Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Oldcorne, Edward

OLDCORNE, EDWARD (1561–1606), jesuit, who usually passed by the name of Hall, was born at York in 1561, being the son of John Oldcorne, a bricklayer of that city. He was intended for the medical profession, but, having a vocation for the priesthood, he crossed over to France, and after studying for some time is the English College at Rheims, he was sent in 1582 to the English College at Rome, where he received holy orders in August 1587. On 16 Aug. 1588 he and John Gerard (1564-1637) [q. v.] were admitted into the Society of Jesus by the father-general Claudius Aquaviva, and five or six weeks later they were sent to England in company with two secular priests, and landed on the Norfolk coast. Oldcorne was employed for some time in London by Father Henry Garnett [q. v.], superior of the English Jesuits, whom he afterwards accompanied to Warwickshire. In February or March 1588-1589 Garnett placed him at Hindlip Hall, near Worcester, the seat of the ancient catholic family of Habington. There he resided for sixteen years, labouring jealously as a missioner, and making many converts. After the discovery of the gunpowder plot, Humphrey Littleton, who had been imprisoned on a charge of harbouring some of the conspirators, sought to save his own life by informing the privy council that Oldcorne was at Hindlip, and that Garnett also would probably he found there. Garnett and Oldcorne were arrested there, brought to London and imprisoned, first in the Gatehouse, and afterwards in the Tower [see Garnett, Henry]. Oldcorne was put to the torture, but he persistently denied all knowledge of the plot. On 21 March 1605-6 he was sent from the Tower to Worcester, where he was arraigned at the Lent assizes. The charges brought against him were, first, that he had invited Garnett, a denounced traitor, to lie concealed at Hindlip; secondly, that he had written to Father Robert Jones in Herefordshire to aid in concealing two of the conspirators, thus making himself an accomplice; and, thirdly, that he had approved the plot as a good action, although it failed of effect. He was found guilty of high treason, and on 7 April 1606 he was drawn on a hurdle to Redhill, near Worcester, and there hanged, disembowelled, and quartered. Littleton, who suffered at the same time, publicly asked pardon of God for having wrongfully accused Oldcorne of the conspiracy. Oldcorne's head and quarters were set up in different parts of Worcester, and it is related that 'his heart and bowels were cast into the fire, which continued sending forth a lively flame for sixteen days, notwithstanding the rains that fell during that time, which was look'd upon as a prodigy, and a testimony of his innocence' (Challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests, ed. 1742, ii. 488). His portrait was engraved by Bouttats, and Bromley was told there was a print of him by Pass.

[Bromley's Cat. of Engr. Portraits, p. 54; Challoner's Memoirs of Missionary Priests, 1742, ii. 15, 476, 485; Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 415; Douay Diaries, p. 434; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 5th ed. ii. 83; Foley's Records, iv. 202, vi. 154, vii. 558; Jardine's Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot, pp. 181, 182, 188, 200, 210; London and Dublin Orthodox Journal, 1836, ii. 405; More's Hist. Provinciæ Anglicanæ S. J. p. 332; Morris's Condition of Catholics under James I, p. 272; Morris's Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, i. 163, 166, 191, ii. 496, iii. 113, 279; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, p. 151; Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 1603–10, p. 736; Tanner's Societas Jesu usque ad Sanguinis et Vitæ profusionem militans, p. 60; Winwood's Memorials, ii. 206.]

T. C.