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Lewes And Sussex Protestant Martyrs History : The Reformation : 3

Lewes Martyrs Blazing Crosses

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

This picturesque and old world village, with its many old timbered houses, its long history, its fine Norman church and a story that goes back to the eighth century, is today a centre of much interest to visitors, was a place of considerable importance at the time of the Reformation. It was probably for this reason it was chosen as the place of execution of John Launder.

As already mentioned, he was arrested with Deryk Carver at the latter’s house in Brighton, he was a native of Godstone in Surrey, a husband man and of the age of twenty five, he was imprisoned together with Deryk Carver and Thomas Iveson at Newgate.

Bishop Bonner : The Reformation Marian PersecutionTried before Bishop Bonner, he declared that he confessed only two sacraments, and that he did abhor those who taught that there were more. He boldly stated that “All the sacrifices, services and ceremonies of the Church of Rome be erroneous and naught and contrary to Christ’s institution, as to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, I did eat and drink Christ’s body and blood by faith, and none other ways”

Of the Mass service he said that whilst some parts of that service were good and profitable, yet the same were rendered naught when used amongst other things which were abominable, his attitude towards auricular confession was entirely in accord with Scripture, and he declared the only true way, after a man had fallen from grace, was by sorrow and amendment of life to arise to Christ again. These opinions he had held for some eight years and he admitted that he had openly argued and defended them.

His trial took place on 10th June and his condemnation followed, a letter written by Robert Smith, a fellow prisoner, is quoted further on, it contains a mention not only of John Launder but also of Thomas Iveson, and is of pathetic interest, John Launder suffered martyrdom at Steyning on 23rd July 1555, the place of burning is believed to be the small Chantry Green close to the parish church.

John Launder Chantry Green : Reformation And Marian Persecution John Launder Memorial : Lewes Sussex Martyrs

Chichester, Sussex, the Cathedral city of the county did not escape the wave of persecution directed against the Lord’s children, the Bishop of the See in the latter years of Henry VIII reign was Bishop Daye, of him it is written that at his appointment he was “Inclinable to the Reformation” but his actions suggest “he was a Papist without the Pope” Whilst willing to do away with some of the more superstitious practices of Rome, he adhered to Romish teaching.

In 1547, he opposed the repeal of the persecuting Six Articles and was opposed to the marriage of clergy, in 1548, he, with five other bishops declared his adherence to the Mass and Transubstantiation and in 1549, opposed the use of the new Book of Common Prayer.

That he was however to some extent a “time server” is proved, by an extract from King Edward VI journal, where it states “The Bishop of Chichester before, a vehement affirmer of transubstantiation, did preach against it at Westminster” In 1552 he was deprived in favour of Bishop Scory, but was restored in 1555. He preached at the funeral of Edward VI and soon after was one of a commission that deprived the saintly Bishop Hooper.

The Rev. Preb. Stephens, who wrote Memorials of the See of Chichester, writes of him “that Bishop Daye condemned Protestants to be burned and presided at their execution, there can be no question, as he was Bishop until 1556, he would have been present, no doubt, at the burning of Thomas Iveson, a carpenter of Godstone”

As already stated in the account of Deryk Carver’s arrest, Thomas Iveson was one of three apprehended at the former’s house, he was tried before Bishop Barnes in July 1555. And like Carver and Launder he gave a bold and unflinching witness for the Truth, he admitted that he had not attended Mass, or had gone to the priest for confession for seven years, as he believed that the priest “cannot forgive a man, nor absolve him from sins” Further, he declared Romish ceremonies to be “vain, superfluous, superstitious and naught”

Earnestly urged to recant, he replied “I would not recant and forsake my opinion and belief for all the goods in London, I do appeal to God’s mercy and will be none of your church, nor submit myself to the same and that I have said, I will say again. And if there came an angel from heaven, to teach me any other doctrine than that which I am now in, I would not believe him” He was burnt at the stake, probably in the precincts of the cathedral, on July 24th 1555.


Bishop John Christopherson was the last of the Romish Bishops of Chichester, his name is mentioned in connection with the trials of some of the Sussex Martyrs, of him it is reported that he was merciless “having no sooner put on his episcopal ring, than he washed his hands in the blood of poor martyrs”

John Foxe : Reformation And Marian PersecutionRichard Hook also died a Martyrs death in the town, he was of Alfriston, and was condemned also by Bishop Daye, there is a brief mention of his martyrdom in John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. His condemnation is quoted in an article by L. F. Salzman, who in turn, finds the information in the Public Records Office, the article appears in the 82nd volume of the Sussex Archaeological Society, 1941, p.140. It certainly lacks nothing in the forcefulness of its language.

“Bishop George (Daye), 1553-1556. 13th October 1555, Chichester. Richard Hook, of Alfriston, a child and nursling of devilish iniquity, on account of his manifest wicked errors, detestable heresies, and damnable opinions opposed and repugnant to the Catholic faith publicly and pertinaciously defended has been denounced as an obstinate and confirmed heretic.

(Heretic = A Person who does not conform to an established Religion)

“Since Holy Mother Church can do nothing further against such a putrid member, we have handed over to your Royal Highnesses and the power of the secular arm, the said Richard Hooke to be punished and broken” There is no record of the actual date of his martyrdom, but it probably followed soon after his condemnation.

On 6th June 1556, four brothers in Christ suffered the death by fire at Lewes, Sussex, they were Thomas Harland, carpenter, and John Oswald, husbandman, both of Woodmancote, and Thomas Avington and Thomas Read of Ardingly. Of Thomas Harland it is reported that he was charged that he objected to go to church, to which he answered that after the Mass was restored he never had the will to do so, because it was in Latin, which he did not understand, and therefore he was “never the better”

John Oswald refused to answer any questions, unless his actual accusers were brought face to face before him, declaring however, that fire and faggots should not make him afraid. He went on to say that as the good preachers which were in King Edward`s time have suffered and gone before, so was he ready to suffer and come after and would be glad thereof.

Thomas Read almost retracted and determined with himself to go to church, however, during the night that followed he had a vision in which he saw “a company of young men in white, very pleasant to behold to whom he would have joined himself, but, looking upon himself, he was full of spots” The vision had the effect of strengthening his faith, and giving him courage to face the death by fire. He died together with the three already mentioned.

On 20th June 1556, Thomas Wood, described by John Foxe as a minister, and Thomas Miles were burnt at the stake in Lewes, Sussex, for “resisting and denying the erroneous and heretical doctrines of the pretended Catholic Church of Rome” There are no further details available, but the grounds of their condemnation prove that once again faithfulness to God’s Word and bold witnessing against error were the sole reasons for the death penalty.

The following is found in an old Lewes guide of 1832, published by Baxter “On the 20th June 1556 Thomas Wood a Protestant Minister and Thomas Mills of Helingly were burnt together at the same spot (Lewes)


It is the morning of 22nd June 1557. Outside the Star Inn in Lewes, men are busy with the grim preparations for a great auto-da-fe. The spirit of persecution has broken out again with increased bitterness and intensity, in the cellars under the inn wait ten prisoners, six men and four women.

“Auto De Fe = The ritual of public penance of condemned heretics. The auto de fé involved a Catholic Mass, prayer, a public procession of those found guilty and a reading of their sentences. The ritual took place in public squares or esplanades and lasted several hours with ecclesiastical and civil authorities in attendance”

They are Richard Woodman and George Stevens of Warbleton, William Maynard and Thomasina Wood of Mayfield, Alexander Hosman and Ann Ashdon of Rotherfield, Margery Morris and James Morris of Heathfield, Denis Burges of Buxted, and Groves wife of (possibly) Lewes.

Lewes Martyr Burnt At Stake During The Marian Persecution Deryk Carver Ten Martyrs Burnt At The Stake In Lewes Sussex During Marian PersecutionOf these ten, only Richard Woodman and Alexander Hosman were brought to trial, the others had been apprehended within the two or three days prior to their martyrdoms. Without any authority or writ of condemnation from the proper authorities they were hurried to Lewes and together in one fire, were burnt at the stake.

Probably it was hoped that such a terrible happening would result in crushing the spread of the Reformed faith during the reformation, but as always, efforts to burn out the Truth of God only burnt it the deeper in the hearts and affections of those who had experience of its power.

The Seventeen Martyrs Names On A Banner : Cliffe High Street Lewes






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