22nd June 1557. Heresy, or right to Think.

But for Fox’s ‘Book of Martyrs’ (1563), Queen ‘Bloody’ Mary I, would be little remembered.

The number of Protestant  martyrs who suffered for their faith totalled over two hundred.

Thirteen, of the seventeen Sussex Martyrs, many from villages near Lewes such as Mayfield and Heathfield, were burned Today in 1557, in front of the Star Inn, Lewes.(1)

One of these included Thomas Wood, Minister of the Gospel, Lewes.


Burned at the stake.

Burned at the stake, Lewes.

Derek Weaver heads the list, of those burned previously; he was one of ten found reading the Bible and Prayer Book in English, in his Brighton house in October 1554.

Martyrs from all over the country included Richard Sharpe of Bristol, charged in 1557, for persistently, ‘denying the sacrament of the altar to be the body and blood of Christ.’

He had stood up in the middle of his parish church, during High Mass saying: ‘Neighbours, bear me record that yonder idol ( pointing to the altar) is the greatest and most abominable that ever was.’

Martyrs are not forgotten, men such as linen worker Christopher Waid, bricklayer Nicholas Hall, and the first woman to be executed in the ‘Brent Old Quarry’ (reserved for executions), under Mary, a widow Margery Polley of Dartford,Kent, after being ‘tried’ by Maurice Griffiths, Bishop of Rochester.

These were people who didn’t believe in the Catholic Doctrine of Transubstantiation, which saw the conversion of bread into the body of Christ, which was alien to their thinking.

The Doctrine resulted from the Edicts of Innocent III of 1215, which now became Catholic dogma, depending for its belief on loose Biblical interpretation.(2)

No wonder the reading of the Bible was banned resulting from the 1229 Council of Toulouse where all literature that didn’t subscribe to Catholic doctrine was banned, which included the Bible, which might be interpreted ‘wrongly’.

As a consequence the laity didn’t know what the Church taught until 1538 when Henry VIII ordered Bible to be chained inside every parish church.

Then his son Edward VI introduced the first Prayer Book in English 1547. Now people could see for the first time how they had been misled, and taught false doctrine, particularly regarding on the key belief of Transubstantiation.

Then came the ‘backlash’ of Mary I who restored the Mass and Prayer Book in Latin and persecution for anyone caught reading these in native English.

It is not surprising that the good and brave people of Sussex, Bristol and elsewhere were willing to go to the stake for their beliefs.

(1) They are commemorated, apart from memorials, by the Firle Bonfire Society, first mentioned by the Rev Crawley in 1879.

(2) 15.11.1215. 70 canons decreed at 4th Lateran Council.

Ref: sussexmartyrs.co.uk.

Ref: biblelight.net/banned.

Ref: RSV Bible: John’s Gospel and Corinthian I.

Ref: studentlife.com/googleimages. Pic Image.

Ref: lewesbonfirecelebrations.com/sussex-protestant-martyrs.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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