In 1570 Queen Elizabeth I was declared a heretic and excommunicated by the Pope. In England Catholics were then seen as dangerous, whose loyalties were divided between the Crown and the Holy See in Rome. The law in England made it illegal to become a Catholic, hear or say Mass, or conceal the prescence of a priest. For a priest to be ordained abroad was treason.
Blessed Edward Bamber was born in Carleton, in the parish of Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool in the County of Lancashire. He was a seminarian in St. Omer, France, and at the English College of St. Gregory in Seville, Spain, where he was ordained a priest in 1626. Upon returning to England, disembarking in the port of Plymouth, he was arrested. He escaped soon after through the window of an inn where his captors drank too much. For sixteen years he served the Catholic Mission, mainly in Lancashire.
Imprisoned again between 1643 and 1646, he lay three years in prison before his trial, the civil war preventing the regular holding of the assizes. Two fallen Catholics swore that they had seen him baptise and marry, which was considered sufficient proof of his priesthood.
On 7th August 1646, Bamber and two other priests, Blessed Thomas Whitaker and Blessed John Woodcock, were executed at Lancaster Castle. Bamber was the first to suffer, and at his execution he threw a handful of money into the crowd and reconciled a man condemned for the murder of his brother, giving him absolution on the gallows. Bamber's death was particularly barbarous, being hanged, drawn, and quartered. These three priests were the last to be martyred in Lancaster.
He and Father Whitaker were included with Father Woodcock among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in November 1987.