Benedictine monk and martyr. Born, the son of Sir Alexander Barlow, at Barlow Hall (Lancs.) in 1585, Barlow conformed to the Church of England for some years but returned to the Roman Catholic Church in 1607 and entered the English College, Douai. He was imprisoned for unknown causes in England for a few months in 1613; on his release he became a Benedictine monk at St Gregory's, Douai, was professed in 1614, and ordained priest in 1617. He then returned to England and worked near Manchester and Liverpool for 24 years. His principal base was Morleys Hall, near Leigh. Distinguished for his love of the poor, his wit and kindliness, he is described in a contemporary work which chronicled his long and fruitful apostolate as the man ‘most likely to represent the spirit of Sir Thomas More’. Four times he was imprisoned and four times released, but at last in 1641 he was arrested at Leigh while preaching, imprisoned in Lancaster castle, and tried. Shortly before, Charles I under extreme pressure had ordered all priests to leave the realm or incur the penalties of traitors. Barlow admitted that he was a priest, but said that the decree specified ‘Jesuits and seminary priests’, whereas he was neither, but a Benedictine monk; in any case, having just suffered a stroke, he was too ill to travel. He was then offered release in exchange for a promise not to ‘seduce any more people’. He answered: ‘I am no seducer, but a reducer of the people to the true and ancient religion…I will continue until death to render this good office to these strayed souls.’ He was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Lancaster on 10 September. His skull is preserved at Wardley Hall (Lancs.) and his hand at Stanbrook Abbey (Worcester). He was canonized by Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Feast: 10 October.
The Apostolical Life of Ambrose Barlow (ed. W. E. Rhodes, Chetham Miscellanies, ii (1909), Chetham Society, vol. lxiii);R. Challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests (ed. J. H. Pollen 1924), pp. 392–400;B. Camm, Nine Martyr Monks (1931); J. Stonor, Ambrose Barlow (pamphlet 1961);B.L.S., ix. 95–6;N.C.E., ii. 101.