Monday, 29 September 2014

The Life of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A hunted Priest) part 2

There was no need that the bishop of the diocese should be " quickened " to make Sir Thomas Gerard " feel the smart" of the law for not going to the Protestant church, for he was not permitted long to lurk as Sir Ralph Sadler called it, in his own house. On the 23rd of August, 1586, he was again committed 1 to the Tower of London on a charge of high treason.

That Sir Thomas Gerard was faithful to his religion at the beginning of his imprisonment in the Tower, is testified by the following extract from a State Paper 2 dated March 1, 158(7/8). " Sir Thomas Jarrat [Gerard] his keeper, a very honest man of the lieutenant's, reported that divers of the lieutenant's men who had keeping of prisoners in the Tower, were by persuasion and otherwise fallen from our profession unto Popery. And he affirmed that Sir Thomas Jarrat had sundry times persuaded him to convert to their profession."

But unhappily for his fair fame, Sir Thomas seems to have had the weakness to appear as a witness against his noble and saintly fellow-prisoner, Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel. In the contemporary life of the Earl, published by the late Duke of Norfolk, it is said : 3 "At the Earl's arraignment both Sir Thomas Gerard and Mr. Bennet 4 were brought in person to give witness against him ; the one that he required a Mass of the Holy Ghost to be said for the success of the Spaniards; the other, that the prayer of twenty-four hours was directed to the same end." Of these two witnesses the writer of the life further says : "Mr. Bennet, the priest, one of those who had accused him, fell not long after into a grievous disease, whereof he also died miserably, with great remorse and grief for what he had done. And Sir Thomas Gerard, who was the other, never prospered after that time, but sold and wasted a great part of his estate, lived a lewd licentious life, fell from the profession of the Catholic faith, and so continued till about a year before his death." That death occurred in September, 1601.

His fall from the Catholic faith was evidently gradual, for in the year 1590, in " A view of the state of the County Palatine of Lancaster both for religion and civil government," 5 we have a list of " Knights and Esquires not in the Commission of the Peace' who were " all of them, though in some degree of conformity, yet in general note of evil affection in religion, no communicants, and the wives of most of them recusants." 6 In this list there appear the names of "Sir Thomas Gerard of the Bryn in Winwick parish, knight," and "Thomas Gerard of Highleycare in Winwick parish, son and heir to Sir Thomas Gerard, knight." To the name of Sir Thomas there is appended the remark," He hath made show of conformity in our country."

But it is too plain that the author of the life of the Earl of Arundel is right in saying that it was not a mere " show of conformity," but for a time at least a fall from the Catholic faith, for in the life 7 of Father Edmund Arrowsmith the martyr we read that "Mr.Nicholas Gerard, Father Arrowsmith's grandfather by the mother's side, being a constant professor of the Catholic faith, was by order of Sir Thomas Gerard, his own brother, forcibly carried to the Protestant Church."

This is a miserable story to have to tell of the father of John Gerard, and it must have been a sad grief to him all through his missionary life that while helping others he could not help his own father. The condemnation of the Earl of Arundel was in April, 1589, when Father Gerard had been in England as a priest about four or five months, so that his father's fall must soon have reached his ears. And that father had stood out so bravely and had borne so much for his faith. It is said that the estate of Gerard's Bromley was the price that Elizabeth had imposed on him for his liberation from the Tower on the occasion of his first imprisonment, and this estate was transferred to his kinsman, Sir Gilbert Gerard, Master of the Rolls, whose eldest son took his title from it when raised to the peerage. A little before he was imprisoned in the Tower for the second time Sir Thomas was summoned before the said favoured kinsman to compound for his recusancy by the "free offer" of a yearly sum to be paid to the Queen, "to be freed from the penalty of the statute." As it gives an excellent idea of the exactions to which wealthy Catholics were continually subjected in those days, we subjoin Sir Thomas' " offer." The original in the Public Record Office 8 is signed by himself.

" 14 0 die Martii 158s[6]. Sir Thomas Gerard saith that he is greatly in debt by reason of his troubles and suretyship, and payeth large interest for the same, and hath sold much of his lands and departed with a large portion of the rest unto his sons, and hath two daughters to bestow, so that he is not able to offer any great sums unto her Highness in this behalf. Yet nevertheless he most humbly submitteth himself unto her Majesty's pleasure, offering his person to serve her Highness in any place of the world. And if he shall not be admitted thereto, then he offereth with very good will 30/. a year, which is the fourth part of his small portion remaining now left to maintain himself, his poor wife and children.

" Tho. Gerard."

The name of " Dame Elizabeth Gerard " heads a list of thirty-three "Recusants sometime resident about London and in Middlesex, but now dispersed into other countries." And there is another satisfactory mention of Father Gerard's mother in the State Papers. 9 " Lady Gerard of Etwall" was one of those who were present at a mass that was said at Mr. Langford's by a priest named Robert Gray, which priest was afterwards guilty of the incredible meanness of giving information against her to the Government. The Mr. Langford at whose house the mass was said, was of course Lady Gerard's neighbour in Derbyshire, whom Sir Ralph Sadler stigmatised as "an obstinate Papist."

With regard to the mention of property transferred by Sir Thomas Gerard to his sons, it may be interesting to quote from the information of a spy, 10 given just ten years later, the following details. "Item, John Gerard, the Jesuit, hath certain houses in Lancashire, called Brockehouse Row, near Ashton ; he hath made leases, and one tenant hath not paid all his fine : old John Southworth, dwelling thereabouts, is his bailiff, who can show how all the land and title standeth."


The paper, 11 from which two extracts have now been made, is so curious a specimen of espionage that, although it contains no further reference to Father Gerard, it deserves insertion in full as a note. For a copy of it we are indebted to the kindness of J. G. Leeming, Esq., a diligent investigator of the State Papers of the reign of Elizabeth.

" 3 0 Febr. anno 37 0 Reg. Elizabeth [159(4/6)].

"At Little Ogle, four miles distant from Rowell in Northamptonshire, lieth Mr. Bentley, who hath a priest in his house continually, and commonly a seminary priest, whom his wife calleth her chicken.

" The said Bentley had an old man named Green, a carpenter and mason, who maketh all the little beads that be in little boxes : he made a secret place in Mr. Bentley's house at Lea, with a door of freestone, that no man could ever judge there were any such place; and he maketh all the secret places in recusants' houses in that country. He dwelleth on Mr. Zacheverells land at Marley, five miles distant from Derby.

" Item, Launcelot Blackeborne, a seminary priest, was at Mr. Pallmer's at Kegworth in Leicestershire the 29th of January last, and that house is never without a priest, whether Mr. Pallmer be at home or abroad.

"Item, Mr. Williamson dwelleth at Sawley, two miles from Mr. Pallmer's, and there kept a priest called John Redford alias Tanfield, until a certain time that Mrs. Williamson having a little dog which barked and made a great noise at mass time, the said Tanfield spurned him down the stairs with his foot and killed him, for which cause she fell out with the priest, and that house is seldom without another. [In marg. Mr. Williamson is fled beyond sea, and was a chief man with the Earl of Shrewsbury.]

" Item, at Mr. Merrye's house in Burton Park, who married Mr. Pallmer's sister, lieth one Nicholas Wade alias Icke, a seminary priest, and he is also often at Mr. Pallmer's.

" Item, at one Bakewell's house at Awkemonton [Alkmanton] a mile from Mr. Merrye's, there is great resort of priests.

" Item, at Mr. Whitall's house near Ashbourne, four miles from Awkemonton, lieth one Robert Showell, a seminary priest, with a bald head, having one leg bigger than the other: and at the buttery door they go up a pair of stairs straight to the chamber where they say mass.

" Item, at one Rawlins' house at Rawson, three miles from thence, before the parlour door there is a spence 12 they resort all thither to mass.

"Item, at Mrs. Ffolgeambe's house at Throwley, commonly called Meverells house, there is one priest or other to be found.

"Item,at Mr. Genyson's house at Rowllsley, near Bakeweli in the Peak, there is John Redford alias Tanfield, a seminary priest, who hath authority from the Pope to hallow all kind of church stuff, beads, and such like; and there his library is to be found, for he studieth there ; and there also sojourn Mr. Lenton and his wife notable recusants.

"Item, at Mr. Powdrell's house, called West Hallam, four miles beyond Derby, lieth one Richard Showell, an old priest, and sayeth mass there continually.

" Item, John Gerard, the Jesuit, hath certain lands in Lancashire, called Brockehouse Row, near Ashton; he hath made leases, and one tenant hath not paid all his fine; old John South-worth, dwelling thereabouts, is his bailiff, who can show how all the land and title standeth.

" The said Redford alias Tanfield is a fine handsome man, having no hair on his face. And in some of those houses are also these priests, viz., Ruxby alias Pickering, a tall man with gray hairs cut near and round; William Moorecocke, a little man with a clubbed foot; Mr. Blackman, a big, lean-faced man, yellow-haired; Launcelot Blackeborne, a black man, cut near, with some gray hairs, and snaffleth in his speech; Nicholas Icke alias Wade, yellow-haired; and many others. The priests use to cut all the hair off their upper lip, or else all that is nearest the lips, with a few hairs left above."

1 P.R.O., Domestic ', Elizabeth, vol. ccxv. n. 19. " Return of prisoners in the Tower," endorsed in Lord Burghley's hand, 

P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccix. 

The Lives of Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, and of Anne Dacres, his wife. Edited from the original MSS. by the Duke of Norfolk, E.M. London, 1857, PP- 94, 124.

In a list headed "Prisoners removed out of the Tower to other prisons," we have Sir Thomas Gerard, Bennet, Ithell, &c, together in the Counter in Wood Street. P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccxvii. n. 27. And in a later paper called " The names of sundry persons that have been examined by Mr. Vice-Chamberlain and Mr. Secretary concerning the disorders of the Tower, how they stand charged and where they remain," we have "Counter in Wood Street:—Sir Thomas Gerard, William Bennet, priest, have performed their duties in their confessions very willingly; John Snowden, first discoverer of all the disorders of the Tower. At liberty upon bonds :—Ralph Cooke, servant to Sir Thomas Gerard, brought the keys into the Tower, confessed very willingly his fault, and hath divers times given advertisement of priests." Ibid. vol. cclxv. n. 135.

P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccxxxv. ii. 4.

6  In the same list there is "Thomas Gerard of Garswood in Winwick parish, soundly affected in religion," that is to say a thorough Protestant. Others of the family were more constant to their faith. " Cicely Gerard, wife of Thomas Gerard of Highlecar, son and heir to Sir Thomas Gerard, knight, of Winwick parish" and "Anne Gerard of Highlecar, widow, in Winwick parish," are both "recusants and thereof indicted." And in October, 1592, there is good testimony of Father Gerard's elder brother. "Mr. Thomas Gerard of High Carre hath had a notorious recusant to his schoolmaster, Roger Dickson by name, for this three years at the least, and another as I take it for many years before." Information of a priest, probably Thomas Bell; P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccxliii. n. 52.

7  Challoner's Missionary Priests, Derby Edit. vol. ii. p. 130.

8 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. clxxxvii. n. 48, viii.

9 Ibid., vol. ccxlv. n. 138.

10 See the note to this chapter.

11 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccli. n. 14.

12 Spence, a cupboard, properly, the buttery. Nares' Glossary.