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New Icon Commemorates Lancaster Martyrs

The RC Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Rev Paul Swarbrick, and Fr Philip Conner with the new icon at St Joseph's Church..jpg

Icon commemorating Lancaster Martyrs
The RC Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Rev Paul Swarbrick, and Fr Philip Conner with the new icon.
Louise Bryning PR

St Joseph’s Church is now home to a new shrine to Lancaster’s 14 Catholic martyrs. 

The shrine, the only one of its kind to commemorate the martyrs in Lancaster, features a specially designed icon unveiled by the RC Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Rev Paul Swarbrick.

From 1584-1646, a number of Catholics were executed in Lancaster for their faith. They were tried at Lancaster Castle and hanged, drawn and quartered at a site near Williamson Park, commemorated by the Martyrs Monument at Highfield.

Two martyrs – Edmund Arrowsmith and Ambrose Barlow – were declared saints in 1970 and all the others have been beatified, usually the first stage to sainthood.

Their story is featured in a new booklet written by Fr Philip Conner, priest at St Joseph’s, who hopes to create a martyrs walk from the shrine to Lancaster’s Priory and Castle and on to the Martyrs Monument, finishing at St Peter’s Cathedral.

The martyrs are Fr James Bell from Warrington; John Finch from Eccleston; Fr Robert Nutter from Pendle; Fr Edward Thwing, Fr Robert Middleton and Fr Thurstan Hunt, all from Yorkshire;  Fr John Thules from Upholland; Roger Wrenno, a Chorley weaver;  Fr Edmund Arrowsmith from Haydock; Richard Hayhurst from Broughton; Fr Ambrose Barlow from Withington; Fr Edward Bamber from the Fylde; Fr John Woodcock from near Leyland and Fr Thomas Whitaker, from Burnley.

Fr Thules’s quarters were hung up in Lancaster, Preston, Wigan and Warrington. At Mr Wrenno’s execution, the rope snapped and he was asked to recant his faith but refused and climbed the ladder to the gallows again.

Relics of Edmund Arrowsmith, including his hand, are enshrined in an Ashton-in-Makerfield church where some miraculous cures are said to have happened and the relic of Ambrose Barlow’s skull remains at Wardley Hall, the episcopal residence of the Bishop of Salford.

All the martyrs and the holy family are represented in the new icon by Martin Earle of Shrewsbury, inspired by medieval altarpieces.

These often showed the saints set upon a floral carpet and for this tryptych, the carpet pattern beneath the holy family shows Lancashire roses and curlews which are familiar in the county.

The floral carpet beneath the martyrs feet is taken from a wallpaper pattern at the Pugin house in Ramsgate. Peter Paul Pugin was the architect of St Joseph’s Church which is currently undergoing major restoration supported by the  Heritage Lottery Fund.