From John O'Sullivan
THOMAS GUNTER'S house in Abergavenny, the centre of Catholic activity during the 17th century, may be demolished if a London developer gets the "green light" from the Ministry of Works and the Monmouthshire Planning authority.
The house, steeped in Catholic history, is part of a block of property which the developer has agreed to purchase subject to planning permission.
A spokesman for J. Straker Chadwick and Sons, auctioneers, ;wine for the developer. said that a guarantee would be given that the developer would co-operate with any authority or organisation in the preservation of parts of the house which may be of historical significance.
tt is understood that the developer wants to build a first-class hotel on the site which is in the main street of the Welsh market town. llis representatives will shortly be meeting the appropriate authorities to discuss his proposals which may be hampered by the Ministry of Works protection of the Gunter House which is listed as an ancient monument.
The Gunter House is now used as a sweet shop and baby wear shop, and occupied by a non-Catholic family who has agreed to sell to the developer.
Mr. Gerald Hill. choirmaster and organist at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Porthcawl. discovered that the house was in danger of demolition when he called to see the Abergavenny Mural—a magnificent 17th century painting of the Wise Men adoring the infant Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem.
"I shall make representations to the Ministry of Works and the planning authority asking them to preserve the house which is important from an historical point of view." Mr. Hill told me.
Thomas Gunter, a 17th century attorney, was the host to many priests, including the Welsh Martyrs, Blessed David Lewis and Blessed Phillip Evans. In 1907 evidence of a Catholic chapel was discovered in the attic of the house. the famous mural being the al tar piece.
At a great expense the mural was removed from the wall and framed. Now the masterpiece—it takes five men to lift it—can be bought "if the price is right". The top bid to date is £2,000.
Catholic activities at the Gunter house forced Parliament to take action in 1678, and evidence was laid against Gunter and the many priests who frequented the premises. It was also complained that more people attended Mass there than attended the local Reformation church.
John Arnold was one of the men who gave evidence against Gunter, as did William James, of Caerleon, and Mr. Cireenhaugh, Vicar of Abergavenny.
They swore that Mass had been celebrated at the house, and Christenings and marriages performed there. They also reported Gunter as having said: "F kept a priest during Oiiver's times of severity, and I shall keep one now".