Dictionary of National Biography – James Bell

statue of Blessed James Bell, date and artist unknown; Saint Werburgh's Church, Birkenhead, England; photographed on 12 October 2015 by Kitgehrke; swiped from Wikipedia CommonsArticle

Bell, James (1524-1584), Catholic priest, born at Warrington in Lancashire, in 1524, was educated at Oxford, where he was ordained priest in Queen Mary’s reign. For some time he refused to conform to the alterations in religion made by Queen Elizabeth; but afterwards, adopting the tenets of the Reformation, he exercised the functions of a minister of the church of England for twenty years, and was beneficed in several parts of the kingdom. In 1581 he applied to a lady to solicit her good offices to procure for him a small readership, of which her husband was the patron. This lady, being a catholic, upbraided him with his cowardice, and exhorted him to lead a life in accordance with his sacred profession. Moved by her words he sought reconciliation with the catholic church, and laboured zealously as a priest for two years among the poorer class of Catholics. In January 1583-4 he was apprehended by a pursuivant, and was brought to trial at the Lent assizes at Lancaster. He behaved with great courage, and on being convicted said to the judge: ‘I beg your lordship would add to the sentence that my lips and the tops of my fingers may be cut off for having sworn and subscribed to the articles of heretics, contrary both to my conscience and to God’s truth.’ He was executed at Lancaster on 20 April 1584. John Finch, a layman, suffered at the same time and place for being reconciled to the catholic church, and denying the queen’s spiritual supremacy.

MLA Citation

  • Thompson Cooper. “James Bell”. Dictionary of National Biography, 1890. CatholicSaints.Info. 31 December 2019. Web. 29 July 2021. <>