St John Houghton St Robert Lawrence


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Beauvale Priory

This photograph taken in 2010 shows the beautiful rolling Nottinghamshire countryside in which Beauvale Priory is situated. Larger pictures of Beauvale Priory in 2010 HERE.

Coat of Arms Coat of Arms

ABOVE: Here is the Coat of Arms of Sir Nicholas de Cantilupe, Lord of Ilkeston, Baron of Greasley, and benefactor of Beauvale Priory. The right hand picture (taken in recent times in Sherwood Forest) shows how Sir Nicholas may have looked in battle gear on behalf of Kings Edward II and Edward III.
BELOW: The tomb of Sir Nicholas in Lincoln Cathedral.
These three pictures are reproduced with the kind permission of Nicholas Jackson of Team Falchion (14th Century medieval history and re-enactment). You may find out more about Sir Nicholas de Cantilupe on the Team Falchion website HERE.

Tomb of Sir Nicholas de Cantilupe
Monk at Beauvale Priory

This photograph taken from Marie Roberts' booklet (more details HERE) shows a monk delivering food to the cell of another monk. The cells were sparsely furnished, containing a bed with a straw mattress, a prayer bench and table and chair. The monks prayed silently for many hours alone in their cells.

St Bruno

St Bruno (above, and below at the feet of Pope Urban II) reproduced with the kind permission of Prayers for and information about St Bruno on the Roman Breviary website HERE.

St Bruno
St John Houghton

ABOVE: St John Houghton. BELOW: St Robert Lawrence. We understand these images are no longer subject to copyright. They are taken from The Black Cordelias website. On that website, to find out more about St John Houghton CLICK and about St Robert Lawrence CLICK.

St Robert Lawrence

The image above has kindly been sent for use on this website by Bernard G J Hall of the Confraternity of Ss. Peter & Paul (website HERE). Bernard says of the picture; "An image you may want to use is that of the Blessed Trinity which hangs over the high altar of the chapel at the English College in Rome. The students back in the 1500s used to gather around that picture and sing a Te Deum every time word reached Rome of another martyrdom over in England."

For "The Breaking of the Storm", a picture depicting the scene shortly before the martyrdom, (on this website), CLICK.

Beauvale Priory and the Martyrs:

Beauvale Priory

Beauvale was the third Carthusian Priory to be founded in England in 1343. It is situated in beautiful countryside which befits its title. Although only the ruins remain, it is still a picturesque site.

Sir Nicholas de Cantelupe, Lord of the Manor of Greasley, obtained permission from Edward III to found and finance a Priory accommodating a prior and twelve monks of the Carthusian Order in his park at Greasley. The Foundation Charters were witnessed and signed in 1343 by many eminent guests of Sir Nicholas, including the Archbishop of York who was his cousin, the Bishops of Durham, Lincoln and Litchfield, the Earls of Derby, Northampton and Huntingdon, Sir John Grey, Sir William Deincourt and Sir William de Grey of Sandiacre. Also present were William, son and heir of Sir Nicholas and his grandson, another Nicholas. Mentioned in the charters were Edward III, Nichalas' wife Joan, his deceased wife Tiphany and his parents and ancestors.

The Charterhouse was dedicated to God, the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The monks were granted 300 acres of land and further land and properties generating rents in the villages of Greasley and Selston. Later Charters added further to their properties.

Sir Nicholas had already “builded for them” temporary shelter in his park lands at his own cost and promised to build at his own cost a 'fit church and houses sufficient for a prior and twelve monks' with an endowment to the value of £100 per year. He also gave them permission to quarry stone from his land and marl for marling or fertilising their land.

Life was tranquil for 200 years with little contact with the outside world. The Beauvale Priory was far from being prosperous and the monks struggled to survive. The Carthusians were known as Christ's poor men.

This comparative peaceful lifestyle was disrupted with the upheaval of the Reformation.

Beauvale is distinguished by two of its priors, St John Houghton & St Robert Lawrence, who were the first martyrs of the Reformation.

Carthusian Lifestyle

The Carthusian Order was formed in 1084 by St Bruno. It followed the Benedictine Rule but it differed from most other orders in that the monks led a hermetical lifestyle, living in individual cells apart from communal worship. St Bruno insisted that the order was purely contemplative. The order was very strict, and the monks were greatly respected for their austere way of life. Their days were spent in silent prayer, silence being observed at all times. Their diet was barely adequate with long periods of fasting. Although the rules on fasting have been revised, still today the Carthusians lead a spartan life. Today the order is represented in England by St Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster in Surrey. This was built in c1876.

Contemplative Orders

The contemplative life is not for the faint hearted or for those seeking only to escape from the 'real world'.

It entails giving your whole life to God and an absolute belief in the power of prayer.


Beauvale Priory should correctly be named Beauvale Charterhouse. In England charterhouses take their name from the site of the first Carthusian site at Chartreuse (France) the name being derived from the French term, 'isolated country house'.

St Bruno

St Bruno was born in Cologne in Germany around 1030, although he was French in both 'temperament and upbringing'. After many years as a priest he retreated to a remote valley in the Alps near Grenoble, where, with a few companions, he lived in hermetical community. His solitude was ended when he was summoned to Rome to be confessor to pope Urban. Bruno eventually returned to his preferred way of life and began a second hermit community in Calabria where he stayed until his death in 1101.

More information on St Bruno may be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia HERE.

St John Houghton

John Houghton was born in Essex in 1487. Educated at Cambridge University, John graduated with degrees in civil and Canon law in around 1506. Against his parents’ wishes, he was ordained and served as a parish priest for four years.

He soon felt drawn to the Carthusian order and entered the Carthusian novitiate in London where he was professed in c. 1516. He served as sacristan until 1531 when he became Prior of Beauvale. However, after only six months, he returned as Prior of the London Charterhouse just before the storm of the Reformation broke in England.

John was known for his holiness, love of the Divine Office, self-discipline, and firm but sensible handling of those working under him in the Order.

St Robert Lawrence

Little is known of Robert Lawrence apart from the details of his death. His birthplace is unknown although it is believed that he could have come from a Dorset family. He may have served as chaplain to the Duke of Norfolk and is likely to have spent time as a monk at the London Charterhouse. He succeeded John Houghton as Prior of Beauvale in 1531.

The Reformation

The problem caused by King Henry VIII’s efforts to achieve a lawful marriage to Ann Boleyn led to a complete break with Rome, as the Pope would not sanction a divorce with Catherine of Aragon. In 1534, all clergy were required to sign the Act of Succession declaring that Henry’s marriage to Anne was lawful and that her children would be the rightful heirs to the throne. On refusing to sign, John Houghton, with some of his fellow monks, was detained in the Tower of London for a month. He then agreed to take the oath with the compromise clause, “as far as the law of Christ allows” added. He realised, however, that this was merely a respite. By February 1535 all loopholes were closed as Parliament declared that everyone had to take the Oath of Supremacy, declaring Henry to be Supreme head of the Church of England. Refusal to do so was an act of treason.

Prior Robert Lawrence together with Prior Augustine Webster of Axholme in Lincolnshire travelled to London to discuss events with Prior John Houghton. Following three days of prayer, they contacted Thomas Cromwell to seek exemption from having to take the oath for themselves and the monks under them, but were denied outright and thrown into the Tower of London. Brought to trial in April 1535, the jury, after much persuasion from Cromwell, reluctantly found the three men guilty of treason.

They were to be executed at Tyburn, along with two others who refused to sign the Oath of Supremacy, on 4th May 1535. Their departure was witnessed by Thomas More, himself imprisoned in the Tower. He remarked to his daughter, “Lo, dost thou not see Meg, that these blessed fathers be now as cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms to their marriage?” They were tied on hurdles and dragged through the streets to Tyburn.

John Houghton, the first to face the scaffold, was offered a pardon if he denied the Pope’s authority. He addressed the crowd, forgave his executioner and requested time to pray. After reciting the first six verses of Psalm 30, he was hung, drawn and quartered. His last words as his entrails were torn out were, “O most holy Jesus, have mercy on me in this hour” and as his heart was pulled from him, “Good Jesu, what will you do with my heart?” His body was then decapitated and quartered before being plunged in a cauldron of burning pitch to preserve the body as a warning to others. The others died with equal bravery.


On 25th October 1970 these pro-martyrs together with 37 other English Martyrs of the Reformation were canonised. St John Houghton and St Robert Lawrence’s feast days are observed on May 4th, the anniversary of their martyrdom.

Read a more detailed account of Beauvale Priory and the Martyrs in Marie Roberts' booklet. Full details HERE.