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Ven. Swithin Wells



English martyr, born at Brambridge, Hampshire, about 1536; hanged at Gray's Inn Lane, London, opposite his own house, 10 December, 1591. He was the youngest of the five or six sons of Thomas Wells of Brambridge, by Mary, daughter of John Mompesson. It is not known when or whom he married. For many years he conformed, and received the Protestant communion, and for six years (probably 1576-82) kept a school for young gentlemen at Monkton Farleigh, Wiltshire. On 25 May, 1582, the Privy Council ordered a search to be made for him, and in that year or 1583 he was reconciled to the Church. In 1585 he came to London where he took a house in Gray's Inn Lane. On 4 July, 1586, he was discharged from Newgate on bail given by his nephew, Francis Parkins of "Weton", Berkshire. On 9 August, 1586, he was examined for supposed complicity in the Babington plot, and on 30 November, 1586, he was discharged from the Fleet prison. He was again examined 5 March, 1587, and on this occasion speaks of the well known recusant, George Cotton of Warblington, Hampshire, as his cousin. On 1 Nov., 1591, Edmund Gennings was taken saying Mass at Wells's house in his absence, but in the presence of Mrs. Wells and the venerable martyrs Polydore Plasden, Brian Lacy, Sydney Hodson, and John Mason. According to one account Ven. Eustace White was also taken at this Mass. When Wells returned to his house he also was arrested. All the above-mentioned martyrs, included Mrs. Wells (but with the possible exception of Brian Lacy), were indicted at Westminster, 4 Dec., 1591, and were condemned, 5 Dec., under 27 Eliz. C. 2. According to another account they were arraigned, 6 December. Mrs. Wells was reprieved, and died in prison in 1602. All the rest suffered on the same day, Gennings and Wells at Gray's Inn Lane, and the other five at Tyburn. Of his brother-in-law Gerard Morin, to whom the letter printed by Bishop Challoner is addressed, no information is to hand. Swithin's eldest brother Gilbert, alive in 1598, suffered much in purse and person for the Faith. Another brother, Henry, of Purbeck, who entered Winchester College in 1541, aged twelve, and was a fellow of New College, Oxford, 1549-50, was also a Catholic. Our martyr was a follower of Blessed Thomas More and jested both at his apprehension and at his execution; but his last words were of pardon to his persecutor, Topcliffe: "God pardon you and make you of a Saul a Paul. . .I heartily forgive you."

Cath. Rec. Soc. Publ. (London, 1905 — ), II, 261, 267; V, 131-3, 206-8, 292; CHALLONER, Missionary Priests, I, n. 91; POLLEN, Acts of English Martyrs (London, 1891), 100-1, 107-8; BERRY, Hampshire Genealogies (London, 1833), 110-1; MORRIS, Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, III (London, 1872-7), 48, 49; FOLEY Records English Province S. J. (London, 1875-83), III, 295; V, 791; VI, passim.

John B. Wainewright.








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