John Boste

JOHN BOSTE c.1544 – 1594

Saint John Boste  was born in Dufton, Westmorland (now Cumbria) 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 in 1572. Two years later he was back in Appleby, to become the first headmaster of Appleby Grammar. He converted to Catholicism in 1576, left England and was ordained a priest at Reims in March 1581.

Boste returned to England in April 1581, landing in Hartlepool. He worked as a missionary priest in Northern England. His activities were largely centred around Brancepeth Castle, owned by Lady Margaret Neville. He was a very effective missionary and the authorities were eager to capture him. In January 1584 the Privy Council ordered Lord Scrope (Warden of the Western Marches), to take energetic measures for his arrest. Lord Huntingdon called Boste, “the great stag of the North”.

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

While leaving a clandestine Mass held at Waterhouses 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 house at Waterhouses, Boste was discovered in a priest hole behind the fireplace. 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 the 24th July 1594 (on the site of St. Leonard’s Catholic School).  Boste denied that he was a traitor saying, “My function is to invade souls, not to meddle in temporal invasions”.  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 butchered. His limbs were hung on the castle walls and head displayed on a pole on Framwellgate Bridge but removed that night by an unknown person.

John Boste was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929 and was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Their joint feast day is the 4th May. His memorial is kept on the day of his execution, the 24th July. St. John Boste R.C. Primary School (Washington) is named after him.