Blessed Edward Bamber (1600 - 1646)

In 1570, Pope Pius V issued the papal bull ‘Regnans in Excelsis’, which declared Queen Elizabeth I a heretic and excommunicated. Following this, Catholics in England were seen as dangerous, as their loyalties were believed to be divided between the Crown and the Holy See in Rome. It was illegal in England to become a Catholic, hear or say Mass, or conceal the presence of a priest, and being ordained a priest abroad was considered treasonous.

Blessed Edward Bamber was born in Carleton, in the parish of Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool, Lancashire in the year 1600. He became a seminarian in St. Omer, France, and later attended the English College of St. Gregory in Seville, Spain, where he was ordained a priest in 1626. Upon returning to England and disembarking in the port of Dover, he was promptly arrested when he was witnessed kneeling to thank God.  He was banished but returned again, and soon afterwards was apprehended near Standish, Lancashire; he had likely been the chaplain at Standish Hall.  He managed to escape, whilst being transported to Lancaster Castle, through the window of the Old Green Man inn near Claughton-on-Brock where his captors had become inebriated. For the next sixteen years, he served the Catholic Mission, primarily in Lancashire.

Captured a third time, Bamber was imprisoned between 1643 and 1646.  He spent three years in prison before his trial due to the civil war preventing the regular holding of the assizes. Two fallen Catholics testified that they had seen him baptise and marry, which was considered sufficient proof of his priesthood.

On August 7th, 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 who had been condemned for the murder of his brother, giving him absolution on the gallows.  His brave conduct so enraged his persecutors that Bamber’s death was particularly gruesome, as he was hanged, drawn, and quartered. These three priests were the last to be martyred in Lancaster.

Father Bamber, along with Father Whitaker and Father Woodcock, were among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales who were beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in November 1987.