Margaret Ward

MARGARET WARD c.1550-1588

 

 St. Margaret Ward, the “pearl of Tyburn”, was an English Catholic martyr executed during the reign of Elizabeth I for assisting a priest to escape from prison. She was canonized in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Margaret Ward was born in CongletonCheshire c.1550. She was living in London in service when she learned of the severe maltreatment of Richard Watson, a priest confined at Bridewell Prison. She obtained permission to visit and was searched before and after early visits, but gradually the authorities became less cautious.  She managed to smuggle a rope into the prison. Fr. Watson escaped, but hurt himself in so doing, and left the rope hanging from the window. The boatman whom Ward had engaged to convey him down the river refused to carry out the bargain. Ward confided in another boatman, John Roche, who undertook to assist her. He provided a boat and exchanged clothes with the priest. Fr. Watson escaped, but Roche was captured in his place, and Ward, having been Fr. Watson’s only visitor, was also arrested.

Margaret Ward was kept in irons for eight days, was hung up by the hands, and scourged, but absolutely refused to disclose the priest’s whereabouts. At her trial, she admitted to having helped Fr. Watson to escape, and rejoiced in, “having delivered an innocent lamb from the hands of those bloody wolves”. She was offered a pardon if she would attend a Protestant service, but refused. She was hanged at Tyburn on 30 August 1588.

Her feast day, along with all the other English Martyrs, is on the 4th May. However, in the Catholic dioceses of England, she shares a feast day with fellow female martyr saints, Margaret Clitherow and Margaret Ward on the 30th August.  The saint is depicted in panels in Ushaw College (Durham), St Joseph’s (Sale), and St Alban’s (Wallasey). There are several schools named after her, including St Margaret Ward Catholic Academy in ChellStaffordshire, which counts the singer Robbie Williams among its alumni.