The middle of the 16th Century was a period of considerable religious intolerance, Jews had been banished and Catholics were shunned by the Protestant oligarchs and were forbidden from practising their religion on the penalty of death. To circumvent this prohibition, Popists would conduct their sacrament in clandestine nooks. Onesuch was the Ship Inn on Gate Street wherein the Priest James Archer (who was legitimately employed here as a barman) would say Mass in the public bar while the congregation sat at the pub tables with tankards of ale. Archer’s cunning stratagem of working behind the bar was never discovered but many of his congregation were not so lucky. Although this venue was chosen for its many routes of access (and therefore escape) the same warreny streetscape concealed Protestants intent on stamping out Catholicism. After Mass one evening, many of Archer’s parishioners were rounded up and later executed for heresy in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Those unhappy souls who refused to renounce the Trinity on the gibbet were condemned to a wretched death for their faith. However, the hangman did not count for the resolution of these very souls. On dark nights, on the short route between the impromptu chapel and the gallows, you may chance to encounter the ghostly form of one of the martyred Catholics, proudly striding along Gate Street. Upon realising he is not alone, the phantom is said to take flight, as he did in life, through one of the interconnected alleyways.