Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 139. LONDONERS FORCED TO RECANT, 1510-1527


Mention was made sufficiently before of the doings of Pope Julius, and of his warlike affairs, for the which he was condemned, and not unjustly, in the council of Tours in France, A.D. 1510, and yet all this could not assuage the furious affection of this pope, but the same year he invaded the city of Modena and Mirandola in Italy, and took them by force of war. Which Pope Julius not long after, in the year of our Lord 1512, refusing peace offered by Maximilian the emperor, was encountered by Louis the French king, about Ravenna, upon Easter day; where he was vanquished, and had of his army slain to the number of sixteen thousand. And the year next following, A.D. 1513, this apostolical warrior, which had resigned his keys unto the river of Tiber before, made an end together both of his fighting and living, after he had reigned and fought ten years. After whom succeeded next in the see of Rome Pope Leo the Tenth, about the compass of which time great mutations and stirs began to work, as well in states temporal, as especially in the state of the church.

Pope Leo the Tenth, in Rome, A.D. 1513, reigned nine years.

Charles the Fifth, emperor in Germany, A.D. 1519, reigned thirty-nine years.

Francis, king of France, A.D. 1515, reigned thirty-two years.

Henry the Eighth, king of England, A.D. 1509, reigned thirty-eight years.

James the Fifth, king of Scotland, A.D. 1514, reigned twenty-nine years.

In the time of which pope, emperor, and kings of England and of France, great alterations, troubles, and turns of religion were wrought in the church, by the mighty operation of God's hand, in Italy, France, Germany, England, and all Europe, such as have not been seen, although much groaned for, many hundred years before; as in further discourse of this history (Christ willing) shall more manifestly appear.

But before we come to these alterations, taking the time as it lieth before us, we will first speak of Richard Hun, and certain other godly-minded persons here in England, afflicted for the word of Christ's gospel in great multitude, as they be found and taken out of the registers of Fitzjames, bishop of London, by the faithful help and industry of R. Carket, citizen of London.


The history of divers good men and women, persecuted for religion in the city and diocese of the bishop of London, briefly extracted out of the registers of Richard Fitzjames.

Amongst and beside the great number of the faithful martyrs and professors of Christ, that constantly in the strength of the Holy Ghost gave their lives for the testimony of his truth, I find recorded in the register of London, between the years of our Lord 1509 and 1527, the names of divers other persons both men and women; who, in the fulness of that dark and misty time of ignorance, had also some portion of God's good Spirit, which induced them to the knowledge of his truth and gospel, and were diversly troubled, persecuted, and imprisoned for the same; notwithstanding, by the proud, cruel, and bloody rage of the catholic seat, and through the weakness and frailty of their own nature, (not then fully strengthened in God,) it was again in them, for the time, suppressed and kept under, as appeareth by their several abjurations made before Richard Fitzjames, then bishop of London, (in his time a most cruel persecutor of Christ's church,) or else before his vicar-general deputed for the same. And forasmuch as many of the adversaries of God's truth have of late days disdainfully and braggingly cried out, and made demands in their public assemblies, and yet do, asking where this our church and religion was within these fifty or sixty years, I have thought it not altogether vain, somewhat to stop such lying crakers, both by mentioning their names, and likewise opening some of the chief and principal matters, for which they were so unmercifully afflicted and molested, thereby to give to understand, as well the continuance and consent of the true church of Christ in that age, touching the chief points of our faith, though not in like perfection of knowledge and constancy in all; as also by the way, something to touch what fond and frivolous matters the ignorant prelates shamed not in that time of blindness to object against the poor and simple people, accounting them as heinous andgreat offences, yea, such as deserved death of both body and soul. But lest I should seem too prolix and tedious herein, I will now briefly proceed with the story, and first begin with their names, which are these:


A.D. 1510.
Joan Baker.
William Pottier.
John Forge.
Thomas Goodred
Thomas Walker, alias Talbot
Thomas Forge.
Alice Forge.
John Forge, their son.
William Couper.
John Calverton.
John Woodrofe.


A.D. 1511.
Richard Woolman.
Roger Hilliar.
Alice Couper.
Thomas Austy.
Joan Austy.
Thomas Graunt.
John Garter.
Christopher Ravins.
Dionyse Ravins
Thomas Vincent
Lewis John.
Joan John.


A.D. 1512.
John Webb, alias Baker.

A.D. 1517.
John Houshold.
Robert Rascal.


A.D. 1518.
Elizabeth Stanford.
George Browne.
John Wikes.
John Southake.
Richard Butler.
John Samme.


A.D. 1521.
William King.
Robert Durdant.
Henry Woolman.
Edmund Spilman.


A.D. 1523.
John Higges, alias Noke, alias Johnson.


A.D. 1526.
Henry Chambers.
John Higgins.

A.D. 1527.
Thomas Egleston..

The particular examination of all these here abovenamed, here followeth.

To these were divers and sundry particular articles, (besides the common and general sort accustomably used in such cases,) privately objected, even such as they were then accused of, either by their curate, or other their neighbours. And because I think it somewhat superfluous to make any large recital of all and every part of their several process, I mind, therefore, briefly only to touch so many of their articles as may be sufficient to induce the Christian reader to judge the sooner of the rest, being (I assure you) of no greater importance than these that follow: except that sometime they were charged most slanderously with horrible and blasphemous lies against the majesty and truth of God, which, as they utterly denied, so do I now for this present keep secret in silence, as well for brevity's sake, as also somewhat to colour and hide the shameless practices of that lying generation. But to our purpose.

The chiefest objection against Joan Baker was, that she would not only herself not reverence the crucifix, but had also persuaded a friend of hers lying at the point of death, not to put any trust or confidence in the crucifix, but in God which is in heaven, who only worketh all the miracles that be done, and not the dead images, that be but stocks and stones: and therefore she was sorry that ever she had gone so often on pilgrimage to St. Saviour and other idols. Also, that she did hold opinion, that the pope had no power to give pardons, and that the Lady Young (who was not long before that time burned) died a true martyr of God; and therefore she wished of God, that she herself might do no worse than the said Lady Young had done.

Unto William Pottier, besides divers other false and slanderous articles, (as that he should deny the benefit and effect of Christ's passion,) it was also alleged that he should affirm, that there were six Gods. The first three was the holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The fourth was a priest's concubine being kept in his chamber. The fifth was the devil. And the sixth, that thing that a man setteth his mind most upon.

"The first part of this article he utterly denied, confessing most firmly and truly the blessed Trinity to be only one God in one unity of Deity: as to the other three be answered, that a priest delighting in his concubine, made her as his god. Likewise a wicked person persisting in his sin without repentance, made the devil his god. And lastly he granted, that he once hearing of certain men, which by the singing and chattering of birds would seek to know what things were to come, either to themselves or others, said that those men esteemed their birds as gods: and otherwise he spake not."

Amongst the manifold and several articles objected against Thomas Goodred, Thomas Walker, Thomas Forge, Alice Forge his wife, John Forge their son, John Calverton, John Woodrofe, Richard Woolman, and Roger Hilliar, (as that they should speak against pilgrimages, praying unto saints, and such like,) this principally was propounded, that they all denied the carnal and corporal presence of Christ's body and blood in the sacrament of the altar; and further, had concealed and consented unto their teachers and instructors of that doctrine, and had not, according unto the laws of the church, accused and presented them unto the bishop or his ordinary. Also great and heinous displeasure was conceived against Richard Woolman, for that he termed the church of Paul's, a house of thieves; affirming that the priests and other ecclesiastical persons there, were not liberal givers unto the poor, (as they ought,) but rather takers away from them, what they could get.

Likewise as Thomas Austy, Joan Austy his wife, Thomas Graunt, John Garters, Christopher Ravins, Dionyse Ravins his sister, Thomas Vincent, Lewis John, Joan John his wife, and John Webb, were of one fellowship and profession of faith with divers of the last before recited; so were they also almost apprehended about one time, and chiefly burdened with one opinion of the sacrament. Which declareth evidently, that notwithstanding the dark ignorance of those corrupted times, yet God did ever in mercy open the eyes of some, to behold the manifest truth, even in those things whereof the papists make now greatest vaunt and brag of longest continuance. Furthermore, many of them were charged to have spoken against pilgrimages, and to have read and used certain English books, impugning the faith of the Romish Church; as the Four Evangelists, Wickliff's Wicket, a book of the Ten Commandments of Almighty God, the Revelation of St. John, the Epistles of Paul and James, with other like, which those holy ones could never abide; and good cause why: for as darkness could never agree with light, no more can ignorance, the maintainer of that kingdom, with the true knowledge of Christ and his gospel.

It was further particularly objected against Joan John, the wife of Lewis John, that (besides the premises) she learned and maintained that God commanded no holy-days to be kept, but only the sabbath day; and therefore she would keep none but it, nor no fasting days; affirming, that to fast from sin was the true fast. Moreover, that she had despised the pope, his pardons, and pilgrimages; insomuch that when any poor body asked his alms of her in the worship of the Lady of Walsingham, she would straight answer in contempt of the pilgrimage, The Lady of Walsingham help thee. And if she gave any thing unto him, she would then say, Take this in the worship of our Lady in heaven, and let the other go. Which declareth for lack of better instruction and knowledge, she yet ignorantly attributed too much honour to the true saints of God departed; though otherwise she did abhor the idolatrous worshipping of the dead images. By which example, as also by many others, (for shortness sake, at this present omitted,) I have just occasion to condemn the wilful subtlety of those, that in this bright shining light of God's truth would yet, under colour of godly remembrance, still maintain the having of images in the church, craftily excusing their idolatrous kneeling and praying unto them, by affirming, that they never worshipped the dead images, but the things that the images did represent. But if that were their only doctrine and cause of having of them, why then would their predecessors so cruelly compel these poor simple people, thus openly in their recantations, to abjure and revoke their speaking against the gross adoration of the outward images only, and not against the thing represented? Which many of them, (as appeareth partly by this example,) in their ignorant simplicity, confessed might be worshipped. Howbeit, God be thanked, (who ever in his mercy continue it,) their colourable and hypocritical excuses cannot now take such place in the hearts of the elect of God, as they have done heretofore, especially seeing the word of God doth so manifestly forbid as well the worshipping of them, as also the making or having of them, for order of religion.

It was alleged against William Cowper and Alice Cowper his wife, that they had spoken against pilgrimages, and worshipping of images; but chiefly the woman, who having her child on a time hurt by falling into a pit or ditch, and earnestly persuaded by some of her ignorant neighbours, to go on pilgrimage to St. Laurence for help for her child, said, that neither St. Laurence nor any other saint could help her child, and therefore none ought to go on pilgrimage to any image made with man's hand, but only unto Almighty God; for pilgrimages were nothing worth, saving to make the priests rich.

Unto John Houshold, Robert Rascal, and Elizabeth Stamford, as well the article against the sacrament of the altar was objected, as also that they had spoken against praying to saints, and had despised the authority of the bishop of Rome, and others of his clergy. But especially John Houshold was charged to have called them antichrists and fornicators, and the pope himself a strong strumpet, and a common scandal unto the world, who with his pardons had drowned in blindness all Christian realms, and that for money.

Also among divers other ordinary articles propounded against George Brown, these were counted very heinous and heretical: First, that he had said, that he knew no cause why the cross should be worshipped, seeing that the same was a hurt and pain unto our Saviour Christ in the time of his passion, and not any ease or pleasure; alleging for example, that if he had had a friend hanged or drowned, he would ever after have loved that gallows, or water, by the which his friend died, rather worse for that than better. Another objection was, that he had erroneously, obstinately, and maliciously said, for so are their words, that the church was too rich. This matter, I may tell you, touched somewhat the quick, and therefore no marvel though they counted it erroneous and malicious; for take away their gain, and farewell their religion. They also charged him to have refused holy water to be cast about his chamber, and likewise to have spoken against priests, with other vain matters.

The greatest matter wherewith they burdened John Wikes, was, that he had often and of long time kept company with divers persons suspected of heresies, as they termed them, and had received them into his house, and there did suffer and hear them, sundry times, read erroneous and heretical books, contrary to the faith of the Romish Church, and did also himself consent unto their doctrine; and had many times secretly conveyed them from the taking of such as were appointed to apprehend them.

Like as the greatest number of those before mentioned, so were also John Southake, Richard Butler, John Sam, William King; Robert Durdant, and Henry Woolman, especially charged with speaking words against the real presence of Christ's body in the sacrament of the altar, and also against images, and the rest of the seven sacraments. Howbeit, they burdened the last five persons with the reading of certain English heretical books, accounting most blasphemously the Gospel of Jesus Christ, written by the four evangelists, to be of that number, as appeareth evidently by the eighth article objected by Thomas Bennet, doctor of law, chancellor and vicar general, unto Richard Fitzjames, then bishop of London, against the said Richard Butler. The very words of which article, for a more declaration of truth, I have thought good here to insert; which are these: "Also we object to you, that divers times, and especially upon a certain night, about the space of three years last past, in Robert Durdant's house of Iver Court near unto Stanes, you erroneously and damnably read in a great book of heresy of the said Robert Durdant's, all that same night, certain chapters of the evangelists in English, containing in them divers erroneous and damnable opinions and conclusions of heresy, in the presence of the said Robert Durdant, John Butler, Robert Carder, Jenkin Butler, William King, and divers other suspect persons of heresy then being present, and hearing your said erroneous lectures and opinions." To the same effect and purpose tended the tenor of some of the articles propounded against the other four. Whereby, as also by others like before specified, we may easily judge what reverence they, which yet will be counted the true and only church of Christ, did bear to the word and Gospel of Christ, who shamed not to blaspheme the same with most horrible titles of erroneous and damnable opinions, and conclusions of heresy. But why should we marvel thereat, seeing the Holy Ghost in sundry places of the Scripture doth declare, that in the latter days there should come such proud and cursed speakers, which shall speak lies through hypocrisy, and have their consciences marked with a hot iron? Let us therefore now thank our heavenly Father for revealing them unto us; and let us also pray him, that of his free mercies in his Son Christ Jesus, he would, if it be to his glory, either turn and mollify all such hearts, or else, for the peace and quietness of his church, he would in his righteous judgment take them from us.

About this time Richard Fitzjames ended his life. After whose death, Cutbert Tunstall (afterwards bishop of Durham) succeeded in the see and bishopric of London; who soon upon his first entry into the room, minding to follow rightly the footsteps of his predecessor, caused Edmund Spilman, priest, Henry Chambers, John Higgins, and Thomas Eglestone, to be apprehended, and so to be examined upon sundry like articles, as before are expressed; and in the end, either for fear of his cruelty, and his rigour of death, or else through hope of his flattering promises, (such was their weakness,) he compelled them to abjure and renounce their true professed faith touching the holy sacrament of Christ's body and blood, which was, that Christ's corporal body was not in the sacrament, but in heaven, and that the sacrament was a figure of his body, and not the body itself.

Moreover, about the same time there were certain articles objected against John Higges, alias Noke, alias Johnson, by the said bishop's vicar-general. Amongst which were these: First, that he had affirmed, that it was as lawful for a temporal man to have two wives at once, as for a priest to have two benefices. Also, that he had in his custody a book of the Four Evangelists in English, and did often read therein; and that he favoured the doctrines and opinions of Martin Luther, openly pronouncing that Luther had more learning in his little finger than all the doctors in England in their whole bodies; and that all the priests in the church were blind, and had led the people the wrong way. Likewise it was alleged against him, that he had denied purgatory, and had said, that while he were alive he would do as much for himself as he could, for after his death he thought that prayer and alms-deeds could little help him.

These and such-like matters were they, wherewith these poor and simple men and women were chiefly charged, and as heinous heretics excommunicated, imprisoned, and at last compelled to recant; and some of them, in utter shame and reproach, (besides the ordinary bearing of faggots before the cross in procession, or else at a sermon,) were enjoined for penance, (as they termed it,) as well to appear once every year before their ordinary, as also to wear the sign of a faggot painted upon their sleeves, or other part of their outward garment, and that during all their lives, or so often and long as it pleased their ordinary to appoint. By which long, rigorous, and open punishing of them, they meant (as it should seem) utterly to terrify and keep back all others from the true knowledge of Jesus Christ and his gospel. But the Lord be evermore praised, what effect their wicked purposes therein have taken, these our most lightsome days of God's glorious gospel do most joyfully declare.

There were also troubled besides these, certain others more simple and ignorant; who having but a very small smack or taste of the truth, did yet at the first (as it may seem) gladly consent unto the same; but being apprehended, they quickly again yielded, and therefore had only assigned them for their penance, the bearing of a little candle before the cross, without any further open abjuring or recanting. Amongst which I find two especially; the one a woman, called Ellen Heyer, to whom it was objected, that she had neither confessed herself unto the priest, nor yet received the sacrament of the altar, by the space of four years, and notwithstanding had yearly eaten flesh at Easter, and after, as well as others that had received the same, contrary to the usual manner and conversation of all other Christian people.

The other was a man, named Robert Berkeway, who (besides most wicked blasphemies against God, which he utterly denied) was charged to have spoken heinous words against the pope's holy and blessed martyr Thomas Becket, calling him covetous and a thief, for that he wrought by crafts and imaginations.

Thus have I (as briefly as I could) summarily collected the principal articles objected against these weak, infirm, and earthy vessels. Not minding hereby to excuse or condemn them, in these their fearful falls and dangerous defections; but leaving them unto the unmeasurable rich mercies of the Lord; I thought only to make manifest the insatiable bloody cruelty of the pope's kingdom, against the gospel and true church of Christ; nothing mitigating their envious rage, no not against the very simple idiots, and that sometimes in most frivolous and irreligious cases. But now leaving to say any further herein, I will (by God's grace) go forward with other somewhat more serious matters.


Previous Next