Edmund was born in Lancashire at Haydock, near Wigan in 1585. His baptismal name was probably Brian, but some sources indicate that it was Barnaby. He was the eldest child of Robert Arrowsmith, a yeoman farmer, and Margery Gerard. Both his paternal and maternal families were strongly Catholic. His paternal grandfather had been imprisoned for his faith and died in Salford goal. Margery was a member of an important Catholic Lancashire family based at Bryn Hall. Sir Thomas Gerard, Lord of the Manor of Ashton, had been committed to the Tower in 1571 and again in 1586, being released after three years. In 1590 he was reported as having “made show of conformity” but was “of evil affection” in religion. It is interesting to note that although his house is shown on Lord Burghley’s 1590 map, it is not marked with a cross to indicate the location of a particularly troublesome Catholic sympathiser. He did order his brother Nicholas, Margery’s father, to be carried by force to the parish church who then proceeded to disrupt the service. In old age Thomas was said to have “lived a lewd licentious life and fell from the profession of the Catholic faith” until near the end of his life in 1601. His successor, Thomas, was also “of evil affection” and his wife Cecily “a recusant and indicted thereof”. The Gerards remained powerful and devoutly Catholic and were to support the King in the Civil War which started in 1642.