He was the youngest son of Evan Haydock of Cotton Hall, Lancashire, and Helen, daughter of William Westby of Mowbreck Hall, Lancashire. He was educated at Douai College and the English College, Rome, and ordained priest (apparently at Reims), 21 December, 1581.
Arrested in London soon after landing in England, he spent a year and three months in confinement in the Tower of London, suffering from a malarial fever he first contracted in the early summer of 1581 when visiting the seven churches of Rome. About May, 1583, though he remained in the Tower, his imprisonment was relaxed to "free custody", and he was able to administer the Sacraments to his fellow-prisoners. During the first period of his captivity he was accustomed to decorate his cell with the name and arms of the pope scratched or drawn in charcoal on the door or walls, and through his career his devotion to the papacy amounted to a passion.
On 16 January 1584, he and other priests imprisoned in the Tower were examined at the Guildhall by the recorder touching their beliefs. He frankly confessed, with reluctance, that he was eventually obliged to declare that the queen was a heretic, and so seal his fate. On 5 February, 1584, he was indicted with James Fenn, a Somersetshire man, formerly fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, William Deane who had been ordained priest the same day as himself, and six other priests, for having conspired against the queen at Reims, 23 September, 1581, agreeing to come to England, 1 October, and setting out for England, 1 November. In point of fact he arrived at Reims on 1 November, 1581. On the same 5 February two further indictments were brought, the one against Thomas Hemerford, a Dorsetshire man, sometime scholar of St. John's College, Oxford, the other against John Munden, a Dorsetshire man, sometime fellow of New College, Oxford, John Nutter, a Lancashire man, sometime scholar of St. John's College, Cambridge, and two other priests. The next day, St. Dorothy's Day, Haydock, Fenn, Hemerford, Munden, and Nutter were brought to the bar and pleaded not guilty.
Haydock had for a long time shown a great devotion to St. Dorothy, and was accustomed to commit himself and his actions to her daily protection. It may be that he first entered the college at Douai on that day in 1574-5, but this is uncertain. The Concertatio Ecclesiae says he was arrested on this day in 1581-2, but the Tower bills state that he was committed to the Tower on the 5th, in which case he was arrested on the 4th. On Friday the 7th all five were found guilty, and sentenced to death. The other four were committed in shackles to "the pit" in the Tower. Haydock, perhaps in case he should die by a natural death, was sent back to his old quarters. Early on Wednesday the 12th he said Mass, and later the five priests were drawn to Tyburn on hurdles; Haydock, being probably the youngest and certainly the weakest in health, was the first to suffer. An eyewitness gave an account of their execution, which John Hungerford Pollen printed in the fifth volume of the Catholic Record Society.
Haydock was twenty-eight, Munden about forty, Fenn, a widower, with two children, was probably also about forty, Hemerford was probably about Haydock's age; Nutter's age is quite unknown.
- John Fenn, brother of James Fenn
- Joseph Gillow, Bibl. Dict. Eng. Cath., III, 202; cf. III, 265; V, 142, 201;
- Catholic Record Society, publications (London, 1905- ), II, V, passim, III, 12-15; IV, 74;
- Henry Foley, Records Eng. Prov. S.J., VI (London, 1875-1883), 74, 103;
- John Bridgewater, Concertatio Ecclesiae Catholicae (Trier, 1588), passim;
- John Nutter Wainwright in Catholic Truth Society's pamphlets: George Haydock; James Fenn; John Nutter; Two English Martyrs;
- John Hungerford Pollen, Acts of English Martyrs (London, 1891), 252, 253, 304.