Saint of the Day – 21 February – Blessed Thomas Pormort (c 1560-1592) Priest Martyr Born in c 1560 in Little Limber, Lincolnshire, England and died by being hanged on 20 February 1592 at Saint Paul’s Churchyard, London, England on a gibbet erected next to the shop of the man whose Confession he was accused of hearing. Also known as – Thomas or John Whitgift. Additional Memorials – 22 November as one of the Martyrs of England, Scotland, and Wales, 29 October as one of the Martyrs of Douai.
Thomas was probably related to the family of Pormort of Great Grimsby and Saltfletby, Lincolnshire.
After receiving some education at Cambridge, he went to Rheims on 15 January 1581 and on 20 March of the same year he travelled, to Rome, to study further for the Priesthood.
In 1587 he was Ordained in Rome. Thereafter, on 6 March 1587, he entered the household as a Secretary/Aid of the English Bishop Owen Lewis, Bishop of Cassano, Italy. He spent the next few years there. Later he served as prefect of studies in the Swiss College in Milan but then decided to return home to assist the persecuted English Catholics.
On 15 September 1590, Thomas proceeded his travels to return to England. Crossing the St Gotthard Pass, he reached Brussels around 29 November. There he became manservant to Mrs Geoffrey Pole, under the name of Whitgift, the Protestant Archbishop Whitgift being his Godfather. With her as a ‘cover’ he went to Antwerp, to proceed to Flushing and thence to England.
Less than a year later, on St James’ Day,25 July 1591, he was arrested in London and charged with the crime of being a Priest. Although he was able to escape, in August or September of 1591, he was arrested again and committed to Bridewell Palace, whence he was removed to Richard Topcliffe’s house and subjected to inhuman tortures, being repeatedly racked and sustaining a rupture in consequence. Richard Topcliffe was a notorious ‘Priest Hunter and Torturer.’
At the hearing, on 8 February 1592 he was convicted of high treason and condemned to death, for being a Priest and for reconciling John Barwys, a local haberdasher, to the Catholic Church and of hearing his Confession. At the hearing, Thomas accused Topcliffe of having boasted to him of indecent familiarities with the Queen, Elizabeth I. Hence Topcliffe obtained a decree to the sheriff to proceed with the execution. His Uncle, Archbishop Whitgift endeavoured to delay the sentence but without success.
The gibbet was erected against the haberdasher’s shop and Thomas was kept standing for two hours on the ladder, while Topcliffe vainly urged him to withdraw his accusation
Thomas was Beatified along with the 40 Martyrs of England, Scotland and Wales.