Monday 23 July 2012

Ambrose Barlow 1585–1641

Ambrose Barlow was canonized by Pope Paul VI and is one the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Ordained as a priest in 1617, Barlow returned to England and took up residence with the Tyldesley family at Morleys Hall. He benefited from a pension left by Elizabeth Tyldesley née Anderton—grandmother of Sir Thomas Tyldesley 1612-1651—to enable him to take charge of poor Catholics in the area.

Barlow was seized at Morleys Hall as described by H V Hart-Davis [FN1]:
Morleys being in the Parish of Leigh, it is possible that this unchristian action was attributable to the then vicar the Rev. James Gottley, in his fanatical zeal for the reformed religion. Whoever this minister may have been, he suggested to his congregation that they should, in lieu of the usual prayers and sermon, embark in work more worthy of their zeal for the Gospel and go along with him to apprehend the noted Popish Priest Barlow, whom they would be sure to find in the midst of his flock at that time. 
Relishing the proposition, the congregation to the number of some 400, armed with clubs and swords, followed the minister to the house where Mr. Barlow, having finished Mass, was making an exhortation to his people, about 100 in number, on the subject of 'Patience.' Though acting without a warrant, the minister ransacked the mansion at Morleys and arrested the Priest, carrying him before a neighbouring Justice of the Peace named 'Risley' probably a member of the family of that name seated at Risley Hall in the Parish of Winwick. By him the martyr was sent under an escort of 60 armed men to Lancaster. Information of the capture was dispatched to the Council, and on Friday, May 20, 1641, the following resolution was passed by the Lords :—

'Whereas this House was informed that a Romish Priest was apprehended on Easter Day last past, at the Hall of Morleys in the County of Lancaster, called by the name of Edward Barlow; who, upon his examination, confessed himself a Romish Priest, and has received orders at Arras, he being now committed to the Common Jail at Lancaster; it is ordered that the said Edward Barlow shall be proceeded against at the next Assizes, for the said County, according to Law.'

In accordance therewith Father Barlow was brought to trial, at the next Assizes, on September 7th, before Sir Robert Heath, who had received instructions from the Puritan Parliament to see that the extreme penalty of the Law was executed upon any Priest convicted at Lancaster 'for a terror to the Catholics, who were numerous in that County.'
As Father Barlow freely acknowledged himself to be a Priest, the Judge directed the Jury to bring him in 'guilty' and on the following day he sentenced him to death in the usual barbarous form. On September 10th the martyr was drawn on a hurdle to the .place of execution at Lancaster, and there hanged, cut down, and butchered, his quarters being parboiled in a cauldron of tar as was customary in such cases, in the 55th year of his age and the 24th of his priesthood.

1. History of Wardley Hall, H V Hart-Davis, 1908