Monday, 13 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 16.


We now come to a period in Father Gerard's life in which his relations with the Government were too close to be pleasant. To us this is an advantage, for, thanks to the free access to the State Papers now given to historical students, we are able to follow his narrative in the Government documents, and thus we can supply names and dates that he suppressed, and in some cases even we are admitted to secrets that were mysteries to him.

Hence, when Father Gerard says that he had persuaded Mrs. Wiseman, or "the Widow Wiseman," as it seems more natural to call her, " to go to her own house and there maintain a priest whom he recommended" we are able to say that the name of the priest was Brewster, and that her house was at Northend in the parish of Great Waltham—an estate which had been in the possession of the family since the time of Henry VI. We learn that the search of this house when the priest escaped took place on the 26th of December 1593, but that the widow was not then arrested as Father Gerard thought. We learn that the treacherous servant was called John Frank, and that his was "a white house in Lincoln's Inn Fields;" that the house which Father Gerard says " had been lately hired in London for my own and my friend's purposes" was a house then lately built " in the upper end of Golding-lane;" that William Wiseman and others were arrested in it on the 15th of March 159!; that the house in which Father Gerard was taken was called Middleton's, and that his capture was before the 12th of May 1594. And lastly, there is a strong probability that the pursuivants were put on Father Gerard's track by an unhappy priest of the Tichborne family, of whom Father Gerard had no suspicion. All these points we shall see in detail in due time.

Father Gerard thus passes from his accounts of relics and vestments to searches and imprisonments.

"But there is a time for gathering stones together, and a time for scattering them. The time had now come for trying the servants of God, my hosts, and myself along with them. And that they might be more like in their suffering to their Lord for Whom they suffered, God allowed them to be betrayed by their own servant whom they loved. He was not a Catholic, nor a servant of the house, but had once been in the service of the second brother [Thomas Wiseman], who when he crossed the sea recommended him to his mother and brother. He lived in London, but often used to visit them, and knew nearly everything that happened in either of their houses. I had no reason for suspecting one whom all trusted. Still I never let him see me acting as a priest, or dressed in such a way as to give him grounds to say that I was one. However, as he acknowledged afterwards, he guessed what I was from seeing his master treat me with such respect; for he nearly always set me two or three miles on my journeys. Often too my host would bear me company to London, where we used at that time to lodge in this servant's house. I had not yet found by experience, that the safest plan was to have a lodging of my own. Such were the facts which, as the traitor afterwards stated, gave rise to his suspicions. Feeling sure that he could get more than three hundred pieces of silver from the sale of his master, he went to the magistrates and bargained to betray him. They, it seems, sent him for a while to spy out who were priests, and how many there were of them haunting the houses of the widow and her son."

This servant, John Frank, whom Thomas Wiseman had recommended to his mother and brother, and who thus repaid their kindness, was examined by Justice Young on the 12th of May, 1594, after Father Gerard's apprehension. In the copious extracts from his deposition that we are about to give, it will be remarked that he says that Mr. William Wiseman and Father Gerard were at his house together at the Midsummer of 1593. Father Gerard has just told us that he used to go there till he got a lodging of his own.

Frank's house is named in one of Father Henry Walpole's examinations in the Tower at the very time when Frank had begun to give information. It is dated 1 May 3, 1594. "He had one direction for England, and had also a note containing some business to be done in England for his kinsman Edward Walpole the priest, who then was at Tournay in Artois. This examinate was also thereby directed to a house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, but he utterly denieth to disclose the name of the owner of the said house or of the gentleman to whom he was directed that lodged in the same house, and yet he knoweth the said house and the name of the said gentleman, but refuseth for conscience' sake (as he saith) to reveal the same. Being further examined whether it were the house of one Frank, a white house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, he answereth he will neither deny it nor affirm it Being asked again of the gentleman that lodged in the said house in Lincoln's Inn Fields to whom he was directed, which gentleman was of acquaintance as well with this examinate as with the said Edward Walpole, he refuseth to disclose his name, and yet he confesseth he knoweth the gentleman and doth well remember his name. He saith that the name of one Spiller 2 was not set down in any of the said directions given to this examinate.

And being told that a house called Braddox in Essex was set down in one of his directions, he saith he will neither affirm nor deny the same. Being told that the name of Mrs. White was contained in his direction for England, he utterly denieth it."

The result of Frank's information was that " the widow's house was first searched. The priest that usually dwelt there was then at home, but escaped for that time by taking refuge in a hiding-place. As for the pious widow, they forced her to go to London, there to appear before the judges who tried cases concerning Catholics. At her appearance she answered with the greatest courage, more like a free woman than a grievously persecuted prisoner. She was thrown into gaol." From Frank's deposition 3 we learn that the search was made on the 26th of December, 1593. "The said examinate saith that one Brewster, a priest, being a tall man with a white flaxen beard, was at old Mrs. Wiseman's house at Northend from Michaelmas until Christmas last, and was in the house when the pursuivants were there on Wednesday the 26th of December last, hid in a privy place in a chimney in a chamber. And William Suffield, Mr. William Wiseman's man, came thither for him on Thursday in the Christmas week, at five of the clock in the night, and carried him to Mr. William Wiseman's house at Braddocks, as this examinate heard. And afterwards Suffield came again and rode with old Mrs. Wiseman to the Lord Rich's." The seat of Lord Rich was at Lee Priory, not far from Northend. The widow therefore was not arrested on this occasion.

"Item, he saith that between Midsummer and Michaelmas last, Scudamore the priest was there by the name of John Wiseman and stayed there one night, and he told this examinate that he was a priest, and that he had reconciled John Jeppes, Mrs. Wiseman's man, afoout the first of September.

" Item, he saith that one Rooke Chapman, a priest born in Samford, came thither and stayed there but one night a fortnight before Christmas last.

"Item, he saith that Mr. Gerard, alias Tanfield, alias Staunton, the priest Jesuit, was at Mr. William Wiseman's house at Braddocks all the Christmas last, and Richard Fulwood was his man attending on him, and was two years coming and going thither, and was also with Mr. Wiseman in Lancashire a little before Michaelmas was twelve months, as Ralph Willis, who then attended on Master Gerard, told this examinate, and were at the Lady Gerard's house, she being at home.

" Item, he saith that he hath seen Mr. Gerard dine and sup ordinarily with Mr. Wiseman at his own table in his house at Braddocks about twelve months past, and that at Midsummer was twelve months they were both together in this examinate's house, and Mr. Ormes, the tailor of Fleet-street was there with him, and did take measure of Mr. Gerard by the name of Mr. Tanfield, to make him garments. . . .

" Item, he saith that the said Willis told this examinate since his imprisonment that John Jeppes could do all the hurt that was to be done in revealing of matters, and that the said Jeppes did let Staunton [Father Gerard] and the said Willis through his grounds from Mr. Wiseman's house at Braddocks. . . .

" Item, he saith that about three weeks before Michaelmas last or thereabouts, this examinate was sent by old Mrs. Wiseman to Mr. Gerard, from Northend to London with Scudamore alias John Wiseman the priest, and a boy named Richard Cranishe of the age of 16 years, son of Robert Cranishe, and afterwards Mrs. Jane Wiseman and Mrs. Bridget Wiseman, sisters to Mr. William Wiseman came up also; and William Savage, tailor, servant to old Mrs. Wiseman, and Richard Fulwood, Mr. Gerard's man, attended on them, and John Jeppes came up at the same time; all of which persons, saving Jeppes, lay at this examinate's house a week. And then Scudamore, the two gentlewomen, Cranish, Savage and this examinate, embarked themselves at Gravesend in one Motte his bark, and went over to Middleburg, and there lay at one Charles his house about a fortnight, and then went to Antwerp, and this examinate returned back again ; but whether Mr. William Wiseman did know of their going over or no he cannot tell.

"Item, he saith that Burrowes the priest told this examinate in Lent last that he was at Mr. William Wiseman's house at Braddocks and rode upon a gelding that Mr. William Wiseman bought of Edward Hamond, and wore Mr. Wiseman's cloak. And the said Burrowes did also tell this examinate that Mr. Wiseman said to him at his coming from him that it was very dangerous for him to come to this examinate's house, because of the watches and often searches made there. And the said Burrowes told this examinate also that Jeppes, meeting him riding by the way, did know the horse upon which he rode, and challenged him to be Mr. Wiseman's.

"Item, he saith that the said Burrowes did enquire of this examinate where he might meet with William Suffield, Mr. William Wiseman's man, being then in London, and as Burrowes went down to Fleet-lane, he met with the said Suffield, and this examinate found them both together in a house in Fleet-lane half an hour after."

These are the portions of Frank's depositions that bear on the time of the Christmas search at Northend. Immediately after the search Justice Young made his report 4 to Sir John Puckering, the Lord Keeper. " Right honourable, my hearty duty remembered. This is to advertise your honour that the bearers hereof, Mr. Worsley and Mr. Newall," pursuivants who were Topcliffe's chief aiders in the searches made in the houses of Catholics, " hath been in Essex at Mrs. Wiseman's house, being a widow, and there they found a mass a preparing, but the priest escaped, but they brought from thence Robert Wiseman her son, and William Clarke a lawyer, and Henry Cranedge [Cranishe] a physician, and Robert Foxe, who doth acknowledge themselves all to be recusants, and do deny to take an oath to answer truly to such matters as shall touch the Queen's Majesty and the State, whereupon I have committed them close prisoners, one from another. Also they found in the said house one Nicholas Norffooke, Samuel Savage, and one Daniell, servants unto the said Mrs. Wiseman ; and one Mrs. Anne Wiseman a widow, and Mary Wiseman her daughter, and Elizabeth Cranedge, and Alice Jenings wife of Richard Jenings, and Mary Wiseman daughter to Mr. George Wiseman of Upminster and [he] is in commission of the Peace: and all these in the said house are all recusants. Wherefore if it may stand with your lordship's good liking, I think it were well that they were all sent for hither to be examined ; for that the said Mrs. Jane Wiseman her house is the only house of resort for all these wicked persons. She was at Wisbech with the Seminaries and Jesuits there, and she did repent that she had not gone barefooted thither, and she is a great reliever of them, and she made a rich vestment and sent it them, as your lordship doth remember, as I think, when you and my Lord of Buckhurst sent to Wisbech to search, for that I had letters which did decypher all her doings."

To the widow Jane Wiseman Father Gerard now turn's, and thinking by an error of memory when he wrote that she was arrested in the search at her house at Christmas 1593, he enters into detail respecting her conduct during her subsequent imprisonment, and shows how she was a martyr in will, though not in deed. " As for the pious widow," he says, and it was true before long, " they forced her to go to London, there to appear before the judges who tried cases concerning Catholics. At her appearance she answered with the greatest courage, more like a free woman than a grievously persecuted prisoner. She was thrown into gaol, where she so united piety with patience, as to do her own work like a menial, cook her food with her own hands, and wash the dishes. Her aim in this was to find her way by humiliations to true humility of heart, and also to save expense so as to be'able to support more Catholics. During her imprisonment she always used to send me one half of her yearly income, to wit six hundred florins [60/.] ; with the other half, besides many other good works, she maintained a priest, to bring her Holy Communion at stated times, and assist her fellow-prisoners. She spent all her time either in prayer or in working with her hands, making altar furniture which she sent to divers persons. The holy woman persevered in these good works, till in two 1 years' time God called her to higher things.

"It was His will that the heretics should come to know that she received visits from a priest. If I remember well, the priest was Father Jones, a Franciscan Recollect, afterwards martyred. They resolved therefore to use the law against the widow. She was brought up, and the usual false witnesses appeared, to accuse her of being privy to the maintenance of priests, contrary to the law of the land. The judges at once empanelled a jury, to pronounce her guilty or not guilty. The godly woman seeing that the consciences of the jury would be stained with her blood, if she let them give their verdict in the case, made up her mind to hold her peace and answer nought to the judges' demand whether she was guilty or not guilty. At the same time she knew well the provision of the law, that men or women who refused to plead in a matter of life and death should have far more keen and dreadful torments than convicted felons. They are laid on their backs upon a sharp stone ; then a heavy weight is put upon their breasts, which crushes the sufferer to death. Till the time of which I treat we had only had two female martyrs, not counting the Queen of Scots. One named Clitherow, 1 at York, chose the same sort of martyrdom as the widow, and for the same reason, namely, to spare the consciences of the jury, who she was sure would find her guilty as usual to please the judges, even though conscious of the injustice they were doing. The godly widow of whom I am speaking, resolved to follow this holy martyr's example. She had made up her mind to take the same course and bear the same punishment. So for her silence she was sentenced to be crushed to death.

She went from the court rejoicing that she had been held worthy to quit life in this manner for the name of Jesus. However, on account of her rank, and the good name which she had, the Queen's councillors would not let such barbarity be practised in London. So they transferred her after her condemnation to a more loathsome prison, and kept her there. They wanted at the same time to seize her income for the Queen. Now if she had been dead, this income would not have gone to the Queen, but to the widow's son, my host. The godly woman therefore lived in this prison, reft of her goods but not of her life, of which she most desired to be reft. She pined in a narrow and filthy cell till the accession of King James, when, as is usual at the crowning of a new king, she received a pardon, and returned home; where she now serves the servants of God, and has two of ours with her in the house. So much then for the good widow; to return to ourselves."

1 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccxlviii. n. 91.

2 Mr. Robert Spiller is mentioned in her Life (p. 240) as steward to Anne Countess of Arundel.

3 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. cxlviii. n. 103. By a singular error a duplicate of this paper has been calendared under the date of April 1606, Domestic, James I., vol. xx. n. 52.

4 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. cxlvii. n. 3; dated Jan. 2, 159(3/4)

5 How long Jane Wiseman was in prison is not clear, but it must have been more than two years, as John Jones, O.S.F., alias Godfrey Morris, alias Buckley, was martyred at St. Thomas Waterings on the 12th of July 1598. Three days after his martyrdom Father Garnet wrote an account of it (Stonyhurst MSS., Father Grene's Colleclan. P., vol. ii. n. 40), of a portion of which the following is a translation. " After labouring with no little fruit for nearly three years in the Lord's Vineyard, he lived for about two years in prison, of which one was less strict custody, and that in a way that was very wonderful on account of the almost incredible concourse of Catholics. This was a fruitful year for him, though spent in a barren field, and he might for a still longer time have borne himself bravely in God's husbandry, if in God's Providence that Topcliffe who is so well known to the whole world, had not either become greedy of the goods of two Catholics or envious of their constancy. Some traitor let Topcliffe know that for some time before his apprehension this Reverend Father had for motives of piety visited two persons who were then in the same prison, Mr. Robert Barret [Barnes], and Mrs. Jane Wiseman, a most excellent woman who had two sons in the Society; that he had stayed two days with them, had celebrated masses before them, and had received money from them. Topcliffe then on this pretext, in the beginning of July, put them on their trial, accusing them of a capital offence for helping a priest with money. They were both condemned, and Mrs. Wiseman, who refused to be judged by the twelve jurymen lest they should be guilty of her blood and ignorant men should on her account incur eternal damnation, was condemned to the extremely cruel death of being crushed by heavy weights placed on her breast. At this sentence with a cheerful and steady countenance she said in Latin, what she had always had every moment on her lips, Deo gratias. It is the common opinion that both will be spared.' 1 Troubles, Third Series, p. 431.