John Houghton, a native of Essex, after serving God devoutly as a secular priest for four years, at the age of twenty-eight entered the Carthusian Order. Both during his novitiate and afterwards he was considered a model of obedience, humility, mortification, and every religious Reynolds virtue. After filling various important offices, he was at length made Prior of the Charter-House in London, and held this influential position, when he was required, according to the recent Act of Parliament, to renounce, without reserve, the spiritual jurisdiction of the Pope.
The three holy Priors, Blessed Augustine Webster, Blessed Robert Lawrence and Blessed John Houghton held a conference as to what was best to be done at so critical a moment, and resolved to go together to Cromwell, the King’s Vicar-General, to represent their sincere loyalty, but to petition to be exempted from an exaction which their conscience could not bear. They were received by this man with the greatest harshness. He would hear of no exemption, no alteration in the terms of the oath. “What do I care for the Church?” he said. “Will you take the oath or not?” On their refusal, they were straightway committed to a severe imprisonment in the Tower, and brought to trial on the 29th April.
The charge against the five Martyrs, Blessed John Houghton, Blessed Robert Lawrence, Blessed Augustine Webster, Blessed Richard Reynolds and Blessed John Haile, was one and the same, and was clearly expressed “that they had said the King, our sovereign lord, is not supreme head on earth of the Church of England”. The jury showed great reluctance to convict these holy men of such a crime as high treason, but at last yielded to threats of Cromwell, who told them that if they refused they should themselves suffer the death of traitors. On the 4th May, the Martyrs were dragged on hurdles from the Tower to Tyburn, and persevered to the end with admirable constancy. Prior Houghton called God to witness that it was purely for conscience that he had to suffer, and with most pious sentiments resigned his soul to God. Lawrence showed equal firmness, and expressly refused a pardon, offered on condition of his taking the oath. Their example was faithfully followed by their brother in Religion, Augustine Webster. In the case of Reynolds, great efforts were made at the trial to seduce him from his Faith; but all were in vain, and he appealed to the doctrine of the Church in all ages, in refutation of the new teaching established by Act of Parliament. The particulars of the case of John Haile are not known, but his glorious death proves that he, too, was faithful to the end.
The sentence for high treason was executed with all its horrors, the butchery and the quartering being commenced before the holy Martyrs had expired. Thus began that long series of persecutions for the Faith of Christ, even unto death, which was to be continued, with little intermission, during the space of 150 years.
- Father Richard Stanton. “Blessed John Houghton, Martyr”. , 1887. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 April 2015. Web. 25 October 2016. <>