Friday, 23 May 2014

Clues to a Catholic heritage.....

....are present in the fabric of our society.

At least they are in Wales and I am sure that the same applies elsewhere in Britain.

A town with some character - in 1872
when this was painted
Haverfordwest is the county town of beautiful Pembrokeshire in West Wales and is a pretty unassuming sort of a place.

Cromwell did his best to destroy Haverfordwest and its imposing castle in 1648 and then the town planners and councillors came along in the 1980s and finished the job for him.

The town straddles the Western Cleddau River and, before the Protestant Reformation, was home to two monasteries together with a number of convents and a leper colony.

The usual structure of care and welfare that existed when Wales was a Catholic country.

Wherever you look, on the streets of Haverfordwest, there is evidence of its Catholic past.

A pub called 'The Friars' is built on part of the site of a Dominican Friary, founded in 1246 it was also known as St Saviour's until Henry's men demolished it forcing the holy preachers out into the countryside to starve.

Not Franciscans but Dominicans whose Friary
was on this site
Amusingly, the pub sign depicts a jolly Franciscan monk (well, a monk is a monk to the Protestant mind).

Just two hundred yards from the Dominicans is the ruins of an Augustinian Priory, having met the same fate under the 'dissolution', a prime example of an euphemism if ever was.

Street names reveal just how the Catholic presence must have permeated society.

Here are a few....

Magdalene Street, Pyx Parade, Augustine Way, Nun Street, Pilgrim's Way, Zion Hill (where a second floor niche that once housed a statue of Our Lady still remains) and numerous Church Streets and Lanes.

And the street sign that says 'Hole in the Wall' refers to the Dominican Friary and its entry hatch that allowed food and supplies to be delivered to the friars on a regular basis.

Many, of course, deny that Wales was once Catholic but the evidence is there, before your very eyes, if you just raise them above street level.


  1. Very interesting post Richard. I wonder if it would be possible to survey other towns in the British Isles and identify their Catholic heritage, in the same way that you have done. It could be effected by different people, and the results collated in some sort of book form. There are books on the Catholic heritage of London, but I have in mind the smaller towns like Haverford West. On a nationwide basis this could produce quite an impressive book stimulating interest in, and loyalty to, our Catholic faith and tradition. Sounds ambitious, but if enough enthusiastic Catholics participated, it could surely be done. If the idea takes off, please put me down as your first volunteer, in the manner of Corporal Jones!

  2. Thank you Brian, a really good idea which, I am sure is feasible.

    Will give the matter some thought.

  3. One is reminded of the English (sort of) tour guide who insisted that good (cough) King Henry VIII built Canterbury Cathedral.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Ah yes Mack, I've experienced similar as in "The Pope sent assassins to murder Henry VIII" - what?

    3. Cathedral guides always like to tell you that 'the Roundheads' did terrible damage, wrecked statues &c. I always like to tell them that the Edwardian and Elizabethan reformers got there before them, which never goes down well.
      My mother, God rest her, used to drive us round to look at historic churches at weekends and always took the opportunity to say 'This used to be ours', preferably in front of the vicar.
      I like the book idea, above. I immediately thought of the apparently unpromising territory of Rotherham, where I used to work, which has a splendid 15th century church and quite a few 'Catholic' reminders once you start looking.

  4. There is a little chapel in the fields near where I live,built by Earl Godwin.On the south west corner there is a very rare thing.It is a Mass dial.The priest would place a twig onto the face of the dial,indicating the time of the next Mass.St Edward the Confessor reputedly used this little chapel when hunting.It is in a most beautiful location,and has wonderful murals inside.

  5. If you would like to take a look google The little church in the fields,Idesworth.Fascinating!

  6. Fascinating article Richard. We know Haverfordwest a little bit, and now we know a lot more about it. Many thanks.

  7. Thanks Tom, next time you in in town please come in for a coffee.

  8. Sometimes the Anglicans are honest. Here’s what you see at the tomb of the demonic iconoclast Bishop of Ely during Henry VIII’s time: