IN 1610 he was hanged at Oxford Castle for treason.

Four-hundred years later, in almost the same spot where he was hanged, a plaque has been unveiled naming him a martyr.

Blessed George Napier was an Oxford-born priest whose ‘crime’ was to practice his Catholic faith.

On Saturday, scores gathered in the gardens of Oxford Castle to watch the Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, bless the site where the priest was executed.

Clare Smith, deputy head of Banbury’s Blessed George Napier School, in Banbury said: “Every year at the school we celebrate the feast day.

“This has been quite emotional, to think that 400 years ago he died for his faith on this spot.

“And his only crime was carrying out his priestly duties.”

Ms Smith said the school would hold a meal and show to celebrate.

She said: “All the staff and students will celebrate the occasion.

“The whole point is to remember his life and what he did.”

Ms Smith joined school RE teachers Phil Russell, and Ann Ebsworth, English teacher Cathrine Sharpley, and Science teacher Margaret Ellul.

Blessed George Napier was born in Holywell Manor, in 1550 and studied at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University.

He was ordained at Douai Abbey in France, in 1596 and was sent on the English Mission to spread the faith in his homeland in 1603.

It was while in Kirtlington, near Kidlington, that he was captured in July 1610 while he gave communion to villagers.

At the time it was considered treason to be ordained overseas and then to return to England and reconcile anyone to the Catholic faith.

Napier’s friends hoped to get his sentence changed to exile, but his fate was sealed when a highwayman called Falkner, imprisoned with him in the Castle, declared at his own execution that he had been reconciled to the Church by Napier.

According to legend, such was the priest’s popularity, a huge crowd gathered to watch his execution.

As he was hanged crowd members surged forward to pull on his feet to minimise his suffering.