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Lewes And Sussex Protestant Martyrs History : The Reformation : 2
There are seven long pages here altogether and they are best read in sequence. The information and images have been sourced from the web, books and my grey matter or my own camera. I have done my best to verify the contents, I hope that all of you that read the pages will learn something. p1 p2 p3 p4 p5 p6 p7
THE BURNING STARTS
In February of 1555 the godly John Rogers, Prebendary of St. Paul’s, was burnt at the stake in Smithfield and became the proto-martyr of that “noble army of martyrs” who suffered to the number of nearly three hundred within the next four years. Two of these were residents of Brighton.
In the month of July 1555, two men who loved the Word of God were travelling the road from Godstone in Surrey to the town of Brighthelmston (Brighton) John Launder was on a business journey for his father and his companion was Thomas Iveson.
It is easy to think of these men talking earnestly together of all that was happening and of the darkness of the times compared with the light and liberty of the days of Edward VI. Did they have any premonition, that they would never see their homes again, but that they would be amongst those who should suffer for their faith?
Upon their arrival in Brighthelmston, hearing of one Deryk (Dirick) Carver that he was a man that “did much favour the Gospel” they resorted to his house and company. Deryk (Dirick) Carver was a brewer, whose place of business was in Black Lion Street, Brighton, (Now The Black Lion Pub) The evidence seems to prove he had come from Flanders. In his own confession he describes himself as “Of Dilson by Stockom in the Land of Liege”
At this time he was a man whom the Lord had blessed as well with temporal riches as with his spiritual treasures, he had doubtless come to a knowledge of the truth during Edward VI reign, and when it became impossible for him to worship in the parish church, he gathered a few like minded friends together for prayer and worship at his dwelling place. Deryk (Dirick) Carver, John Launder and Thomas Iveson with some nine others were so engaged.
They were “in their prayers and saying the service in English as set forth in the time of Edward VI” when they were apprehended by the Sheriff, Edward Gage, and these three were sent up with a William Vesies to London, where after a first examination they were committed to Newgate. They were there for some weeks, when a letter reached Bishop Bonner from the Marquis of Winchester urging him to examine certain prisoners that came from Sussex, and requesting that he should be certified of the proceedings. The letter is dated June 1555.
Deryk (Dirick) Carver at the time of his first trial was about forty years of age, his answers to Bishop Bonner questions were definite, clear and bold. Deryk (Dirick) Carver denied amongst other things the doctrines of transubstantiation and auricular confession, he declared the Latin Mass was unprofitable and that the faith and religion being taught was not agreeable to God’s Word but clean contrary to the same.
He further declared that Bishop Hooper and other martyrs who had recently suffered “did preach the true doctrine of Christ” Upon further examination he admitted that he had read in his house at Brighthelmston “the divers times” (Bible Written In English) He goes on to say that at the time of his arrest, that he, Iveson, Launder, and Vesie “were hearing of the Gospel”
“Divers = Loon, Different, Odd”
On 10th June 1555, he was again before Bishop Bonner, his confession of faith which he had made and the articles charged against him were read, asked if he would stand to the same he replied, “Yes, for your doctrine is poison and sorcery, if Christ were here, you would put him to a worse death than he was put to before, you say that you can make a God, ye can make a pudding as well, your ceremonies in Church be beggary and poison”
It is written of Deryk (Dirick) Carver that although unable to read or write when apprehended, he so used his time in prison that, before his death he could read well, on 22nd July 1555, he was taken to Lewes to be burnt at the stake, on his coming into Lewes, the people called upon him, beseeching God to strengthen him. Deryk (Dirick) Carver thanked them and prayed that God would also strengthen them.
Above is the Martyrs Steps in the cellar of the old Star Inn that would have lead straight up to the street to the assembled masses and the prepared fire. Click here for more information on the cellar.
The stake was set up at the “Sign of the Star” an inn in the centre of town now the Lewes Town Hall, a barrel had been prepared, into which his Bible had been thrown, Deryk (Dirick) Carver stepped into the barrel, took up the Bible and threw it out amongst the people, upon which the Sheriff “Edward Gage” ordered in the King and Queen’s name that it be thrown back.
The martyr`s last exhortation given we are told with a joyful voice was, “Dear brethren and sisters, witness to you all, that I am come to seal with my blood Christ’s Gospel, because I know that it is true. It is unknown unto all you, but that it hath been truly preached here in Lewes, and in all places in England, and now it is not. And for because I will not deny here God’s Gospel, and be obedient to man’s laws, I am condemned to die”
“Dear brethren and sisters, as many of you as do believe upon the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost unto Everlasting Life, see that you do the works appertaining to the same. And as many of you as do believe upon the Pope of Rome, or any of his laws which he sets forth in these days, you do believe to your utter condemnation, and except the great mercy of God, you shall burn in hell perpetually”
Immediately the Sheriff retorted, “If thou dost not believe the Pope thou art damned body and soul, speak to thy God, that he may deliver thee now” To which Deryk (Dirick) Carver replied, “The Lord forgive you your sayings”
His dying prayer as the flames came upon him was, “O Lord my God, thou hast written, he that will not forsake wife, children, house and all that ever he hath and take up thy cross and follow thee, is not worthy of thee. But thou Lord knowest that I have forsaken all to come unto thee, Lord have mercy upon me, for unto thee I commend my spirit and my soul doth rejoice in thee” So passed into glory the first of the Seventeen Martyrs in Lewes.
A plaque on his place of business, which still stands in Black Lion Street, Brighton (Rebuilt) bears the simple record that “Deryk (Dirick) Carver, First Protestant Martyr burnt at Lewes 22nd July 1555, lived in this brewery” A local tradition says that he also had a dwelling house in the Lanes, but there is no evidence for this.
In the Sussex Archaeological Collections, Vol. 49, “A bill in Chancery” is quoted in full which deals with Deryk (Dirick) Carver’s property, it states that Carver, being “in great peril of death” appointed James Norton, in whom he had great confidence, to act as an executor in the matter of his estate and delivered to him a sum of money with certain instructions as to its disposal.
“A bill in Chancery = A petition to dispute, make a claim as in the modern day County Court”
The document shows that the Martyr had five children, one of whom was named after his father, there is no mention of his wife who, presumably was dead at the time of martyrdom of her husband, the bill was an action in “Chancery” to recover certain monies due to Carver the son, which through the death of the above James Norton had been unpaid.
In the Sussex county magazine of April 1935, there is an interesting article on Deryk (Dirick) Carver’s place of business, it concludes with some interesting facts of another descendant of the Martyr, Richard Carver, it states that he was member of the crew of a ship on which Charles II sailed from Shoreham Harbour to France, when off Fecamp, Richard Carver carried the King ashore on his back.
He was also a Quaker, and became the means after the restoration of securing the release of some hundreds of Quakers, through an interview with Charles, the ultimate result of Carvers efforts secured the release of other Non conformists also, including John Bunyan.
Stephen Gratwick was the last of the Martyrs of Sussex, John Foxe in summing up the facts relative to him, says he was first condemned by the Bishop of Winchester and Rochester, “which were not his ordinaries.” When he appealed from these to his own Bishop they refused to allow it. To cover their wrongful proceedings they got a priest to pretend to be the Bishop of Chichester. He goes on to say that so determined false charges in those brought against him.
Gratwick himself declares he “dwelt at Bright Helmser” There are no details as to his actual arrest, which took place at Rottingdean, but he states in a declaration that on 25th May 1557, he was brought for trial before the Bishops of Winchester and Rochester at St. George’s Church, Southwark. The Bishop of Winchester at once demanded of him as to whether he would revoke his heresies, charging him with that he had “stood up in the face of the whole Church maintaining his heresies”
“Heresies = An opinion or a doctrine at variance with established religious beliefs”
Gratwick declares that this was not true, and adds that he had been apprehended by the Bishop of Chichester, but sent to the Winchester diocese for trial, he appealed (as he had the right) to be tried by his own Bishop, when he continued to urge this, a counterfeit Bishop appeared, but he took no part in the trial. The Mass, as always in these trials, was the main subject of the charges against Gratwick, he steadily contended for scriptural teaching as to the Real Presence, maintaining that the bread and wine were symbols, and the presence only spiritual.
“Bread and Red Wine for the Catholic Religion is the Body and Blood of Jesus where as in the Protestant Religion it is the Bible that is the Body and Blood of Jesus, both religions want to replace the invisible by the visible”
The Bishop of Winchester found the greatest difficulty in dealing with Gratwick’s answers and began to get angry, then, to use Gratwick’s words, “He removed his talk to Judas, declaring that Judas in eating the Sacrament, did eat Christ wholly and thus did eat to his own damnation, because he ate unworthily”
Gratwick, however, at once asked the Bishop if he meant “Christ’s flesh and blood of which he speaketh of in John VI”, When the Bishop assented, Gratwick at once replied that “according to that chapter, Judas was saved, for it declared that whosoever eateth and drinketh shall be saved” which, he added, “is an absurdity”
“Then he began to rail on me and said my subtle arguments should not serve. thou gloriest much in thy talk, and thinkest now the people are come about thee, that thou shalt encourage them into thy constant heretical opinion. For the last day, when thou wast before me on Sunday, in St. Mary Overy’s Church, thou there reprovedst my sermon, and hadst a thousand by thee at the least, to bid God strengthen thee, but now let me see him here, that dare open his mouth to bid God strengthen thee; he shall die the death that thou shalt die”
To this Gratwick answered that he knew that the Bishop’s cruelty was greater than his pity, for he had experience of it, “for you keep men in prison a year or two, taking their books from them, permitting them not so much as a Testament to look upon for their souls comfort, which all men ought to have, and so you entreat them more like brute beasts than Christian men”
The Bishop answered that they kept the Bible from them for the same reason that a knife was kept from a child, that it would harm itself, Gratwick retorted that the Bishop should be ashamed to use such an argument. “I never knew any man but you, that did not affirm our sins to be the cause of our damnation and not the Word as you say, and therefore if your argument be good, then this is good also, because that some men do abuse drink, therefore the benefit of drink should be taken from all men, or any such like good gift”
After some further argument the Bishop again lost his temper, and began cursing and banning in Latin, Gratwick told him that if he spoke in English people would know him as an uncharitable bishop, this only further angered the Bishop, who demanded of the prisoner if he would recant, but Gratwick constant in Christ remained firm.
The reading of the condemnation proceeded, at the end of which Gratwick “desired God with a loud voice that he would not lay my blood to their charge, if it were his good will” By the end of May 1557 this Christian man burnt at the stake at St. George’s Fields with two others named George Morant and King, of these two latter no details are recorded.
The quotations from the letters following are of sad interest, they were written by a Robert Smith, who was burnt at Uxbridge in August 1555, he mentions of his fellow prisoners, Deryk (Dirick) Carver, Thomas Iveson, and John Launder and so is linked up with our Sussex brethren of those far off days, it will be noted that he states that a Thomas Iveson and William Vesie arrested at Brighton was acquitted after trial.
The letters seems to suggest that a number of his friends in prison were anxious to help the writer in providing for his wife, a good work in which Thomas Iveson and John Launder took part, in another letter, Deryk (Dirick) Carver is also mentioned as doing the same thing.
ROBERT SMITH TO HIS WIFE ANNE SMITH
“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ be with you dear wife, now and for ever, amen, and prevent your ways through his Holy Spirit, that ye may in all your words and works please God, I have certain tokens for you, sent from my prison fellows to you, from Master Hawkes twelve pence, from Master Simson twelve pence, from his wife four pence, from Master Watts five new groats, from Master Ardeley twelve pence, from Master Bradford twelve pence, which men be all gone to death, except Master Bradford.
There are also condemned this Monday, Deryk (Dirick) Carver, Thomas Iveson, and John Launder, but William Vesie is reprieved, my brother Iveson sendeth you a token, to your mother a token, and to Katherine a token three pence. John Launder sendeth you a piece of Spanish money, Father Herault a piece of six pence, Mr. Andrews sendeth you a case of ginger and I send your mother one and a nutmeg. I send Katherine comfits, for a token to eat, I have sent you a key clog for a token. Your husband, Robert Smith”
The second letter contains reference to Thomas Iveson and Deryk (Dirick) Carver, as follows, “The grace of Almighty God be always with you, and comfort, strengthen, and establish you in all things, that what his blessed will is, ye may follow faithfully, to his honour, my comfort, and your own salvation, and the good example to our posterity.
I have received your letter and praise God, we are very straitly kept, I praise God for His mercy, nevertheless Almighty God is always with us. I have sent ye that ye wrote for, the two nutmegs that should have gone by Nicholas to our friends, I send now, and desire them to accept them as a poor prisoners gift, until God give more largely, Thomas Iveson sendeth you a penny, I pray you give him thanks and Deryk (Dirick) also, Fare you most heartily well, Yours, and ever yours, Robert Smith”
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