Catholic Life

Archbishop Longley recalls martyrs

Archbishop Bernard Longley pictured at Harvington Hall Photo: Peter Jennings

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham was the principal celebrant and preacher at Mass during the annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of the English Martyrs at Harvington Hall, Worcestershire, on Sunday September 4, writes Peter Jennings.

The Elizabethan manor house was built by Humphrey Pakington (1555-1631), a courtier from the household of the Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, who managed to practise his Catholic faith in secret during a time of great persecution.

Harvington Hall has the finest surviving series of priest holes anywhere in the country and during Elizabethan times offered shelter to many recusant priests.

Several hundred pilgrims and priests from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham were present on the lawn on a glorious early September afternoon. The blue sky, warm sunshine, the backcloth of trees and the old manor-house added to the occasion.

Red vestments in honour of the English Martyrs were worn by Archbishop Bernard Longley, Bishop Philip Pargeter, the retired Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, Mgr Canon John Moran, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Birmingham since 1998 and parish priest of St Mary’s, Harvington, since 2008, and Fr Douglas Lamb, parish priest of St Ambrose, Kidderminster. More than 15 other priests also concelebrated.

The four martyrs especially venerated at Harvington, who worked at various times in the area are: St John Wall, who was hung, drawn and quartered at Red Hill, Worcester on August 2 1679 and canonised in 1970; St Nicholas Owen, who died under torture in the Tower on March 2 1606, and was canonised in 1970; Blessed Edward Oldcorne, who was executed at Red Hill, Worcester on April 7 1606 and beatified in 1929; and Blessed Arthur Bell, who was executed at Tyburn on December 11 1643 and beatified in 1987.