Northampton, Diocese of (NORTANTONIENSIS), in England, comprises the Counties of Northampton, Bedford, Buckingham, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Norfolk, and Suffolk, mainly composed of agricultural districts and fenlands, where Catholics are comparatively few (see, in article England. Map of the Ecclesiastical Province of Westminster). The number of secular priests is 70, of regular 18, of chapels and stations, 73, and of Catholics, 13,308 (1910). Among the more important religious orders are the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Carmelites, and the Jesuits. Of convents the most notable are those of the Benedictines at East Bergholt, the Sisters of Notre Dame at Northampton and Norwich, the Sisters of Jesus and Mary at Ipswich, the Poor Sisters of Nazareth at Northampton, and the Dames Bernardines at Slough, who at their own expense built a fine church for that parish. The principal towns are Norwich, Ipswich, and Cambridge, the university town where, according to tradition, St. Simon Stock, of the Order of Carmel, received the brown scapular from Our Lady. The Decorated Gothic Catholic church at Cambridge, one of the most beautiful in the kingdom (consecrated in 1890), is dedicated to Our Lady and the English Martyrs. It is the gift of Mrs. Lyne Stephens of Lynford Hall, Nor-folk. Norwich possesses one of the grandest Catholic churches in England, built by the munificence of the present Duke of Norfolk in the Transitional Norman style, after the designs of Sir Gilbert Scott, and completed in 1910. The cathedral at Northampton is a commodious but unpretentious building designed by the younger Pugin. The first Bishop of Northampton, William Wareing, had been Vicar Apostolic of the Eastern District before the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy; he resigned the see in 1858, and died in 1865. His successor, Francis Kerril Amherst, was consecrated July 4, 1858, and resigned in 1879, the see being occupied the following year by Arthur Riddell, who d. September 15, 1907. The present Bishop of Northampton (1910), Frederick William Keating, b. at Birmingham, June 13, 1859, was consecrated February 25, 1908.
Northampton was the scene of the last stand made by St. Thomas of Canterbury against the arbitrary conduct of Henry II. Bury St. Edmund’s, anciently so renowned as the place where the body of St. Edmund, King and Martyr, was enshrined and venerated as well as for its Benedictine abbey, has become familiar to the modern reader mainly through Carlyle’s “Past and Present,” in the pages of which Abbot Samson (1135-1211), the hero of Jocelin‘s Chronicle, occupies the central position. The Isle of Ely and St. Etheldreda are famous in English ecclesiastical history. Canute, King of England, was accustomed to row or skate across the fens each year to be present on the Feast of the Purification at the Mass in the Abbey Church of Ely, and Thomas Eliensis ascribes to him the well-known lines beginning, “Sweetly sang the monks of Ely”. At Walsingham, also in this diocese, only ruins are now left of a shrine which, in the Middle Ages, was second only to the Holy House of Loreto, of which it was a copy. Many great names of the Reformation period are connected with the district covered by the Diocese of Northampton. Catherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton and was buried at Peter-borough, where the short inscription, “Queen Catherine”, upon a stone slab marks her resting-place. From Framlingham Castle, the ruins of which are still considerable, Queen Mary Tudor set out, on the death of Edward VI, to contest with Lady Jane Grey her right to the throne. At Ipswich, the birthplace of Cardinal Wolsey, is still to be seen the gateway of the College built by him. At Fotheringay, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded (1587), and at Wisbech Castle, where so many missionary priests, during penal times, were imprisoned, William Watson, the last but one of the Marian bishops, died, a prisoner for the Faith (1584). Sir Henry Bedingfeld, the faithful follower of Queen Mary and the gentle “Jailor of the Princess Elizabeth“, is associated with this diocese through Oxburgh Hall, his mansion, still occupied by another Sir Henry Bedingfield, his direct descendant. The Pastons of Paston are memorable in connection with the celebrated “Paston Letters”. Many of the priests who suffered death under the penal laws belonged to the districts now included in the Diocese of Northampton, in particular, Henry Heath, born, 1600, at Peterborough; Venerable Henry Walpole, S.J., (d. 1595), a native of Norfolk, and Venerable Robert Southwell, S.J., (1560-95), the Catholic poet, also born in Norfolk. In more recent times Bishop Milner was connected with the preservation of the Faith in this part of England. Alban Butler, the hagiographer, was born in Northamptonshire and was resident priest at Norwich from 1754-56. Dr. Husenbeth resided for some years at Cossey, where he is buried (see Frederick Charles Husenbeth). Father Ignatius Spencer, the Passionist, son of Earl Spencer, and formerly Rector of Brington, was received into the Catholic Church at Northampton, and Faber, the Oratorian, held the Anglican living of Elton, Huntingdonshire, before his conversion.