Stonor is closely associated with St. Edmund Campion, martyred in 1581. He was a Londoner, and a leading Oxford academic of the day, ordained a Catholic Priest and Jesuit on the Continent who had answered the call of the Pope to volunteer to work on ‘The English Mission’.
Already known to the Stonor family, he was given refuge here in 1581 to print in the greatest secrecy a pamphlet describing ‘Ten Reasons’ why the historical Catholic faith should be preferred over the teachings of the newly Established Church. The rooms used to print this work can be seen, along with an exhibition describing St. Edmund Campion’s life and death.
St. Edmund Campion was born in London in 1540, educated at Oxford with the support of the Grocer’s Company, and became a very well-respected Fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford, and hence a deacon within the Established Church. While teaching at Oxford, he became uneasy about the validity of teachings of the newly-Established Church. Since this was incompatible with his position, he resigned his fellowship at Oxford, moving first to Dublin, but eventually giving up Anglican orders and becoming a Catholic. He joined the Jesuits in Rome, and later taught theology for 5 years at the University in Prague, where in 1580 he was ordained a priest. He answered the call of the Pope to serve on the “English Mission”, and arrived in England, travelling incognito in early-1581. He worked in London, and the North before arriving in Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
Edmund Campion remained respected at Oxford, and wished to enter into a public disputation at the University of his views on the invalidity of the Established Church. This was highly contentious, and the University would not agree. Instead, relying on an existing friendship with the Stonor family, he was given refuge here to print a pamphlet “Ten Reasons” outlining these views. A press was smuggled in and assembled in the roof space in mid-1581, and printing completed. Edmund Campion himself secretly distributed copies of the pamphlet in Oxford, and their discovery led to renewed searches for the author.
He was captured at Lyford Grange near Wantage in August, 1581. As a result of torture, the role of the Stonor family was revealed and led to exile, long-term arrest of different family members and removal of the press and “massing stuff”. Edmund Campion was hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in December, 1581. He was declared a Saint in 1970, one of 40 English and Welsh martyred so honoured at that time.