Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 7.

" At day-dawn, then, we cast lots who should first leave the wood, and the lot fell on the good Father who was also the first to leave this world for Heaven. We then made an equal division of what money we had, and after embracing and receiving one from the other a blessing, the future martyr went along the sea-shore to a neighbouring town, where he fell in with some sailors who were thinking of going to London. Being prudent and cautious, he strove by cheerfulness to accommodate himself to their humours in indifferent things. But twice or thrice he could not withhold from reproving their coarse and filthy language, though he imperilled himself by so doing, as he afterwards told me. And indeed his zeal in this matter was very great, as is proved by many accounts which I have often heard related.

"One instance may serve for all. Father Oldcorne while in London visited a certain Catholic
Father Oldcorne
gentleman who was greatly attached to him. On the window of his room was painted an improper picture of Mars and Venus; and although the house was not the property of his friend, but rented by him, the Father could not endure such an object, so he struck his fist through the pane, and told his host how unbecoming it was to allow such things to remain. Such was this good Father's zeal for God's honour, and his love of truth. Joining himself then to the aforesaid sailors, he knew how to combine the prudence of the serpent with the simplicity of the dove, and behaved himself in such sort that though he did not conceal that the evil he saw in them was displeasing to him, yet evil as they were he won their esteem, and by their means, and the protection they unwittingly afforded, he was enabled to reach London without molestation ; for the watchers, who were in almost every town through which he passed, taking him to be one of the party, cared not to annoy those whose appearance and carriage distinguished them so completely from those for whom they were keeping watch.

" When my companion had departed I too set out, but by a different road. I had not gone far before I saw some country folks coming towards me. I went up to them and inquired about a stray falcon, whether they had heard the tinkling of his bells. For I wanted them to think that I had lost a falcon, and was going through the country in search of it, as is usual with those who have sustained such a loss, so that they might not wonder why I was strange to the country, and had to ask my way. They, of course, had neither seen nor heard any such thing of late, and seemed sorry that they could not direct my search. I then went with a disappointed air to examine the neighbouring trees and hedges, as if to look for my bird. Thus I was able, without awakening suspicion, to keep clear of the highway, and to get further and further from the sea shore, by going across country. Whenever I saw any one in a field I went up to him and put the same series of questions about the falcon, concealing thereby my anxiety to keep out of the public roads and villages, where I knew sentinels were posted with power to examine every stranger. I thus managed to expend the best part of that day, walking some eight or ten miles, not in a straight line, but by doubling and returning frequently on my steps. At length, being quite soaked with rain, and exhausted with hunger and fatigue, for I had scarcely been able to take any food or rest on board ship for the tossing of the waves, I turned into a village inn which lay in my road, for those who go to the inns are less liable to be questioned.

" There I refreshed myself well, and found mine host very agreeable, especially as I wanted to buy a pony he had in his stable. I concluded the bargain at a reasonable price, for the owner was not very rich; but I took it as a means of more speedy and safer transit, for foot-passengers are frequently looked upon as vagrants, and even in quiet times are liable to arrest.

"Next morning I mounted my pony and turned towards Norwich, the capital of that county. I had scarce ridden two miles when I fell in with the watchers at the entrance of a village, who bade me halt, and began to ask me who I was and whence I came. I told them that I was the servant of a certain lord who lived in a neighbouring county (with whom I was well acquainted, though he was unknown to them), that my falcon had flown away, and that I had come to this part of the country to recover him if he should have been found. They found no flaw in my story, yet they would not let me go, but said I must be brought before the constable and the beadle, 1 who were both in church at the time, at their profane heretical service. I saw that I could neither fly nor resist, nor could I prevail with these men, so yielding to necessity I went with them as far as the churchyard. One of the party entered the church and brought word that the beadle wished me to come into the church, and that he would see me when service was over. I replied that I would wait for him where I was. * No, no,' said the messenger, 'you must go into church.' ' I shall stop here,' I returned, ' I don't want to lose sight of my horse.' 'What!' said the man, 'you won't dismount to go and hear the Word of God ! I can only warn you that you will make no very favourable impression ; as to your horse, I myself will engage to get you a better one, if you are so anxious about him.' ' Go and tell him,' said I, 'that if he wants me, either he must come at once or I will wait here.' As soon as my message was taken to him, the beadle came out with some others to examine me. I could easily see he was not best pleased. He began by demanding whence I came. I answered by naming certain places which I had learnt were not far off; to his questions as to my name, condition, dwelling, and business, I made the same answers as above. He then asked whether I had any letters with me; on which I offered to allow him to search my person. This he did not do, but said he should be obliged to take me before the Justice of the Peace. 2 I professed my readiness to go, should he deem it needful, but that I was in a hurry to get back to my master after my long absence, so that if it could be managed I should be better pleased to be allowed to go on. At first he stood to his resolution, and I saw nothing for it but to go before the Justice and to be committed to gaol, as doubtless would have been the case.

But suddenly looking at me with a calmer countenance, he said, ' You look like an honest man : go on in God's name, I don't want to trouble you any more.'

" Nor did God's providence abandon me in my further journey. As I rode onward towards the town I saw a young man on horseback with a pack riding on before me. I wanted to come up with him, so as to get information about the state of the town, and ask the fittest inn for me to put up at, and he looked like one of whom I could make such inquiries without exciting suspicion ; but his horse being better than mine I could not gain upon him, urge my pony how I would. After following him at a distance for two or three miles, it chanced by God's will that he dropped his pack, and was obliged to dismount in order to pick it up and strap it on. As I came up I found he was an unpolished youth, well fitted for my purpose. From him I acquired information that would have been very useful had any danger befallen, but, as it was, by his means the Lord so guided me that I escaped all danger. For I inquired about a good inn near the city gate, that I might not weary my horse in going from street to street in search of one. He told me there was such an inn on the other side of the city ; but that if I wanted to put up there I must go round the town. Having learnt the way thereto and the sign of the house, I thanked my informant, and left him to pursue his road, which led straight through the town, the same way I should have followed had I not met with such a guide, and in that case I should have run into certain danger, nor would any of those things have befallen which afterwards came to pass for God's greater glory and the salvation of many souls.

" Following, then, the advice of the young man, I went round the skirts of the city to the gate he had described, and as soon as I entered I saw my inn. I had rested me but a little while there when a man who seemed to be an acquaintance of the people of the house came in. After greeting me civilly, he sat down in the chimney corner and dropped some words about some Catholic gentlemen who were kept in gaol there ; and he mentioned one whose relative had been a companion of mine in the Marshalsea some seven years since. 3 I silently noted his words, and when he had gone out I asked who he might be. They answered that he was a very honest fellow in other points, but a Papist. I inquired how they came to know that. They replied that it was a well-known fact, as he had been many years imprisoned in the Castle there (which was but a stone's throw from the place where I was); that many Catholic gentlemen were confined there, and that he had been but lately let out. I asked whether he had abandoned the faith in order to be at large. ' No, indeed,' said they, ' nor is he likely to, for he is a most obstinate man. But he has been set free under an engagement to come back to prison when called for. He has some business with a gentleman in the prison, and he comes here pretty often on that account.' I held my tongue, and awaited his return. " As soon as he came back, and we were alone, I told him that I should wish to speak with him apart: that I had heard that he was a Catholic, and for that reason I trusted him, as I also was a Catholic: that I had come there by a sort of chance, but wanted to get on to London : that it would be a good deed worthy of a Catholic were he to do me the favour of introducing me to some parties who might be going the same road, and who were well known, so that I might be allowed to pass on by favour of their company : that being able to pay my expenses I should be no burden to my companions. He replied that he knew not of any one who was then going to London. I hereon inquired if he could hire a person who would accompany me for a set price. He said he would look out some such one, but that he knew of a gentleman then in the town who might be able to forward my business. He went to find him, and soon returning desired me to accompany him. He took me into a shop, as if he were going to make some purchase. The gentleman he had mentioned was there, having appointed the place that he might see me before he made himself known. At length he joined us, and told my companion in a whisper that he believed I was a priest. He led us therefore to the cathedral, and having put me many questions, he at last urged me to say whether or no I was a priest, promising that he would assist me—at that time a most acceptable offer. On my side, I inquired from my previous acquaintance the name and condition of this third party [Edward Yelverton of Grimston 4 ]; and on learning it, as I saw God's providence in so ready an assistance, I told him I was a priest of the Society who had come from Rome. He performed his promise, and procured for me a change of clothes, and made me mount a good horse, and took me without delay into the country to the house of a personal friend, leaving one of his servants to bring on my little pony.

" The next day we arrived at his house, where he and his family resided, together with a brother of his [Charles Yelverton] who was a heretic. They had with them a widowed sister [Jane, the widow of Edward Lumner], also a heretic, who kept house for them, so that I was obliged to be careful not to give any ground for them to suspect my calling. The heretic brother at my first coming was very suspicious, seeing me arrive in his Catholic brother's company unknown as I was, and perceiving no reason why the latter should make so much of me. But after a day or so he quite abandoned all mistrust, as I spoke of hunting and falconry with all the details that none but a practised person could command.
Saint Robert Southwell, S.J. 
For many make sad blunders in attempting this, as Father Southwell, who was afterwards my companion in many journeys, was wont to complain. He frequently got me to instruct him in the technical terms of sport, and used to complain of his bad memory for such things, for on many occasions when he fell in with Protestant gentlemen he found it necessary to speak of these matters, which are the sole topics of their conversation, save when they talk obscenity, or break out into blasphemies and abuse of the saints or the Catholic faith. In these cases it is of course desirable to turn the conversation to other subjects, and to speak of horses, of hounds, and such like. Thus it often happens that trifling covers truth, 5 as it did with me on this occasion.

" After a short sojourn of a few days I proposed to my newly-found friend, the Catholic brother, my intention of going to London to meet my Superior. He therefore provided me with a horse, and sent a servant along with me, begging me at the same time to obtain leave to return to that county, and to make his house my home, for he assured me that I should bring over many to the faith were I to converse with them publicly as he had seen me do. I pledged myself to lay his offer before Father Garnet, and said that I would willingly return if he should approve of it. So I departed, and arrived in London without accident, having met with no obstacle on the road. I have gone into these particulars to show how God's providence guarded me on my first landing in England ; for without knowing a single soul in that county, where until then I had never set foot, as it was far distant from my native place, on the very first day I found a friend who not only saved me from present peril, but afterwards, by introducing me to the principal families in the county, furnished an opportunity for many conversions; and from the acquaintance I then made, and the knowledge the Catholics in those parts had of me in consequence, all that God chose hereafter to do by my weakness took its origin, as will appear by the sequel."


I. At what point on the coast of Norfolk did John Gerard land, and by what road did he reach Norwich ?

1. He landed at a part of the coast where a vessel could ride at anchor close to the shore, and where a boat could "conveniently " put a passenger ashore even in the dark. This excludes Yarmouth (which for other reasons could not have been the place of landing), and also excludes any spot on the coast from Blakeney to Lynn. It also excludes Weybourn, where the landing is at all times dangerous, and there only remains the coast between Sherringham and Happisburgh.

2. But any one landing between Sherringham and Bacton would find himself to the north of Aylsham and North Walsham, and travelling on the high road (as it is plain Gerard did), he must needs pass through one or the other of these towns, as it is plain Gerard did not This narrows the part of the coast on which the landing took place to the three or four miles between Happisburgh and Bacton, and I am inclined to place the landing point at or near the latter place. There were dwellings close to the shore, and many of them, so that wherever Gerard turned, he came upon a house, and this would certainly hold good of Bacton; added to which is the consideration that close to this place stood the Priory of Bromholme, with its church, two hundred feet long then, and still (though now in ruins) a landmark for vessels at sea.

3. Carefully picking his way, he stopped at a village five or six miles from his place of landing. Assuming the landing place to be Bacton, this would bring him to Honing, Dilham, or Stalham, on the way to Norwich. He would have left North Walsham well to his right, and some four miles behind him. At this village he spent the night, and bought his pony.

4. Next morning he proceeds on his way, and after a couple of miles' riding, he comes upon another village, evidently on the road to Norwich. The "constable" and "beadle" are both in the church, and it is fair to infer from this that the place was of some size and importance, and the church a church of some pretension. It is probable that this village was the village of Worsted, a large village, with the remains of the woollen manufacturers still languishing there, even in Queen Elizabeth's time, and a church which is one of the grandest in the county at the present day. Here Gerard was detained.

5. Worsted is about thirteen miles from Norwich. On being released from the clutches of the beadle, who probably knew that a justice of the peace was far to seek in this neighbourhood, Gerard pushed on, and fell in with the man with the pack, and on his asking advice about an inn, he is told that he must " make a circuit of the city before he can get at the inn named." Coming from Bacton through Stalham and Worsted, it is clear that he must have been on the high road from either Holt or North Walsham. It may have been either, and it would have been prudent after being stopped on the latter road to make across country to the former. At any rate, he was making for one of the northern gates of the city, either the Magdalen or St. Augustine's gate—probably the latter. Turning down from the high ground, now called Upper Hellesdon, he would drop down to Heigham, and skirting the city, would strike the old wall, which is still in part standing, and which bounds Chapel Fields, and leaving St. Giles' gates behind him, would enter the city by the "Brazen Gates," as they were called, close to the present militia barracks, and in a couple of hundred yards further on would find his inn, which was clearly one of those many inns that even to this day cluster round the Market Hill, and all "within a stone's throw" of the Castle. Here he made his first acquaintance.

II. Who was this acquaintance ?

The person in question had been many years in prison; he was very obstinate; he had been lately let out of the Castle under an engagement to come back to prison when called for, and he had business with a gentleman who was detained in prison.

Now there were six or seven of the recusant gentry of Norfolk detained in the Castle at Norwich as early as 1580; and, indeed, one or two of them in 1578. These gentlemen appear to have had a common room and common table, and to have lived pretty much as the recusants subsequently lived at Wisbech and Ely. They were in some danger of getting into great trouble in 1580, as may be seen in Strype's Annals 6 and their names then were: (1) Robert Downes, (2) Michael Hare, (3) Roger Martin, (4) Humphrey Bedingfeld, (5) Edward Sulliard.

Mr. Martin and Mr. Sulliard were Suffolk gentlemen, and their names disappeared from the lists of Norfolk recusants shortly after this time, only to appear among the Suffolk men. Besides these five, there were others who were in the Castle, viz., Ferdinando Paris, Robert Gray—(there was a man of this name in the Marshalsea with Gerard)—Walter Norton, and Robert Lovell. It is hardly necessary to say that they were all men of substance, and able to pay their way. At a meeting 7 of the Privy Council at St. James', on the 25th of August, 1588, order is taken that a letter be written the Bishop of Norwich to " inform himself of the behaviour of James Bradshaw, keeper of the gaol at Norwich, being complained of to have given more liberty to such [as] are obstinate recusants than is fit," &c. And on the 18th of October again, a letter is to be sent to the Sheriff of Norfolk, for that their lordships understand that the recusants that are prisoners in the common gaol within that county do much harm and infect the county by the liberty which they enjoy there." Accordingly they are to be delivered to the custody of Gray, keeper of Wisbech, &c. This order was apparently never executed, though the names of the gentry are given, viz.: (1) Walter Norton, (2) George Downes, (3) Ferdinando Paris, (4) Robert Lovell, (5) Humphrey Bedingfeld, (6) Robert Gray. I say this was not executed, for I find Ferdinando Paris was never sent to Wisbech at all, and was sent to Ely in March , and that all the rest were at Norwich in the Castle as late as the 5th of April, 1590, and I have strong reason for believing that they were never sent out of the county at all.

These men occasionally had liberty to go out on business, giving bail for their reappearance, thus, e.g. , "A warrant 8 to the keeper of Norwich Gaol to take bonds of Walter Norton, gent., remaining prisoner under his custody with two sufficient sureties in the sum of 1,000/. to her Majesty's use, with condition to return himself prisoner at the end of one month following into his custody, and thereupon to set him forthwith at liberty." Again, 20th March, 1588-9: "A letter to the High Sheriff of Norfolk. Whereas Humphrey Bedingfeld, gent., hath been long time a prisoner for recusancy in Norwich Gaol ... He was required to take order that Bedingfeld might be delivered to the custody of Mr. Rowe, parson of Quidenham, to remain with him," &c It will be noticed that the last list of names of prisoners in the Castle in October, 1588, instead of Robert Downes the name of George Downes occurs. 9

Was the first acquaintance Robert Downes ?

III. I have pleased myself with the conjecture that the gentleman alluded to as in the Castle was Ferdinando Paris. 10 He had a house at Pudding Norton, in the neighbourhood of the Walpoles, Yelvertons, and others with whom I feel sure Gerard was brought into close relations by and by. If this were so, the fact of Ferdinando Paris having some business to transact in connection with his property, might account for a neighbour of his being in Norwich on the day when Gerard arrived there ; that neighbour being come up perhaps to meet Downes on Paris' business.

IV. Who was this neighbour? That is to say, who was the second acquaintance whom Father Gerard made in Norwich, whose house afterwards became his head-quarters in the county?

1. He lived two days' journey from Norwich.

2. He lived with a brother of his who was a heretic.

3. He had as a housekeeper a widowed sister, also a heretic.

4. And he had a married sister, whose husband was " a man of rank" with "great possessions."

Now it must be remembered that Father Gerard wrote his account of these events twenty years after their occurrence, and it may well happen, indeed it is almost inevitable, that there must have been some confusion in such matters of detail as dates and family relationships. With this consideration to serve as a caution against requiring too faithful a record and too minute a correspondence between the assertions made and the facts that may crop up in examining such evidence as we have at hand, I proceed to deal with this further problem. But before doing so I must add another caution. The evidence which Heralds' pedigrees furnish us with are, as a rule, very untrustworthy, and in the matter of dates especially are very little to be relied on. Where family alliances are recorded, the dates of marriages, births, and deaths are of very secondary importance: the names of the persons entering into matrimonial contracts are the main thing in the eye of the genealogist.

I believe and feel morally certain that the person indicated by Father Gerard as having afforded him his first asylum in Norfolk was Edward Yelverton of Grimston, and that he had at this time living with him his brother Charles, who was afterwards knighted, and his half-sister Jane, who had become a widow in that very year 1588 by the death of her husband Edward Lumner of Mannington, Esq. He was then himself about thirty years of age, and he was a widower, having lost his first wife shortly after his marriage. His second wife was Nazareth, daughter of Edmund Bedingfeld, Esq. This Edward Yelverton was the son of William Yelverton of Rougham, Esq. He was the eldest son of a second family, the father having married first Anne, daughter of Sir Henry Farmour of Basham, co. Norfolk, and secondly Jane, daughter of Edmund Cockett of Hampton, co. Suffolk. The old man died in 1586, and by his will appears to have done his utmost to provide for his second family as well as. for the first, insomuch that a dispute arose on the interpretation of the will, and the matter being brought before the Lords of the Privy Council in 1587, they referred the cause to three arbitrators, who I suppose settled it without letting the litigants go into court. At his father's death in 1586 Edward Yelverton inherited, in virtue of a marriage settlement, a considerable estate in Grimston and the adjoining parishes, extending over about rive thousand acres. The two families numbered at least fifteen children, and in the pedigrees considerable confusion has arisen, and many inaccuracies are to be found, some of which I am in a position to correct.

Of the brothers, one Christopher Yelverton was nominated a Judge of the Queen's Bench on the 2nd February, 1602.

Of the sisters, one whose name was Jane was married to Edward Lumner of Mannington, and left a widow in 1588.

Another was married to Sir Philip Woodhouse, son and heir of Sir Roger Woodhouse of Kimberley.

"Two of my father's sisters are still alive," their nephew Charles Yelverton wrote in 1601, 11 "of whom one, Grisel, is the wife of Sir Philip Woodhouse, knight; the other, Jane, is the widow of Robert [Edward] Lumner. Both were Catholics, but one of them [Lady Woodhouse] on account of her husband's violence, which often used to break out against her, has lately relapsed into heresy."

I find in a Recusant Roll of the 34th Elizabeth (1592), among the names of those from whom fines are due, the following two consecutive entries:

"Jane Lumner, nuper de Kymberley, vidua ccc/. pro conslmili.

"Nazareth Yelverton, nuper de Sandringham, uxor Edwardi Yelverton de eadem generosi, ccc/. pro consimili."

It may be asked, why should Jane Lumner be described as of Kimberley ? The answer is obvious. Her sister Grisel, being the wife of Sir Philip Woodhouse, might reasonably have been expected to be able to afford her some protection, the Woodhouses being powerful people in Norfolk and serving the office of High Sheriff for the county again and again.

But who was the "man of high rank" whom one of the sisters of his host had married ? I can hardly doubt that it was this Sir Philip Woodhouse to whom Gerard alludes: and, "reading between the lines," I can hardly resist the conviction that Grisel, and afterward Sir Philip, became his converts, though as time went on they both "fell back."

Once more: On one occasion one of the ladies alluded to held anxious converse with Dr. Perne, who was master of Peter-house, Cambridge, when Edward Yelverton, Philip Woodhouse, Henry and Edward Walpole were there as undergraduates, and died April 26, 1589. Dr. Perne was born at East Bilney, the next parish to Rougham, the ancestral seat of the Yelvertons, and he had an estate at Pudding Norton in the same neighbourhood. He must have known the Yelvertons and Walpoles from their childhood. Add to this that Nazareth, wife of Edward Yelverton, was a daughter of Edmund Bedingfeld of Oxburgh; that Grimston or Appleton or Sandringham—at which places Edward Yelverton appears to have lived 12 between 1588 and 1596—are all within four or five miles of Houghton and Anmer; that the Walpoles both of Houghton and Anmer were apparently ^among the first who resorted to Gerard in his new home, and one of them at least served Father Gerard as a most faithful and devoted " esquire;" that Henry Walpole, as his letters show, in 1590 knew all about Gerard's movements in Norfolk, and was in direct communication with " Ned Yelverton " at the time; that the Townshends of Rainham, the Cobbs of Sandringham, the Bastards of Dunham, the Bozouns of Whissonsett, the Kerviles of Wiggenhall, and many others of less note and importance, who figure in the Recusant Rolls, were all within a ten miles' ride of Grimston—and the cumulative evidence of Edward Yelverton of Grimston.having been Gerard's host and protector in Norfolk, becomes so strong as almost to amount to a demonstration.

A. Jessopp.

December 28, 1875.

Ad subcuratorcm pads, et ad censor em. MS. The above are conjectural renderings. These seem to have been only village officials.

2 Irenarchd ant curatorepads. MS.

3 Here Father Gerard's memory is inaccurate, for it was less than five years since he was committed to the Marshalsea.

4 See Dr. Jessopp's note at the end of the chapter.

5 Ut vanitas veritatem occultet. MS.

6 Vol. ii. part ii. p. 634. 7

7 Privy Council Book.

Privy Council Book, 7th January, 1587-8.

9 This is certainly a mistake ; Robert Downes had indeed a younger brother George, but he was dead before this time, and he lived, not in Norfolk, but in Herefordshire.

10 He was afterwards knighted. I cannot tell when and where, but in some MSS. in Pembroke College, Cambridge, which came from him, he is repeatedly styled Sir Ferdinando Paris.

11 Records of the English Province, by Brother Foley, S.J., vol. i. p. 143.

12 Recusant Rolls penes me.