Tag Archive | Edward Wightman

9th February 1555. Heresy!

It is said heresy (picking), like vinegar, is best administered in small doses and a bit like treason, if it prosper none dare call it treason.

Many modern clergy have felt free to do their own ‘picking’. as the Bishop of Durham in the 1980.s cast doubt on the literal interpretation of the Resurrection calling it a ‘conjuring trick with bones’, but we no longer send people to the stake for heresy!

The Author’s home town of Burton-on-Trent was a centre of Puritanism in the 16th and 17th centuries and three heretics associated with the town suffered the penalty for dissent and heresy at a time when to be on the wrong side of the theological debate often meant a terrible death.

Firstly Rowland Taylor was the third Protestant in [Bloody] Mary’s reign to suffer execution Today in 1555.(1)

His father John, born in Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire, near Burton, was one of triplets who unusually for those days all survived, a phenomenon which came to the notice of Henry VII who had them educated with John ending as Master of the Rolls.

A volunteer association of Protestant gentry was formed in 1585 for the defence of Queen Elizabeth’s life and many paid the price for being on the wrong side including Robert Sutton son of a Burton carpenter and old boy of the Grammar School. Ordained as a Church of England Minister he converted to Catholicism which led to exile. (2)

However on returning illegally he was recognised whilst visiting prisoners in Stafford Gaol, was arrested and convicted of treason, and suffered Hanging Drawing and Quartering at Gallows Flat. Silkmoor near Stafford on 27th July 1587 after a trial by Sir Walter Aston of Tixall. His crime was to be a Catholic convert and returning to England without royal authority.

The early 17thc saw the Church of England faced with opposition from both Catholics and Protestants which wanted a more thoroughgoing reform than offered by the Elizabethan Settlement, dissent spread through Staffordshire, being particularly strong in Burton.

In 1612 the Puritan Anabaptist Edward Wightman, from Burton was burnt at the stake; his crime was for challenging scriptural authority, rejecting the notion of the Trinity, which was regarded as a heresy, as being against the Nicene Creed (325 CE) and the later Athanasius Creed of (381 CE) which had been formalised to counter the serious threat from the Arians (Arianism).  

He attracted the attention of the authorities and was interrogated by the Bishop of Lichfield, Richard Neile and William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury.

He was sentenced to be burned at the stake on 1st March 1612 but rescued and re-interrogated, only to be secondly burned on Easter Sunday 11th April in Lichfield Market Place. 

(1) There is now has a plaque at Aldham Common, just outside Hadleigh to Taylor where an unhewn stone marks the spot.

(2) He went to Hart Hall (Hertford) Oxford with his brothers, a College then a refuge for recusants especially under Philip Randell, Principal (1548-99).

Ref: historytoday. Richard Cavendish. Wightman. 4.4.2012.Pic.





11th April 1612. Dangerous Heresy.

Today in 1612 the Anabaptist Minister, Edward Wightman was burnt at the stake in Lichfield Market Square, for rejecting the Trinity.

A resident of the Author’s home town of Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, he was the last person to suffer that penalty.(1).

Rejecting the Trinity was regarded as Heresy, as contradicting the Nicene Creed (325) and the Athanasius Creed (381), formalised to counter the serious threat from Arianism, which denied the Trinity.

However the Apostles’ Creed, first mentioned in 390, says nothing about the divinity of Jesus or Holy Spirit, so acceptable to Arians and no doubt Wightman.

Then came James I (VI), the eldest son of Mary Queen of Scots, a devout follower of the Creeds who considered himself a ‘scholar’ of theology,  the ‘Wisest Fool in Christendom’.

In context the 16thc was a superstitious time, belief in demons, and witches many of which were burned, prevalent.

Wightman’s problems seem to stem after witnessing the ‘possession’ of a demon in a ‘local’, one Thomas Darling, when after being exorcised in the name of the Holy Trinity, still remained ‘possessed’.

From that time Wightman openly dismissed the Trinity and wrote copious works on the subject sending them to the King. Thus was his fate settled for he came to the attention of the ‘Powers that Be’.

He was arrested by Richard Neile, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, and placed under orders of the King who had him charged with Heresy and ordered to be burned. The charges written by the ‘Scholar of Theology’, which speak to me as an oxymoron can be read, for the strong stomached, below.(2)


Plaque in Lichfield Market Place

The terrible fact is that Wightman was first burned on March 8th, but those present thought his shouts showed he was recanting. After this being shown not to be true he was subjected to the second ordeal on April 11th, when he was burned to ashes.

Burning at the stake was on the English Statute Book until 1790. 

(1) Wightman 1566-1612.

(2) In the language of the time:

[Wightman was cursed along with] … ‘the wicked heresies of Ebiob, Cirinthis, Valintian, Arries, Macedonius, Simon Magnus of Manes, Manichees, Plotinus and Anabaptists and other arch-heriticks…and moreover of other cursed opinions, belched by the instance of Satan’.

Then came the King’s attempt at an Apologia, a rationale for punishment, by invoking Divine authority for those who had adjudged Wightman guilty, citing: ‘definite sentence of Divine for with consent of Divines learned in the law aforesaid, justly, lawfully and canonically [Church Law] against Wightman…adjudged a heretick.

In short: Wightman [my narrative] was a diseased sheep and lest he infects other subjects by his contagion he was to be cast out and cut off.

Ref: pryors.wordpress.com/edward-wightman/Pic Ref.

Ref: wikipedia.org/apostles_creed.

Ref: wikipedia.org/edward_wightman.