Richard Thirkeld was ordained a priest in France in April of 1579, and returned to his homeland of York, England, soon after to serve as a home missionary. There he was arrested on the eve of the Annunciation in 1538 for the crime of being a priest.
He was imprisoned for two months before being brought to court on May 27, 1583 for hearing confessions and bringing lapsed Catholics back to the Church. He was arrested while hearing a confession in jail. The next day his trial took place, at which he managed to appear in cassock and biretta. He was sentenced to death the following day, May 29, was executed in York. He used his short time in jail to minister to the other prisoners, especially those sentenced to death.
He was executed secretly because authorities feared that his public execution would have caused a public demonstration.
He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886.