John Tompkins was born on November 1, 1834 at Looke in the parish of Abbotsbury, Dorset, England the fifth of eight children of Richard Tompkins and Ann Churchill. Despite being born in Abbotsbury, John was baptised in the parish church at Puncknowle, which was physically much closer to the family home.
Frederick Aloysius Weld was born on May 9, 1823 into the well known Dorset landed Roman Catholic family at Chideock and was educated at Stonyhurst and the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.
Following the Reformation of the church by Henry VIII, England in the 16th century was a country of religious persecution. One of the many stories from this period concerns John Cornelius and his companions, Thomas Bosgrave, John Carey and Patrick Salmon who on the 4th of July, 1594 were executed at Dorchester for their religious beliefs. Who were these men who became known as the Chideock Martyrs?