On 14 July, 2019 the Hallam Diocesan Annual Pilgrimage to Padley will take place. This Pilgrimage has taken place for many years in Hallam, as our photographs show.
Celia White, Curator of Padley, shares the history of this special place.
Padley Chapel itself is the Gatehouse to a medieval manor house. The building was home to several families – the Padleys, Eyres and finally the Fitzherberts – and can be traced back to 1066 but has certainly been there for much longer. Now in ruins the Gatehouse was converted and consecrated into a chapel in 1933 in honour of the two priests who were arrested there and taken to Derby to be executed.
This tragic story took place during what we refer to as the Penal times, which were roughly during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It was a dangerous thing to be a practising Catholic in those days and life was not easy. It was not possible to hold a public office of any kind and heavy fines were imposed if you refused to attend the new Anglican Church. In order to accept public appointments such as in the law, army, civic office, teaching or obtain a degree, it was necessary to swear the Oath of Supremacy to the Queen in all religious matters. If you did not then you were considered to be a Recusant Catholic, that is one who refused to conform, from the Latin recusare to refuse.
John Fitzherbert and his family lived at Padley, in those days a peaceful and isolated place where they lived quietly, doing their best to practise their religion strengthened by the occasional visits from travelling priests. But they were not immune to new laws that were being exacted against Recusant Catholics. In 1584 an even harsher new Act was passed making it High Treason for any ordained priest to work in England and for anyone “receiving, relieving or comforting” a priest: the penalty was death.
Despite all these difficulties brave and holy young men were inspired to study for the priesthood abroad. They then came to England and travelled the country in disguise to minister to the needs of the Catholic community. A dangerous path to tread, always aware that there was a price on their head; never knowing really who to trust and knowing that agents of the crown were looking for them. There was a very sophisticated spying system run by the Queen’s chief advisors, who regularly succeeded in capturing these travelling priests.
Father Nicholas Garlick and Father Robert Ludlam were two such priests who would arrive unannounced at a known safe house, minister to the needs of those there and then leave quietly, never telling anyone where they were going next. And so it was that on 11 July, 1588, both these young men arrived at Padley not knowing that the other was there. They stayed the night and intended to leave the next morning but disastrously there was evil and tragedy in their midst. The eldest son of the house, known to us now as Thomas the Traitor, had been coerced by the chief priest catcher, Robert Topcliffe, into betraying his own father in order to gain his inheritance as the eldest son. His father was already a wanted man and young Thomas sent a message to the authorities to say that he was at home. A raid was planned for early in the morning of 12 July, 1588, but when the soldiers arrived they found the two priests as well.
After this it was the end for the Fitzherbert family at Padley and the priests paid the ultimate penalty for High Treason. They were hung, drawn and quartered by Derby bridge on 24 July, 1588 and went joyfully and bravely to their awful deaths – Blessed Nicholas Garlick preaching and handing out written prayers to the gathered crowds to the end and Blessed Robert Ludlam exclaiming Venite Benedictii Dei as he looked up above the gibbet as he climbed the ladder, as if seeing a vision of angels.
What a thing it is today that, more than 430 years later, we are able to attend Mass freely and publicly at the very place that they worked and were arrested for it. This is truly a holy and blessed place. Deo Gratias.