St Ambrose Barlow OSB

A former pupil at Valladolid, St Ambrose Barlow spent 20 years as a priest in Lancashire before being martyred.

Born in Barlow Hall near Manchester in 1585, Ambrose was the son of a nobleman who had been a reluctant convert to the Church of England following the suppression of the Roman Catholic Church. Ambrose's grandfather had died while imprisoned for his beliefs while his father, Sir Alexander Barlow, had two-thirds of his estate confiscated when he refused to conform with the rules of the newly established religion.

Having served an apprenticeship as a page, Ambrose followed his true calling, travelling to Douai in France to take up his first academic training in the College of St Gregory before being admitted as a pupil of the Royal English College in Valladolid 1610. On completing the second year of philosophical studies he returned to Douai, making his religious profession there in 1616. The following year he was ordained a priest.

On his return to England, Father Ambrose exercised his missionary ministry in Lancashire. His way of living was said to be simple and apostolic, while his enthusiasm for his sacred trade was such that he was nonchalant about the dangers of religious persecution.

He had already been incarcerated on several occasions when in 1631, as he ended an Easter Sunday Mass, the Protestant vicar of Eccles and his followers, armed with sticks and shields, arrested him. He was dragged before a judge before being incarcerated.

After four months of detention, he was processed in Lancaster Castle before Sir Robert Heath, who had received orders from the government to inflict on Father Ambrose the maximum punishment, as a deterrent to Lancashire’s numerous Catholics.

On hearing the indictment against him, Father Ambrose readily admitted to being a priest. On Friday 10th September 1641 he was stripped, hung, quartered and boiled in oil before his head was exposed on a pike. He was solemnly canonised by Pope Paul VI on October 25 1970.