The English College at Douai was established by William Allen, later Cardinal, on Michaelmas Day, 29th September, 1568. It offered an opportunity to form clergy for England in accordance with the system laid down by the Council of Trent.
Originally it was intended as a college home for exiles from England, a place where they could continue their studies in a way no longer possible for Catholics at the English Universities. In time Allen recognised its potential as a place for training clergy ready for the return to England when 'the new religion' had run its course. The new priests, however, proved unwilling to wait for that event and quickly Douai College found itself dedicated very largely to the training of missionary priests.
Between 1577, the date of the martyrdom of St Cuthbert Mayne, the college's protomartyr, and 1680, the date of the execution of Thomas Thwing, the college's last martyr, one hundred and fifty eight college members, priests and layman, secular and religious, met with a martyr's death.
The College was suppressed in 1793, and the collegians imprisoned for thirteen months at Doullens, Picardy. They were released in November 1794, returning to Douai for only a few months before obtaining permission to return to England. They found their first refuge at Old Hall Green, Ware, and dedicated the new work of the college to St Edmund of Canterbury on his feast day, November 16th, 1794.
The webpage lists the martyrs by year--the class of 1588 was the largest: Nicholas Garlick, Robert Ludlam, Richard Sympson, William Dean, William Gunter, Robert Morton, Hugh More, Thomas Holford, James Claxton, Thomas Felton, Robert Wilcox, Edward Campion, Christopher Buxton, Ralph Crocket, Edward James, John Robinson, William Hartley, John Hewett, and Robert Leigh.
The bookends (just to switch metaphors) are St. Cuthbert Mayne and St. Thomas Thwing:
St. Cuthbert Mayne was the first Englishman prepared for the priesthood at Douai and he is the protomartyr of the English seminaries established on the Continent. Born in Devonshire, he was ordained an Anglican minister but became Catholic in the early 1570's while at Oxford. He returned to England in 1575, serving in Cornwall, and was arrested a year later. One of the charges against him was that he had an Agnus Dei, an image of Jesus as the Lamb of God, blessed by the pope. He was hung, drawn and quartered in Cornwall on November 29, 1577.
St. Thomas Thwing suffered during the Popish Plot hysteria in 1680. From 1664 to 1679 he served as a missionary priest in England. He and other members of Sir Thomas Gasciogne's household, including the master, were accused of a conspiracy to kill King Charles II and brought to London for trial. The others were acquited but he was found guilty and condemned; the King pardoned him but the House of Commons demanded his execution. Of course he was innocent of any charges of conspiracy; he was guilty of being a Catholic priest.
One could research each of the names on that list and read a common, yet individual pattern of vocation, service, suffering, and martyrdom. At the bottom of the list of names, there is a quote from William Allen, founder of Douai College--
"Joy in the Lord because the victory won by Christ's confessors predominates over earthly sorrow
at the grievousness of their suffering."