Catholic Encyclopedia – Venerable George Haydock

Article

English martyr; born 1556; executed at Tyburn, 12 February, 1583-84. He was the youngest son of Evan Haydock of Cottam Hall, Lancashire, and Helen, daughter of William Westby of Mowbreck Hall, Lancashire; was educated at the English Colleges at Douai and Rome, and ordained priest (apparently at Reims), 21 December, 1581. Arrested in London soon after landing, he spent a year and three months in the strictest confinement in the Tower, suffering from the recrudescence of a severe malarial fever first contracted in the early summer of 1581 when visiting the seven churches of Rome. About May, 1583, though he remained in the Tower, his imprisonment was relaxed to “free custody”, and he was able to administer the Sacraments to his fellow-prisoners. During the first period of his captivity he was accustomed to decorate his cell with the name and arms of the pope scratched or drawn in charcoal on the door or walls, and through his career his devotion to the papacy amounted to a passion. It therefore gave him particular pleasure that on the following feast of Saint Peter’s Chair at Rome (16 January) he and other priests imprisoned in the Tower were examined at the Guildhall by the recorder touching their beliefs, though he frankly confesses it was with reluctance that he was eventually obliged to declare that the queen was a heretic, and so seal his fate. On 5 February, 1583-4, he was indicted with James Fenn, a Somersetshire man, formerly fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, the future martyr William Deane, who had been ordained priest the same day as himself, and six other priests, for having conspired against the queen at Reims, 23 September, 1581, agreeing to come to England, 1 October, and setting out for England, 1 November. In point of fact he arrived at Reims on 1 November, 1581. On the same 5 February two equally ridiculous indictments were brought, the one against Thomas Hemerford, a Dorsetshire man, sometime scholar of Saint John’s College, Oxford, the other against John Munden, a Dorsetshire man, sometime fellow of New College, Oxford, John Nutter, a Lancashire man, sometime scholar of Saint John’s College, Cambridge, and two other priests. The next day, Saint Dorothy’s Day, Haydock, Fenn, Hemerford, Munden, and Nutter were brought to the bar and pleaded not guilty.

Haydock had for a long time shown a great devotion to Saint Dorothy, and was accustomed to commit himself and his actions to her daily protection. It may be that he first entered the college at Douai on that day in 1574-5, but this is uncertain. The “Concertatio Ecclesiae” says he was arrested on this day in 1581-2, but the Tower bills state that he was committed to the Tower on the 5th, in which case he was arrested on the 4th. On Friday the 7th all five were found guilty, and sentenced to death. The other four were committed in shackles to “the pit” in the Tower, but Haydock, probably lest he should elude the executioner by a natural death, was sent back to his old quarters. Early on Wednesday the 12th he said Mass, and later the five priests were drawn to Tyburn on hurdles; Haydock, being probably the youngest and certainly the weakest in health, was the first to suffer. An eyewitness has given us an account of their martyrdom, which Father Pollen, S.J., has printed in the fifth volume of the Catholic Record Society.

He describes Haydock as “a man of complexion fayre, of countenance milde, and in professing of his faith passing stoute”. He had been reciting prayers all the way, and as he mounted the cart said aloud the last verse of “Te lucis ante terminum”. He acknowledged Elizabeth as his rightful queen, but confessed that he had called her a heretic. He then recited secretly a Latin hymn, refused to pray in English with the people, but desired that all Catholics would pray for him and his country. Whereupon one bystander cried “Here be noe Catholicks”, and another “We be all Catholicks”; Haydock explained “I meane Catholicks of the Catholick Roman Church, and I pray God that my bloud may encrease the Catholick faith in England”. Then the cart was driven away, and though “the officer strock at the rope sundry times before he fell downe”, Haydock was alive when he was disembowelled. So was Hemerford, who suffered second. The unknown eyewitness says, “when the tormentor did cutt off his members, he did cry, ‘Oh! A!’; I heard myself standing under the gibbet”. As for Fenn, “before the cart was driven away, he was stripped of all his apparell saving his shirt only, and presently after the cart was driven away his shirt was pulled of his back, so that he hung stark naked, whereat the people muttered greatly”. He also was cut down alive, though one of the sheriffs was for mercy. Nutter and Munden were the last to suffer. They made speeches and prayers similar to those uttered by their predecessors. Unlike them they were allowed to hang longer, if not till they were dead, at any rate until they were quite unconscious. Haydock was twenty-eight, Munden about forty, Fenn, a widower, with two children, was probably also about forty, Hemerford was probably about Haydock’s age; Nutter’s age is quite unknown.

MLA Citation

  • John Wainewright. “Venerable George Haydock”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913. Saints.SQPN.com. 11 February 2013. Web. 25 April 2014. <>