Our Parish

Saint John

John Southworth was one of the forty martyrs of England and Wales, born in Lancashire in 1592, and martyred at Tyburn, 28 June, 1654. A member of a junior branch of the Southworths of Samlesbury Hall, Blackburn, he was ordained priest at the English College, Douai, and was sent on the mission, 13 October, 1619. He was arrested and condemned to death in Lancashire in 1627, and imprisoned first in Lancaster Castle, and afterwards in the Clink, London, whence he and fifteen other priests were, on 11 April, 1630, delivered to the French Ambassador for transportation abroad. In 1636 he had been released from the Gatehouse, Westminster, and was living at Clerkenwell, but frequently visited the plague-stricken dwellings of Westminster to convert the dying. In 1637 he seems to have taken up his abode in Westminster, where he was arrested, 28 November, and again sent to the Gatehouse. Thence he was again transferred to the Clink and in 1640 was brought before the Commissioners for Causes Ecclesiastical, who sent him back there 24 June. On 16 July he was again liberated, but by 2 December he was again in the Gatehouse. After his final apprehension he was tried at the Old Bailey, and as he insisted on pleading "guilty" to being a priest, he was reluctantly condemned by the Recorder of London, Serjeant Steel. He was allowed to make a long speech at the gallows, and his remains were permitted to pass into the possession of the Duke of Norfolk's family, who had them sent to the English College at Douai. The wonderful recovery in 1656 of Francis Howard, seventh son of Henry Frederick, Earl of Arundel, was attributed to these relics, which were secreted during the French Revolution, and the present location of which is now unknown.

In 1970, John Southworth was canonized by Pope Paul VI among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, whose joint feast day is kept on 25 October. The relics of the Saint's body, hidden during the French Revolution, were rediscovered in 1927, and brought back to England, where they are enshrined in Westminster Cathedral.



The procession of St John Southworth's body Cathedral. 
St John Southworth's casket in the chapel at into Wetsminster Westminster Cathedral today.