Feb 17 – Bl William Richardson, (1572-1603), Priest & Martyr, Last Clerical Victim of Elizabeth I

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“…What could be more honourable or more glorious than to die for the confession of the true Faith and the Christian religion?” -Bl William Richardson

(Alias Anderson.) Last martyr under Queen Elizabeth I; b. according to Challoner at Vales in Yorkshire (i.e. presumably Wales, near Sheffield), but, according to the Valladolid diary, a Lancashire man; executed at Tyburn, 17 Feb., 1603. He arrived at Reims 16 July, 1592 and on 21 Aug. following was sent to Valladolid, where he arrived 23 Dec. Thence, 1 Oct., 1594, he was sent to Seville where he was ordained.

According to one account he was arrested at Clement’s Inn on 12 Feb., but another says he had been kept a close prisoner in Newgate for a week before he was condemned at the Old Bailey on the 15 Feb., under stat. 27 Eliz., c. 2, for being a priest and coming into the realm. He was betrayed by one of his trusted friends to the Lord Chief Justice, who expedited his trial and execution with unseemly haste, and seems to have acted more as a public prosecutor than as a judge. At his execution he showed great courage and constancy, dying most cheerfully, to the edification of all beholders. One of his last utterances was a prayer for the queen.

from http://www.hallamnews.com/blessed-william-richardson/

“On Saturday, 15 February, 2014 in the chapel dedicated to Blessed William Richardson, Fr Don Stoker blessed a picture and a poem dedicated to the martyr.

Blessed W RichardsonThe blessing came just a year after the former St Augustine’s Chapel, Kiveton Park, was rededicated to Blessed William Richardson on 15 February, 2013.  This previously almost unknown local martyr grew up close to where the South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire borders meet.

Margaret and Terry Murphy worked tirelessly for many years to bring about a wider recognition of William.  Sadly, Margaret’s husband, Terry, did not live to see the rededication of the chapel but Margaret shared her memories and reflections during the Mass of Dedication.

“It will come as no great surprise when I say to you that today has seen a hope fulfilled and many prayers answered, and at last Blessed William Richardson can now be honoured in this village of Wales, a man who gave his life, like so many others, so that we can meet and worship in peace.

William’s father came into this area from Lancashire to find work, and settled in Waleswood, at what is now known as the far side of Rother Valley Park and that long time residents knew as the hamlet of Bedgreave (William’s birthplace).  As the medieval mill still stands in the same place, it is perhaps safe to say that his father’s employment was that of a miller and that William himself received some elementary education at the hands of a parish curate.

We know from the Entry Book in the English College in Spain that William was a convert to the Catholic faith and was received into the Church by one of the clergy at Wiesloch, where at that time he was working.  He was called to the priesthood, attended the English College in Spain, studying Philosophy and Theology, and was ordained priest there in 1594 and then returned to England.

Most of William’s life was spent working in London often with the legal profession in the Inns of Court.  He visited prisons as an ordinary visitor, to take Mass to Catholics imprisoned for their faith, and he was sentenced to death after being betrayed by a priest catcher.  His execution took place on Tyburn Gallows, by the barbaric act of being hung, drawn and quartered on 17 February in 1603.  There is no knowledge of his last resting place, but if we can find a King under a car park, we may one day learn of his last resting place.

William’s death was in the reign of Elizabeth I and he was the last priest to be murdered at that time.  Elizabeth I died one week later.  Bishop Challoner tells us he accepted his death with such constancy and faith, and praying for the Queen, that impressed his executioners.  I hope we can make his name well known in this area and beyond.

It is a sad fact that we had no knowledge in this area, in spite of the teaching in school.  We knew a lot of Catholic history, by learning about the monks of Roche Abbey and the monastic settlement situated on the right hand side of the road leading to Todwick from Kiveton Park.  As school children, we were taken to visit the five pre-Reformation churches: Aston church, Todwick, Harthill, Wales and Thorpe Salvin.  You can see even today in Thorpe Church the Chained Bible and the Leper’s Squint.  We are indebted to the monks for the footpaths leading to the churches and villages that we use for the Five Churches Walk.  The monks lodged at the farm house across the road from Wales Church.

So how did we come to know about William Richardson?

Whilst the M1 was being built through the village, a large number of Irish people were employed and they came with their families and caravans (which were housed on a farmer’s field down Manor Road).  Also a number of very welcome people came from the North of England, the men to work in the Kiveton Pit, and they settled with their families in the new houses we know as the White City.  Both the Irish M1 people and the folk from Newcastle brought with them good Catholics, but we had no Mass centre in this area and I think it was Fr Cavanagh who approached the landlord of The Lord Conyers to see if the concert room could be used.  Permission was given.  What a joy.  Mass to be celebrated in this village for the first time since the Reformation and for us, Terry and I, our eldest son serving at that first Mass, what a privilege.

Now we had a Mass centre, but what about a priest!!  Fr Cavanagh was already saying Mass at Thurcroft and Dinnington, so we turned to St Mary’s College at Spinkhill and Fr Peter McArdle came to our aid and said Mass for us.

Men in the congregation took turns in bringing Father to The Conyers and it was one Sunday that after Mass, he said he didn’t feel well and it was our turn to take him back.  We took him to our house for a hot drink, and it was whilst he was with us, he said he had been doing some research into the village history and had come across the family of William Richardson.

I could hardly believe my ears, so in my excitement I said that we had a very active Union of Catholic Women/Mothers, would he come one evening to give us a talk and let us learn more.  Bless him, he did and it is due to Fr Peter we got to know about Blessed William.

Soon afterwards we acquired the Salvation Army building, the present building, and Fr Peter became our regular visiting priest, much loved and when he retired, our Mass was and is celebrated on Saturday evenings.

Before I close I would like to pay tribute to Fr Brian Green who sadly did not live to see this day, but I know he will be in our thoughts and prayers and he will be with us in spirit.  We have a lot to thank him for.  By his gentle ways, he made us the caring parish we are today and I am sure he will be saying,

‘All will be well, all will be well and all manner of things will be well’.

Also to Bishop John, may I thank you on behalf of all of us here tonight for the pleasure it has given us to welcome you and the happiness this evening’s Dedication of this chapel to Blessed William Richardson has been.”

BLESSED  (The Last Martyr)

How blessed is a martyr’s heart?  How feared is he of the Lord?

To live a life of the Father’s will.

And not be a-feared of the sword.

I hailéd from this pleasant Vale.

A settler of Bedgreave ville.

Lived and learned of the Father’s love.  Thus called to do God’s will.

To Rheims I ventured so to go.  With true fellows of the Word, I trained.

My time was well and truly served.  And in blessed Seville was ordained.

My soul was complete as I ministered help to common Spanish folk.

But my heart lay in England.  That danger-full land.

For ‘twas to be my yoke.

This millers lad with a converts zeal.  In the time of her Tudor reign.

A recusant born to serve and pray.  Aware of past brothers, slain.

To London, then.  Richard Anderson, I, did seek out a place to pray.

Though I feared I must hide in this protestant town.

Who’d have a poor priest to stay?

Soon treachery tore my soul apart at the Inn of the Court.

A seer.

Betrayed at The Gray’s by an unknown voice.

My countenance did show no fear.

The crime of priesthood lies upon my head.

‘Tis no crime to serve you, O Lord.

My trial was swift in this heartless place.  No defence could I afford.

“Treason”, they said.  Treason, the charge.

Guilt in my Catholic way.

Oh, heart, stay cheered.  Oh, will be strong.  Stay with me, Lord. I pray.

What fate will lie before me now?

Is death now soonest near?

Although my heart and soul may bleed, these eyes will shed no tear.

Sent hence to Tyburn to please the crowds.

I prayed openly as I was led.

For the queen I prayed.

For her heart and soul.

All heard the words I said.

The ‘Triple Tree’ Gallows be my darkest fate.

The ‘Deadly Never Green’.

As town folk came to jeer in haste they stared at this witnessed scene.

The noose came down and held its grip on this wintry February Day.

Though ‘fore death was mine and my Lord I saw, they did not let me sway.

Let down was I, to bear more pain.  Cut asunder.  Disembowelled.

Set apart.

Though death is mine, eternal life will live once again in my heart.

No matter where my body lies in the bitterest forgotten earth.

Lord consecrate my joyful soul.

And bring it to rebirth.

How blessed is a martyr’s heart?  How feared is he of the Lord?

To live a life of the Father’s will.

And not be a-feared of the sword.

Dedicated to Blessed William Richardson, 1572 – 1603

-Margaret Edge 2013″

Love,
Matthew

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