Catholic Martyrs - Bayswater Road, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 30.776 W 000° 09.818
30U E 696806 N 5710681
Quick Description: This City of Westminster green plaque is attached to the Tyburn Convent on the north west side of Bayswater Road. It tells of 105 catholic martyrs that lost thie lives at Tyburn Gallows.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 9/22/2014 2:24:28 AM
Waymark Code: WMMHAR
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
Views: 0

Long Description:

The City of Westminster green plaque tells us:

City of Westminster

Catholic Martyrs
lost their lives
at the
Tyburn Gallows
near this site
1535 - 1681

The Friends of Tyburn 1998

The Catholic Culture website tells us:

Today it is London's busiest shopping street, but it hides a dark history. On this site, more than a hundred martyrs were killed for their Catholic faith by the English government. Between 1534 and 1681, some of England's most famous Catholics died at what is today the entrance to Oxford Street, a consumer mecca jam-packed with shops. But at the time of the martyrdoms, the area was an open field called Tyburn, in the center of which stood a distinctive triangular-shaped gallows called "the Tyburn Tree." One hundred five martyrs died a slow and painful death there after being accused of treason against the state. "Hanging, drawing, and quartering" was the official sentence for traitors, which means that they were hanged as fire burned beneath them to boil their organs, then their bodies were slit open or "drawn," and their hearts and other vital organs ripped out. Their corpses were slung ignominiously into a pit near the gallows.

 Although the English Catholic minority is familiar with the martyrdoms, these shameful events are largely unknown by the majority of English people. Their story forms part of England's hidden religious history, of a centuries-long era when being a Catholic was considered incompatible with being loyal to the monarchy. During this time, the Mass was illegal, priests risked death, and lay Catholics could be fined for going to Mass and hanged for hiding priests.

The reasons lay in the English Reformation, the abrupt abandonment of Catholicism in the sixteenth century in favor of a hybrid of Catholicism and the new Protestant religion. But England's Reformation had little to do with the Protestant reforms of Martin Luther in Germany. It was prompted entirely by the personal life of the King Henry VIII. In 1527, Henry VIII decided he wished to divorce his wife, Spanish Catherine of Aragon, because their union had not produced a male heir. He had also fallen in love with Anne Boleyn, a lady of the court, and wished to marry her. When the Pope refused Henry a divorce, the king began to wrest control of the Catholic Church in England from Rome. In 1534, he declared himself supreme head and sole protector of the church in England. Any Catholic who refused to accept Henry as head of the Church of England was breaking the law, and the punishment for this was death. The martyrdoms began.

The story of the martyrs can still be seen today in the Catholic churches of England. Westminster Cathedral, the principal Catholic cathedral of London, has a chapel to the martyrs. The exquisite medieval church of St. Etheldreda's, in Holborn, is adorned with statues of English martyrs. But the best starting point for a tour of the martyrs' history is the Benedictine convent called Tyburn, located just 300 paces from the site of the martyrdoms, according to a stone plaque outside the building.

The convent belongs to the order of the Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Originally from Paris, they arrived in London at the beginning of the twentieth century, when a new anti-religious law had forced them to abandon their home in France. Their foundress, Mother Marie Adele Gamier, wrote to the archbishop of Westminster, Herbert Cardinal Vaughan, seeking help. He directed them to Tyburn.

The nuns' arrival in 1903 fulfilled a prophecy that one day a religious house would stand in Tyburn and venerate the Reformation martyrs. Indeed, the convent's crypt houses a shrine to the martyrs containing relics of many of those who died on Tyburn gallows. Fr. Gregory Gunne had made this prophecy as he walked through Tyburn over 300 years earlier. His companion, a government spy, reported Gunne to the authorities. He was arrested and his prophecy was recorded in the documentation of his trial. The French nuns, whose Paris home was at Montmartre — "the mount of martyrs" — had known nothing about the prophecy and very little about the English martyrs.

Fr. Bede Camm, a Benedictine, helped in gathering an extraordinary collection of relics of the martyrs and in establishing the convent's shrine to them. Tyburn's crypt contains bones retrieved from the gallows pit, scraps of martyrs' hair and of the blood-stained shirts they wore to their deaths, and even a corporal (the linen cloth on which the bread and wine are placed during the words of consecration) used by several martyred priests.

The Tyburn Convent website tells us about Tyburn:

Tyburn's first recorded execution took place in 1196, when William FitzOsbert, or William with the Beard, was hanged for sedition. Ralph of Diceto tells us that William "his hands tied behind him, his feet tied with long cords, was drawn by means of a horse through the midst of the city to the gallows near the Tyburn. He was hanged."

The Elms near Tybourne were called "the King's Gallows". Thus Tyburn from the beginning was clearly the King's gallows for London and Middlesex criminals. That it was placed outside the boundary of the city indicates the administration of the criminal law by the King's courts instead of by the local or manorial courts. The manner of execution at Tyburn seen in William FitzOsbert's execution was to become the norm later.

That is, the condemned criminal, after being drawn to Tyburn on a hurdle or rough sledge by a horse, at Tyburn was first hanged on the gallows, then drawn or disemboweled, and finally quartered, his quarters being placed high in public places as a warning to others. Thus, because Tyburn was the King's Gallows, those who were guilty of Treason were Hanged, Drawn and Quartered on this spot.

Some say that over fifty thousand persons met their death at Tyburn during the six centuries it was a place of execution.

Among these are numbered:

  • Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, 1330
  • Perkin Warbeck, 1496
  • Elizabeth Barton, the "Holy Maid of Kent", 1534
  • Claude Duval, 1670
  • Jack Sheppard, 1724
  • Jonathan Wild, 1725
  • Earl Ferrers, 1760
  • Mrs Brownrigg, 1767
  • Dr Dodd, 1777

To this list we must add in 1661 the lifeless bodies of Cromwell, Ireton and Bradshaw were exposed at Tyburn and beheaded. The 105 Roman Catholic Reformation Martyrs are not given here. The executions at Tyburn provided London's most popular and frightful sideshow. The ritual cruelties and indecencies practised here thrilled and corrupted every class of society. Along with criminals, saints and martyrs were butchered on Tyburn Tree.

Relevant Website: [Web Link]

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