The Story of Usk - the Popish Plot

Jesuit Fr David Lewis being hung

1678: The “Popish Plot” reflected a genuine concern that Charles II’s brother James, a Catholic, could not be trusted with the throne. (In fact he was ousted in 1688 after reigning only 3 years)

Informers betrayed the presence of Catholic priests all over the country. It remained high treason to be a Catholic priest, although it seems that many had been tolerated if they kept their heads down.

In Usk, August 1679 saw the trial and execution of the Jesuit Fr David Lewis, who had been in the country since 1648 and quietly running a Jesuit College at Llanrothal for years.

He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered (the standard penalty for high treason) but it is reported that the people of Usk would not allow him to be cut down for mutilation while still alive. He was buried outside St Mary’s Church, though not exactly where the modern memorial slab is. He was canonised in October 1970.

The Story of Usk - Walter Jones' Exploits

The late 16th and early 17th centuries saw many religious wars in Europe. France was a particular hotbed, with the Catholic monarchy persecuting the Protestant Huguenots.

St Mary’s Church, Usk contains a monument to Watter* (Walter) Jones. His date of birth is not given, but he clearly had a long life - enough to have trained as a pikeman during Elizabeth’s reign and then fought under Charles I during one of the campaigns in the Ile de Ré – possibly when the Duke of Buckingham went to relieve the siege of the Protestant garrison at La Rochelle in 1627.

*(“Watter” or “Water” seems to have been the way that “Walter” was pronounced at the time. Shakespeare’s plays have several puns on the name.)