Bernard Branch transports us to the beautiful Derbyshire dales where a group of pilgrims give thanks for three courageous men of God
ON SUNDAY, July 14, Just under a thousand people will gather outside a small railway station at the bottom of a side lane, covered in trees in a small Derbyshire hamlet. Two or three abreast, they will walk the half mile or so to a restored sixteenth century chapel which, 50 years ago was in use as a cowshed.
They will be there to celebrate the anniversary of the arrest and subsequent martyrdom of the priests, Nicholas Garlick and Robert Ludlam. The arrest, at Padley, took place on July 12th, 1588, at the height of the persecution following the defeat of the Spanish Armada; at Derby, on July 24 of the same year, the two priests, together with a third, Richard Simpson were hanged, drawn and quartered.
The latter was a Yorkshireman born at Well near Ripon; the other two were Derbyshire born and bred.
More is known of Nicholas Garlick than of his fellow Derbyshireman. He was born at Dinting, near Glossop in about 1555. He went to Oxford University but remained there for only six months.
He is heard of as keeping a school in Tideswell in Derbyshire, finally entering the English College at Rheims to train for the priesthood. In 1583, he was on the mission in England. Like many of his fellow priests, he drew the attentions or a spy and informant in the guise of a Catholic. As a result he was arrested and deported in 1585.
Knowing that his execution would follow if he were arrested again if he returned to England, he did just that. He is heard of as working in Hampshire and Dorset initially. We do not know why he was at Padley in 1588.
We know less of Robert Ludlam. Tradition seems to speak of Nicholas Garlick as an extrovert; it appears that he did most of the speaking of the three priests at their trial.
Of Robert Ludlam it was said that "He was a very mild man, did much good in the country, for that he did much travel and was well-beloved." The only words of his own which are recorded are those he spoke on the scaffold: Venite, benedicti Del.
We know that he was born about 1551 probably in Radhourne near Derby. He attended Oxford, arrived at Rheims in 1580 and returned as a priest to England in 1582.
The fact that so little is known about his work testifies to its success.
The chapel at Padley formed part of the Manor, then in the possession of the recusant Fitzherbert family. In time the property fell from their hands and into disrepair, the chapel only remaining to be used as a cowshed.
From perhaps the midnineteenth century this began to be visited by individuals and small groups of Catholics in memory of the Martyrs, who were declared venerable by the
Congregation of Rites in 1888.
In 1898, the first organised pilgrimage took place, the visitors unable to enter the chapel itself and having to climb a ladder to look in through a window. The Diocese of Nottingham bought the property in 1933 and Mass was said for the first time since the Reformation July 13 of that year. So this year, as annually since, the pilgrimage will take place.
The sun may be shining, with the Peak countryside holding all the colours of an illustrated book of hours; or the rain may be falling solidly, adding an clement of penance.
On one level, it can be a good Catholic day out, combining virtue with a coach or car trip, the enjoyment of the countryside and perhaps a picnic. It fits snugly into the calendar of religious events; it reassures you of the natural' englishness of the Church and of the fact that saints are adventurous people.
Those prone to romantic feelings can conjure up a vivid scenario to entertain themselves: after all, Robert Hugh Benson based his Come Rack, Come Rope on the area and the events which took place in it.
Perhaps we may feel a twinge of worry in that it isn't all that ecumenical, particularly if, as has happened, the fundamentalist sandwich-board men are there.
On the other hand, Popel Paul, in canonising the Forty English and Welsh martyrs, was careful to stress that devotion to these saints has an ecumenical dimension of its own. By all accounts, the Anglican neighbours of the Padley community anyhow, had no eagerness to persecute.
Deeper than this, we may reflect that the English and Welsh martyrs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and their contemporaries lived and died at a crucial turning point in history, perhaps similar to the one we are in today.
It is easy for us to see their' situation in terms of black and white; to them there must have been more greys. St Thomas More's wife tried to dissuade him from his course. We may be at the end of what they were at the beginning of; but we have Our own beginning with its problems of having to make hard decisions. The problems are not the same but the .painfulness is.
These martyrs come clearly out of their historical context and into the world of today in that they showed that the Church is not an Establishment• structure when it must have appeared in many parts of Europe that it was so. They preserved a prophetic and radical tradition which we see now as essential for the life of God's people, not only in Eastern Europe but in, for example, South America.
Padley, as we approach the' 400th anniversary of the death of its martyrs, is not only of antiquarian interest.