Sunday, 11 September 2011


The first recorded execution took place at Tyburn field, near the present day Marble Arch, in 1196. In 1571 the Tyburn Tree replaced the original gallows. The Tree was a horizontal wooden triangle supported on three legs. It was designed thus to accommodate multiple hangings at the same time. Although it was done only once, 24 prisoners could be executed simultaneously. The first victim of the Tyburn Tree was Dr John Story, a Catholic who refused to recognise Queen Elizabeth I as head of the church. Thousands had been executed at Tyburn before John Austin, a highwayman, was hanged there in November 1783. That was the last time the Tyburn Tree was used.

Between 1535 and 1681, almost 400 Catholics were executed at Tyburn. The last Catholic Tyburn Martyr was St Oliver Plunkett, executed in July 1681. The Vatican has officially recognised 105 of these as Martyrs and many of them have been canonised.

At the beginning of the last century the Benedictine Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus set up home at Tyburn Convent, just yards from the site of the old gallows. The Sisters pray night and day before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. In recognition of the men and women who gave their lives for the faith, the Sisters maintain the Martyrs’ Shrine. Here are preserved relics of some of the martyrs, and a replica of the three cornered gallows, the Tyburn Tree, forms part of the altar.

Last month Cwmbran based Friends of Saint David Lewis visited Tyburn Convent. At 8 o’clock in the morning our group of 42 pilgrims left Cwmbran and headed up the motorway for London. Several hours later our genial coach driver, Terry from Tryline Travel, deposited us near Tyburn Convent. By now it was almost lunch time so, of course, we set off in search of food! There are restaurants aplenty in that area, Marble Arch, so pretty soon we were all happily catering to the inner man. That taken care of, we made our way down the road to Tyburn Convent.

Our tour was scheduled for 2 o’clock so we had some time to spare. This gave us the welcome opportunity to spend time in the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed night and day. What a great privilege!

Just before 2 o’clock, a smiling Mother Lioba arrived to escort us to the Martyrs’ Shrine in the crypt. Our parish priest had accompanied us on our pilgrimage and, as he vested for Holy Mass, Mother welcomed the group and briefly outlined the history of the Convent. Then, wearing red vestments, Father celebrated the Mass of the Martyrs. We were privileged to attend Holy Mass where, in days gone by, priests had died for celebrating Mass and for being Catholic priests. Father brought this home to us in his very apt homily.

When Mass was concluded, Mother Lioba recounted the story of the many Catholic martyrs who had been executed at Tyburn for their faith. Although our patron, St David Lewis, did not suffer at Tyburn – he was martyred at Usk – Welshmen, including St John Roberts and Blessed Philip Powell, were among the victims of Tyburn. Mother Lioba held us spellbound with her animated accounts of the lives and deaths of the martyrs. Mother’s knowledge of the martyrs was extensive, her enthusiasm palpable, and her devotion clear to all.

After Mother Lioba’s talk, there was time to wander around the crypt at leisure and to view the many treasured relics housed there. Mother was on hand to answer any questions or just to chat.

Our visit to Tyburn Convent was not over yet. We were directed to an adjoining room where pretty young Novices served refreshments to the pilgrims. Alas, it was time to leave. Mother Lioba, still smiling, saw us off with a handshake and a “God bless you”. Then it was back down the M4 to Wales.

It had been a memorable day and a happy yet humbled and thoughtful group arrived back in Cwmbran. All marvelled at the courage and faith of those holy men and women who had died for their faith. The experience certainly gave us food for thought and, hopefully, a greater appreciation of our Catholic faith and of the freedom we have to practise it. Remember, there are still countries in which Christians are dying for their faith.

Father, in your mysterious providence, your Church is called to share in the sufferings of Christ, your Son. Give the spirit of endurance and love to those who are persecuted for their faith in You. May they always be true and faithful witnesses to your promise of eternal life. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.


  1. Thank you for sharing your visit. Much appreciated.

  2. Hi Breadgirl, was your priest Fr Adrian? If so, please give him my best wishes, I served Mass for him in Rome.
    It is a great pity that the Church does not place more importance on the memorial stone to the Martyrs, a real shrine is what is called for.

  3. Good Morning Buttercup
    I am so pleased that you are still looking in after my long absence. I assure you that it is circumstances keeping me away but I hope to do better now. Thanks for being so loyal. God bless you.

  4. Hello Richard
    So very nice to hear from you. Circumstances have prevented me from blogging but I hope to be able to post more regularly now. Thanks for staying with me.
    Yes, it was Fr Adrian & I will pass on your best wishes. I agree with you wholeheartedly about a more fitting memorial to the Martyrs. I actually passed right by it without seeing it. Fortunately, John knew where it was. Otherwise I would have missed it.
    How have you been? I hope you are well. We are doing O K, thank God.
    God bless you, my friend.

  5. I'm glad to see you're back in Blogland. Welcome back.

    God bless you and yours.

  6. Hello dear Victor
    It is so nice to hear from you. I am more or less back but still not managing to do as many posts as I would like to do. I hope to be up to scratch very soon. I hope all is well with you. God bless you, my friend.


Related Posts with Thumbnails