The Historical Journal


Anti-popery on the Welsh Marches in the Seventeenth Century

Philip Jenkins

South Wales and the border counties played a crucial part in the events known as the ‘Popish plot’. The alleged catholic conspiracy laid particular emphasis on the roles allotted to Welsh magnates like Worcester and Powis, with their neighbours and dependants, and invasion plans were said to hinge on strategic centres like Chepstow castle and Milford Haven. Men from this area were active in the’plot’, whether as informers - notably Bedloe - or as parliamentary opponents of the duke of York; Welsh Jesuits were supposedly involved in the main conspiracies and murders, and Border protestants like Bishop Croft were among their main targets. John Arnold of Monmouthshire even aspired to the position in the whig leadership held by Shaftesbury, and the tory Ailesbury regarded the worst villains of the whole ‘plot’ as Arnold himself and his Herefordshire kinsman John Dutton Colt. It was also in this area that the ‘plot’ was at its most violent, and Professor Kenyon's study of the Popish plot rightly refers to ‘this battle area on the frontier of Wale’. ‘The main damage suffered outside London’ by the Jesuits was the loss of the south Wales district headquarters at the Cwm, when this was raided in 1678 by Croft, Arnold, and another ultra-protestant named Charles Price: ‘ the south Wales mission was the only one completely eliminated’. In 1679 a Jesuit wrote from north Wales that’ the college of South Wales was totally rooted up. We of the north have fared a little better, thus far; but God knows how long it is to last, for we live in constant fears and perils, only three of us now remaining’.