HERMIT and MARTYRS

of The Christian Heritage of Ryedale

ONE of the most prolific writers of the 14th century was Richard Rolle who was born in Thornton le Dale around 1300. He studied at Oxford but returned to Pickering where he once preached in the church a sermon 'of such virtue and power' that all present were moved to tears. Richard lived as a hermit or 'anchorite' under the sponsorship of the Constable of Pickering Castle and went on to become chaplain to Hampole Priory to the north of Doncaster. His best known book is 'The Fire of Love', a guide for those trying to live the spiritual life.

MANY of the first reformers became martyrs, particularly in the reign of Queen Mary I ('Bloody Mary'). One of these was the apprentice John Leaf of Kirkbymoorside, who perished in London during the persecutions of the time. Queen Elizabeth was more tolerant, except where Roman Catholics were (rightly or wrongly) suspected of treason.

Not everyone took to the new ways of the church, and during the following century a number of brave priests continued to celebrate Mass in the Roman tradition. They were generally allowed to get on with their calling but some were thought to be associated with the political movements of the day and were condemned to death as traitors. One priest, Nicholas Postgate, who ministered for fifty years travelling throughout Ryedale and Eskdale, was falsely accused of supporting the 'Popish Plot' in 1678, though he was known to be a peaceful and holy man. The authorities at York were reluctant to see him executed, but they were overruled by London, to the disgust of the local population.

Nicholas Postgate

Page prepared by Ryedale Christian Council Autumn 2000. Updated December 2016

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