenever Communist officials wanted the band to lead a procession, Paddy always agreed but he absolutely insisted that hte band marked first, the Red Flag always following.  Take a look at the many photographs of Maerdy at this time and you will see how true it is.

Desperate for work he moved the south of England and found odd jobs until wartime.  During his war service a bomb shattered his shoulder and arm. Still without regular employment after the war, Paddy passed his civil service exams, read the church’s social teachings and started work as a civil servant.  When he settled in Cardiff to raise his family , he was close to a church for the first time in his life and was so proud to take an active role.

Although he was a generation older that I, we became close friends.  When conversations at the church club on Friday nights turned to politics and morality everyone of us listened carefully to what Paddy had to say.  Completely self taught he had found much wisdom during his hard life.

But there was one skill he was never able to instil into us – snooker!!  He had become a fine player indeed in the Miner’s Institute Maerdy.

It is not how you look but how you act
That makes you human.
It is our failures that make us human
The atomic age is here to stay – but are we?
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row

John McCrae

We are so used to believing our parish priests have finished their ministry after offering Mass, the sacraments, visiting the sick and attending all the meetings required in a modern age.  We tend to forget how he much also render accurate parish accounts, a task made easier perhaps today by lay people’s involvement.  It astonished me to come across such well-kept accounts by the Rosminian’s and so many other parishes  In this article I take a look at cathedral accounts compiled by the popular Fr Alphonsus van den Heuvel, much better known as Fr Van.  These accounts cover the 1890’s when the average working man earned £1 a week or less.

This is just a quick flick through  without any attempt at order: we are gleaning.  The cathedral was still very new and the upkeep included minor repairs especially to the house and hall (old Church).  Furnishing the new cathedral proved very expensive.  In 1888 a new pulpit cost £157.00 and our Lady’s new alter cost £95.  The following year St John’s alter cost a further £45.  But by far the largest costs were the alterations transforming the old church into a hall amounting to £800 in 1890-2.  Insurance for the cathedral, house, convent and all furnishings was c. £27 per annum and ground rent on the cathedral alone £14  Poor rate, water rate and district rate added another pound per month.  Heating the church was surprisingly litte at c. £20.  Fr Van shopped around to buy from the cheapest coal suppliers.

It’s amazing how eve the newest curtains, cushions, benches, bells, plumbing and so on became damaged through constant parish use costing nearly £100 annually.  And the choir expenses were surprisingly high: “£20 per month to Miss Molony, the long-serving organist, £3 for the Christmas supper and £15 for the summer picnic, the cost of buying and repairing musk scores and repairs to the organ. In all, about £50 annually. Yet remember in those days a choir was just that. In both St David’s and St Peter’s over 50 man sang each week besides the other voices.

Thanks to the Rosminian, Fr Stefano Bruno, who was in charge of the old St David’s before it was given to the diocese, there was a limited debt.  Fr Bruno knew Bishop Hedley intended replacing the original St David’s with a new cathedral, a long-time dream of both Hedley and his predecessor Bishop Brown.  Whilst Fr Bruno did not actually build the new cathedral, he left a substantial sum towards it.  As a result by 1895 the main debt totalled £1200 though rarely was anything paid on this other than annual interest.

St David’s Schools usually just kept out of debt on day-to-day expenses.  School income derived mainly from government grants and school fees (a penny or so for each pupil if you could afford it.) amounted annually to between £620 and £9883.  In most years the schools made a small profit which paid for occurring debts.  This was a far cry from 20 years previously when Fr Bruno was heavily dependent on private contributions to balance the school accounts.  Things were improving.

As for the priests themselves, their allowances were less than £1 weekly which supplied all their weekly needs.  From 1850 onwards Bishop Brown insisted that all priests serving in the diocese, secular or regular, should have an adequate salary but in reality few ever did putting the needs of the parish before their own.  The accounts show that the priests of St David’ lived frugally with small bills for groceries, meat, fish and milk with an occasional bottle of whiskey (with an “e” of course” and the old bottle of beer.

So how did the parish earn the necessary cash?  Many people believed the church should not spend hard earned cash on property.  But both the Rosminian’s and the diocese bought houses in Cardiff.  For example St David’s borrowed £385 at 3% interest from Bishop Hedley to purchase 4 little houses in Little Frederick Street and some land in Stanley Street for a potential school extension.  The invested provided a reliable income of £360 pa and the value of the houses was rising as well.  There were the ever controversial bench rents which earned £50 p a and of course Sunday collections, including the equally controversial entry collection for those who wished to sit away from the motley throng, netted over £600 p a.  Special collections for new Stations of the Cross, new alter rails, etc raised over £200 for each furnishing, but not all at the same time.  Fees for Baptisms, Churchings, Banns, Marriages, Burials gave further small amounts as did votive candles in church and use of the hall.  Small donations from individuals and societies added t the income.

The priests were rightly paid as chaplains to various institutions.  £43.3 p month came as chaplain to the prison – a most important aspect of their pastoral care.  The Cardiff Irish were notorious for heavy drinking and brawling.  As many as one third of the inmates of Cardiff Prison were Catholics at any one time, all on 2 or 3 week sentences, rarely any longer  Time spent with these people, most of whom neglected their religion, was exceedingly valuable.  Offering weekly Mass for the nuns and residents at Nazareth House and general pastoral care offered another valuable opportunity to save souls.  This netted £40 p a.

These carefully kept accounts of Fr Van have survived fro 1904-1907.

Today we are used to participating in many church ministries. Most of us remember the traditional roses on the alter, choir, parish society but now we seem almost lost for choice.  But one ministry, I suppose you could call it that, has entirely disappeared.  Who today has heard of , het alone seen, an organ blower.  You may have seen, even played, a harmonium powered by those large, inconvenient foot pedals.  A large organ needed far more air: hence the organ blower. In the seventeenth century when organs reached a massive size, organ music frequently lasted twenty minutes or more.  Such organs had huge bellows operated by two or more handles requiring a team of blowers.  There are many stories of how exhausted these people became during public and church performances.

St Peter’s organ, Roath, had a single handle and just one operator.  One well-known blower worked each Sunday round about the First World War era.  I’ll call him Mike as his name is still familiar in Catholic circles.  Mike was so hampered by a bad leg that he received regular treatment at what is now St David’s hospital, then the workhouse.  Unable to obtain regular work, he was nevertheless a superb organ blower being able to keep a steady flow of air to the organ bellows with a regular rhythm on the operating handle.  This was no mean feat for the handle and bellows were both stiff and heavy.  Mike received half a crown for pumping during High Mass, more for additional services.

On one occasion two choir boys hid behind the organ, sneaked up behind Mike’s back and threw hymns books at him.  In spite of their giggles, Mike was just not distracted – except afterwards when he was justifiably “distracted” towards the boys. Old Parishioners of St Peter’s might be surprised to learn that one of those boys was no other than Charles O’Brien, revered choirmaster and organiser of very many varied parish activities. I owe a great debt to Charles for organising so many happy choir events and for sharing his memories.

When electric was installed there was or course no need for an organ blower: except one glorious evening etched in my memory.  In those youthful days there was Rosary, Sermon and Benediction on Wednesdays and Fridays at which the choir sang followed by practice in the choir room.  On this particular evening the electric supply to the organ failed.  Unhesitatingly three of us boys volunteered to pump.  At first our strength only lasted a minute or two until the next one took over.  Then we realised just what we could achieve.  Press more quickly and the most excruciating screeches, screams, and yells came from the pipes.  Press heavily and strongly and the large pipes boomed throughout the church.  Charles was absent that night, so the organist became more and more irritated, his shouted whispers joining the organ’s screams.  Eventually he gave up to race around to us.  Then he made his mistake for he approached on the bellows side of the organ where we milled.  We had a choice.  Up the tower!  But in those days the door into the porch was never used unlike today.  So we shot around the back of the organ, down the now demolished stairs to the rear of the church and so escaped.

Bardi is a small town of approximately 3,000 inhabitants, situated on the foothills of the North Western Appenines in the Province of Parma 2,000 feet above sea level.  It overlooks the Ceno Valley, which is dotted with many tiny villages and the main source of income is agriculture.  It can be found on the man approximately half-way between Genoa and Milan.  This is where the majority of the Italian business community in South Wales originated.

The first immigrants to reach South Wales were our great-grandparents during the latter part of the 19th century.  Many of them literally walked to these shores from Italy, working their way across Europe doing odd jobs in exchange for food and lodging.  Others were street buskers entertaining long enough in European towns to earn enough to live on.  I am told that they were attracted to South Wales by the great demand for coal with the coming of the ‘Steam Age’.

They settled down in the many mining towns and began earning a living selling food and drink to thousands of men employed in the pits.  As they prospered they were able to send home enough money for their families to join them.  By the time my parents were sent for, our grandparents had established quite a large chain of cafes and eventually, by the early thirties, they retired to Italy leaving their businesses the hands of their children, who eventually bought them out.  Buy the time my oldest brother was born in 1926, our father owned two cafes in Blackwood.  My other brother was born in 1929 and I was born in 1930.  When I was 5 ½ years old, I was sent to Bardi to be educated and I joined my two brothers who were already living there with our grandparents and aunts.  May other Italian families did the same.

When war broke out in 1939, we remained in Italy.  Our parents in UK found themselves being rounded up and sent to internment camps.  Our father was one of the lucky ones who ended upon the Isle of Man.  Many others were unfortunate enough to be shipped to Canada on the ill-fated ship the Arandora Star, which was sunk in the Irish Sea by a German U-boat soon after sailing from Liverpool.  Most of the people on board perished, including many British and Germans, but the majority were Italians.   It was a terrible blow to the Bardi community with the loss of nearly fifty heads of family, many fathers and sons.

By the time the Armistice was signed between the Italians and Allied forces in September 1943, we were teenagers continuing our studies.  I remember that when the news came, we all thought that it was the beginning of the end.  We looked forward to peace again, hoping to have the opportunity to join our parents from who we had had no news since the war began.  Little did we know at the time that it was the beginning of a 2 ½ years of terror, hardship and fight for survival.

The few weeks that followed the announcement was chaos.  Many Italian troops still loyal to Mussolini were preparing to resist and fight their fellow countrymen, who obeyed the instructions of the new Military Government of General Badoglio to disband and return to their homes, or join up with the Allied Forces.  Unfortunately, the main battle line was still hundreds of miles away to the south, between Naples and Rome.  Because of the danger of being rounded up by the fascists or German troops and being treated as deserters, thousands of them made their way to the mountains and formed the Partisan units.

At the same time, many of the prisoner-of-war camps under control of the Italian Armed Forces, the majority of which welcomed the Armistice,  literally opened their gates and allowed thousands of Allied prisoners to leave and find their own way back to a neutral country or to travel sough towards the Front Line.  Many situated north near the Swiss border, were able to cross into Switzerland. Outside the town of Piacenza, approximately sixty miles down on the Lombardy Plains from Bardi, there was a very large P.O.W camp holding British troops.  When their opportunity to leave cane, they knew that their chance for freedom was almost impossible but they decided that if they were not to be rounded up by the Fascists or the Germans, they would have to make for the nearby mountains.  Some of them were aware of the connection between Bardi and South Wales and decided to head for the Ceno Valley.  This knowledge soon spread amongst their colleagues and within a few days, literally hundreds of escapees began to arrive, hoping to find refuge.  All of them were made welcome and they were distributed amongst the many small villages scattered in the valley.  Unfortunately, the ones who hesitated were soon rounded up by the fascist and German troops, who once again regained control of central and northern barracks and made their way home, but soon realised that if they stayed there they would be caught and treated as deserters.

Eventually, the in the Spring of 1944, we woke up to the sound of gunfire and soon realised that we had been liberated by the Partisans.  A large number of the Fascist farrison were killed during the battle and the remainder executed later that day.  Unfortunately, though, and perhaps understandably during those early months of the Partisan movement, there were internal struggles for power between the many groups.  This was made even worse when a large political prison in Parma was bombed by the Allied Air Force and the majority of the inmates escaped into the mountains.  Many were hardened Communists, others were professional criminals.  Many old scores were settled as the only excuse needed kill somebody was to convince others, that a particular person was an active Fascist.  Eventually as time passed, many of the groups joined forces and formed into single Brigades.  These brigades were led by professional soldiers, they in turn were assisted by British and American advisers sent to co-ordinate their actions and the supply of arms that were parachuted in by Allied aircraft.

By early summer, we were receiving news of German raids on other towns in the valley where villagers were being shoot for the killing of German soldiers by the Partisans  All males between the age of 17 and 60 were sent to labour camps in Germany.

Because Bardi had become a large Partisan garrison town and was in danger of being attacked by the Germans, our grandfather decided that it would be safer to send us youngsters, with two aunts to live in the village of Sidolo high up in the nearby mountains.  This turned out to be not such a good idea, as early one morning a few days after we moved to Sidolo in late June 1944, we were awakened to the sound of artillery and mortar file coming down around us.   This was the beginning of a very large-scaled attack by 10,000 German soldiers.  Their aim was to capture the large Brigade of Partisans which controlled the whole of the Ceno Valley and the adjoining Taro Valley.  After the initial bombardment they advanced from all sides, assisted by low-flying aircraft which bombed Bardi.  Naturally, all men of eligible age Partisans or otherwise, scattered and hid in the mountains.   Unfortunately, many were found and shot on the spot, including the many parish priests who stayed with their flocks.

I remember only too well the evening before the Germans arrived in Sidolo, when the local priest Fr Giusepe asked my brother Bruno and me to serve at the evening Mass.  Afterwards the priest from the village of Porcigatone in the Taro Valley, arrived and told us that the Germans were coming.  Fr Giuseppe thought that if he hoisted a white flag on the church tower, the Germans would think it was a ‘safe’ village and not to carry out any reprisals.  When they arrived in the morning they accused Fr Giuseppe of signalling with the flag to the Partisans.  Together with the priest from Porcigatone and a young Seminarist who had arrived a few hours earlier, they were taken to a spot just below where we were living and executed.  We saw it all happen from a bedroom window.

A few days later, the Germans left.  This gave us the opportunity to take food to the many villagers who were hiding in the mountains.  Among them was my eldest brother Nino who was hiding in a small cave with Colonel Debrune and Major Clifford, now Lord Clifford of Chudley.

We remained in Sidolo for a few more weeks and as soon as the Germans left Bardi, we returned to find that our grandparents were safe and sound and the house undamaged.  Food was scarce.  Being isolated from cities, we had to survive mainly on vegetables and locally-grown fruit.  Salt and sugar were worth their weight in gold and as money had no value, one had to barter.

As the battle lines were getting nearer, we began to arrange for the many P.O.W’s to make their way South.  We youngsters used to guide them from our valley to the next where they were handed over to others who would guide them a step further and so on.  Many were instructed to stay with the Partisans.

By this time we had Lt Younger from Army Intelligence staying with us.  He was responsible for obtaining and relaying information by radio, about German troop movement in the Lombardy Plain to Allied Command HQ in Sardinia.  He was fluent in both German and Italian.  He used to arrange for the Partisans to take him to their Front line, and dressed as a German or Fascist Officer, he would enter enemy territory and spend about four or five days gathering information.

We carried on with our lives in the best way we could for the rest of that year without any further raids from the Germans.  When Christmas 1944 arrived, excitement was growing with the news that Allied Forces were making good progress in Central Italy.  Then a large column of German troops arrived in Bardi.  The Partisans had managed to escape to the mountains, but in their haste, they left a small warehouse full of arms and ammunition.  If this had been found the lives of everyone in Bardi would have been in danger.  About ten of us youngsters rushed to the warehouse and transferred everything to a nearby garden where all was hastily buried in deep snow.  Fortunately, the snow continued to fall and the arms chche was never discovered.

Thank God these were the last German troops that we saw and a few months later, we were liberated by the Allied Forces.

In January 1946, my two brothers and I were the first people to be repatriated and after a long and tiring journey across Europe, in the hands of the Military Transport Organisation, we eventually reached Dover, to be greeted by our parents.  We settled down again in Cardiff, being young enough to forget the bad times as we lived the dreams we dreamt in Italy.

We joined our parents in the catering business until September 1949, when I was called up for National Service and in January 1950 I was drafted to the 1st Battalion The South Wales Borders, stationed in Eritrea, where I served as a corporal in the Intelligence Section and with Italian being the lingua franca of the ex-Italian colony.  I became the Battalion Interpreter Shortly after demobilisation in 1951.  I joined the 5th Battalion the Welsh Regiment TA and served for four years as Intelligence Sergeant.

When I returned to Bardi for a holiday in the summer of 1953, I met a girl born in the Rhondda of Italian parents.  We were married in Bardi in August 1954 and then returned home to Cardiff to live our lives together.

* * * * *

In July 1949, a letter was sent from Brigadier Gordon le Bruyne OBE (see main text), from the BOAR Executive Offices at Lubbecke, concerning the application for permission to be granted to an Italian national to join her family in Cardiff.

‘To whom it may concern – I have known Miss Mercedes Carpanini of Bardi since 1944, when I was an escaped British Prisoner of War trying to reach the Allied Lines, in which  project i was eventually successful.

Throughout a period of 3 months in 1944 whilst I was in the area of Bardi, I received unstinted and continuous help from the family Carpanini and in particular from the two sisters Mercedes and Giovanna, who at great risk to themselves and to their family, gave me clothing and food and ensured that I received news and advice of German and Fascist Republican attempts to surround us.  Their help was always given ungrudgingly and without thought of reward.  I am also indebted to them for their work in passing messages.  I would add that many other PW’s have much for which to than the two sisters.

I am well aware that without the help I received I could hardly have evaded capture nor would I have been able to maintain myself over a particularly difficult period when the Germans were operating in strength against us in August 1944.  I have long ago reported the work performed by the Misses Mercedes and Giovanna on behalf of the British, whilst we were operating in the mountains around Bardi.

Both sisters at all times showed great courage and at one time, then the Germans had entered the village of Sidolo and all the menfolk had fled, they undertook the gruesome task of burying those shot by the SS, rather than leave the corpses exposed to the elements.  I mention this because in spite of their gentle upbringing, the sisters did not refrain from dong what they considered to be a duty.

I understand that Miss Mercedes at the present time is unable to join her sister and family in Cardiff and whilst I am aware of the obstacles which arise I commend the help given by her to the British as meriting consideration.  Besides being well educated and of moral character and in my opinion, in all respects suitable for admission to the United Kingdom, she has I understand resided in Great Britain for thirteen years prior to the war, returning to Italy in 1938.  I for one would welcome permission being accorded to her and there are other British Officers who would be equally grateful.

Signed G Bruyne, Brigadier.

* * * * *

An Apology to Mary
Peter Hourahane

Henfych well, fendigaid fam yr Iesu
Ave nef a daear fo i ti,
Gad i ni wedi mudan oes, ddynesu
Ger dy fron, a’n hwyrol fawl i’th fri
Hail blessed mother of Jesus

May heaven and earth salute you
Leg us, after a silent age approach
Your breast and give our evening praise to your honour.

This verse comes from a long poem by a Baptist, ‘Prifardd Gwili’, and is to be found in the Appendix to ‘Emynau’r Eglwys’, the hymn book of the (Anglican) Church in Wales.

As Aneirin Talfan Davies, himself an Anglican, said in a sermon in 1965, it is an apology for forgetting and neglecting to pay due respect to Mary.

‘Evening Praise’ refers to the recitation of the Magnificat.

Rev Fr John Cronin I C, the well known local Catholic historian, who wrote mainly in the 1930’s believed that no Irish participated in the Chartist uprising in Newort in 1839 until later research changed his mind.

Although the Chartist movement 1837-1850 appeared to fail, all but one of the principles (namely annual parliaments) were eventually passed into the democratic process.  Newport’s uprising was probably the movement’s best known incident when several thousand men from the eastern valleys marched into town. There the protest developed into a gun battle in what is now John Frost Square.  Later the protest leaders, John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones were sentenced to execution commuted to transportation.  Because one of the Chartist organizers, not present at Newport, was Irishman Feargus O’Connor, many assumed that Irish workers were involved:  most people at that time regarded the Irish as naturally given to riot and revolution

However, contemporary accounts all state that the several hundreds of recently arrived Irish in the region steadfastly refused to join the protest fearing for the newly –found jobs.  In fact several dozen left the area in fear of their lives form fellow workers.  The soldiers who confronted the protestors were Irish but not in any way associated with Newport or South Wales.  They were recruits escaping from their miserable existence back in Ireland.  Such groups found themselves in barracks all over the UK.   Cardiff’s Longcross Barracks frequently housed them.

But there were at least three Irishmen who marched with the protestors.  In later research Fr Cronin identified one, William Henry Cronin, but did not further his study.  Recently a Gwent historian, David Osmond, has accounted in more detail for Cronin and two other Irish participants.  Cronin was a Chartist organizer who probably arrived in Newport after the uprising only staying Newport 1842.  A shoemaker by trade he lived in George Street Cottage where he organised evening meetings for the cause and especially for Feargus O’Connor where he organized evening meetings for the cause  and especially for Feargus O’Connor who he admired so much.

A much older associate, Richard Rourke, had been a rebel in the great 1798 uprising in Ireland though Osmond does not state the locality.  Rourke, a painter and stenciller, lived in Charles Street, Newport.  The authorities managed to acquire a book in Rourke’s hand detailing how to organise a rebellion.  Apparently in  May 1840 someone robbed him of  a collecting tin labelled “A Persecuted Patriot” containing one pound in ha’pennies.  Rourke’s unnamed son languished in Monmouth gaol for his part in the Chartist Uprising.  It seems possible that these three men came to Gwent specifically to assist in organizing the local Chartists.  All three appear to have left the area in 1842.

I wonder just how many Irish did in fact join in the march and shoot-out in 1839.  All the Chartists’ democratic demands have long since become cherished law except for annual parliaments.

Read “After the Rising: Chartism in Newport 1840-48” by David Osmond in Gwent Local History Society No 98, Spring 2005.  Also St Peter’s Magazine May 1925 and Feb 1928.  All are available in Cardiff Central Library.