Gleanings from Foxe: The Coggeshall Heretics

Edited out of Foxe's Book of Martyrs

Next came the examination of Thomas Osmond, fuller, William Bamford alias Butler, and Nicholas Chamberlain, who were sent up to Bonner to be examined, by the Earl of Oxford and Sir Philip Paris knight, and a letter with them, the copy of which letter here followeth:

After our hearty commendations unto your good lordship, this shall be to advertise the same that the Constables of Coggeshall within your diocese, have brought before us this day persons dwelling in the town of Coggeshall aforesaid, whose names hereafter do follow: Nicholas Chamberlain weaver, John Waller fuller, Thomas Brody weaver, William Bamford alias Butler weaver, and Thomas Osmond fuller, for that they, at the feast of Easter last, have not obeyed the order of the holy Catholic Church in receiving the sacraments, but obstinately refusing the same, besides the holding of diverse other opinions contrary to the faith of the said Church. Wherefore we have thought it good to send the same persons unto your good lordship further to be ordered as in such case shall appertain. Thus we commit your good lordship to the keeping of Almighty God. From Headington the first day of May 1555.

Oxenford. Philip Paris
Thus being sent up, they were brought before the said Bishop the 17th of the said month to be examined upon diverse and sundry articles ministered and objected against them. Whereunto they were compelled to answer. These articles thus propounded and answered to, they were condemned as heretics and delivered to the Sheriffs. In whose custody they remained until they were delivered to the Sheriff of Essex and executed, Chamberlain at Colchester the 18th of June, Thomas Osmond at Manningtree the 15th of June, and William Barnford at Hafwich the same day in the month of June.

In the same company above mentioned were also John Simpson and John Ardley, who, being produced first before Bonner in his chapel the 22nd day of May, were afterwards convented before the said Bishop having the articles with their answers laid before them. The Bishop, according to the old trade of his Consistory Court, respited them to the afternoon, bidding them to make their appearance the said day and place between the hours of two and three. At what time the said Bishop, repeating again the said articles unto them. and beginning with John Ardley, did urge and solicitate according to his manner of words, to recant. To whom John Ardley gave answer as followeth: My lord, neither you nor any other of your religion is of the Catholic Church, for you be of a false faith. And I doubt not but you shall be deceived at length. Bear as good face as ye can, ye will kill the innocent. You have killed many, and you go about to kill more! If every hair my head were a man, I would suffer death in the opinion and faith that I I now in!

These with many other words he spake. Then the Bishop yet demanded if would relinquish his erroneous opinions (as he called them) and be reduced again to the unity of the Church. He answered as followeth: No! God forshield that I should do so, for then I should lose my soul!

After this, the said John Ardley being asked by the Bishop (after his formal manner) if he knew any cause why he should not have sentence of condemnation [read] against him, [the Bishop] read the condemnation against Ardley and likewise against Simpson. And so were they both committed to the secular power, that is to the hands of the Sheriffs. whereupon letters certificatory were written by the Bishop to the King and Queen the said 25th day of May, concerning the condemnation of them both, the manner of the bishops is to do. Upon the which date there was another letter also directed from the King and Queen to the said Bishop in the forenoon, concerning the straight handling of these and such other true servants of the Lord, the copy of which letter here ensueth:

To the Right Reverend Father in God, our right trusty and well beloved,the Bishop of London. We greet you well. And where of late we addressed our letters unto the Justices of the Peace within every of the counties of this our realm, whereby amongst other instructions given them for the good order and quiet government of the country, they are willed to have a special regard unto such disordered persons as forgetting their duties toward God and us, do lean to any erroneous and heretical opinions, refusing to shew themselves conformable to the Catholic religion of Christ's Church, wherein they cannot by good admonitions and fair means reform, they are willed to deliver them to the Ordinary to be by him charitably prevailed withal and removed (if it may be) from their naughty opinions. Or else, if they continue obstinate, to be ordered according to the laws provided in that behalf. Understanding now to our no little marvel that diverse of the said disordered persons, being by the Justices of the Peace for their contempt and obstinacy, brought to the Ordinaries to be used as is aforesaid, either refused to be received at their hands or, if they be received, are neither so travailed with as Christian charity requireth, nor yet proceeded withal according to the order of justice, but are suffered to continue in their errors to the dishonour of Almighty God and dangerous example of others. Like as we find this matter very strange, so have [we] thought convenient both to signify this our knowledge, and therewith also to admonish you to have in this behalf such regard henceforth to the office of a good pastor and bishop, as when any such offenders shall be by the said officers or Justices brought unto you, you do use your good wisdom and discretion in procuring to remove them from their errors if it may be, or else in proceeding against them (if they shall continue obstinate) according to the order of the laws, so as through your good furtherance both God's glory may be better advanced and the commonwealth more quietly governed. Given under our signet at our manor of Hampton Court, the 24th day of May, the first and second years of our reigns.

This foresaid letter directed to Bonner by a post, coming from the Court about eight of the clock in the forenoon, was an occasion why these men were the rather thus judged and condemned in the afternoon following, as is before said. Whereupon they being committed to the Sheriffs, were conveyed to the place of execution where they suffered, the one, that is, John Simpson, at Rochford about the tenth of June, [and] the other, which is John Ardley, the same day but at another place which is Rayleigh.

At the examination of the said Simpson and Ardley, there were assembled f so great a multitude of people. that (the Consistory not being able to hold them) they were fain to stand in the church near about the said Consistory, waiting to see the prisoners when they should depart. It happened in the meantime that the Bishop being set in heat with the stout and bold answers of the two prisoners (especially of Simpson), burst out in his loud and angry voice and said: Have him away!

Now when the people in the church heard these words, and thinking (because the day was far spent) that the prisoners had their judgment, they, desirous to see the prisoners had to Newgate, severed themselves, one running one way, another another way. Which caused such a noise in the church that they in the Consistory were all amazed and marvelled what it should mean. Wherefore the Bishop also being somewhat afraid of this sudden stir, asketh what there was to do. The standers by, answering, said that there was like to be some tumult, for they were together by the ears. When the Bishop heard this, by and by his heart was in his heels, and leaving his seat he, with the rest of that court, betook them to their legs, hastening with all speed possible to recover the door that went into the Bishop's house. But the rest being somewhat lighter of foot than my lord, did sooner recover the door, and thronging hastily to get in, kept the Bishop still out, and cried: Save my lord! Save my lord!—but meaning yet first to save themselves if any danger should come. Whereby they gave the standers by good matter to laugh at, being in manner in that taking that the old stagers of Oxford were when it was noised that the church was on fire (whereof we made mention before), saving that there the party then punished cast away his faggot, and so escaping was never heard of after! But here, the poor souls being stopped of their judgment a very small time, were immediately after called unto fire and faggot.

© Bill Cooper

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