405. JOHN DAVIS, A CHILD UNDER TWELVE YEARS OF AGE.
Illustration -- John Davis Arrested
Anno Domini 1546, and the last year of King Henry the Eighth, John Davis, a child of twelve years and under, who, dwelling in the house of Master Johnson, apothecary, in the town of Worcester, his uncle, (using sometimes to read of the Testament and other good English books,) was complained of by Alice Johnson his mistress; which Alice, being an obstinate person, consulted with one Thomas Parton, and one Alice, wife to Nicholas Brooke, organ-maker, with certain of the canons, and Master Johnson, chancellor to Dr. Heath, their bishop. The means whereby he was entrapped were wrought by the foresaid Alice Brooke, who procured Oliver her son, school-fellow with the said John Davis, to feign friendship with him, and, under pretence to be instructed, to see his English books, and especially to get something of his writing against the Six Articles; which being had, was soon brought to the canons of the church, and the chancellor. Whereupon Thomas Parton, whether being sent, or of his own mind, came to apprehend him, and his uncle was forced, against his will, to bind the poor boy's arms behind him; and so he was brought to the officers of the town, where he lay from the fourteenth of August till the last of September. Then was he commanded to the freeman's prison, where one Richard Hawborough, coming to persuade him from burning, willed him to prove first with a candle; who then holding his finger, and the other a candle under it, a good space, yet (as the party himself to me assureth) felt no burning thereof; neither would the other that held the candle believe him a great while, till he had looked, and saw no scorching of the candle at all appeared.
Then was the child removed from thence to an inner prison, called Peephole, where the low bailiff, called Robert Yould, laid upon him a pair of bolts, so that he could not lift up his small legs, but leaning on a staff, slipt them forward upon the ground; the coldness of which irons he feeleth yet in his ancles, and shall so long as he liveth: with these bolts his lying was upon the cold ground, having not one lock of straw nor cloth to cover him, save only two sheepskins; neither durst father or mother, or any of his friends, come at him. Besides this, and many great threats of the papists, there was a mad-man put to him in the prison, with a knife about him, wherewith he ofttimes, in his frantic rage, proffered to thrust him in.
After this came to him one Joyliff and N. Yewer, two canons, which had his writings against the Six Articles, and his ballad, called, "Come down, for all your shaven crown," to see whether he would stand to that he had written. Which done, with many great raging words, not long after sat Master Johnson, the chancellor, in the Guildhall, upon the poor lad; where first were brought in his accusers, and sworn. Then were sworn also twenty-four men which went on his quest, and found him guilty; but he never came before the chancellor. Upon this he was sent to the common gaol among thieves and murderers, there to tarry the coming of the judges, and so to be had straight to execution. But the mighty mercy of the Lord, who helpeth the desolate and miserable when all other help is past, so provided for this silly condemned lad, that the purpose of all his hard-hearted enemies was disappointed; for before the judges came, God took away Henry the Eighth out of this life, by reason whereof the force of the law was then stayed. Howbeit he was nevertheless arraigned, being holden up in a man's arms at the bar before the judges, who were Portman and Marven; who, when they perceived that they could not burn him, would have him presently whipped; but Master John Bourne, esquire, declared to the judges, how he had whipping enough. After that he had lain a week more in prison, he had him home to his house, his wife anointed his legs herself with ointment, which then were stiff and numbed with irons, till at length, when Master Bourne and his wife saw they could not win him to the belief of their sacrament, they put him away, lest he should infect their son Anthony, as they thought, with heresy.
Thus John Davis, of the age aforesaid, in what damage he was for the gospel ye see, and how the Lord preserved him ye understand. He endured in prison from the fourteenth day of August, till within seven days of Easter; who is yet alive, and a profitable minister this day in the church of England: blessed be the Lord.