St Henry Walpole SJ

Having converted to Catholicism in his early 20s after witnessing the martyrdom of St Edmund Campion, St Henry Walpole SJ met a similar fate to the man who had so inspired him.

Born in 1558, the son of a Norfolk squire, Henry was educated at Cambridge University and undertook legal training college of Gray’s Inn in London, but he gave up his practice to follow in St Edmund’s footsteps after his clothes were splattered with his blood at his execution at Tyburn in 1581.

He studied at Rheims in France and the English College in Rome, where he entered the Society of Jesus before being ordained a priest in Paris in 1588.

After staying in Brussels for a year, he became military chaplain to the English and Irish Catholics of Sir William Stanley’s regiment in the Spanish forces. He was captured, tortured and incarcerated for five months before being ransomed.

At the end of 1592 he was ordered to Seville, where he was appointed vice-governor of the Royal English College in Valladolid. In June the following year, his superior Father Robert Persons SJ ordered Father Walpole to England and he returned after an expedition to visit Philip II of Spain in Madrid to obtain permission to establish another college in St Omer.

He arrived back in England in December 1593, disembarking near Bridlington, but had reached only ten miles inland when he was arrested by the authorities the following day. Although initially imprisoned in York Castle, the infamous priest hunter Richard Topcliffe asked for permission to transfer Father Henry to the Tower of London.

There he was tortured 14 times before being transferred back to York in the Spring of 1595. Father Walpole was stripped, hung, drawn and quartered in April that year. He was solemnly canonised by Pope Paul VI on October 25 1970.