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Sunday 24 October 2021

Blessed Thomas Thwing

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Blessed Thomas Thwing is the last of the York martyrs to be executed - on 23rd October 1680.

Thomas Thwing’s father was George Thwing, Esq. of Kilton Castle, Brotton, and Heworth Hall. His mother was Anne, daughter of Sir John Gascoigne and his wife Anne Ingleby, and sister of Sir Thomas Gascoigne, 2nd Baronet, of Barnbow Hall, Barwick in Elmet. Both parents were Yorkshire recusants. The martyr Blessed Edward Thwing was his great-uncle, and he is also related to the fourteenth-century Saint John of Bridlington.

Thomas was educated at St Omer and at the English College, Douai, ordained a priest and sent to minister at the English Mission in 1665, which he did for roughly fourteen years. Until April 1668, he was chaplain at Carlton Hall, the seat of his cousins, the Stapleton family. He opened a school at Quosque, the Stapletons' dower-house. He lived on Hepworth Lane, in Carlton, Selby.

In 1677 Mary Ward's Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary began its foundation in the house given to the order by Thomas' maternal uncle, Thomas Gascoigne, at Dolebank, where three of Father Thwing's sisters were members. Thwing became chaplain and it was there that he was arrested in early 1679.

At the time of the Titus Oates scare, or ‘Popish Plot’, two servants, Bolron and Mowbray, who had been discharged from Sir Thomas Gascoigne's service for dishonesty, sought vengeance and reward by revealing a supposed plot by Gascoigne and others to murder King Charles II. At first the informers made no mention of Thwing. Nevertheless, Gascoigne, his daughter Lady Tempest, Thwing, and others were arrested on the night of 7th July 1679, and removed to London for trial at Newgate.

Gascoigne sensibly demanded to be tried by a Yorkshire jury, whom the judges admitted were better equipped to decide on the credibility of witnesses, most of whom they knew personally, than were the judges themselves. The trial was postponed to the summer assizes. Thwing was brought to the bar on 29th July, and Gascoigne's former servant, Robert Bolron, testified against him. All of the accused were acquitted except Thwing, who was brought back to York, where he was arraigned at York on 17th March 1680, along with, among others, a kinsman, Sir Miles Stapleton. The prosecution played upon a list of Catholics which had been found on the night of the arrest. In reality they were not conspirators but supporters of the new convent at Dolebank which Gascoigne's daughter Lady Tempest had recently founded. At her father's trial the Court had heard much evidence about the convent, but the judges apparently did not regard her actions as treasonable, since at her own trial she was acquitted. Sir Miles Stapleton was also acquitted, as was another alleged conspirator, Mary Pressicks: the judges, showing far more impartiality than in earlier Popish Plot trials, ruled that her statement that "we shall never be at peace till we are all of the Roman Catholic faith" was not treasonable, but a simple expression of opinion.

Despite the acquittal of Stapleton and Mrs. Pressicks, Thwing was promptly found guilty on the very same evidence upon which his relatives had been acquitted. Upon hearing the sentence, he humbly bowed his head, saying in Latin, "Innocens ego sum" (I am innocent).

The King at first reprieved him, but owing to a remonstrance of the Commons the death-warrant was issued on the day after the meeting of Parliament. Thwing was hanged, drawn, and quartered at the Tyburn in York on 23rd October, 1680. His friends interred his quartered body.