THE EIGHTH BOOK,
163. THE HISTORY OF SEVEN GODLY MARTYRS BURNT AT COVENTRY.
Mistress Smith, widow; Robert Hatchets, a shoemaker; Archer, a shoemaker; Hawkins, a shoemaker; Thomas Bond, a shoemaker; Wrigsham, a glover; Landsdale, a hosier, at Coventry, A.D. 1519. Their persecutors: Simon Mourton, the bishop's sumner; also the bishop of Coventry, and Friar Stafford, warden.
Illustration -- The Seven Martyrs
THE principal cause of the apprehension of these persons, was for teaching their children and family the Lord's Prayer and Ten Commandments in English, for which they were, upon Ash Wednesday, taken and put in prison, some in places under ground, some in chambers and other places about, till Friday following.
Then they were sent to a monastery called Mackstock Abbey, six miles from Coventry; during which time their children were sent for to the Grey Friars in Coventry, before the warden of the said friars, called Friar Stafford; who straitly examining them of their belief, and what heresies their fathers had taught them, charged them, upon pain of suffering such death as their fathers should, in no wise to meddle any more with the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and Commandments in English.
Which done, upon Palm Sunday the fathers of these children were brought back again to Coventry, and there, the week next before Easter, (because most of them had borne faggots in the same city before,) were condemned for relapse to be burned.
Only Mistress Smith was dismissed for that present, and sent away. And because it was in the evening, being somewhat dark, as she should go home, the aforesaid Simon Mourton, the sumner, offered himself to go home with her. Now as he was leading her by the arm, and heard the rattling of a scroll within her sleeve; "Yea," said he, "what have ye here?" And so took it from her, and espied that it was the Lord's Prayer, the Articles of the Faith, and the Ten Commandments in English. Which when the wretched sumner understood; "Ah sirrah!" said he, "come, as good now as another time:" and so brought her back again to the bishop, where she was immediately condemned, and so burned with the six men before named, the fourth of April, in a place thereby, called The Little Park, A.D. 1519.
Robert Silkeb, at Coventry, A.D. 1521.
In the same number of these Coventry men above rehearsed was also Robert Silkeb, who, at the apprehension of these, as is above recited, fled away, and for that time escaped. But about two years after he was taken again, and brought to the said city of Coventry, where he was also burned the morrow after he came thither, which was about the thirteenth day of January, A.D. 1521.
Thus, when these were despatched, immediately the sheriffs went to their houses, and took all their goods and cattle to their own use, not leaving their wives and children any parcel thereof, to help themselves withal. And forasmuch as the people began to grudge somewhat at the cruelty showed, and at the unjust death of these innocent martyrs, the bishop, with his officers and priests, caused it to be noised abroad by their tenants, servants, and farmers, that they were not burned for having the Lord's Prayer and the Commandments in English, but because they did eat flesh on Fridays and other fasting days; which neither could be proved either before their death or after, nor yet was any such matter greatly objected to them in their examinations. The witnesses of this history be yet alive, which both saw them and knew them; of whom one is by name Mother Hall, dwelling now in Bagington, two miles from Coventry: by whom also this is testified of them, that they, above all other in Coventry, pretended most show of worship and devotion at the holding up of the sacrament; whether to colour the matter, or no, it is not known. This is certain, that in godliness of life they differed from all the rest of the city; neither in their occupying would they use any oath, nor could abide it in them that occupied with them.