Dictionary of Welsh Biography



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LEWIS , DAVID , alias Baker , Charles ( 1617 - 1679 ), Jesuit martyr , was b. at Abergavenny , son of the Rev. Morgan Lewis , first known headmaster of Abergavenny grammar school , and of Margaret Pritchard , niece to Fr. Augustine Baker (q.v.) , and herself a practising Roman Catholic . This fact, together with the number of recusant children attending the school and the interest taken in them by Fr. Baker , led to questions about Morgan Lewis in the Parliament of 1626 ; but he was reported to be ‘very conformable,’ though it appears chat he was ultimately reconciled to Rome . Most of the children were brought up in their mother's faith, but David seems to have conformed till his conversion by Fr. Talbot in Paris on a visit in the company of lord Rivers ( c. 1633 ). Two years after his return he left for Rome ( 22 Aug. 1638 ) with funds supplied by Fr. Charles Gwynne (q.v.) , entering the English College on 16 Nov. and receiving priestly orders on 20 July 1642 . In 1645 (19 April) , under the influence of his uncle, Fr. John Pritchard ( alias Lewis ), S.J. , he entered the Society of Jesus , and after serving his novitiate in Rome and for a short time acting as confessor to the English College , he was sent to South Wales on mission in 1648 , ministering to the numerous recusant houses of the district, living for many years with the Morgans of Llantarnam (qq.v.) to whom he was related, and becoming superior of the S. Francis Xavier mission (with headquarters at Cwm , Hereford ), from 1667-72 and 1674-9 . He preached in both English and Welsh , and was affectionately known in the district as ‘ tad y tlodion ’ (‘ the father of the poor ’). Although frequently denounced, he was not molested until the Popish Plot scare of 1678 , when under pressure from the local M.P. , John Arnold (see Arnold family of Llanfihangel Crucornau ), and others, he was arrested on his way to mass, 17 Nov. , imprisoned successively at Abergavenny , Monmouth , and Usk , and tried at the Monmouth Assizes at Usk ( 28 March 1679 ) under an act of 27 Elizabeth , on the sole charge of being a priest in foreign orders . An account of the trial kept by Lewis himself is printed in State Trials , vii, 250-9. Found guilty, he was sent to London , lodged in Newgate ( 23 May ), and confronted with Oates , Bedloe , and Shaftesbury himself, in the hope of some revelation about the supposed plot; failing this, he was sent back to Usk and executed on 27 Aug. 1679 . He was beatified by the Roman Church on 15 Dec. 1929 . A contemporary engraving of him, at the Carmelite Convent , Lanherne , Cornwall , is reproduced in St. Peter's Magazine ( Cardiff ), May 1923 .

Bibliography:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , iii, 1, and sources therein cited;
  • T. P. Ellis , The Catholic Martyrs of Wales, 1535-1680 , 129-40;
  • Catholic Record Society , xii, 247-8, xxvii, 98 ff.;
  • The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion , 1925-6 (82-99), 1945 (30);
  • Archaeologia Cambrensis , 1908 , 292;
  • St. Peter's Mag. (Cardiff), 1923 , 159-68, 189-97, 219-26;
  • Bradney , A History of Monmouthshire , i, 176-8;
  • The Journals of the House of Commons , ix, 466.

Author:

Emeritus Professor Arthur Herbert Dodd, M.A., (1891-1975), Bangor