CHAPTER XIII. PERSECUTIONS IN ENGLAND DURING THE REIGN OF QUEEN MARY H
Persecutions in the Diocess of Canterbury.
In the year 1557, fifteen were imprisoned in the castle of Canterbury, five of whom perished of hunger. We now proceed to the account of the other ten; whose names were—J. Philpot, M. Bradbridge, N. Final, all of Tenterden; W. Waterer and T. Stephens, of Beddington; J. Kempe, of Norgate; W. Hay, of Hithe; T. Hudson, of Salenge; W. Lowick, of Cranbrooke; and W. Prowting, of Thornham. Of these Kempe, Waterer, Prowting, Lowick, Hudson, and Hay, were burnt at Canterbury, January 15, 1557: Stephens and Philpot at Wye, about the same time; and Final and Bradbridge at Ashford, on the 16th. They were steadfast and immoveable in the faith.
In the month of February, the following persons were committed to prison:—R. Coleman, of Waldon, labourer; Joan Winseley, of Horsley Magna, spinster; S. Glover of Rayley; R. Clerk, of Much Holland, mariner; W. Munt, of Much Bentley, sawyer; Marg. Field, of Ramsey, spinster; R. Bongeor, currier; R. Jolley, mariner; Allen Simpson; Helen Ewing; C. Pepper, widow; Alice Walley, (who recanted;) W. Bongeor, glazier; all of Colchester; R. Atkin, of Halstead, weaver; R. Barcock, of Wilton, carpenter; R. George, of Westbarhoalt, labourer; R. Debnam, of Debenham, weaver; C. Warren, of Cocksall, spinster; Agnes Whitlock, of Dover-court, spinster; Rose Allen, spinster; and T. Feresannes, minor; both of Colchester.
These persons were brought before Bonner, who would have immediately sent them to execution, but Cardinal Pole was for more merciful measures, and Bonner, in a letter of his to the cardinal, seems to be sensible that he had displeased him, for he has this expression,—”I thought to have them all hither to Fulham, and to have given sentence against them; nevertheless, perceiving by my last doing that your grace was offended, I thought it my duty, before I proceeded farther, to inform your grace.” This circumstance verifies the account that the cardinal was a humane man; and though a zealous catholic, we, as protestants, are willing to render him that honour which his merciful character deserves. Some of the bitter persecutors denounced him to the pope as a favourer of heretics, and he was summoned to Rome, but queen Mary, by particular entreaty, procured his stay. However, before his latter end, and a little before his last journey from Rome to England, he was strongly suspected of favouring the doctrine of Luther.
T. Loseby, H. Ramsey, T. Thirtell, Margaret Hide, and Agnes Stanley.
These persons were successively called up, condemned, delivered over to the sheriffs of London, in April 15, 1557, were conducted to Smithfield, there to exchange a temporal life for a life eternal with him for whose sake and truth they perished.
In May following, W. Morant, S. Gratwick, and —— King, suffered in St. George’s Field, Southwark.
Executions in Kent.
The following seven were arraigned for heresy: Joan Bainbridge, of Staplehurst; W. Appleby, Petronella his wife, and the wife of John Manning, of Maidstone; B. Allin, and his wife Catherine, of Freytenden; and Elizabeth ——, a blind maiden. Allin was put in the stocks at night, and some advised him to compromise a little, and go for the form’s sake to mass, which he did next day, but, just before the sacring, as it is termed, he went into the churchyard, and so reasoned with himself upon the absurdity of transubstantiation, that he staid away, and was soon after brought back again before Sir John Baker, and condemned for heresy. He was burnt with the six before mentioned at Maidstone, the 18th of June, 1557.
As in the last sacrifice four women did honour to the truth, so in the following auto-de-fe we have the like number of females and males, who suffered June 30, 1557, at Canterbury, and were J. Fishcock, F. White, N. Pardue, Barbary Final, widow; Bradbridge’s widow; Wilson’s wife; and Benden’s wife.
Of this group we shall more particularly notice Alice Benden, wife of Edward Benden, of Staplehurst, Kent. She had been taken up in Oct. 1556, for non-attendance, and released upon a strong injunction to mind her conduct. Her husband was a bigoted catholic, and publicly speaking of his wife’s contumacy, she was conveyed to Canterbury castle, where knowing, when she should be removed to the bishop’s prison, she should be almost starved upon three farthings a day, she endeavoured to prepare herself for this suffering by living upon two-pence halfpenny per day. Jan. 22, 1557, her husband wrote to the bishop, that if his wife’s brother, Roger Hall, were to be kept from consoling and relieving her, she might turn; on this account, she was moved to a prison called Monday’s hole; her brother sought diligently for her, and at the end of five weeks providentially heard her voice in the dungeon, but could no otherwise relieve her, than by putting some money in a loaf, and sticking it on a long pole. Dreadful must have been the situation of this poor victim, lying on straw, between stone walls, without a change of apparel, or the meanest requisites of cleanliness, during a period of nine weeks!
March 25, she was summoned before the bishop, who, with rewards, offered her liberty if she would go home and be comfortable; but Mrs. Benden had been inured to suffering, and, showing him her contracted limbs and emaciated appearance, refused to swerve from the truth. She was however removed from this Black Hole to the West gate, whence, about the end of April, she was taken out to be condemned, and then committed to the castle prison till the 19th of June, the day of her burning. At the stake, she gave her handkerchief to one John Banks, as a memorial; and from her waist she drew a white lace, desiring him to give it her brother, and tell him, it was the last band that had bound her, except the chain; and to her father she returned a shilling he had sent her.
The whole of these seven martyrs undressed themselves with alacrity, and, being prepared, knelt down, and prayed with an earnestness and Christian spirit that even the enemies of the Cross were affected. After invocation made together, they were secured to the stake, and, being encompassed with the unsparing flames, they yielded their souls into the hands of the living Lord.
Matthew Plaise, weaver, a sincere and shrewd Christian, of Stone, Kent, was brought before Thomas, bishop of Dover, and other inquisitors, whom he ingeniously teazed by his indirect answers, of which the following is a specimen.
Dr. Harpsfield. Christ called the bread his body; what dost thou say it is?
Plaise. I do believe it was that which he gave them.
Dr. H. What was that?
P. That which he brake.
Dr. H. What did he break?
P. That which he took.
Dr. H. What did he take?
P. The text saith, “He took bread.”
Dr. H. Well, then, thou sayest it was but bread which the disciples did eat.
P. I say, what he gave them, that did they eat indeed.
A very long disputation followed, in which Plaise was desired to humble himself to the bishop; but this he refused. Whether this zealous person died in prison, was executed, or delivered, history does not mention.
Execution of ten martyrs at Lewes.
Again we have to record the wholesale sacrifice of Christ’s little flock, of whom five were women. On the 22d of June, 1557, the town of Lewes beheld ten persons doomed to perish by fire and persecution. The names of these worthies were, Richard Woodman; G. Stephens, W. Mainard, Alex. Hosman, and Thomasin Wood, servants; Margery Morris, and James Morris, her son; Dennis Burges, Ashdon’s wife, and Grove’s wife.
These nine persons were taken a few days only before their judgment, and suffered at Lewes, in Sussex, June 22, 1557. Of these, eight were prematurely executed, inasmuch as the writ from London could not have arrived for their burning. A person named Ambrose died in Maidstone prison about this time.
Rev. Mr. John Hullier was brought up at Eton college, and in process of time became curate of Babram, three miles from Cambridge and went afterward to Lynn; where, opposing the superstition of the papists, he was carried before Dr. Thirlby, bishop of Ely, and sent to Cambridge castle: here he lay for a time, and was then sent to the Tolbooth prison, where, after three months, he was brought to St. Mary’s church, and condemned by Dr. Fuller. On Maunday Thursday, he was brought to the stake: while undressing, he told the people to bear witness that he was about to suffer in a just cause, and exhorted them to believe, that there was no other rock than Jesus Christ to build upon. A priest, named Boyes, then desired the mayor to silence him. After praying, he went meekly to the stake, and being bound with a chain, and placed in a pitch barrel, fire was applied to the reeds and wood; but the wind drove the fire directly to his back, which caused him under the severe agony to pray the more fervently. His friends directed the executioner to fire the pile to windward of his face, which was immediately done.
A quantity of books were now thrown into the fire, one of which (the Communion Service) he caught, opened it, and joyfully continued to read it, until the fire and smoke deprived him of sight; then even, in earnest prayer, he pressed the book to his heart, thanking God for bestowing on him in his last moments this precious gift.—The day being hot, the fire burnt fiercely; and at a time when the spectators supposed he was no more, he suddenly exclaimed, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! And meekly resigned his life. He was burnt on Jesus Green, not far from Jesus College. He had gunpowder given him, but he was dead before it became ignited. This pious sufferer afforded a singular spectacle; for his flesh was so burnt from the bones, which continued erect, that he presented the idea of a skeleton figure chained to the stake. His remains were eagerly seized by the multitude, and venerated by all who admired his piety or detested inhuman bigotry.
Simon Miller and Elizabeth Cooper,
In the following month of July, received the crown of martyrdom. Miller dwelt at Lynn, and came to Norwich, where, planting himself at the door of one of the churches, as the people came out, he requested to know of them where he could go to receive the communion. For this a priest brought him before Dr. Dunning, who committed him to ward; but he was suffered to go home, and arrange his affairs; after which he returned to the bishop’s house, and to his prison, where he remained till the 13th of July, the day of his burning.
Elizabeth Cooper, wife of a pewterer, of St. Andrews, Norwich, had recanted; but, tortured for what she had done by the worm which dieth not, she shortly after voluntarily entered her parish church during the time of the popish service, and standing up, audibly proclaimed that she revoked her former recantation, and cautioned the people to avoid her unworthy example. She was taken from her own house by Mr. Sutton the sheriff, who very reluctantly complied with the letter of the law, as they had been servants and in friendship together. At the stake, the poor sufferer, feeling the fire, uttered the cry of Oh! upon which Mr. Miller, putting his hand behind him towards her, desired her to be of good courage, “for (said he) good sister, we shall have a joyful and a sweet supper.” Encouraged by this example and exhortation, she stood the fiery ordeal without flinching, and, with him, proved the power of faith over the flesh.
Executions at Colchester.
It was before mentioned that twenty-two persons had been sent up from Cholchester, who upon a slight submission, were afterward released. Of these, Wm. Munt, of Much-Bentley, husbandman, with Alice, his wife, and Rose Allin, her daughter, upon their return home, abstained from church, which induced the bigoted priest secretly to write to Bonner. For a short time they absconded, but returning again, March 7th, one Mr. Edmund Tyrrel, (a relation of the Tyrrel who murdered king Edward V. and his brother) with the officers, entered the house while Munt and his wife were in bed, and informed them that they must go to Colchester Castle. Mrs. Munt at that time very ill, requested her daughter to get her some drink; leave being permitted, Rose took a candle and a mug; and in returning through the house was met by Tyrrel, who cautioned her to advise her parents to become good catholics. Rose briefly informed him that they had the Holy Ghost for their adviser; and that she was ready to lay down her own life for the same cause. Turning to his company, he remarked that she was willing to burn; and one of them told him to prove her, and see what she would do by and by. The unfeeling wretch immediately executed this project; and, seizing the young woman by the wrist, he held the lighted candle under her hand, burning it crosswise on the back, till the tendons divided from the flesh, during which he loaded her with many opprobious epithets. She endured his rage unmoved, and then, when he had ceased the torture, she asked him to begin at her feet or head, for he need not fear that his employer would one day repay him. After this she took the drink to her mother.
This cruel act of torture does not stand alone on record. Bonner had served a poor blind harper in nearly the same manner, who had steadily maintained a hope that if every joint of him were to be burnt, he should not fly from the faith. Bonner, upon this, privately made a signal to his men, to bring a burning coal, which they placed in the poor man’s hand, and then by force held it closed, till it burnt into the flesh deeply. But to return.—
In searching Munt’s house, John Thurston and Margaret his wife were found, and conveyed to Colchester Castle; where lay J. Johnson, of Thorp, Essex, aged 34, widower, with his three young children, all indicted for heresy.
The following lay in Mote-hall, or town prison: Wm. Bongeor, of St. Nicholas, in Colchester; Thomas Penold, Colchester, tallow chandler; W. Pucras, of Bocking, Essex, fuller, 20; Agnes Silversides, Colchester, widow, 70; Helen Ewring, wife of John Ewring, miller, of Colchester, 45; and Eliz. Folks, a servant, Colchester.
Shortly after their condemnation, Bonner’s writ arrived for their execution, which was fixed for the 2d of August, 1557. About seven o’clock in the morning, the town prisoners in the Mote-hall were brought to a plot of ground on the outside of the town wall, where the stake was erected, surrounded by fagots and fuel. Having prayed, and prepared themselves for the fiery torment, Elizabeth Folks, as she was standing at the stake, received a dreadful blow on the shoulder from the stroke of a hammer, which was aimed at the staple that secured the chain. This, however, in no wise discomposed her, but turning her head round, she continued to pray and exhort the people. Fire being put to the pile, these martyrs died amidst the prayers and commisseration of thousands who came to be witnesses of their fortitude and their faith.
In the same manner, in the afternoon, the county prisoners from Colchester castle were brought out, and executed, at different stakes, on the same spot; praising God, and exhorting the people to avoid idolatry and the church of Rome.
John Thurston, of whom mention was made before, died in May, in Colchester castle.
George Eagles, tailor, was indicted for having prayed that “God would turn queen Mary’s heart, or take her away;” the ostensible cause of his death was his religion, for treason could hardly be imagined in praying for the reformation of such an execrable soul as that of Mary. Being condemned for this crime, he was drawn to the place of execution upon a sledge, with two robbers, who were executed with him. After Eagles had mounted the ladder, and been turned off a short time, he was cut down, before he was at all insensible; a bailiff, named Wm. Swallow, then dragged him to the sledge, and with a common blunt cleaver, hacked off the head: in a manner equally clumsy and cruel, he opened his body and tore out the heart.
In all this suffering the poor martyr repined not, but to the last called upon his Saviour. The fury of these bigots did not end here; the intestines were burnt, and the body was quartered, the four parts being sent to Colchester, Harwich, Chelmsford, and St. Rouse’s.—Chelmsford had the honor of retaining his head, which was affixed to a long pole in the market-place. In time it was blown down, and lay several days in the streets, till it was buried at night in the church-yard. God’s judgment not long after fell upon Swallow, who in his old age became a beggar, and affected with a leprosy that made him obnoxious even to the animal creation; nor did Richard Potts, who troubled Eagles in his dying moments, escape the visiting hand of God.
About this time, Richard Crashfield, of Wymundham, suffered at Norwich.
Nearly about this time a person named Fryer, and the sister of George Eagles, suffered martyrdom.
Mrs. Joyce Lewes.
This lady was the wife of Mr. T. Lewes, of Manchester. She had received the Romish religion as true, till the burning of that pious martyr, the Rev. Mr. Saunders, at Coventry. Understanding that his death arose from a refusal to receive the mass, she began to inquire into the ground of his refusal, and her conscience, as it began to be enlightened, became restless and alarmed. In this inquietude, she resorted to Mr. John Glover, who lived near, and requested that he would unfold those rich sources of gospel knowledge he possessed, particularly upon the subject of transubstantiation. He easily succeeded in convincing her that the mummery of popery and the mass were at variance with God’s most holy word, and honestly reproved her for following too much the vanities of a wicked world. It was to her indeed a word in season, for she soon become weary of her former sinful life, and resolved to abandon the mass and idolatrous worship. Though compelled by her husband’s violence to go to church, her contempt of the holy water and other ceremonies were so manifest, that she was accused before the bishop for despising the sacramentals.
A citation, addressed to her, immediately followed, which was given to Mr. Lewes, who, in a fit of passion, held a dagger to the throat of the officer, and made him eat it, after which he caused him to drink it down, and then sent him away. But for this the bishop summoned Mr. Lewes before him as well as his wife; the former readily submitted, but the latter resolutely affirmed, that, in refusing holy water, she neither offended God, nor any part of his laws. She was sent home for a month, her husband being bound for her appearance, during which time Mr. Glover impressed upon her the necessity of doing what she did, not from self-vanity, but for the honour and glory of God.
Mr. Glover and others earnestly exhorted Lewes to forfeit the money he was bound in, rather than subject his wife to certain death; but he was deaf to the voice of humanity, and delivered her over to the bishop, who soon found a sufficient cause to consign her to a loathsome prison, whence she was several times brought for examination. At the last time the bishop reasoned with her upon the fitness of her coming to mass, and receiving as sacred the sacrament and sacramentals of the Holy Ghost. “If these things were in the word of God,” said Mrs. Lewes, “I would with all my heart receive, believe, and esteem them.” The bishop, with the most ignorant and impious effrontery, replied, “If thou wilt believe no more than what is warranted by scripture, thou art in a state of damnation!” Astonished at such a declaration, this worthy sufferer ably rejoined, “that his words were as impure, as they were profane.”
After condemnation, she lay a twelvemonth in prison, the sheriff not being willing to put her to death in his time, though he had been but just chosen. When her death warrant came from London, she sent for some friends, whom she consulted in what manner her death might be more glorious to the name of God, and injurious to the cause of God’s enemies. Smilingly, she said, “As for death, I think but lightly of. When I know that I shall behold the amiable countenance of Christ my dear Saviour, the ugly face of death does not much trouble me.” The evening before she suffered, two priests were anxious to visit her, but she refused both their confession and absolution, when she could hold a better communication with the High Priest of souls. About three o’clock in the morning, Satan began to shoot his fiery darts, by putting into her mind to doubt whether she was chosen to eternal life, and Christ died for her. Her friends readily pointed out to her those consolatory passages of Scripture which comfort the fainting heart, and treat of the Redeemer who taketh away the sins of the world.
About eight o’clock the sheriff announced to her that she had but an hour to live; she was at first cast down, but this soon passed away, and she thanked God that her life was about to be devoted to his service. The sheriff granted permission for two friends to accompany her to the stake—an indulgence for which he was afterward severely handled. Mr. Reniger and Mr. Bernher led her to the place of execution; in going to which, from its distance, her great weakness, and the press of the people, she had nearly fainted. Three times she prayed fervently that God would deliver the land from popery and the idolatrous mass; and the people for the most part, as well as the sheriff, said Amen.
When she had prayed, she took the cup, (which had been filled with water to refresh her,) and said, I drink to all them that unfeignedly love the gospel of Christ, and wish for the abolition of popery. Her friends, and a great many women of the place, drank with her, for which most of them afterward were enjoined penance.
When chained to the stake, her countenance was cheerful, and the roses of her cheeks were not abated. Her hands were extended towards heaven till the fire rendered them powerless, when her soul was received into the arms of the Creator. The duration of her agony was but short, as the under-sheriff, at the request of her friends, had prepared such excellent fuel that she was in a few minutes overwhelmed with smoke and flame. The case of this lady drew a tear of pity from every one who had a heart not callous to humanity.
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