Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 349. PERSECUTION IN IPSWICH.

349. PERSECUTION IN IPSWICH.

Illustration -- Ipswich

A memorable story of one Agnes Wardall in the town of Ipswich, pursued for the true faith of Christ's gospel.

            About the said month of July, in this present year, 1556, there was one Richard Argentine, doctor of physic, otherwise called Richard Sexten, with certain others dwelling in the town of Ipswich, not many in number, but in heart and purpose mightily bent to impugn and impeach the growing of Christ's gospel and favourers of the same; in the number of whom were Philip Ulmes, Edmund Leach, John Steward; and Matthew Butler, apothecary, a curious singing man, a fine player of the organs, a perfect papist, and a diligent promoter of good men. This Butler being then constable in the town of Ipswich, as he was in the watch by night upon Corn Hill, cometh to him Dr. Argentine in great haste, giving him intelligence of one Agnes Wardall, being then lately come home to her house in Ipswich. Whereupon immediately such a way was contrived between them, that the said Agnes Wardall forthwith should be apprehended: but God, in whose providence the direction of all things consisteth, by whose disposition they have their operation, so graciously provided for his servant, and so prevented their malignant devices, that they came to no great effect in working, although on the contrary part there wanted no good will, as here consequently you shall further understand.

            This Agnes Wardall was a woman that lived in God's fear, and was at defiance with their Romish trash, desiring rather with hard fare and evil lodging to be abroad, than to be at home in her house, and among the tents of the ungodly: her husband also, being a man living in the fear of God, and for the testimony of his conscience being also hunted, by force of the law was constrained to avoid his house, and got into a crayer with an honest man, serving as a sailor, a faculty not of him before frequented, nor he a man nimble for that trade, because God had given him an impediment by reason of a stumped foot, unfit to climb to top and yard; yet so it pleased God to enable him with his strength, that he was strong and lusty to do good service, as they can well witness that were of his company.

            The said Agnes Wardall chanced on a day to come home to see her poor house and children, which was under the guiding of a young maid and being espied, news was borne to Dr. Argentine, who having knowledge thereof, as is aforesaid, went speedily unto the apothecary, the constable aforesaid, and informed him what a notable cure was to be wrought on Wardall's wife, in the apprehending of her; which was more like to speed than miss, had not the mighty providence of God wrought contrary to their expectation.

            This being known to the constable, the watch was charged speedily, and each company sent to his place. And Argentine and Butler took unto them a good number, and forth they go unto the house of this poor woman, to lay hands upon her, and beset the house on the foreside and backside, lying open in the fields; and other some were sent to the house of his mother, which was not far from his house. This done, one knocked at the street door, where Argentine and Butler were, with one of their weapons, and no answer was made; the second time somewhat harder, but had no answer. In the mean time they, fearing that some conveyance was made, knocked a third time more hard than before.

            There was not far from the door where they knocked, a certain day-window, where one might look out and speak; and so at the third knocking a woman who at that time was tenant to R. Wardall's mother, and had but two nights before lien in the house, speaking out hard by their ears, asked who was there?

            "Ah, sirrah! "quoth Argentine, "are you so nigh and will not speak? How fortuned it that ye spake not at the first, being so nigh?" "How fortuned it?" quoth the woman. "Marry I shall tell you: I am but a stranger here, and I have heard say that there be spirits walking here about, which if a man do answer at the first call or second, he stands in great danger, and I was never so afraid of my life." At this her answer they laughed, and commanded her to open the door in the queen's name, for they were the queen's watch.

            Agnes Wardall, being at that time in bed in an inner chamber, having her maid with her, and her two children, she being at that time very heavy asleep, heard not the knocking. Her maid, hearing at the second knock, called and shogged her dame, and with much ado awaked her, and said, "The watch is at the door." "What? thou liest," said she. "Yes, truly," said the maid, "and hath knocked twice." With that she arose with all speed, and put on her clothes very slightly, and took with her a buckram apron, which afterward she cast on her head, when she was fain to creep in a ditch with nettles; and so passed down into a parlour, wherein stood a cupboard with a fair press, into the which the maid did lock her. And immediately the maid went up to a chamber which was hard by the street, where she might see and speak to the watch, and said, "Who is there?" Then they bade her open the door; and she said, "We have no candle." And they said, "Open the door, or we will lay it on the floor." With that she came down and opened the door. Then asked they the maid, "Who is within?" And she said, "None but a woman that dwelleth with us, and two children." Then said they, "Where is thy dame?" "Truly," said she, "I cannot tell; she is not within." "She was here in the evening," said they. "Yea," said the maid, "but she went forth I know not whither!" Notwithstanding they charged her that she knew where she was, which she denied. Then got they a candle light at one of the neighbour's houses, and came in, and in the entry met the woman which had answered them at the window, and said, she was afraid of spirits. Argentine, looking upon her, clapped her on the back, and said, "Thou art not the woman whom we seek for."

            So entered they the house, and searched a parlour next the street, where the woman lay which was his mother's tenant, and a young child that sucked on her breast, and not only in the bed, turning it down past all honest humanity, but also under the bed, behind the painted clothes, and in the chimney, and up into the chimney; and finding the bed hot, said, "Who lay here in the bed?" The woman said, "I and the child." "And none else?" quoth they. "No," said the woman. When they could find nothing there for their purpose, from thence they went into an inner parlour, in the which stood the cupboard wherein she was, and searched the parlour, which was but a little one. And one of the company, laying his hand on the cupboard, said, "This is a fair cupboard, she may be here, for any thing that is done." "That is true," saith another of them. Notwithstanding, they looked no further, but went from that into the chamber aloft, wherein the said Agnes had lien with her maid and children, with all other rooms and chambers.

            At length they came down into the yard, where they found a horse tied at a pale, eating of shorn grass. Then asked they the maid, "Whose horse is this?" She answered, "It is her horse indeed, and she came in before night, and went abroad again, but I know not whither." Then were they in good hope to.find their prey, and bestirred them with speed, and went into an out-chamber that was in the yard, in which was a boy in bed, of twelve or fourteen years old. And being in his dead sleep, they suddenly awaked him and examined him for his dame; who answered he knew not where she was; and unto that stood firmly, although their threats were vehement, not only to the poor silly boy, but also to the good, simple, plain maid. Then caused they him to arise and dress him, and sent both maid and boy up to the cage, where they put the maid, but kept the boy among their trusty soldiers, so that one of them should not speak with another.

            Now while some were on the Corn Hill, and other some were searching the neighbours' houses and back-sides, the wife of Wardall being in the press fast locked up, and almost smothered for want of breath, desired the woman, her mother's tenant, when she heard her in the parlour, to let her out. She asked her where the keys were; who answered they were in a hamper; which she found, and essayed to unlock the press, and of a long time could not. Then desired she her to break it open; "for," said she, "I had rather fall into their hands, than to kill myself." Then went she to her mother's tenant, and sought for her husband's hammer and chisel, to break it open, but could not find it, nor any thing else to break it open withal, and came again, and told her she could find nothing to break it open with.

            Then said she, "Essay again to open it, for I trust God will give you power to open it." And being within in much extremity, she heartily prayed unto God, who heard her prayer and helped her; for, at the first essay and turn of the key, it opened easily. When she came out, she looked as pale and as bleak as one that were laid out dead by the wall, and as she herself looked afterward when she was dead, as the same woman reported, which then let her out, and was also at her death long after in the queen's Majesty's reign that now is; and all on a vehement sweat was she, like drops of rain.

            Then went she out into the back-side, where was a pale towards the fields for the defence of the garden, wherein was one or two loose pales, by the which both she and her husband had divers times used to come and go in and out; so went she out into the fields. And passing one little field, and over a stile, shrouded herself in a low ditch with nettles, and covered her head with the buckram apron aforementioned; and so crept low, and lay in the ditch. After long search, when they could not find her in the town, certain of the watch returned again to the field's side; among whom was one George Manning, with John Bate, the crier of the same town, coming together. This Manning was a simple, honest, plain man, but Bate a very enemy, and one that in Queen Mary's time would have been a priest, as it was reported, but that he was married.

            Manning, espying where she lay, gave a hem, and made a noise with his bill, he being before Bate; at the which she lay still, and at the last they departed to the street side to the constable. All this time the maid was in the cage, and the boy with the others of the watch, until perfect daylight. Then went they up, and let out the maid, and sent her home, and the boy also; but they made the maid believe they had found her dame, who answered, "If ye have her, keep her fast."

            On the morrow, Manning sent her word to beware that she should hide herself no more so near.

            Thus by the might and power of God was his faithful servant delivered from their cruelty, and they known to be his adversaries, not only at that time, but divers times after and before. Notwithstanding, the said Argentine, at his first coming to Ipswich, came in a serving-man's coat. And then, being in the days of King Henry the Eighth, he would accustomably use the reading of lectures himself; in the which he was well commended at that time: after, obtained the office of usher of the free grammar school, and the master being dead, got to be master himself; and being married to a very honest woman, remained there the days of King Edward. And when God took him from us for our just-deserved plague, and Queen Mary came to her reign, none more hot in all papistry and superstition than he, painting the posts of the town with Vivat Regina Maria, and in every corner.

            Furthermore, after the death of his wife, (which was an honest woman,) he was made a priest, taking upon him divers times to preach (but never without his white minever-hood) such doctrine as was shameful to hear, saying mass, and carrying about the pix in high processions. Furthermore, leading the boy St. Nicholas with his minever-hood about the streets, for apples and belly-cheer. And whoso would not receive him, he made them heretics, and such also as would not give his faggot to the bonfire for Queen Mary's child. And thus continued he at Ipswich the most part of Queen Mary's days, molesting their good men, some for not going to the church, some for not being confessed, some for not receiving, &c., till at length, toward the end of Queen Mary, he came to London, and in this queen's time began to show himself again a perfect protestant. And thus much of Argentine.

 

The trouble of Peter Moon and his wife, and of other godly Protestants, at Bishop Hopton's visitation in Ipswich.

            In the year of our Lord God 1556, the scene or visitation being kept before Whitsuntide in the town of Ipswich in Suffolk, by Dr. Hopton, being then bishop of Norwich, and Miles Dunning, being then his chancellor, divers sundry godly protestants, through the accusation of evil men, were sore troubled and presented before him: among whom were accused one Peter Moon, a tailor, and Anne his wife, for their disobedience to the law, in not showing their readiness to come to the church, and to be partakers of such Romish observances as at that time were used. And first the said Peter Moon was commanded to come before the bishop, where he was examined of three sundry articles, to wit, First, whether the pope were supreme head; secondly, whether King Philip and Queen Mary were right inheritors to the crown; and thirdly, whether in the sacrament of the altar was the very body of Christ substantially and really there present.

            Unto the which the said Peter, being timorous and weak, fearing more the face of man than the heavy wrath of God, affirmed, and in manner granted unto, their demands. Whereupon the bishop being in good hope, that although he had not come to the church, nor received the sacrament of the altar, nor been ready to do his duty as the law had commanded; yet there showing his mind, said, that he liked well the man: "for such as have been," said he, "earnest in evil things, will also be earnest in that that is good and godly, if once they be won."

            Thus as this spiritual father was commending his carnal child, and rather preferring him to hell-fire, than unto the sincere word and commandments of God, it chanced amongst many others in the chamber, was one of the portmen of the same town, named Smart, an earnest member of their Romish law, doing of a very good conscience that he did, who, after the death of Queen Mary, lived not many years, but rendered his life in godly repentance, protesting that if God should suffer him to live, he would never be the man he had been before, what laws soever should come again: so that before the time of his sickness he, frequenting earnestly the sermons in the same town, made by divers godly learned men, would weep as it had been a child, being notwithstanding of courage as stout a man as any was in Ipswich. Such is the marvellous mercy of God in calling to his kingdom whom, and when, he pleaseth.

            "This portman aforesaid, perceiving the bishop thus, as it were, at an end with the said Moon, and so he like to be discharged, said unto the bishop, "My Lord, indeed I have good hope in the man, and that he will he conformable; but, my Lord, he hath a perilous woman to his wife. For I will tell you, my Lord, she never came to church yet, since the queen's reign, except it were at evensong, or when she was churched. And not then until mass were done. Wherefore your good Lordship might do a good deed to cause her to come before you, and to see if you could do any good. And therefore I beseech your good Lordship to command him to pray her to come before your Lordship."

            At the which words Moon was somewhat stirred, in that he said, "Command him to pray her to come before your Lordship:" and he said unto him, "Under my Lord's correction I speak, I am as able to command her to come before my Lord, as ye are to command the worst boy in your house." "Yea, my Lord," said the other, "I cry your Lordship mercy: I have informed your Lordship with an untruth, if this be so. But if he be so able as he saith, he might have commanded her to have come to church in all this time, if it had pleased him." "Well," said the bishop, "look you come before me at afternoon, and bring your wife with you; I will talk with her."

            As my Lord's dinner at that time was serving up, Moon departed, and tarried not to take part thereof, having such a hard breakfast given him before to digest. At afternoon Moon delayed and waited his time, bethinking when he might most conveniently come, especially when his accuser and his wife's should not have been there. And according to the commandment came with his wife; which was not so secretly done, but his accuser had knowledge thereof, and came with all expedition, in such post speed that in manner he was windless, entering into the bishop's chamber.

            The bishop, hearing that Moon and his wife were come, called for them, and said to Moon, "Is this your wife, Moon?" "Yea, my Lord," said he. "O good Lord! "said the bishop, "how a man may be deceived in a woman! I promise you a man would take her for as honest a woman, by all outward appearance, as can be." "Why, my Lord," said Moon's wife, "I trust there is none that can charge me with any dishonesty, as concerning my body: I defy all the world in that respect."

            "Nay," quoth the bishop, "I mean not as concerning the dishonesty of thy body: but thou hadst been better to have given the use of thy body unto twenty sundry men, than to do as thou hast done. For thou hast done as much as in thee lieth, to pluck the king and the queen's Majesties out of their royal seats through thy disobedience, in showing thyself an open enemy unto God's laws, and their proceedings."

            Then began the bishop to examine the said Moon again, with the aforesaid articles, and his wife also. And she, hearing her husband relent, did also affirm the same, which turned unto either of them to no small trouble of mind afterward; but yet neither were they like thus to escape, but that in the mean time Dunning, the bishop's chancellor, came up in great haste, and brought news to the bishop, that there were such a number of heretics come, of which some came from Boxford, some from Lavenham, and about from the cloth country, that it would make a man out of his wits to hear them: "and there are among them both heretics and Anabaptists," said he. And thus Dr. Dunning, with his blustering words interrupting Moon's examination, went down again as the devil had driven him, to keep his stir among them, and to take order what should be done with them.

            The bishop beginning to bewail the state of the country, in that it was so infected with such a number of heretics, and rehearsing partly their opinions to those that were at that time in the chamber, Moon's wife had a young child, which she herself nursed, and the child being brought into the yard under the bishop's chamber, cried, so that she heard it, and then said, "My Lord, I trust ye have done with me: my child crieth beneath; I must go give my child suck;" with such-like words. And the bishop being (as it were) out of mind to talk with them any more, said, "Go your way, I will talk with you in the morning; look ye be here again in the morning." With this they both departed.

            And beneath in the stone-hall of the same house, the chancellor Dunning being very busy about his bloody business, espied Moon and his wife coming, and must needs pass by the place where he stood, and said, "Nay, soft: I must talk with you both, for ye are as evil as any that are here to-day." To whom Moon's wife answered, "My Lord hath had us in examination, and therefore ye shall have nought to do with us." "Nay," quoth he, "ye shall not so escape, I must talk with you also." Unto whom Moon answered, "In the presence of the more, the less hath no power: my Lord hath taken order with us, and therefore we are as his Lordship hath appointed, and must repair before him again to-morrow." At the which he let them go, although he was earnestly procured by the party above specified to have showed his quality, which was nothing else but tyranny.

            So departed Moon and his wife without hurt of body: but afterward, when they, with Peter the apostle, beheld the face of Christ, they were sore wounded in their consciences, ashamed of their doings, and also at the door of desperation: insomuch, that when the said Moon came home to his house, and entering into a parlour alone by himself, considering his estate, and seeing where a sword of his did hang against a wall, he was earnestly allured by the enemy Satan to have taken it down, and therewith to have slain himself. But God, who casteth not away the penitent sinner repenting his fall with heart, defended his unworthy servant from that temptation, and hath (I trust) left him to the amendment of life by the assistance of his Holy Spirit, and to make him one among the elect that shall be saved.

            The morrow they both remained and kept house with no small grief of conscience, waiting and looking with fear, when to be sent for to the bishop, rather than offering their diligence to keep the bishop's appointment. But God so wrought, that when the time drew near that they feared calling forth, the bells rung for the bishop's departure out of the town; for the which they were not only glad, but also many a good heart in Ipswich rejoiced and gave thanks to God. God for his mercy grant, that our sin never deserve to provoke God's ire, that the like days come again! And if it so do, God make them, with all other weaklings, strong and worthy soldiers to encounter with the ghostly enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil; and boldly to stand to the confession of Christ, and of his gospel, saying with the apostles, Whether it be right in the sight of God, that we should obey you more than God, judge ye.

 

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