Cottam, Thomas (DNB00)

COTTAM, THOMAS (1549–1582), jesuit, was a native of Lancashire, being son of Laurence Cottam, gentleman, of Dilworth and Tarnaker, by his wife Anne, daughter of Mr. Brewer, or Brewerth, of Brindle, who after her husband's death married William Ambrose, gentleman, of Ambrose Hall in Woodplumpton (Gillow, Bibl. Dict. of the English Catholics, i. 575). He entered at Brasenose College (B.A. 23 March 1568–9; M.A. 14 July 1572), and on the completion of his academical studies he undertook the direction of a noted free grammar school in London (Dodd, Church Hist. ii. 116). He was converted to the Roman catholic faith by Thomas Pounde, esq., of Belmont (afterwards a jesuit), and proceeded to Douay College, where he studied philosophy and theology for some years (Morus, Hist. Missionis Anglicanæ Soc. Jesu, p. 127). Ardently desiring to take part in the mission to the East Indies, he left Douay for Rome, where he received the two lower sacred orders, was admitted to the Society of Jesus, and entered the novitiate of St. Andrew on 8 April 1579 (Foley, Records, ii. 148). In the sixth month of his noviceship he was attacked by violent fever, and was sent by his superiors to Lyons for change of air, but the sickness increasing, he appeared unfit for the society, and therefore was dismissed from the novitiate (Challoner, Missionary Priests, ed. 1741, i. 103). Cottam then went to the English college of Douay, then temporarily removed to Rheims, was ordained priest, and sent to England on the mission. On his arrival at Dover in June 1580, he was immediately arrested, having been betrayed by a spy named Sledd. Eventually he was committed to the Marshalsea prison, where he was tortured, and thence he was removed on Christmas day to the Tower of London, where he underwent the most terrible tortures of the rack and the ‘Scavenger's Daughter’ (Tanner, Societas Jesu usque ad sanguinis et vitæ profusionem militans, pp. 18, 19; Foley, Records, ii. 159).

On 14 Nov. 1581 he was arraigned at Westminster Hall with Father Edmund Campion and others, and condemned to death on account of his priestly character (Howell, State Trials, i. 1078); Simpson, Life of Campion, p. 281 et seq.). His execution was deferred for state reasons until 13 May 1582, when he was drawn on a hurdle from Newgate to Tyburn, with his companions William Filbie, Luke Kirby, and Laurence Richardson, priests, and was hanged, disembowelled, and quartered (Historia del glorioso Martirio di diciotto Sacerdoti macerati, 1585, p. 149). It is said that he was readmitted to the Society of Jesus shortly before his execution. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 29 Dec. 1886.

His portrait has been engraved (Granger, Biog. Hist. of England, ed. 1824, i. 274).

[Authorities cited above.]

T. C.