John Jones, also known as John Buckley, John Griffith, or Godfrey Maurice, was a Priest and martyr, born at Clynnog Fawr, Carnarvonshire, Wales, executed 12 July 1598. He is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
John Jones was from a good Welsh family, who had remained faithful to the Roman Catholic Church. As a youth, he entered the Observant Franciscan convent at Greenwich; at its dissolution in 1559 he went to the Continent, and was professed (took his vows) at Pontoise, France.
After many years, he journeyed to Rome, where he stayed at the Ara Coeli convent of the Observants (A branch of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor that followed the Franciscan Rule literally) . There he joined the Roman province of the Reformati (a stricter observance branch of the Order of Friars Minor). In 1591, as he had become imbued with the ideals of the 'Stricter Observance'. He begged to be allowed to go upon the English mission.
His superiors considered his request aware that to journey to England was a journey which usually ended in a terrible death. It was an enterprise undertaken by the noblest and finest of England's and Wales' young Catholics – usually to die an awful death. His superiors did allow his request, and he also received a special blessing and commendation from Pope Clement VIII.
The dangers of England
He reached London about the end of 1592, and stayed temporarily at the house which Father John Gerard, S.J. had provided for missionary priests; he then laboured in different parts of the country. His brother Franciscans in England elected him their provincial.
In 1596 the 'priest catcher' Topcliffe was informed by a spy that Father Jones had visited two Catholics and had said Mass in their house, but it was afterwards shown that these people were in prison when the alleged offence took place. However, Father Jones was promptly arrested and severely tortured. He was also cruelly scourged. Then the sadistic Topcliffe took him to his house and personally tortured the Father, "To him (Topcliffe) was granted the privilege, unique in the laws of England, or, perhaps, of any country, of maintaining a private rack in his own home for the more convenient examination of prisoners..
Meeting with John Rigby
He was then imprisoned for nearly two years. During this time he met, and helped sustain in his faith, John Rigby, who also became one of the 'Forty martyrs of England and Wales' . On 3 July 1598 Father Jones was tried on the charge of "going over the seas in the first year of Her majesty's reign (1558) and there being made a priest by the authority from Rome and then returning to England contrary to statute" . He was convicted of high treason and sentenced to being hanged, drawn, and quartered.
By this time the people had grown tired of these awful butcheries, so the execution was arranged for an early hour in the morning to try to escape notice.
The place was St. Thomas' Watering, in what is now the Old Kent Road, at the site of the junction of the old Roman road to London with the main line of Watling Street. Such ancient landmarks had been immemorially used as places of execution, Tyburn itself being merely the point where Watling Street crossed the Roman road to Silchester.
Father Jones explains his reasons
In spite of the earliness of the hour, a large crowd had gathered. Down the ages a small detail has come down to us; it seems the executioner forgot his ropes! In the delay while the forgetful man went to collect his necessary ropes the Saint took the opportunity to talk to the assembled crowd. He explained an important distinction; he was dying for his faith alone and had no political interest.
His dismembered remains were fixed on the poles on the roads to Newington and Lambeth (now represented by Tabard Street and Lambeth Road respectively); they were removed by some young Catholic gentlemen, one of whom suffered a long imprisonment for this offence.
One of the relics eventually reached Pontoise, where the martyr had been professed (took his religious vows).