The Tudor Society

Monday Martyr – The Dryburn Martyrs

This week's Monday Martyr is actually a group of martyrs, the Dryburn Martyrs.

Roman Catholic priests Richard Hill, Richard Holiday, John Hogg and Edmund Duke were hanged, drawn and quartered on 27th May 1590, in Elizabeth I’s reign, at Dryburn in County Durham.

Hill, Hogg and Holiday came from Yorkshire and Duke was from Kent, but they had all studied for the priesthood at the English College at Reims. Duke arrived in Reims in March 1583, Holiday in September 1584, Hill in May 1587 and Hogg in October 1587. They were ordained as priests in September 1589, Duke at Rome and the others at Laon.

On 22nd March 1590, the four men were sent back to England on a mission of conversion. However, they were soon apprehended and brought before a justice of the peace, who had them imprisoned in Durham jail due to them being seminary priests. Elizabeth I's 1584 "act against Jesuits, seminary priests, and such other like disobedient persons" had made it illegal to be a Roman Catholic priest in England unless you had sworn an oath of obedience to the queen within 40 days of the legislation, and those educated at a Jesuits seminary abroad had to return to England within 6 months of the legislation and swear an oath to the queen within 48 hours of arrival. The act had been brought in following Elizabeth I's excommunication by Pope Pius V, who called on the English people to disobey her orders, mandates and laws, and threatened excommunication for those who did obey her. Elizabeth's excommunication was followed by the Ridolfi Plot, which sought to assassinate her, and Elizabeth's government had to act. Jesuits, those seeking to convert people to Catholicism, became enemies of the English state. Hill, Holiday, Hogg and Duke were arraigned and condemned for transgressing the act.

They were executed on 27th May 1590 and Bishop Richard Challoner wrote that "the meekness and constancy which appeared in them, in this last scene of life, edified many, and was admired by all". Robert and Grace Maire, two Protestants watching the executions were so affected by these men that they converted to Catholicism. Challoner also writes that a priest, Cuthbert Trollop, wrote that "the well, out of which they took water to boil the quarters of these four holy priests, did presently dry up, and so continued for many years after."

All four priest were beatified in 1987 by Pope John Paul II.


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Monday Martyr – The Dryburn Martyrs