June 30 – Thomas Whitbread

June 30, 2022

Ven. Thomas Whitbread


Born in Essex, 1618; martyred at Tyburn, 30 June, 1679. He was educated at St. Omer’s, and entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus on 7 September, 1635. Coming upon the English mission in 1647, he laboured for more than thirty years, mostly in the eastern counties. On 8 December, 1652, he was professed of the four vows. Twice he was superior of the Suffolk District, once of the Lincolnshire District, and finally in 1678 he was declared provincial. In this capacity he refused to admit Titus Oates as member of the Society, and shortly afterwards the celebrated plot was fabricated. Father Whitbread was arrested in London on Michaelmas Day, 1678, but was so ill that he could not be moved to Newgate till three months later.

St Giles in the Fields, memorial to seven Jesuit priests buried in the churchyard. Installed January 2019. Carved by Philip Surey. Photo by AndyScott.

He was first indicted at the Old Bailey, 17 December, 1678, but, the evidence against him and his companions breaking down, he was remanded and kept in prison till 13 June, 1679; later, he was again indicted, and with four other fathers was found guilty on the perjured evidence of Oates, Bedloe, and Dugdale (see BARROW, WILLIAM, VENERABLE; the others were Fathers Fenwick, Gavin, and Turner). After the execution the remains of the martyrs were buried in St. Giles’s in the Fields. Father Whitbread wrote “Devout Elevation of the Soul to God” and two short poems, “To Death” and “To his Soul”, which are printed in “The Remonstrance of Piety and Innocence”.

The Remonstrance of Piety and Innocence (London, 1683); TANNER, Brevis relatio felicis agonis (Prague, 1683); Florus Anglo-Bavaricus (Liege, 1685); Tryals and condemnation of Thomas White alias Whitbread (London, 1879); SMITH in CORBETT, State Trials, VII; FOLEY, Coll. Eng. Prov. S. J. V, VII (London, 1879- 1883), ii, and all works dealing with the Oates Plot; COOPER in Nat. Biog., s. v. Harcourt, Thomas.

Edwin Burton (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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