Nicholas Postgate

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Nicholas Postgate
Died7 August 1679
Cause of deathHanged, disembowelled and quartered
Resting placevarious: Egton Bridge, Ampleforth Abbey, Pickering
Other namesMartyr of the Moors[2]
The Good Samaritan of the Moors[3]
EducationEnglish College, Douai, France
OccupationCatholic priest
Known for17th century Catholic martyr

Nicholas Postgate (1596 or 1597 – 7 August 1679) was an English Catholic priest who was executed for treason on the Knavesmire in York on the 6 August 1679 as part of the anti-Catholic persecution 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.[4]

Early life and priesthood[edit]

Postgate was born at Kirkdale House, Egton, Yorkshire, England. He entered Douay College, in France, 11 July 1621.[5] He took the college oath on 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.[5] He was sent to the mission on 29 June 1630, and worked in England for the Catholic religion, finally settling back to Ugthorpe, not far from his birthplace, in the 1660s.[1] His parish, which was known by the extinct name of Blackamoor,[3] extended between Guisborough, Pickering and Scarborough.[4] Thomas Ward, who later wrote about him, knew him well.[6]

Background to arrest[edit]

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 foment 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.[7]

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.

Arrest and execution[edit]

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. Postgate was condemned under 27 Elizabeth, c. 2, for being a priest.[5] 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.[8]

Reeves was listed in a treasury book as having been paid 22 shillings for his apprehension of Postgate[9] but some believe he did not receive the money before he committed suicide by drowning.[6]

Nicholas Postgate's legacy[edit]

Postgate's portable altar stone hangs at the front of the altar at Saint Joseph's Catholic Church, Pickering, where it is now venerated.[10]

Every year since 1974 an open-air service has been held – alternately in Egton Bridge and Ugthorpe – in his honour,[4] and the pub in Egton Bridge is called 'The Postgate" in his honour.[11]

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 Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust is a family of 26 Catholic schools across Teesside and North Yorkshire also named in his honour.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The life of Nicholas Postgate". Postgate Society. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  2. ^ Rychlikova, Megi (25 July 2012). "Catholic martyrs remembered at ceremony in York". Gazette & Herald. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Is history of martyr of the moors wrong?". The Whitby Gazette. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "Campaign to name saint gathers pace". Gazette & Herald. 1 June 2006. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "In Father Postgate's steps". Gazette & Herald. 29 July 2002. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b Peacock, Edward (1872). A list of the Roman Catholics in the county of York in 1604. London: John Camden Hotten. p. 99. OCLC 5466883.
  7. ^ "Pilgrims head to the moors". Gazette & Herald. 9 July 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  8. ^ Gazette & Herald, Newsquest York - In Father Postgate's steps
  9. ^ "Entry Book: May 1679, 1-10 | British History Online". Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  10. ^ "St Joseph's, Pickering, Where the lamp is flickering (website): History". Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  11. ^ "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.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Ven. Nicholas Postgate". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.