(1697-1753) Thomas Deacon was born in London, but from about 1720 he made Manchester his home. A fervent promoter of the anti-William and Mary cause, and a Jacobite supporter, he seemed to have the knack of avoiding personal conflict with authorities while many other fellow supporters were executed for their beliefs, including William Paul and John Hall of Otterburn who were executed in 1716 for the parts they played in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. Deacon had actually written the Declarations which they made at their execution. Following the Rebellion, Deacon prudently fled to Holland for a while, before returning to London to study medicine under a Doctor Mead. Although he remained unqualified, Deacon later set up a medical practice in Manchester and was most successful. In about 1733 he was consecrated a “Non-juring” Bishop, and set up his own episcopal church in Manchester, calling it the “True British Catholic Church”, and meeting mostly at his own house in Fennel Street, Manchester. He wrote and published his own liturgy and acted as minister to a small congregation. During the 1745 Rebellion, Deacon and his sons were deeply involved on the side of the Young Pretender, Charles Stewart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). One of his sons immediately joined the Manchester Regiment; a dandy and a show-off, he was executed for treason in 1746 and his head was displayed on the top of the Exchange Building in Market Street as a warning to other potential rebels. A second son was transported and a third died at his trial. Deacon himself was never brought to trial, despite his open hostilities to the crown and his constant criticisms, and was to die a natural death in his bed in 1753 aged 56 years. He is buried in St Ann’s Churchyard in Manchester and an altar tomb was erected to his memory. There is a portrait of Thomas Deacon in the reading room at Chetham’s Library.
(Saint Ambrose Barlow)
(1585-1641) Edward Barlow, later canonised as Saint Ambrose Barlow, was born at Barlow Hall near Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester. The Hall is now a golf clubhouse. He was baptised in Didsbury, son of a devout Catholic family, where his father, Sir Alexander Barlow had lost most of his income as penalty for his beliefs.
Following his family’s wishes, Edward became a Benedictine monk and in 1615 entered the priesthood. He was sent back to work in England – a hazardous undertaking, since all Jesuits and Catholic priests had been banished from England under threat of arrest for treason. Nonetheless he became widely known and respected throughout south Lancashire, and was praised for his frugality and modesty, as well as for the simplicity of his ways and the devoutness of his beliefs. Unquestionably a good man, he spent his time walking on foot around the counties, helping the sick and aged and procuring food for the aged. While he was performing a Mass to a congregation of over 100 people at Morley’s Hall near Leigh on Easter Sunday 1641, he was arrested, without warrant, by a neighbouring Anglican minister and his whole angry congregation. Brought before the local Justice of the Peace, he was formally arrested, charged and sent under armed guard to Lancaster Castle, a notorious prison, (which still is used for this purpose today). After 4 months detention he tried and was sentenced to death. On 10th September 1641 he was hanged, drawn and quartered – the customary death for a “traitor” in those days. His skull is preserved in Wardley Hall, Worsley, now the residence of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford. Subsequently Rome declared him to be a martyr for his faith and he was canonised a saint. Many rumours exist concerning the miraculous properties of the skull – reputedly, strange noises are emitted and inhabitants suffer great discomforts when the skull is removed from its niche.
Footnote: The first catholic church to be dedicated after St Ambrose Barlow was opened in 1970 in Birmingham. See: www.st-ambrose-barlow.org.uk.
James Prince Lee
(1804-1869) The first Bishop of Manchester, James Prince Lee, was born in London and educated at St Paul’s School and Trinity College, Cambridge. While at college he distinguished himself as an outstanding classical scholar, and he was to remain a devotee of the classics throughout his life. He was ordained in 1830, whereafter he began a teaching post at Rugby School, under the headmastership of Dr Thomas Arnold. A successful teacher, he became headmaster of King Edward’s Grammar School in Birmingham in 1838. In 1848, the Prime Minister, Lord Russell, selected Lee as bishop of the newly created cathedral in Manchester, a controversial appointment which raised a great deal of local animosity – first, that he was not a native Mancunian or Lancastrian, and second, that he had spent most of his life in teaching and had precious little experience in religious matters. Lee was stubborn, domineering and opinionated, and was greatly disliked for his personal dictatorial style, and his reputation suffered further after a court trial in which he was accused of scandalous behaviour. He successfully defended the case, and won it, but gained no friends in the process. Despite all this, he was in many ways a sensitive and highly educated man, with an extensive library of rare books on a wide range of topics, including science, literature, art and theology, at his home in Mauldeth Hall. A successful marketeer, he had a way with the wealthy industrialists of Manchester, and succeeding in persuading many to give large donations to the building of some 130 churches which he oversaw during his bishopric of Manchester. He was one of the founders of the Manchester Free Library, and he bequeathed his own personal library of books to Owens College (now the University of Manchester) at his death. His death at Mauldeth Hall in 1869 followed a long period of illness. He is buried in Heaton Mersey Churchyard.
(Born 1939) Terry Waite was born in Bollington, near Macclesfield in Cheshire on 31 May 1939, the son of a local village policeman. He was educated locally and when grown up joined the Grenadier Guards for a time, before retiring on medical grounds. He attended the Church Army College in London in 1958 and studied theology and later worked with the Church of England Board of Education. In 1964 he married Helen Watters, and they subsequently had a son and three daughters. He was appointed Advisor to the Bishop of Bristol with responsibility for lay education, and went on in 1969 to work as Advisor to the first Archbishop of Uganda in Africa. Narrowly surviving the Idi Amin coup, in 1972 he moved with his family to live in Rome advising the Roman Catholic Church on health and education matters. In this capacity he travelled widely throughout Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Americas. In 1978 he moved back to London and in 1979 he was invited to work for the British Council of Churches. In March 1980, he was appointed by the Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as Advisor on Anglican Communion Affairs and on a wide range of international issues. It was during this time that he was involved in negotiations for the release of hostages in Tehran, Libya and Lebanon that he was himself taken prisoner in Beirut. He was kept in solitary confinement for four years and kept hostage for almost five years, 1763 days in all. Terry left Lambeth Palace in April 1992 after having served for more than 12 years. In the same month he was elected a Fellow Commoner at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Many other international honours soon followed: in 1982 he was awarded the MBE, and, in 1992, the CBE. He holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of the City of London, Canterbury, Liverpool, Durham, Sussex and Yale. He is the Founder Chairman of Y-Care International, a trustee of the Butler Trust, Patron of Strode Park Foundation for the Disabled, a Member of Council of Victim Support as well as being an active supporter of many charitable organisations. In 1989 he was awarded the UK Templeton Award. In 1992 he received the Freedom of the London Borough of Lewisham and the Freedom of the City of Canterbury. He has written several books including “Taken On Trust” (a personal account of his time as a hostage), “Footfalls In Memory “, and his humorous book “Travels With A Primate” . Anglia University awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy. Terry Waite is an influential international campaigner on humanitarian issues, helping numerous organisations including Amnesty, Victim Support and the YMCA.
(1510-1555) John Bradford was one of Manchester’s first Protestant reformers, and was a martyr executed on the order of Queen Mary for his beliefs. He was born in Blackley in Manchester and was one of the first pupils to attend the Free Grammar School which had been founded by Bishop Hugh Oldham in Manchester (the forerunner of Manchester Grammar School). School reports indicate that he was a hardworking and able student who achieved high proficiency in writing and in arithmetic, skills which were to serve him well in later life, when he became secretary to the Crown Paymaster, John Harrington, who organised finances for Edward VI’s campaign in France. In 1547 Bradford entered Law at the Inner Temple in London, and while studying here he became converted to Reform Protestantism. He gave up Law, intending to take Holy Orders, encouraged by Bishop Latimer. In 1548 he entered Catherine Hall College at Cambridge, and two years later was ordained deacon by Bishop Ridley, to be based at St Paul’s Cathedral. Eventually he became one of two chaplains to the King. He became a renowned preacher, not only in London, but throughout Lancashire and Cheshire. Like all Protestant clerics, Bradford immediately realised the danger when the Catholic Queen Mary acceded to the throne of England, though he hardly curtailed his radical preaching. Eventually and inevitably, his outspoken Protestantism resulted in his arrest and imprisonment in the Tower of London on charges of heresy and sedition. Fellow prisoners included Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer. He was condemned as a heretic and sentenced to be burnt at the stake, which took place on 1st July 1555. It had been intended to execute him in his native Manchester as a warning to others, but fearing the anger of the people, the authorities thought better of it, and changed the place of execution to Smithfield in London. The execution was marked by large crowds, largely sympathetic to Bradford and Ridley, and extra reinforcing troops had to be summoned to hold back the people in the face of rumours of proposed rescue attempts. There is a commemorating plaque on the wall of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Smithfield which marks the place of the execution; another plaque to his memory is in Manchester Cathedral, and a statue of Bradford can be found on the facade of Manchester Town Hall.