Celebrating a Lancashire martyr
The Feast of St Edmund Arrowsmith SJ has been celebrated with Mass in the house where he was captured prior to his martyrdom in Lancaster in 1628. Fr Joe Duggan SJ of St Wilfrid’s Church in Preston celebrated Mass for several local Catholics on 28 August, in the house where Arrowsmith was captured and taken to Lancaster Castle to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
The house is situated just outside Preston in Hoghton and is owned by the mother of the Director of Music at St Wilfrid's, Maria Hall. “My mum and dad have lived in the house for well over 50 years,” says Maria. “It had been rescued from demolition before the war and they originally rented it; but then they bought it some years ago, before my father died in 2005. It was his passion for the English Martyrs that led to them restoring the upper room into a chapel. Traditionally the site of St Edmund's last Mass, the house is known as the House of the Last Mass. It is used regularly by the local parish of Brindle St Joseph's."
The house was due to be bought by the Co-op in the 1920s. Local Catholics were so outraged that they contacted a well known Catholic family in Preston also called Arrowsmith who bought the house and so saved it.
Edmund Arrowsmith (below) was born in Lancashire in 1585. His mother was a member of the Gerard family – prominent recusants who included Father John Gerard and Blessed Miles Gerard. His parents were imprisoned for adherence to the faith and he and his siblings were taken in by neighbours.
In 1605, Arrowsmith enrolled at the English College, Douai. He was ordained at Arras in December 1612, returning to Lancashire the following year to carry out priestly ministry in secret. Stonyhurst College still holds the small trunk of vestments and equipment which he carried from house to house. He was arrested in 1622, but released the following year on an amnesty from King James. He joined the Jesuits in 1624.
After four years in the Society of Jesus, Edmund was betrayed to the authorities in 1628 and was convicted of being a Roman Catholic priest. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Lancaster on 28 August, now his feast day.
Edmund Arrowsmith was beatified in 1929 and canonised as one of the Forty Martyrs by Pope Paul VI in1970. His hand was preserved by his family and it now rests in the Church of St Oswald and St Edmund Arrowsmith, Ashton-in-Makerfield.