The Death of Saint Edmund Arrowsmith
used with kind permission of Mick Gardner
SAINT EDMUND ARROWSMITH was one of the Forty Martyrs was born at Haydock Lancashire in 1585. At his baptism he was given the name of Bryan but took the name Edmund at his confirmation. He was the son of Robert and Margery Arrowsmith (nee Gerard) who both suffered for the Faith. His maternal grandfather, Nicholas Gerard, was a recusant and his other grandfather died a confessor in prison. His parents and their household were driven, tied two and two, to Lancaster jail; the four little children, of whom Edmund was one, were left uncared for until neighbours took pity on them. After some years, to help his widowed mother, an old priest took charge of him. It is reported that he used to recite the little hours of Our Lady’s Office on the way to school and vespers & compline on the way back.
When he was twenty he entered the English College at Douai. He was ordained at Arras France in December 1611 and in June 1613 returned to England where he worked as a priest mostly in South Lancashire. In 1624 he became a Jesuit.
In the summer of 1628, he was at the Straits, reportedly putting right a marriage of first cousins. He was betrayed by the son of the landlord of the Blue Anchor Inn (now demolished, opposite Quaker Brook Lane, OS map ref SD 603 270), but was warned by Captain Rawsthorn JP that he was about to send soldiers to capture him.
He made his escape through the lanes of Brindle; almost certainly across the fields to Arrowsmith House (OS map ref SD 593 266) where he said his last Mass, up Gregson Lane and along Hillhouse Lane, where he hid his vestments, chalice and altar stones in a cottage, to Sandy Lane.
When his horse refused to jump a ditch on Brindle Moss (see our Places of Interest Map), he was captured. A tiny statue of Our Lady, which he always carried with him, was dropped when his horse refused to jump the ditch. (The Moss, now drained, can be reached from a footpath leading off Windmill Lane which is off Sandy Lane. OS map refs: for start of footpath SD 611 251, for likely site of capture SD 615 253).
He was taken to the Boar’s Head where 9 shillings of his money was spent on drink. The next day, he was taken to Lancaster Castle to be tried for high treason.
On August 28th 1628, he was taken from the castle, having been given absolution by John Southworth of Samlesbury who was also a prisoner in the castle. He was dragged through the city on a hurdle to the gallows on the moor. His last words were: “Bone Jesu” (O good Jesus).
He was hanged, drawn and quartered. Later, a Catholic managed to cut off one of the martyr’s hands, as a relic, and it is now preserved in a silver casket in St. Oswald’s Church, Ashton-in-Makerfield. For more than 200 years the Holy Hand has been the object of veneration and many cures are attributed to the Martyr’s intercession.