All the cases I’ve found for 1880 revolve around the alleged Marian apparitions at Llanthony Monastery. To understand why these were immediately viewed as suspect you need a bit of context: Llanthony Monastery was run as a quasi-Benedictine Order under Father Ignatius, a well known religious eccentric who had been barred from preaching in London and forced from his curacy. His earlier attempt to eastablish a Monastery at Elm Hill in Norwich had ended in disaster, with Ignatius – Joseph Leycester Lyne (b. 1837) – owing money all over the place and the members of the Order in various levels of disgrace. Brother Stanislaus absconded with a 15 year old boy named Francis George Nobbs who “was reported to have affirmed that not only had the Superior [Ignatius] been aware of their degeneracy, but that he had condoned and encouraged it, by performing on their behalf, and in his own church, a ceremony which in itself was blasphemy and sacrilege of the most revolting kind.”
The choir master, Brother Augustine, disappeared after his love letter to another 15-year-old boy, Samuel Hase, was found by the boy’s mother and printed in the local newspaper. (“Sometimes on Sundays you have sat in your cassock and cotta looking so like an angel I could have worshipped you. … Morning, noon, and night, nothing haunts me but your sweet darling face; in my very dreams I see it; in a word, I am infatuated and wretched and wish sometimes I had never seen you. I feel I could clasp you in my arms and never unfold them whilst I looked into the depths of those sweet eyes.”) By the time Ignatius established Llanthony Monastery in a barn at Capel-y-Ffin in 1869 he, and his unsanctioned religious order, were infamous. In May 1880 the South Wales News reported that Ignatius was trying to raise £60,000 to recreate the grand Llanthony Abbey church. It could be seen as rather opportune that the basis for an annual pilgrimage event should soon present itself…
Thursday August 30th
In the morning at c. 9:30am 20-year-old Brother Dunstan was kneeling at a prayer desk in the church saw a ‘ghostly sacrament’. (‘when he saw the monstrance containing the Host appear on the altar in front of the tabernacle door.’) He concluded it must be some kind of optical illusion. Later that morning Janet Owens, a c. 50-year-old lay sister and schoolmistress from Hay, had the same experience but thought the Sacrament must have been deliberately left out for some reason. When her watch finished at 11:00 she asked Brother Dunstan why the Sacrament was out, causing him to realise it had been no illusion.
Later that evening, at recreation time following Vespers, four young acolytes were playing on the adjoining ‘Abbot’s meadow’ when at just gone eight they claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary walk towards them and disappear into a hedge. The four boys were Daniel Maguire (15 and half, son of a neighbouring famer), John Evelyn Stewart (12 and half, of Sheffield), Thomas Foord (11, of Brighton), and Joseph Chalkley (9, of London).
The boys wrote letters confirming what they had seen:
Johnny Stewart, one of the boys, attended the 1881 annual commemoration and Ignatius preached:
“As in the olden time, when God wanted a prophet, and chose one in little Samuel, he had now chosen one in this place in Johnny Stewart, the boy who sat before him, who was a witness of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin, and who, therefore, posseted the evidence that the agnostics desired. And, so, when God wanted to speak to the atheists of Franoe, he chose a witness in a little girl about 11 years of age. Why this was so we could not determine, but God knew his own business best. There was nothing particular about that boy that he knew of for which he should be chosen by God as a witness except that he was a monastery boy, always turning his heart towards God, but in a healthy frame of mind and body. The visions could be no fancy of his, for it was seen by eight witnesses—by himself (Father Ignatius) among them.”
Saturday September 4th
Members of the community congregated near the hedge where a vision of the Virgin Mary had been seen on August 30th and sang Ave Maria. The Virgin again appeared, this time accompanied by “a man unclothed save for a cloth around the loins.” The couple then vanished.
Later a potion was prepared from the leaves of a rhubarb plant growing at this point of the hedge which was said to be able to heal various ills.
Wednesday September 8th
Brother George said “I have seen the figure distinctly twice at the opening of the hedge.” Sister Janet Owens said “I have seen the figure, too, distinctly over the green gates.” Brother George’s shouting alerted Brother Dunstan who was trimming the lamps for Compline. Dunstan told newspaper reporters (South Wales Daily News, 31/08/1882)
“I then looked and saw it in an exact line with where I had seen it on the previous Saturday night. We knelt in about the same place as before. It was very dark. The hedge was completely dark. Every now and then whilst we were singing a bright star would twinkle in the hedge, and then fall to the ground. We continued singing aves. I saw shadowy figures passing to and fro in the hedge. The light was very pale, not bright at all. This kept in for a long time. The grass was lit up in front of me. I had a headache. Something touched my head, and the headache was gone. As on Sunday night, the grass was dry where we knelt, but wet everywhere else. I saw the hedge lit up on the following Saturday night but I could not go out.”
Brother George added: “Being very anxious to see the vision, I went into the meadow with Brother Dunstan and the boys. We sang an ave. I saw a light; it was very bright. It seemed to fill the bush. There were several lights; some burst in the middle of the hedge, some above it. I saw two figures, male and female. The female figure was draped in white; the male had waht appeared to be a cloth round the loins. The male figure held out its hands; the female figure had its hands crossed on the breast. I could not see the features of either. The male reminded me of the picture of our Lord in His baptism; the female of paintings of the Blessed Virgin. The male figure advanced towards the female figure, and as they met they vanished.”
Four different people saw “the whole heavens and mountains break forth in bulging circles of light, circles pushing out from circles – the light poured upon our faces and the buildings where we stood, and in the central circle stood a most Majestic Heavenly Form, robed in flowing drapery. The Form was gigantic, but seemed to be reduced to human size as it approached. The Figure stood sideways, facing the Holy Bush. The Vision was most distinct and the details were very clear; but it was gone ‘in the twinkling of an eye’. … A few minutes after this Mr. E from Oxford and one of the boys, saw the shadowy form of the Blessed Virgin in light, by the enclosure gate with uplifted hands. This is the last of the visions vouchsafed by God’s mercy to us.”