Egton, North Yorkshire
7 August 1679|
|Cause of death||Hanged, disembowelled and quartered|
|Resting place||various: Egton Bridge, Ampleforth Abbey, Pickering|
Martyr of the Moors|
The Good Samaritan of the Moors
|Education||English College, Douai, France|
|Known for||17th century Catholic martyr|
Blessed Nicholas Postgate (1596 or 1597 – 7 August 1679) was an English Catholic priest who was executed on the Knavesmire in York on the 6 August 1679 as part of anti-Catholic feeling that was sweeping England at that time. He is one of the 85 English Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales, beatified by Pope John Paul II, in November 1987.
Early life and priesthood
He was born at Kirkdale House, Egton, Yorkshire, England. He entered Douay College, in France, 11 July 1621. Further to that, he took the college oath, 12 March 1623, received minor orders, 23 December 1624, the subdiaconate, 18 December 1627, the diaconate, 18 March 1628, and the priesthood two days later. He was sent to the mission, 29 June 1630, and laboured in England for the Catholic religion, finally settling back to Ugthorpe, not far from his birthplace, in the 1660s. His parish, which was known by the extinct name of Blackamoor, extended between Guisborough, Pickering and Scarborough. Thomas Ward, who later wrote about him, knew him well.
Background to arrest
Although anti-Catholic feeling in England had subsided a good deal at that time, it flared up again due to the fake Popish Plot of 1678; this followed a false testimony from Titus Oates in which he claimed there was a conspiracy to install a Catholic king, and he managed to ferment a renewed and fierce persecution of English Catholics. It was to be the last time that Catholics were put to death in England for their faith; one of the last victims - but not the very last - was Nicholas Postgate.
During the panic engineered by Oates, a prominent Protestant magistrate in London, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, was murdered and Oates loudly blamed the Catholics; Sir Edmund's manservant, John Reeves, set out to get his revenge. For reasons which are not clear, he decided to base his actions in the Whitby area, possibly because he knew that priests arrived there from France.
The arrest and execution of Nicholas Postgate
Nicholas Postgate was apprehended by the exciseman Reeves, while carrying out a baptism at the house of Matthew Lyth, Little Beck, near Whitby. Reeves, with a colleague called William Cockerill, raided the house during the ceremony and caught the priest, then aged 82. Father Postgate was condemned under 27 Elizabeth, c. 2, for being a priest. He was hanged, disembowelled and quartered at York, His quarters were given to his friends and interred. One of the hands was sent to Douay College.
Nicholas Postgate's legacy
Every year since 1974 an open-air service has been held – alternately in Egton Bridge and Ugthorpe – in honour of Fr Postgate.
The pub in Egton Bridge is called 'The Postgate" in his honour.
Since the name is uncommon, he is probably related to the Postgate family who had many notable members from the 19th century onwards.
The Postgate Society aims to spread knowledge of Nicholas Postgate and promote interest in Catholic history during penal times.
- "The life of Nicholas Postgate". Postgate Society. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- Rychlikova, Megi (25 July 2012). "Catholic martyrs remembered at ceremony in York". Gazette & Herald. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- "Is history of martyr of the moors wrong?". The Whitby Gazette. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- "Campaign to name saint gathers pace". Gazette & Herald. 1 June 2006. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- "In Father Postgate's steps". Gazette & Herald. 29 July 2002. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- Peacock, Edward (1872). A list of the Roman Catholics in the county of York in 1604. London: John Camden Hotten. p. 99. OCLC 5466883.
- "Pilgrims head to the moors". Gazette & Herald. 9 July 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- Gazette & Herald, Newsquest York - In Father Postgate's steps
- "Entry Book: May 1679, 1-10 | British History Online". www.british-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- St Joseph's, Pickering, Where the lamp is flickering (website): History
- "Social reformer nominated as 'heroine'". The Yorkshire Post. 1 September 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- Ward England's Reformation (London, 1747), 200
- Challoner, Missionary Priests, II, no. 204
- Gillow, Bibl. Dict. Eng. Cath.
- Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1911). "Ven. Nicholas Postgate". Catholic Encyclopedia. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- In Father Postgate's steps; article in the Gazette and Herald