A MISSIONARY from St Davids was among thousands of Christians to be hunted down and beheaded during the Chinese Boxer Rebellion at the start of the twentieth century.

The story of Elizabeth Dixon has been told by her great-granddaughter Prudence Bell, who recently launched her book ‘Lives From a Black Tin Box’ at Oriel y Parc.

Elizabeth was born in the Old Cross Hotel and travelled to China with her husband Herbert to spread the word of God, but their work was to be cut short when the Empress Cixi decreed that all foreigners must be executed. An army of men dubbed the Boxers were soon hunting the couple along with the many other European missionary families who had settled there.

Herbert and Elizabeth were forced to run for their lives. Herbert had with him some paper on which he wrote down everything that happened to them and by some ‘amazing miracle’ those papers, along with countless letters the couple wrote to their children and relatives ended up back in Britain and in the family’s Black Tin Box, to be discovered by Prudence.

While hiding in a cave on July 21, 1900 Herbert wrote: “Were it not for our trust in God we should be in utter despair. To see the ladies, and especially my dear wife in her weakness having to tramp over these rough mountains by night and be hiding all day in damp caves without proper food and water to wash themselves makes me think some very bitter thoughts towards against the governor of the province who has promoted this terrible persecution.”

In 2006 Prudence and her husband Stuart travelled to China. During their visit they planned to go to a church in Xinzhou where Herbert and Elizabeth had been missionaries.

Prudence said: “Our arrival on that particular Tuesday morning, at that particular time had a divine hand behind it.

“It was clear the people there were a little suspicious of who we were and why we had come. When it was explained I was the great-granddaughter of Herbert and Elizabeth Dixon, the room erupted with smiles and handshakes. I didn’t know these people, but suddenly they seemed to know me. It was as if they had been expecting me and in some way they had.”

Lives From a Black Tin Box takes the reader on a spiritual journey spanning 120 years.

Prudence said: “You will go from Wales to London, to the Congo and back to London, to China and back to Wales, and one last journey to China in 2006.

“I’ve known about my great-grandparents being murdered in the Boxer Rebellion for a long time, but the thought of ever putting it down on paper never ever occurred to me.

She was convinced to take a tape recorder and journal with her to China, on which she recorded her emotions. The writings and recordings inspired the creation of a BBC Wales radio programme called The Blood of the Martyrs and subsequently the book, which Prudence wrote with Ronald Clements.

Speaking at the launch, Prudence said: “There is completeness about today.

“We have brought Elizabeth back to St Davids, completing the circle.”