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Ven. George Nichols
English martyr, born at Oxford about 1550; executed at Oxford, 19 October, 1589. He entered Brasenose College in 1564 or 1565, and was readmitted 20 August, 1567, and supplicated for his B.A. degree in 1570-1. He subsequently became an usher at St. Paul's School, London. He arrived at Reims with Thomas Pilehard (q.v.), 20 Nov., 1581; but went on to Rome, whence he returned 21 July, 1582. Ordained subdeacon and deacon at Laon (probably by Bishop Valentine Douglas, O.S.B.) in April, 1583, and priest at Reims by Cardinal Archbishop Louis de Guise) 24 Sept., he was sent on the mission the same year. Having converted many, notably a convicted highwayman in Oxford Castle, he was arrested at the Catherine Wheel Inn, opposite the east end of St. Mary Magdalen's Church, Oxford, together with Humphrey Prichard, a Welsh servant at the inn, Thomas Belson (q.v.), and Richard Yaxley. This last was a son (probably the third, certainly not the sixth) of William Yaxley of Boston, Lincolnshire, by Rose, daughter of John Langton of Northolme. Arriving at Reims 29 August, 1582, he received the tonsure and minor orders 23 Sept., 1583, and the subdiaconate 5 or 6 April, 1585, from the cardinal archbishop. Probably the same hand conferred the diaconate on 20 April. The priesthood was conferred at Reims by Louis de Breze, Bishop of Meaux, 21 Sept., 1585. Yaxley left Reims for England 28 January, 1585-86. All four prisoners were sent from Oxford to the Bridewell prison in London, where the two priests were hanged up for five hours to make them betray their hosts, but without avail. Yaxley was sent to the Tower as a close prisoner 25 May, 1589, and appears to have been racked frequently. Belson was sent to the Gatehouse. The other two remained in Bridewell, Nichols being put into a deep dungeon full of venomous vermin . On 30 June all four were ordered back to Oxford to take their trial. All were condemned, the priests for treason, the laymen for felony. Nichols suffered first, then Yaxley, then Belson, and last Prichard. The priests heads were set up on the castle, and their quarters on the four city gates.
CHALLONER, Memoirs of Missionary Priests, I. Nos, 73-75; POLLEN, Catholic Record Society, V. (London, 1908), passim; DASENT, Acts of the Privy Council, XVII (London, 1890- 1907), 203, 329; KNOX, First and Second Diaries of English College, Douai (London, 1878), passim; Harleian Society Publications, I, II (London, 1904), 1124; Oxford Historical Society Publications, XXXIX (Oxford, 1899), 109, 110; LV (Oxford, 1910), 33.
John B. Wainewright.
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