Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 142. LONDON MARTYRS, 1509-1518

142. LONDON MARTYRS, 1509-1518

But I trouble the reader too much in this matter of Richard Hun, being of itself so clear, that no indifferent judge can doubt thereof. As for wranglers and quarrellers, they will never be satisfied. Wherefore, to return again to the purpose of our story intermitted; in the table above, containing the names of them which about this time of Richard Hun were forced to deny and abjure their professed opinions, mention was made of Elizabeth Stamford, John Houshold, and other more, abjuring about the year of our Lord, 1517. Whose vexation and weakness, although it be pitiful to behold, yet to consider the confession of their doctrine in those ancient days, it is not unprofitable. Wherein we have to see the same form of knowledge and doctrine then taught and planted in the hearts of our fore-elders, which is now publicly received, as well touching the Lord's sacrament of his body, as also other specialties of sincerity. And although they lacked then public authority to maintain the open preaching and teaching of the gospel, which the Lord's merciful grace hath given us now, yet in secret knowledge and understanding they seemed then little or nothing inferior to these our times of public reformation; as may appear by this confession of Elizabeth Stamford hereunder written; which only may suffice for example to understand what ripe knowledge of God's word was then abroad, although not in churches publicly preached, for danger of the bishops, yet in secret wise taught and received of divers.

In number of whom was this Elizabeth Stamford, who being brought and examined before Fitzjames, bishop of London, A.D. 1517, confessed that she was taught by one Thomas Beele, sometime dwelling at Henley, these words, eleven years before: "That Christ feedeth and fast nourisheth his church with his own precious body, that is, the bread of life coming down from heaven; this is the worthy word that is worthily received, and joined unto man for to be in one body with him. Sooth it is that they be both one, they may not be parted: this is the wisely deeming of the holy sacrament Christ's own body: this is not received by chewing of teeth, but by bearing of ears, and understanding with your soul, and wisely working thereafter. Therefore saith St. Paul, I fear me amongst us, brethren, that many of us be feeble and sick; therefore I counsel us brethren to rise and watch, that the great day of doom come not suddenly upon us, as the thief doth upon the merchant." Also the said Thomas taught and showed her, that the sacrament of the altar was not the very body of Christ, but very bread; and that the sacrament was the very body of Christ, put upon the cross, after a divine or mystical manner. And moreover, that the said Thomas Beele did many times and oft teach her this aforesaid lesson, that she should confess her sins to God, and that the pope's pardons and indulgences were nought worth, and profited not; and that worshipping of images and pilgrimages are not to be done.


John Stilman, martyr.

It would ask a long tractation and tedious, to recite in order the great multitude and number of good men and women, besides these above rehearsed, which in those days recanted and abjured about the beginning of King Henry's reign and before: among whom yet, notwithstanding, some there were whom the Lord reduced again, and made strong in the profession of his truth, and constant unto death; of which number one was John Stilman by name, who about the twenty-fourth day of September, in the year of our Lord, 1518, was apprehended and brought before Richard Fitzjames, then bishop of London, at his manor of Fulham, and by him was there examined and charged, that notwithstanding his former recantation, oath, and abjuration made about eleven years then past, before Edmund, then bishop of Salisbury, as well for speaking against the worshipping, praying, and offering unto images, as also for denying the carnal and corporal presence in the sacrament of Christ's memorial; yet, since that time he had fallen into the same opinions again, and so into the danger of relapse; and further, had highly commended and praised John Wickliff, affirming that he was a saint in heaven, and that his book called The Wicket was good and holy. Soon after his examination he was sent from thence unto the Lollard's Tower at London, and the twenty-second day of October then next ensuing, was brought openly into the consistory at Paul's, and was there judicially examined by Thomas Hed, the bishop's vicar-general, upon the contents of these articles following:

"1. First I object unto you, that you have confessed before my lord of London, and me, Doctor Hed his vicar-general, that about twenty years past, one Stephen Moone, of the diocese of Winchester, with whom you abode six or seven years after, did teach you to believe that the going on pilgrimage and worshipping of images, as the Lady of Walsingham and others, were not to be used. And also that afterwards one Richard Smart, who was burned at Salisbury about fourteen or fifteen years past, did read unto you Wickliff's Wicket, and likewise instructed you to believe that the sacrament of the altar was not the body of Christ: all which things you have erroneously believed.

"2. Item, You have divers times read the said book called Wickliffe's Wicket, and one other book of the ten commandments, which the said Richard Smart did give you, and at the time of your first apprehension, you did hide them in an old oak, and did not reveal them unto the bishop of Salisbury, before whom you were abjured of heresy about eleven years since; where you promised by oath upon the evangelists, ever after to believe and hold as the Christian faith taught and preached, and never to offend again in the said heresies, or any other, upon pain of relapse. And further, you there promised to perform all such penance as the said bishop of Salisbury did enjoin you; who then enjoined you, upon the like pain, not to depart his diocese, without his special licence.

"3. Item, It is evident that you be relapsed, as well by your own confession, as also by your deeds, in that about two years after your abjuration you went into the said place where you had hidden your books; and then taking them away with you, you departed the aforesaid diocese, without the licence of the bishop, and brought them with you to London, where now being attached and taken with them upon great suspicion of heresy, you are brought unto the bishop of London. By reason of which your demeanour, you have showed both your impenitent and dissembled conversation both your errors, and also your unfaithful abjuration, and disobedience unto the authority of our mother holy church, in that you performed not the penance, in which behalf you be voluntarily perjured and also relapsed, in that you departed the same diocese without licence.

"4. Item, You be not only (as before is said) impenitent, disobedient, voluntarily perjured, and relapsed, by this your aforesaid heretical demeanour, but also, since your last attachment upon suspicion of heresy, you have maliciously spoken erroneous and damnable words, affirming before my lord of London, your ordinary, and me, judicially sitting at Fulham, that you were sorry that ever you did abjure your said opinions, and had not suffered then manfully for them: for they were, and be, good and true; and therefore you will now abide by them, to die for it. And furthermore, you have spoken against our holy father the pope and his authority, damnably saying, that he is antichrist, and not the true successor of Peter, or Christ's vicar on earth: and that his pardons and indulgences which he granteth in the sacrament of penance, are naught, and that you will none of them: and likewise that the college of cardinals be limbs of the said antichrist, and that all other inferior prelates and priests are the synagogue of Satan. And moreover you said, that the doctors of the church have subverted the truth of Holy Scripture, expounding it after their own minds; and therefore their works be naught, and they in hell; but that Wickliff is a saint in heaven, and the book called his Wicket is good, for therein he showeth the truth. Also you did wish that there were twenty thousand of your opinion against us Scribes and Pharisees, to see what you would do for the defence of your faith. All which heresies you did afterwards erroneously affirm before the archbishop of Canterbury, and then said, that you would abide by them to die for it, notwithstanding his earnest persuasions to the contrary; and therefore for these premises you be evidently relapsed, and ought to be committed unto the secular power."

After these articles thus propounded, and his constant persevering in the truth perceived, Doctor Hed, vicar-general, the twenty-fifth day of October, by his sentence definitive, did condemn him a relapsed heretic, and so delivered him the same present day unto the sheriffs of London, to be openly burned in Smithfield.


Thomas Man, martyr.

Next to John Stilman above mentioned, followeth in this order of blessed martyrs, the persecution and condemnation of Thomas Man; who, the twenty-ninth day of March, in the year of our Lord 1518, was burned in Smithfield. This Thomas Man had likewise been apprehended for the profession of Christ's gospel about six years before, the fourteenth day of August, A.D. 1511, and being at that time brought before Doctor Smith, bishop of Lincoln, was by him examined upon divers and sundry articles.

The fifteenth day of February, Doctor Hed, the chancellor, again judicially sitting in the consistory at Paul's, commanded Thomas Man to be brought before him, and there causing the articles objected against him by the bishop of Lincoln, with his order of abjuration and penance, and also his own articles last propounded, to be first read, he called forth a third witness to be sworn and examined upon the same. But because he would seem to do all things by order of justice, and nothing against law, he therefore appointed unto the said Thomas Man certain doctors and advocates of the Arches, as his counsellors to plead in his behalf. Which was even like as if the lamb should be committed to the defence and protection of the wolf, or the hare to the hound. For what good help could he look for at their hands, which were both most wicked haters and abhorrers of his Christian profession, and also stout upholders and maintainers of that antichristian law, by the which he was for the same condemned? And that full well appeared by the good advice and profitable counsel which they gave him against his next examinations. For as well upon the twentieth and also the twenty-third days of the same month of February, in their several sessions, he, seeing his own negations to their objections to take no place against their sworn witnesses, had no other thing to allege for himself, but that through his twenty weeks of hard imprisonment under the bishop of Lincoln, he was forced to recant and abjure; which was a poor shift of counsel, God knoweth; and yet Dr. Raynes, being one of his chief assigned advocates, instead of advice, could by his subtle questioning then make him to confess, that certain talk, whereof one of the witnesses had accused him, was spoken about five years before past; which because it was since his recantation, was rather an accusation of himself, than an excusing; and therefore it is easy to judge with how favourable and uprightful hearts they took upon them to be his advocates and defenders. The chancellor likewise charged him upon the same twenty-third day, that since his last imprisonment he had said unto Robert Clunie the bishop's sumner, and his keeper, that as far forth as he could see or perceive for his part in this his matter, the laws of the church were grounded upon Pilate and Caiaphas. Which objection he granting to be true, the chancellor did for that time dismiss the court, until the first day of March next following. Upon which day, minding to make quick despatch, he in few words asked Man, what matter he had to allege for himself, why he should not then, considering the premises, be pronounced a relapsed heretic, and receive such punishment by the secular power, as to such was due by order of law? But he having no other allegations than before which might take place with them, was finally condemned as a heretic. And notwithstanding that, as the register noteth, but how truly God only knoweth, he did again forsake his former renewed profession of Christ's gospel, and yielded himself unto the bishop of Rome, requiring to be absolved from his curse of excommunication, and contented to do such penance as they should enjoin him; he was yet, the twenty-ninth day of March, delivered by Doctor Hed unto the sheriff of London, to be then presently burned, with this protestation made before, that he might not consent to the death of any, and therefore he desired the sheriff that he would receive this person as relapsed and condemned, and yet to punish him otherwise than by rigorous rigor. The words to be marked in their sentence be these: We desire in the bowels of our Lord Jesus Christ, that the punishment and execution of due severity of thee, and against thee in this part, may so be moderate, that there be no rigorous rigor, nor yet no dissolute mansuetude, but to the health and wealth of thy soul, &c. Wherein these catholic churchmen do well declare, according to the words of Thomas Man before expressed, that the laws of their church be grounded upon Pilate and Caiaphas; for like as Caiaphas with his court of Pharisees cried against Christ unto Pilate, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death; but if thou let him go, thou art not Cæsar's friend: even so they, first condemning the saints of God to death, and then delivering them unto the secular magistrate, to be thereupon executed, would yet cover their malignant hearts with the cloak of hypocritical holiness and unwillingness to shed blood. But God be thanked, which bringeth all things to light in his due time, and uncovereth hypocrisy at last, that she may be seen and known in her right colours.

Illustration -- Thomas Man Brought to Execution

Thus Thomas Man, the manly martyr of Jesus Christ,being condemned by the unjust sentence of Hed the chancellor, was delivered to the sheriff of London, sitting on horseback, in Paternoster Row, before the bishop's door, A.D. 1518, protesting to the said sheriff that he had no power to put him to death; and therefore desired the sheriff to take him as a relapse and condemned, to see him punished, et tamen citra mortem, that is, without death, as the words stand in the register. The sheriff, receiving neither articles to be read at his burning, nor any indentures of that his delivery, immediately carried him to Smithfield, and there the same day in the forenoon caused him to be put into God's angel, according to the words of the said Thomas Man before, saying, that if he were taken again of the pilled knave priests, as he called them, he wist well he should go to the holy angel, and then be an angel in heaven.

In the deposition of one Thomas Risby, weaver, of Stratford Langthorn, against the forenamed martyr, Thomas Man, it appeareth by the registers, that he had been in divers places and countries in England, and had instructed very many, as at Amersham, at London, at Billericay, at Chelmsford, at Stratford Langthorn, at Uxbridge, at Burnham, at Henley upon Thames, in Suffolk and Norfolk, at Newbury, and divers places more; where he himself testifieth, that as he went westward, he found a great company of well-disposed persons, being of the same judgment, touching the sacrament of the Lord's supper, that he was of, and especially at Newbury, where was, as he confessed, a glorious and sweet society of faithful favourers, who had continued the space of fifteen years together, till at last by a certain lewd person, whom they trusted and made of their counsel, they were betrayed, and then many of them, to the number of six or seven score, were abjured, and three or four of them burnt. From thence he came then, as he confessed, to the forest of Windsor, where he, hearing of the brethren which were at Amersham, removed thither, where he found a godly and a great company, which had continued in that doctrine and teaching twenty-three years, which was from this present time seventy years agone. And this congregation of Buckinghamshire men remained till the time of John Longham, bishop of Lincoln, whereof we shall, Christ willing, hear more anon. Against these faithful Christians of Amersham, was great trouble and persecution in the time of William Smith, bishop of Lincoln, about the year of our Lord 1507, at which time divers and many were abjured, and it was called abjuratio magna, the great abjuration, and they which were noted of that doctrine and profession, were called by the name of "known men," or "just-fast men," &c. In this congregation of the faithful brethren, were four principal readers or instructers. Whereof one was Tilsworth, called then Doctor Tilsworth, who was burnt at Amersham, mentioned in our history before, by the name of William Tilseley, whom I suppose rather to be called Tilseworth. Another was Thomas Chase, called amongst them Doctor Chase, whom we declared before to be murdered and hanged in the bishop of Lincoln's prison at Wooburn, called Little Ease. The third was this Thomas Man, called also Doctor Man, burned, as is here mentioned, in Smithfield, A.D. 1518, who, as by his own confession, and no less also by his travail, appeareth, was God's champion, and suffered much trouble by the priests for the cause and law of God. He confesseth himself in the same register, that he had turned seven hundred people to his religion and doctrine, for the which he thanked God. He conveyed also five couples of men and women from Amersham, Uxbridge, Burnham, and Henley upon Thames, where they dwelt, unto Suffolk and Norfolk, that they might be brought, as he then termed it, out of the devil's mouth. The fourth was Robert Cosin, named likewise among them, Doctor Cosin.


Robert Cosin, martyr.

This Robert Cosin seemeth to be the same, which in the former part of our history is before mentioned, being called by the name of Father Robert, and was burnt in Buckingham. Of this Robert Cosin I find in the registers of Lincoln, that he, with Thomas Man, had instructed and persuaded one Joan Norman, about Amersham, not to go on pilgrimage, nor to worship any images of saints. Also when she had vowed a piece of silver to a saint for the health of her child, they dissuaded her from the same, and that she needed not to confess her unto a priest, but to be sufficient to lift up her hands to heaven. Moreover, they were charged by the bishop, for teaching the said Joan, that she might as well drink upon the Sunday before mass, as any other day, &c. And thus you see the doctrine of these good men, for the which they were in those days abjured and condemned to death.


William Sweeting, alias Clerke, martyr.

William Sweeting, otherwise named Clerke, first dwelt with the Lady Percy at Darlington in the county of Northampton for a certain space, and from thence went to Boxted in the county of Essex, where he was the holy-water clerk the space of seven years; after that, he was bailiff and farmer to Mistress Margery Wood the term of thirteen years. From Boxsted he departed and came to the town of St. Osithe, where he served the prior of St. Osithe's, named George Laund, the space of sixteen years and more; where he had so turned the prior by his persuasions, that the said prior of St. Osithe was afterward compelled to abjure. This William Sweeting coming up to London with the aforesaid prior, for suspicion of heresy was committed to the Lollard's Tower, under the custody of Charles Joseph, and there, being abjured in the church of St. Paul, was constrained to bear a faggot at Paul's Cross, and at Colchester; and afterward, to wear a faggot upon his coat all his life. Which he did two years together upon his left sleeve, till at length the parson of Colchester required him to help him in the service of the church, and so plucked the badge from his sleeve, and there he remained two years, being the holy-water clerk. From thence afterward he departed, and travelling abroad, came to Rederiffe in the diocese of Winchester, where he was holy-water clerk the space of a year; then went to Chelsith, where he was their neatherd, and kept the town beasts. In the which town, upon St. Ann's day in the morning, as he went forth with his beasts to the field, the good man was apprehended and brought before the bishop, and his chamber searched for books. This was A.D. 1511.

The crimes whereupon he was examined were these:

"First, For having much conference with one William Man of Boxsted, in a book which was called Matthew.

"Item, That he had familiarity, and frequented much the company of James Brewster, who had been before abjured.

"Item, That when his wife would go on pilgrimage, he asked of her, what good she should receive by her going on pilgrimage: adding moreover, that, as he supposed, it was to no purpose nor profit, but rather it were better for her to keep at home, and to attend to her business.

"Item, That he had learned and received of William Man, that the sacrament of the priests' altar was not the present very body, but bread in substance, received in memorial of Christ.

"Item, That he had propounded and affirmed the same doctrine to James Brewster.

"Item, Because he had reprehended his wife for worshipping the images in the church, and for setting up candles before them."

And thus have you all the causes and crimes laid against this William Sweeting, wherefore he was condemned. Who then being asked what cause he had, why he should not be judged for relapse, said, he had nothing else, but only that he committed himself to the mercy of Almighty God.


James Brewster, martyr.

With William Sweeting also the same time was examined and condemned James Brewster, of the parish of St. Nicholas in Colchester. This James Brewster was a carpenter, dwelling ten years in the town of Colchester, who being unlettered, could neither read nor write, and was apprehended upon the day of St. James, in one Walker's house in St. Clement's parish.

About six years before, which was A.D. 1505, he had been abjured by William Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, the see of London being then vacant; and after other penance done at Colchester, was enjoined to wear a faggot upon his upper garment during his life. Which badge he did bear upon his left shoulder near the space of two years, till the comptroller of the earl of Oxford plucked it away, because he was labouring in the works of the earl.

The crimes whereupon he was examined, and which he confessed, were these: "First, that he had been five times with William Sweeting in the fields keeping beasts, hearing him read many good things out of a certain book. At which reading also were present at one time, Woodroffe or Woodbinde, a net-maker, with his wife; also a brother-in-law of William Sweeting; and another time Thomas Good-red, who heard likewise the said William Sweeting read.

"Item, Because he used the company and conference of Henry Hert, carpenter, of Westminster, and wrought with him in his science at Westminster.

"Item, For having a certain Iittle book of Scripture in English, of an old writing almost worn for age, whose name is not there expressed.

"Item, Because he hearing upon a time one Master Bardfield of Colchester thus say, that he that will not worship the Maozim in heart and thought shall die in fight; he asked afterward of William Man, what that word Maozim should mean; who told him that it signified as much as the mass god, to wit, the sacrament of the altar.

"Item, That he had much conference with Henry Hert against oblations and images, and that it was better bestowed money which was given to the poor, than that that was offered in pilgrimage.

"Item, For that he had communication and conference with Roger Heliar, and one Walker, a thicker of St. Clement's, concerning divers such matters of pilgrimage, offering to images, worshipping of saints, and the sacrament of the altar.

"Item, When Thomas Goodred, William Sweeting, and he, in the fields keeping beasts, were talking together of the sacrament of the Lord's body and like matters, this James Brewster should thus say: Now the Son of the living God help us. Unto whom William Sweeting again should answer, Now Almighty God so do."

And thus have you the causes likewise and crimes laid against James Brewster, upon which he with William Sweeting was together examined and condemned. Then being asked, as the Romish manner is, whether he had any cause why he should not be adjudged for relapse, he, trusting to find favour and grace in submitting himself, said, that he submitted him to the mercy of Almighty God, and to the favourable goodness of him his judge. And likewise did William Sweeting submit himself; trusting belike that they should find some favour and relief in this humble subjecting themselves unto their goodness.

But note here the unmerciful and unchristian dealing of these catholic fathers, who upon their submission were contented to give out a solemn commission, the tenor whereof was to release and pardon them from the sentence of the excommunication, whereunto they had incurred: but immediately after upon the same, the bishop, all this notwithstanding, pronounced upon them the sentence of death and condemnation. Whereupon they were both delivered to the secular power, and both together burnt in Smithfield at one fire, the 18th day of October, A.D. 1511.


Christopher Shoomaker, martyr.

To these blessed saints before past, we will also adjoin Christopher Shoomaker; of whom this I find briefly in the register of Sir John Longland; that the said Christopher Shoomaker, a parishioner of Great Missenden, came to the house of John Stay, and after other matters of talk, read to him out of a little book, the words which Christ spake to his disciples. And thus coming to his house about four times, at every time he read something out of the same book unto him; teaching him not to be deceived in the priest's celebration at mass, and declaring that it was not the same very present body of Christ, as the priests did fantasy; but in substance bread, bearing the remembrance of Christ.

And taught him moreover, that pilgrimage, worshipping and setting up candles to saints, were all unprofitable. And thus the said John Say being taught by this Christopher, and also confirmed by John Okenden and Robert Pope, was brought to the knowledge of the same doctrine. Thus much briefly I find in that register concerning Christopher Shoomaker, declaring further that he was burned at Newbury about this time, which was A.D. 1518. And thus much out of the registers of London.

Illustration -- The execution of Christopher Schoomaker


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