Richard Sergeant

Richard Sergeant was born into a wealthy Gloucestershire family in the late 1550's.  He was probably born at Stone, an area served from a chapel of ease in the parish of Berkeley.  That a family named Sergeant was living there about this time is evident from a will in the Gloucestershire records Office of a 'Thomas Sargeant Esquyer' dated 25th January 1565.  An earlier mention of the Sergeant family occurs in the rental book compiled by Robert Cole, an Augustinian canon of Llanthony Priory in 1455.  Like many other priests in penal times, Richard Sergeant used an alias on different occasions, being also known as 'Lee' and 'Long'.

He obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts at Oxford on 20th February 1571.  Nothing more is known of him until ten years later when he entered the English college at Rheims on 25th July 1581.  Receiving the subdiaconate on 14th April 1582 and the diaconate on 9th June following, he was ordained priest at Laon on 7th April 1583 and said his first Mass two weeks later.  On September 10th, in the same year, he left for England.

Three years later we hear of his arrest and imprisonment with Fr. William Thomson in Newgate.  Their trial was held at the Old Bailey, London on 18th April 1586 when they were charged under the statute of 1585.

Richard Sergeant and his companion were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 20th April 1586.  According to the Records of the University of Oxford it was witnessed by John Gerard, S.J., but no further details are given.

Although the accounts of both the London and Middlesex Sessions contain no reference to the trial, there are some documents which do:

1.         'In the sessions of oier and terminer at Justice Hall in the Old Bayle the xviii of Aprile 1586..... Rishard Lea alias Longe made priest at Laon in Fraunce as afforesayd and remayning here in this realme after the tearme aforesayd was then condemned for treason.'

(Excerpts from the 'notes concerning the trials of certain Catholic priests', Harleian MS 360)

2.         'The eighteenth of Aprill (1586) in the Assizes holden at London in the Justice Hall, William Thomson alias Blackborne made a priest at Rhemes, and Richard Lea alias Long made a priest at Lions (Laon) in Fraunce, and remaining here contrary to the Statute, were both condemned, and on the 20th day of April drawne to Tyborne and there hanged, bowelled and quartered.

(Excerpt from Stow's 'Annals of England' 1605)

In addition to these Protestant sources, Fr Robert Parsons S.J. writing two months after the execution of Sergeant and Thomson, says 'they joyfully and with wonderful constancy died confessing in a loud voice and with cheerful countenance the Catholic Faith and in particular the Primacy of the Apostolic See'.  Parsons adds that they resolutely refused the pardon which was offered them on condition that 'they give way this last point regarding the Pope'.

D Cottam – transcribed from Gethen Sept 2013.