John Adams (martyr)

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For other people named John Adams, see John Adams (disambiguation).
Blessed John Adams
Born ca. 1543
Winterborne St Martin, Dorset, England
Died 8 October 1586
Tyburn, London, England
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 22 November 1987 by Pope John Paul II

The Blessed John Adams was an English Catholic priest and martyr.


He was born at Winterborne St Martin in Dorset[1] up at an unknown date (ca. 1543?) and became a Protestant minister. He later entered the Catholic Church and travelled to the English College then at Rheims, arriving on the 7 December 1579. He was ordained a priest at Soissons on the 17 December 1580. He set out for the mission in England on the 29 March 1581.[2]

He is known to have worked in Hampshire but details of his later, as of his earlier life, are patchy. It may be that he was taken prisoner at Rye only a short time after landing in England and that he escaped. In 1583 he was described as a man of "about forty years of age, of average height, with a dark beard, a sprightly look and black eyes. He was a very good controversialist, straightforward, very pious, and pre-eminently a man of hard work. He laboured very strenuously at Winchester and in Hampshire, where he helped many, especially of the poorer classes."[2]

Captured at Winchester, he was brought to London and arrived at the Marshalsea prison on the 7 March 1584. His sentence this time was banishment and he was expelled with some seventy-two other priests. He arrived at Rheims in France on the 14 November 1585, but then immediately set out for England again. He was yet again captured, this time being taken to the Clink in London on the 19 December of the same year. This time, as was to be expected, he was not treated so lightly, especially since that year an Act had been passed which made it a capital offence to be a Catholic priest in England. The sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering was carried out at Tyburn, London on the 8 October 1586. His fate was shared by two fellow priests, John Lowe and Robert Dibdale,[2] and possibly his own brother, a layman. This latter fact is not certain and the forename is not in any case known.

All three priests were beatified (the last stage prior to canonization) by Pope John Paul II on the 22 November 1987.



  • The most reliable compact source is Godfrey Anstruther, Seminary Priests, St Edmund's College, Ware, vol. 1, 1968, pp. 1–2.