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Saint John Boste (c. 1544 – 24 July 1594) is a saint in the Catholic Church, and one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Saint John Boste
Forty Martyrs of England and Wales
Died(1594-07-24)24 July 1594
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified1929, Rome by Pope Pius XI
Canonized1970 by Pope Paul VI
Feast24 July


John Boste was born in Dufton, Westmorland around 1544, the son of Nicholas Boste, landowner of Dufton and Penrith and Janet Hutton, of Hutton Hall, Penrith. He was educated at Appleby Grammar School and Queen's College, Oxford, where he took B.A. and M.A. degrees, and became a Fellow of his college in 1572. Two years later he was back in Appleby, to become the first headmaster under the Charter of Queen Elizabeth. He converted to Catholicism in 1576. He left England and was ordained a priest at Reims in March 1581.[1]

Boste returned to England in April 1581, landing in Hartlepool and made his way to East Anglia. Arriving in London, he posed as a servant a conforming Catholic household of Lord Montacute before returning north. He worked as a missionary priest in Northern England, often accompanied by John Speed. His activities were largely centered around Brancepeth Castle, owned by Lady Margaret Neville. An effective missionary, the authorities were eager to capture him. In January 1584 the Privy Council ordered Lord Scrope, Warden of the Western Marshes, to take energetic measures for his arrest. The house of Boste's brother Laurence was searched. Lord Huntingdon called Boste, "the great stag of the North".[2]

Father Boste appears to have been in the vicinity of Carlisle in December and January, before going to Northumberland in early 1584.[3] Boste evaded arrest for ten year but was betrayed to the authorities near Durham in 1593 by former Catholic Francis Egglesfield.[4]

While leaving a clandestine Mass held at the Waterhouse on the Neville estate, Egglesfield asked the priest for a blessing. When Boste complied, this served as a signal to the militia observing nearby. As they stormed the Waterhouse, Boste was discovered in a priest hole behind the fireplace.[4] Following his arrest he was taken to the Tower of London for interrogation on the rack by Richard Topcliffe. Returned to Durham he was condemned by the Assizes and hanged, drawn and quartered at nearby Dryburn on 24 July 1594. This is now the site of St. Leonard's school. Boste denied that he was a traitor saying "My function is to invade souls, not to meddle in temporal invasions".[5] Boste recited the Angelus while mounting the ladder, and was executed with extraordinary brutality; for he was scarcely turned off the ladder when he was cut down, so that he stood on his feet semi-conscious, and in that posture was cruelly butchered.[1] His limbs were hung on the castle walls, head displayed on a pole on Framwellgate Bridge, but removed that night by someone unknown.


John Boste was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929. He was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Their joint feast day is kept on 4 May. His memorial is kept on the day of his execution, 24 July.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Camm, Bede. "St. John Boste." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 28 March 2016
  2. ^ "Saint John Boste", English Martyrs Parish, Derby
  3. ^ "The Pursuit of John Boste", Catholic Records Society, 1908
  4. ^ a b Dufferwiel, Martin. Durham: Over 1,000 Years of History and Legend, Random House, 2011 ISBN 9781780573946
  5. ^ Duffy, Patrick. "The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales", Catholic Ireland
  6. ^ "Martirologio", Vatican

External linksEdit