Sunday, 19 September 2010


Anthony Turner was born in Leicestershire in 1628, during the reign of King Charles I. He was born into a staunch Protestant family, his father being a Protestant minister. Anthony, along with his mother and brother, Edward, began to seriously question the Protestant religion. This, understandably, infuriated his father. Anthony went to study at Cambridge University and while there he converted to Catholicism, despite his father’s rage. Edward also converted to the Catholic faith. The two brothers then went to Rome to study at the English College.

The Government’s objective was to eradicate Catholicism in the land. Therefore, laws and statutes were introduced which imposed dire penalties on any who had the audacity to practise their Catholic Faith. Of course without priests, there could be no Mass, no Sacraments and no help for those who still clung to the Old Faith. There were no longer any seminaries in England. In an effort to redress this problem, Cardinal William Allen established seminaries on the Continent specifically to train priests for England and Wales. These brave men went in secret to the seminaries and, after ordination, they returned, again in secret, to minister to their persecuted countrymen. Cardinal Allen established the English College in Rome in 1579.

In 1653, Anthony left the English College in Rome and travelled to Flanders where he entered the Jesuit Novitiate. He was ordained in 1659 and two years later, in 1661, he returned to England where he spent the next eighteen years ministering in Worcestershire.

When the terror of the phoney Oates/Popish Plot spread its poisonous tentacles over the country, Fr Anthony Turner was more than willing to give his life for the Faith which was so dear to him. However, his superiors insisted he leave the country. In January 1679, Fr Turner reluctantly made his way to London. He hoped to find a Jesuit who would provide him with sufficient funds to escape to the Continent. The search proved fruitless so the priest gave what little money he possessed to a beggar. He then turned himself over to the authorities. He was promptly arrested and thrown into Newgate Prison where several other Jesuits were awaiting trial.
On 13th June 1679 Anthony Turner was brought for trial at the Old Bailey. The witnesses against him were the convicted perjurers and embezzlers, Titus Oates, William Bedloe and Stephen Dugdale. One of the trial rules was that ‘no Catholic could be believed in court’ so the false testimony of the miscreants was taken over that of credible witnesses. As was the custom, the jury was instructed to find the defendant guilty and this they obediently did. Anthony Turner was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

A week later, on 20th June 1679, Fr Turner was taken to Tyburn where the sentence was to be carried out. At the last minute, which also appears to be the custom, a messenger arrived from the King offering a pardon. All the priest had to do was to admit his guilt and tell all he knew of the plot. Fr Turner replied that no plot existed. He could not disclose details of a plot that existed only in the putrid mind of the perjurer, Titus Oates. The Jesuit was not willing to lie to save his life. In a speech from the gallows, he told the spectators: “I am bound in conscience to do myself that justice as to declare upon oath my innocence from the horrid crime of treason with which I am falsely accused. I am as free from the treason I am accused of as a child that is just born. I die a Roman Catholic and humbly beg the prayers of such for my happy passage into a better life”. He prayed privately for a few minutes then the cart was pulled away.

After the gruesome sentence was carried out, the brutalised remains of Fr Turner were taken away by friends who buried them in the churchyard of St Giles in the Fields. In December 1929 Pope Pius XI beatified Jesuit Martyr, Fr Anthony Turner.




  1. More good history! I am going to have to spend longer time with your blog some day when I have hours, not minutes, available. It is chock full of interesting things that I don't know.

  2. Hi Elizabeth

    Thank you for you kind comment and for your interest. I would be absolutely delighted for you to spend more time reading this blog, I hope you will also comment because I value your opinion. God bless you, Elizabeth.


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