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Thomas Thwing

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Blessed Thomas Thwing (1635-1680) was an English Catholic priest and martyr.

Born at Heworth Hall, near York, in 1635, he was the son of George Thwing, Esquire, of Kilton Castle, Brotton, and Heworth Hall, and was the nephew of the Catholic martyr Edward Thwing. His mother was Anne, sister of the Sir Thomas Gascoigne, of Barnbow Hall, Barwick in Elmet, Yorkshire. Thomas Thwing was educated at St Omer and at the English College, Douai, ordained a priest and sent from there to minister on the English mission in 1665, which he did for some 14 years. Until April 1668, he was chaplain at Carlton Hall, Carlton-juxta-Snaith, the seat of his cousins the Stapletons. He next opened a school at Quo-usque, the Stapletons' dower-house. When in 1677 Mary Ward's "Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary" began their foundation in the house given by his uncle Thomas Gascoigne at Dolebank, it was in some sense natural that Thwing become their chaplain, three of his sisters being of the community. It was there that he was arrested in the early part of 1679.

At the time of the Titus Oates scare, two servants, 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 the king. It was the sort of thing that happened to many. At first the allegation made no mention of Thwing. Nevertheless, Gascoigne, Thwing, and others were arrested on the night of July 7, 1679, at the Gascoigne's house, Barnbow Hall, and he remained for a year prisoner at York Castle. He was arraigned at York on March 17 with Mary Fenwick, Lady Tempest and Sir Miles Stapleton, but many jurors were challenged and this led to the trial being postponed to the summer assizes. He was brought to the bar on July 29 and Gascoigne's former servant Bolron testified against him. The prosecution played upon a list of Catholics which had been found the night of the arrest, in reality not conspirators but supporters of the new convent. Despite this Thwing was promptly found guilty on the very same evidence upon which his relatives had been acquitted, the sentence being pronounced separately from the felons and murderers found guilty at the same assizes, not out of consideration for his being a priest but because of his social status. Upon hearing it, he humbly bowed his head he said in Latin, "I am innocent." He petitioned for a stay of execution, and the King, Charles II, at first granted this and conferred with the trial judges. However a remonstrance of the House of Commons led to a death-warrant being issued by the King almost immediately, on October 13. On October 23, 1680 Thomas Thwing was drawn from York Castle, past the house where the sisters were dwelling, to the place of execution, where he died aged 46. He was the last of the "seminary priests" to be martyred for his faith in England. His remains were handed over to his friends, and buried in the churchyard of St Mary Castlegate.

Thomas Thwing was beatified by Pope Pius XI on December 15, 1929.


Godfrey Anstruther, The Seminary Priests, Mayhew McCrimmon, Great Wakering, 1976, pp. 225-226.

John William Willis-Bund, A Selection of Cases from the State Trials, University Press, Cambridge, 1882, vol. II, pp. 1055 and 1117ff.

This article incorporates text from the entry Ven. Thomas Thwing in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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