Blessed Robert Anderton
The Anderton family is among the most important Catholic families in English history. Throughout history the many branches of the family have seen their sons and daughters take up the religious life.
Among the most noteworthy members of the Anderton family is Blessed Robert Anderton who was martyred for the faith in 1586.
Robert Anderton was born in 1560 on the Isle of Man. There is some uncertainty regarding his precise antecedents with different histories providing different origins, but there is no doubt that he was closely related to the Andertons of Euxton Hall.
Robert was educated at Rivington Grammar School (his name appearing on the first list of scholars of the school in 1575) before going to Brasenose College, Oxford in 1578, where he met and made friends with William Marsden. Together they went to Douai to study for the priesthood and entered the college at Rheims on 10th July 1580. He was ordained sub-deacon in 1583 and then deacon and priest by the Cardinal of Guise 31st March 1584. After his Ordination he spent two years at Douai assisting other students with their studies.
Robert Anderton was moderate in height and had a “manly countenance but had evidently suffered from sickness when a child…. he had black eyes and a slight beard which would have been brown when fully grown”. He had proved to be a brilliant scholar, was a skilful debator and an excellent preacher and was selected out of the whole college to give a sermon before a “noble and learned assembly of churchmen”.
With William Marsden he set out by ship for England on 4th February 1586. In a storm their ship sought shelter at Cowes, where they were betrayed when they were heard praying for calm weather. They were sent from the Isle of Wight to the assizes at Winchester where they pleaded that they had not violated the law by landing in England, since their landing had been involuntary. They defended their faith and the Pope and acknowledged that they had come to exercise their ministry and reconcile people to God and the Church. This led to their being taken to London, where they were asked to take the Oath of Supremacy, acknowledging Elizabeth as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. They acknowledged the queen as their lawful queen in all secular affairs but refused to swear the Oath. As this was a treasonable offence under the Second Act of Supremacy, they were condemned to death and then committed to Marshalsea Prison on 11th March 1586.
Having been found guilty of treason for returning to England as priests, they were sent back to the Isle of Wight for execution in order to warn the people of the penalty for becoming a priest and for giving them assistance. The declaration of their guilt and the subsequent order for their execution was issued as a royal proclamation, the only one ever issued for the martyrdom of a priest.
Robert Anderton and William Marsden were hung, drawn and quartered on 25th April 1586 on the Isle of Wight near the place where they had landed.
Robert Anderton was Venerated on 8th December 1929 and Beatified on 15th December 1929 by Pope Pius XI.
Blessed Robert Anderton is commemorated with a stained-glass window in the church and also by the naming of the Blessed Robert Anderton Chapel adjoining the church (although this is no longer used for religious services).
The Anderton family of Euxton Hall – Religious Vocations
The Anderton family is first recorded at Euxton in 1489 when Hugh Anderton, who had inherited his mother's estates in Lancashire from his elder brother in 1485, took a lease of Euxton from the Molyneux family. A new manor house is said to have been built in the early 16th century, presumably by Hugh’s son James Anderton (d. 1551), but no details of this have survived. James' son, Hugh Anderton (1516-66) was recorded in 1564 as being unfavourable to the changes in religion, and the family became one of the most diehard adherents of the Catholic faith. Hugh’s son William Anderton (c.1564-1618) had seven sons, the eldest of whom inherited the estate, with the rest taking monastic vows on the continent, one as a Franciscan friar and the rest as Benedictine monks. The heir, Hugh Anderton (1600-70), was able to purchase the freehold of Euxton in 1627, but he was a hot-headed supporter of the Royalist cause. He was imprisoned and his estates were confiscated and sold during the Commonwealth years, although with the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 he recovered his property. The next owner, William Anderton (1638-1704), was one of the Catholics appointed as a Justice of the Peace by King James II in 1687; after the overthrow of the king in 1689 he was suspected of complicity in a Jacobite plot and imprisoned, although released without charge the following year. His son, Hugh Anderton (1673-1721) was less fortunate: he took up arms in the 1715 Jacobite rebellion, was convicted of treason and outlawed in 1716. His life interest in the estate was seized by the Crown and auctioned off, but was bought on behalf of his heir by other members of the family, thereby keeping the estate intact
His son, William Anderton (c.1708-44), rebuilt Euxton Hall on a suprisingly grand scale in 1739, showing that the disabilities under which Catholic families laboured at the time did not prevent them from accumulating significant wealth. He died before the second Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and his twin sons were too young to play any part in it, so the family was saved any further difficulties in the Stuart cause. Their commitment to the Old Faith was far from extinguished however, and the heir, Francis Anderton (1739-79) became a Benedictine monk at Douai Abbey and later chaplain at Linley Hall in Shropshire. In 1763 he made the Euxton estate over to his brother William Anderton (1739-1811), and a few years later William made a valuable marriage with another local Catholic family, the Inces of Ince Hall at Ince-in-Makerfield. His bride, Frances Sobieski Ince (d. 1816), was heir to the Ince estate and the couple seem to have lived there in preference to Euxton, even though Euxton was apparently the newer and grander house. His son, William Ince Anderton (1770-1848), lived long enough to see the Catholic faith tolerated once more, and was able to resume the roles of JP and military officer from which his family's faith had debarred his ancestors. He sold Ince Hall in about 1818 and returned to live at Euxton, rebuilding the new Catholic chapel adjoining the house with the aid of a public subscription.
A number of members of the Anderton family of Euxton Hall were called to a Religious life during the turbulent years described above:
Children of William & Isabel Anderton of Euxton Hall.
William Anderton (c.1602-72), an English Franciscan friar whose name in religion was William of St. Anthony; approved for preaching, 1634; died 24th June 1672, aged 70
James Anderton (d. 1645), a Benedictine monk at Douai (professed October 1623); died 27th August 1645
Christopher Anderton (d. 1653), a Benedictine monk at Douai (professed August 1624); died of the plague 11th July 1653
Thomas Anderton (1612-71), baptised 26th September 1612; a Benedictine monk (ordained 1637); prior of the English Benedictines at Paris, 1640 and 1668-69 and at St Malo, 1661-62; died 9th October 1671
Robert Anderton (d. c.1680); a Benedictine monk (ordained 1639); titular prior of Ely, 1669; denounced by Titus Oates and retired to the Continent, where he died between June 1678 and 1681
Andrew Anderton (fl. 1618); a Benedictine novice who died before ordination
Eleanor Anderton (d. 1664); a nun; died about 20th September 1664
Children of Hugh & Margaret Anderton of Euxton Hall.
Margaret Anderton (1639-99), born October 1639; a nun at the royal French Benedictine abbey of Faremoutiers-en-Brie (professed 1657; sub-prioress); died 28th June 1699
Children of William & Mary Anderton of Euxton Hall.
William Anderton (1673-1718), born 20th February 1672/3; a Benedictine monk whose name in religion was Placid; prior of the English priory in Paris 1713-17; died 4th April 1718
Thomas Anderton (1675-1741), born 22nd May 1675; a secular priest (ordained in Rome, 1702); chaplain at Towneley Hall (Lancs), 1705-41; archdeacon of Lancashire, 1732-41; died 13th July 1741.
Children of William & Mary Anderton of Euxton Hall.
Francis Anderton (1739-79), born 20th August 1739; became a Benedictine monk at Douai, 1757; later chaplain to Mr. Lacon of Linley Hall (Salop); died at Linley Hall, 5th July 1779
Anne Anderton (1744-1807), born 13th May 1744; a French Dominican nun at Calais whose name in religion was Catherine, until the French Revolution; died 30th November 1807
Source: Landed Families of Britain and Ireland - Nick Kingsley 2014
Blessed Robert Anderton and Blessed William Marsden are commemorated as the "Isle of Wight Martyrs" by virtue of this sketch drawing in all Catholic churches on IoW and also on a memorial stone at St Thomas of Canterbury Church, Cowes.(pictured below)