Thomas Sherwood (martyr)

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Blessed Thomas Sherwood
Died7 February, 1578 [1]
Tyburn, London
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 29 December 1886, Rome by Pope Leo XIII

Blessed Thomas Sherwood (c. 15511578) was a Catholic layman and martyr.



Sherwood was born in London of Henry and Elizabeth Sherwood, Catholics who both enduring imprisonment for their religion. His father, Henry Sherwood, was a woolen draper. At the age of fifteen Thomas left school to assist his father in the woolen business for the next ten years. In 1576 he decided to travel to the new English College at Douai and study for the priesthood. He subsequently returned home to adjust his accounts, and obtain funds to support his studies. [2]

Greater London County of England

Greater London is a ceremonial county of England that is located within the London region. This region forms the administrative boundaries of London and is organised into 33 local government districts—the 32 London boroughs and the City of London, which is located within the region but is separate from the county. The Greater London Authority, based in Southwark, is responsible for strategic local government across the region and consists of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. The City of London Corporation is the principal local authority for the City of London, with a similar role to that of the 32 London borough councils.

The English College, was a Catholic seminary in Douai, now in France, associated with the University of Douai. It was established in about 1561, and was suppressed in 1793. It is known for a Bible translation referred to as the Douay–Rheims Bible. Of over 300 priests from Douai sent on the English mission, about one-third were executed. The dissolution of the college at the tie of the French Revolution led to the founding of Crook Hall and St Edmund's College, Ware. It is popularly believed that the indemnification funds paid by the French for the seizure of Douai's property were diverted by the British commissioners to complete the furnishings of George IV's Royal Pavilion at Brighton.

Douai Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Douai is a commune in the Nord département in northern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department. Located on the river Scarpe some 40 kilometres from Lille and 25 km (16 mi) from Arras, Douai is home to one of the region's most impressive belfries. The population of the metropolitan area, including Lens, was 552,682 in 1999.

In the city he was a visitor to the house of Lady Tregonwell of Dorsetshire, where it seems that Mass was secretly offered. The woman's son, by her first marriage, Protestant George Marten, resented this. Happening to see Sherwood in the street in Chancery Lane, he began to cry "Stop the traitor" aloud. In this way he managed to have Thomas brought before a judge. [1]

Although there was no proof of any kind against him, he implicated himself by answering openly on the issue of the Queen's supremacy. Being examined before the Recorder as to his opinion of the bull of Pius V and as to whether an excommunicated queen held lawful sovereignty, he denied all knowledge of both Bull and excommunication, but expressed his opinion that if the queen were indeed excommunicated her rule could not be lawful. [1] Once he had been imprisoned in the Tower of London, and at the orders of the Privy Council, his lodgings were searched and a large sum of money, approximately 20-30 pounds, which Thomas had borrowed to help his sick father, was removed. The funds were confiscated.

Tower of London A historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London

The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard I, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.


Twice racked with a view to extracting details of houses where Mass was celebrated, Thomas kept silent. As a result, he was then thrown into a dungeon to rot, where he endured hunger and cold for three winter months. [3] As the cell was below the water line, as the Thames rose with the tide, rats would be driven into the dark chamber. The only concession that William Roper, Thomas More's son-in-law, could obtain was permission to supply him with straw to lie upon. [1] Roper sent money to Sherwood's jailer in order to purchase food, but the funds were returned as the Lieutenant would not allow Sherwood benefit of any alms. [4]

Rack (torture) torture device

The rack is a torture device consisting of a rectangular, usually wooden frame, slightly raised from the ground, with a roller at one or both ends. The victim's ankles are fastened to one roller and the wrists are chained to the other. As the interrogation progresses, a handle and ratchet mechanism attached to the top roller are used to very gradually retract the chains, slowly increasing the strain on the prisoner's shoulders, hips, knees, and elbows and inducing excruciating pain. By means of pulleys and levers this roller could be rotated on its own axis, thus straining the ropes until the sufferer's joints were dislocated and eventually separated. Additionally, if muscle fibres are stretched excessively, they lose their ability to contract, rendering them ineffective.

Mass (liturgy) type of worship service within many Christian denomination

Mass is a term used to describe the main eucharistic liturgical service in many forms of Western Christianity. The term Mass is commonly used in the Catholic Church and Anglican churches, as well as some Lutheran churches, Methodist, Western Rite Orthodox and Old Catholic churches.

William Roper English biographer of his father-in-law, Sir Thomas More

William Roper was an English lawyer and member of Parliament. The son of a Kentish gentleman, he married Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas More. He wrote a highly regarded biography of his father-in-law.

His story then finished with a hasty trial, and the inevitable sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering, carried out at Tyburn, where he was cut down while still alive. Sherwood was 27 years of age. [5]

Sherwood's mother, being repeatedly discovered at Mass, was intermittently imprisoned for a total of fourteen years. In the end, she died in prison, having exhausted whatever funds she had to provide for her maintenance. His brother, John, left for the continent, where he joined the Society of Jesus. [4]


He is said to have been a small man, witty, cheerful and loved by many. [4] He was beatified "equipollently" by Pope Leo XIII, by means of a decree of 29 December 1886.

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Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Bl. Thomas Sherwood"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton.