The relics of Blessed Nicholas Postgate are still here in our church.

Please take some time to visit and spend some time near the relics, you may wish to use the following prayer.

THE POSTGATE PRAYER  


O God who raised up the Glorious martyr
Blessed Nicholas Postgate to be an example for us
today, grant us the grace to walk in his ways
and gain the crown of the Blessed.
Grant us we pray, Almighty God, that we who
admire the courage of your martyrs’ glorious
confession of the Faith may witness in ourselves
the power of their loving intercession.
O God, who glorifies those who give you glory,
and are honoured in the valour of your Saints,
grant, we pray you, by the solemn judgement
of your Church, to glorify the Blood of
The Blessed’ Nicholas Postgate, and all those
Martyrs who were put to death in England and
Wales for the testimony of Jesus.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

THE LIFE OF NICHOLAS POSTGATE

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The England of Elizabeth I was both fearful and intolerant towards Catholics. The Pilgrimage of Grace, in 1568, which was an uprising of Catholics in the North was brutally put down. From 1585 “Jesuits, seminary priests and such other disobedient persons” were deemed to be guilty of treason, an offence punishable by hanging drawing and quartering. Despite this, pockets of the Catholic faith survived, often under the protection of local landed families who could protect those around them from some of the more severe legal penalties. Unusually, in the remote moorland areas of North Yorkshire – the Blackamoor – the faith survived among ordinary families who remained true to their Catholic heritage.

It was in this community that Nicholas Postgate was born about 1599 at Kirkdale House, not a great house but a humble cottage, probably near the river at Egton Bridge. Here Nicholas was brought up by parents who were noted by the authorities as “recusants”, those who would not conform to the Established Church. Possibly the young Nicholas was a member of the troupe of players who got themselves into trouble for their criticism of the establishment, as they “played popish plays up and down the County”.

Certainly we know that Nicholas Postgate entered the seminary at Douai, in Northern France in 1621, established by William Allen to train priests for the English Mission. He was ordained priest in 1628 and returned to England in 1630. He probably landed near home at Whitby and followed an established route via Grosmont into the Catholic community. His first responsibilities were in the relatively safe position of chaplain to Lady Hungate at Saxton, near Tadcaster. After her death he continued in his role as chaplain to Lady Dunbar , and in due course he was attached to the Meynell family at Kilvington,near Thirsk.

At the age of nearly 60 he returned to his native Blackamoor. From about 1660 he was living, at first under the protection of the Radcliffe family at Ugthorpe Old Hall, and then in a cottage, fragments of which survive, at The Hermitage. From here he ministered to a community which stretched from the sea over the moors to Pickering. This was to prove the most memorable and significant part of his priestly ministry. It seemed that the worst days of persecution were over. Mass was still celebrated secretly with signals being left out, such as sheets left to dry over the hedge, or hawthorne blossom in the window.


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The Mass House
The Mass House at Egton was an example of these secret places where Mass continued to be celebrated. Fr. Postgate’s chalice at Ugthorpe came into three pieces so that it could be secretly carried by the priest. His altar stone, a small slab of slate, preserved at Pickering is another example of the artefacts that  were carried by the priest to enable him to celebrate the Holy Mysteries.

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Often disguised as a gardener, and credited with introducing the daffodil to North Yorkshire, he cared for his scattered flock. It is not easy to keep secrets in a rural community and it would seem that it was well known amongst Catholics and many non Catholics that Nicholas Postgate was a priest.
This acceptance was undermined by the so called “Popish Plot” of 1678, a fictitious scare about a plot to kill the King and establish a Catholic government. An excise man by the name of John Reeves learned of the identity of Nicholas Postgate, and as the priest came to Redbarns at Littlebeck to baptise a child he was arrested. In due course he was taken to the magistrate at Brompton, and sent to the Assizes at York. Here the judge reluctantly found him guilty under the Act of 1585 against Jesuits and seminary priests. Nicholas Postgate was condemned to death. During his imprisonment it is said that he wrote the hymn, which is still sung. He was executed on the Knavesmire on 7th August 1679. In his final words he declared, he was dying for the Catholic Faith, not for any plot but for his religion. He asked the Sheriff, to assure the King that he had never at any time wronged his Majesty in any way whatsoever. He prayed God to grant the King grace and the light of truth, he then declared that he forgave all who had brought him to his death and asked forgiveness for himself from all.

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In 1685 King Charles II was reconciled to the Catholic Church, on his deathbed.

THE LEGACY OF NICHOLAS POSTGATE

Since his death Nicholas Postgate has remained an inspiration to the Catholic Community. It was to be over 100 years before the legal penalties against Catholics began to be removed. Although one of Fr.Postgate’s successors at Ugthorpe declared, “from the moors of Yorkshire Good Lord deliver us”, the Mass continued to be offered and the memory of Nicholas Postgate remained a source of strength. By 1768, despite the legal penalties a chapel and school were established at Ugthorpe, and a chapel was established at the Smith’s house, Bridgeholm, at Egton Bridge. A new chapel was built at Egton Bridge in 1790 and at Ugthorpe in 1810.

In these days there were not diocesan bishops, but Vicars Apostolic. For a brief period in the late eighteenth century Bishop Gibson, the Vicar Apostolic,for the Northern District lived at Ugthorpe. Bishop Briggs the last Vicar Apostolic, and from 1850 the first Bishop of Beverly was a benefactor of the new church built at Ugthorpe in 1855. His most significant gift was two chalices which had belonged to Fr. Postgate, which had eventually been entrusted to the Vicars Apostolic. This historical legacy brought Cardinal Wiseman, the first Archbishop of Westminster as a visitor to Ugthorpe, followed by his successor Cardinal Manning. It was part of what Blessed John Henry Newman called a “Second Spring” for the Church in England.

Cardinals have not been so plentiful across the moors since those days, but local devotion to the name of Nicholas Postgate remains. The road into Ugthorpe was named Postgate Way, by the local council. The Station Hotel at Egton Bridge is now known as The Postgate. The Postgate Rally, an open air Mass (weather permitting) has become an established feature of the Diocesan calendar. In recent years this has also become the occasion of a walk for vocations. August 7th is now observed as the Feast Day of Blessed Nicholas Postgate.

The cause for the canonisation of Nicholas Postgate has progressed so that in 1987 Pope John Paul  II declared him Blessed, among 85 martyrs of England and Wales.  The Postgate Society exists to promote this cause.
Blessed Nicholas Postgate Pray for Us.

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