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Lewes And Sussex Protestant Martyrs History : The Reformation : 4

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

The East Grinstead Martyrs were four in number, Henry Adlington, Thomas Dungate, John Foreman and Mother Tree or as called elsewhere, Anne Tree. Of Henry Adlington we learn something through a letter written by John Careless, a prisoner for his  faith, in the King’s Bench, to Adlington, imprisoned in the Lollards Tower. How they became acquainted is not stated, but the letter is given in full by John Foxe.

In this John Careless exhorts “His dear brother, Henry Adlington to the continual joy and comfort, of the Holy Spirit” He goes on to write “Blessed be God for thee my dearly beloved brother, which hath vouched thee worthy of so great a dignity as to suffer for his sake as one of his silly sheep appointed to the slaughter. Be of good comfort therefore my good brother, for your calling unto the cross of Christ was after a marvellous sort”

He then goes on to acknowledge a letter received from Henry Adlington, where he says “Your brethren and I were not a little comforted to see your conscience so quieted in Christ, and your continuance so steadfast in him” John Careless goes on to give Henry Adlington good advice and counsel in answering his persecutors, telling him he is bound to follow our true preachers, meaning of course, the preachers of the Reformed faith.

He advises him so to answer that he edify those that stand by “As I heard say our sweet brethren, Thomas Harland and John Oswald, did at Lewes in Sussex to the great rejoicing of the children of God, that were in those parts” A reference to the martyrdom of these two Woodmancote men.

Henry Adlington was tried before Dr. Darbyshire, Bishop Bonner’s Chancellor, on 6th June 1556, with fifteen others. Of Henry Adlington it is stated he was a sawyer of East Grinstead in the county of Sussex, and of the age of thirty years. There is a full account of the charges brought against them.

Henry Adlington, questioned as to the Mass, said “That for nine or ten years before he misliked the mass, and also the sacrament of the altar, because they cannot be proved by the Scriptures and as touching the authority of the See of Rome, he, being but fourteen years of age, took an oath against the same, which oath he intended to keep by the Grace of God”

He tells how, coming to Newgate to visit Richard Gratwick, who was a prisoner there “For the testimony of Jesus Christ” he was himself apprehended, brought before Dr. Story, and then sent to Bishop Bonner for further examination. He was imprisoned with fifteen others from the counties of Herts and Essex.

All the sixteen were condemned to die for their faith, but three were afterwards released under a dispensation issued by Cardinal Pole, for what reason is not apparent, that they did not recant is proved by the fact that all signed a declaration of faith after their condemnation.

This was the result of a slander cast upon them by the Dean of St Paul’s. Preaching at St Paul’s Cross the Sunday after sentence had been passed, he declared that these brave witnesses had as many opinions as there were persons. Their answer to this is published in full and is a clear and concise condemnation of Romish error. The second signature is that of the East Grinstead Martyr.

On 27th June, thirteen were conveyed to Stratford Le-Bow, they were divided into two parties in different chambers. The sheriff then told, first one party and then the other, that their friends had recanted, and exhorted them to do likewise. However, as John Foxe puts it, “They were, God be praised, soundly grounded on the Rock, Jesus Christ” and nothing would cause them to waiver.

So together with eight men and three women from Essex and one man from Herts, this Sussex witness went to glory at what is now the Stratford Broadway. It was the largest Auto Da Fe in England during this dark age of persecution. A noble memorial stands on the spot where they died, and it has been the centre of occasional commemoration services. Friends who desire to visit it will find it in the grounds of St. John’s Church.

Of the other three East Grinstead martyrs there are not many details, but the brief account given is tragic, even in its brevity “In East Grinstead in Sussex, suffered two men and one woman, the names of whom were Thomas Dungate, John Foreman and Mother Tree, who for righteousness sake gave themselves to death and torments of the fire, patiently abiding what the furious rage of man could say or work against them, at the said town of East Grinstead ending their lives the 18th of July in the year of 1556”


When the writer arranged the first Commemoration of these noble souls at East Grinstead in 1929, the then Roman Catholic priest in the town attacked the meetings in the East Grinstead Observer and expressed doubt as to the martyrdoms, but the late Mr. W. H. Hills, the editor of the paper, stated that he had himself some years before made a translation of the trial of Thomas Dungate from old records.

Further, there is a strong local tradition which is mentioned in the Guide to East Grinstead and its Parish Church, that the charred ashes of the three martyrs were seen some years ago during some repairs, the ashes it is believed, were re interred in the churchyard and later three commemorative slabs were placed there by the late Lady Musgrave. In 1932, by kind permission granted by the Rev. C. Golding-Bird, D.D. the Sussex Martyrs Council much improved the modest memorial slabs by adding a stone surround and plants.

Each year at the commemorative service a wreath is laid on the stones and thanksgiving offered to God for the witness bravely borne. In the churchyard dated 1624, is a tomb to Edward Dungate and the guide already quoted says, further “There were Dungates in the town a century after Thomas Dungate the Martyr and as late as 1800 ‘Dungates Fields’ was the name of a property on the Saint Hill Almshouses in Church Street, the East Grinstead Martyr evidently resided here”

The Martyrs Farm House Lewes Bonfire Night CelebrationsThomas Dungate is said to have been apprehended at a farm on the London Road about a mile from Crawley, where he was in hiding and the farm is still known as the Martyrs, also there is a road in Crawley called Martyrs Avenue. Spooky really as I lived just a few yards from there during my childhood until my teens, not knowing the meaning of the name till recently.

The granddaughter of Anne Tree was married in the time of Queen Elizabeth to an Edmund Ellis and the descendants of this Edmund Ellis resided in East Grinstead up to comparatively modern times.

John Careless, in the letter to Henry Adlington already quoted, writes of the duty of witnessing in the following words “(Give) the kind of answer that will cut their combs most (that is of their persecutors) and edify the people that stand by, so that the same be done with sobriety, meekness and patience”

These two were only condemned in the Wednesday before their deaths on the following Saturday, and John Careless, referring to this fact, bids his fellow prisoners to make themselves ready to “Ride in the fiery chariot” The wonderful cheerfulness of these witnesses is constantly manifested. Thomas Dungate’s Bible box, in which he kept his Bible, is in the possession of a descendant now living in the Midlands.

The last of the martyrdoms of which we have the date during 1556, took place at Mayfield, those who know this village today will agree that it is one of the prettiest districts even in our beautiful county of Sussex. Its glorious views however are surpassed by the glorious memory of its noble Martyrs. No less than six residents of this village, a larger number than at any other centre, gave their lives for the Truth.

Four of these perished in Mayfield itself, being burnt to death on 24th September, the two others died at Lewes. Of two of these we have only the fact that one was a shoemaker, the other a currier, it is however sufficient for us to know, that their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

In Foxe the Mayfield martyrs are referred to as follows “Four which suffered at Mayfield, Sussex, the 23rd day of September 1556, of whose names, two we find recorded, and the other two we know not yet and these four, be specified as we find them John Hart, Thomas Ravensdale, a shoemaker, a currier, which said four being at the place where they should suffer, after they had made their prayer and were at the stake ready to abide the force of the fire, they constantly and joyfully yielded their lives to the testimony of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ unto whom be praise for ever and ever. Amen”

Lewes Sussex Martyrs Reformation Protestant MayfieldThe place of their martyrdom is said to have been about ten yards from the main road through Mayfield. Three other Martyrs, who were burnt at the same time as seven others at Lewes, William Maynard, Thomasina Wood, and Alexander Hosman, are named as of Mayfield. The conclusive evidence given by Mrs. Pullein in her Manors and Wealds of Sussex, however proves Alexander Hosman to be of Rotherfield.


The names Hosman, Hosemer are often found in old records of the district and in the graveyard of the parish church at Mayfield several old headstones bear the name Hosman, one with as late a date as 1843, it is likely therefore that two of the same name may have perished for their faith during the Marian reign, one from Mayfield and one from Rotherfield.

In an excellent book on Mayfield, by Miss E. M. Bell Irving, a quotation is given from The Register of the Martyrs by the Rev. Thomas Brice and published in 1559, which deals with the matter in rhyme. One of the verses mentions three of the Mayfield sufferers. When William Maynard, his maid and man, Margery Morris and her son, Dennis Burgess, Stevens and Woodman, Groves wife and Ashdon’s to death were done, When one fire at Lewes brought them to death, We wished for our Elizabeth.

Miss Irving also writes that, “William Maynard is said to have been a member of an ancient family at Mayfield, from which the well known vicar, John Maynard, afterwards sprang” Thomasina Wood seems to have been a maid in Maynard’s service and a native of Mayfield.

Careful inquiry has so far failed to produce details of the death of the following, of whom mention is made by John Foxe of  John Warner of Eastbourne, Christian Grover of Lewes, Thomas Athoth, (said to have been a priest and possibly of Lewes) Nicholas Holden and John Hart of Withyham. A brief reference will be found to John Ashdowne of Catsfield further on.

In Vol. 41 of the Sussex Archaeological Records, in a list of churchwardens and parishioners appears the name of William Maynard, who was churchwarden in February 1509, nearly forty years before the martyrdom of Maynard at Lewes, he is mentioned in connection with the non removal of Church property (chalice, pyx, etc) by the church wardens to their houses.

There is mention also of a “John Maynard the olde Churchwarden,” and of a William Maynard, churchwarden as late as 1563, four years after Queen Elizabeth came to the throne. It is quite possible that these were members of the same family as the Martyr.

John Mills of Hellingly was condemned by Bishop Daye of Chichester and in the Harleian MSS, his sentence is recorded. Mr. Augustus J. C. Hare, in his book on Sussex, says that he was Rector of Hellingly.

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