Philip Evans was born in Monmouth in 1645, was educated at Jesuit College of St. Omer (now in France), joined the Society of Jesus in Watten on 7 September 1665, and was ordained at Liège (now in Belgium) and sent to South Wales as a missionary in 1675.
He worked in Wales for four years, and despite the official anti-Catholic policy no action was taken against him. When the Oates' scare swept the country both Lloyd and Evans were caught up in the aftermath. In November 1678 John Arnold, of Llanvihangel Court near Abergavenny, a justice of the peace and hunter of priests, offered a reward of £200 (equivalent to £30,000 in 2018) for his arrest.
Despite the manifest dangers Father Evans steadfastly refused to leave his flock. He was arrested at the home of a Mr Christopher Turberville at Sker, Glamorgan, on 4 December 1678. Ironically the posse which arrested him is said to have been led by Turberville's brother, the notorious priest-taker Edward Turberville.
Father John Lloyd, a Welshman and a secular priest (a priest not associated with any religious order), was a Breconshire man. He was educated in Ghent (now in Belgium), and from 1649 at the English College, Valladolid, Spain. He took the 'missionary oath' on 16 October 1649 to participate in the English Mission. Sent to Wales in 1654 to minister to covert Catholics, he lived his vocation while constantly on the run for 24 years. He was arrested at Mr Turberville's house at Penlline, Glamorgan, on 20 November 1678, and imprisoned in Cardiff Gaol. There he was joined by the Jesuit, Philip Evans.
Both priests were brought to trial in Cardiff on Monday, 5 May 1679. Neither was charged with being associated with the plot concocted by Oates. Nonetheless, they were tried for being priests and coming to England and Wales contrary to the provisions of Jesuits, etc. Act 1584, and were declared guilty of treason for exercising their priesthood.
The executions took so long to be scheduled that it began to appear that they might not take place. The priests were allowed a good deal of liberty, even to leaving the prison for recreation. The executions took place in Pwllhalog, near Cardiff, on 22 July 1679. Two plaques mark the site at what is now the junction of Crwys Road and Richmond Road in Roath, Cardiff, still known as "Death Junction".
Philip Evans was the first to die. He addressed the gathering in both Welsh and English saying, 'Adieu, Father Lloyd! Though only for a little time, for we shall soon meet again'. John Lloyd spoke very briefly saying, 'I never was a good speaker in my life'.
On 25 October 1970, both John Lloyd and Philip Evans, S.J., were canonised by Pope Paul VI. Although they died on 22 July, this date is kept by the Catholic Church as the day of St Mary Magdalen, so their joint feast day was assigned to 23 July. The same date is the assigned day of St Bridget of Sweden, who was later designated one of six patron saints of Europe by Pope John Paul II. This means that while churches dedicated to St John Lloyd or St Philip Evans can keep their feast on 23 July, other churches must commemorate St Bridget on that date. A voluntary celebration for St John Lloyd and St Philip Evans may be kept on a nearby date at the discretion of local communities.
The collective feast day of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales was formerly kept on 25 October. In England they are now celebrated together with beatified martyrs on 4 May. In Wales, 25 October is the feast of the "Six Welsh Martyrs and their companions".