Gleanings from Foxe

Edited out of Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563) by Bill Cooper

John Hooper: A Letter from Prison

The true report of Master Hooper's
entertainment in the Fleet,
written with his own hand
the seventh of January 1554.

The first of September 1553, I was committed unto the Fleet from Richmond, to have the liberty of the prison. And within five days after, I paid for my liberty five pounds sterling to the warden for fees. Who immediately upon the payment thereof complained unto Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and so was I committed to close prison one quarter of a year in the Tower Chamber of the Fleet, [and] used very extremely. Then by means of a good gentlewoman I had liberty to come down to dinner and supper and not to speak with any of my friends, but as soon as dinner and supper was done, to repair to my chamber again. Notwithstanding, whilst I came down thus to dinner and supper, the warden and his wife picked quarrels with me and complained untruly of me to their great friend the Bishop of Winchester.

After one quarter of a year, and somewhat more, the warden and his wife fell out with me for the wicked Mass. And thereupon the warden resorted to the Bishop of Winchester and obtained to put me into the wards, where I have continued a long time, having nothing appointed to me for my bed but a little pad of straw, a rotten covering, with a tick and a few feathers therein, the chamber being vile and stinking, until by God's means good people sent me bedding to lie in. Of the one side of which prison is the sink and filth of all the house, and on the other side the town ditch, so that the stench of the house hath infected me with sundry diseases.

During which time I have been sick, the doors, bars, hasps and chains being all closed and made fast upon me, I have mourned, called and cried for help. But the warden, when he hath known me many times ready to die, and when the poor men of the wards have called to help me, hath commanded the doors to be kept fast, and charged that none of his men should come at me, saying: Let him alone. It were a good riddance of him! and among many other times he did thus the 18th of October 1553, as many can witness.

I paid always like a baron to the said warden, as well in fees as for my hoard, which was twenty shillings a week, besides my man's table. until I was wrongfully deprived of my bishopric. And since that time I have paid him as the best gentleman doth in his house. Yet hath he used me worse and more vilely than the veriest slave that ever came to the hall commons.

The said warden hath also imprisoned my man, William Downton, and stripped him out of his clothes to search for letters, and could find none but only a little remembrance of good people's names that gave me their alms to relieve me in prison. And to undo them also, the warden delivered the same bill unto the said Stephen Gardiner, God's enemy and mine.

I have suffered imprisonment almost eighteen months, my goods, living, friends and comfort taken from me, the Queen owing me by just account four score pounds or more. She hath put me in prison and giveth nothing to find me, neither is there suffered any to come at me whereby I might have relief. I am with a wicked man and woman so that I see no remedy (saving God's help) but I shall be cast away in prison before I am come to judgment.

Thomas Loseby and Others of London

The death and martyrdom of
Thomas Loseby. Henry Ramsey.
Thomas Thirtel, Margaret Hyde.
and Agnes Stanley, burned
at one fire in Smithfield
the 12th day of April.

The learned being by this time despatched in this furious rage of persecution, we now have little or small matter to write touching the other silly sheep and simple lambs of Christ His flock yet remaining behind, upon whom they satisfied still their bloodthirsty and slaughterous affections. I thought it therefore not beside the matter to admonish the reader to judge of them and such others as the dear elect of God, by whose simplicity the merciful wisdom and mighty power of God was more manifested and shewed, Who hath chosen in them the weak and foolish things of this world to confound the wise and mighty. And as touching those of whom there is no matter mentioned in this history, as occasions of their death, for that none as yet came to my hands, this one cause is to be adjudged of them, that it was for the sincere profession of Christ's gospel. And in hope of this charitable and true judgment, I will proceed to the prosecuting of our history, wherein you shall understand (the persecution yet continuing) there were, about the 12th day of April Anno 1557, these five burned at London in Smithfield, viz.: Thomas Loseby; Henry Ramsey; Thomas Thirtel; Margaret Hyde; [and] Agnes Stanley. Who being, some by the Lord Rich, some by other Justices of [the] Peace, and Constables (their own neighbours), at the first accused and apprehended for not coming to their parish churches, were in the end sent unto Bonner by his commandment the 27th day of January. They were for that time dismissed, but Bonner taking the matter in hand, the 6th day of March, propounded unto them certain articles.

After this, the 1st day of April, were they again convented before the Bishop in his palace at London, where little appeareth to be done except it were to know whether they would stand to their answers, and whether they would recant or no. But when they refused to recant and deny the truth, the Bishop caused them to be brought into the open Consistory the 3rd day of the same month of April in the forenoon, where first understanding by them their constancy and steadfastness, he demanded particularly of every one what they had to say why he should not pronounce the sentence of condemnation. To whom Thomas Loseby first answered: God give me grace and strength to stand against you and your sentence, and also against your law which is a devouring law. For it devoureth the flock of Christ. And I perceive there is no way with me but death, except I would consent to your devouring law and believe in that idol the Mass!

Next unto him answered Thomas Thirtel, saying: My lord, I say thus. If you make me an heretic, then you make Christ an heretic and all the twelve apostles heretics. For I am in the true faith and right belief, and I will stand in it. For I know full well that I shall have eternal life therefore!

The Bishop then asked the like question of Henry Ramsey, who said: My lord, will you have me to go from the truth that I am in? I say unto you that my opinions be the very truth which I will stand unto and not go from. And I say unto you further that there are two churches upon the earth, and we be of the true Church, and ye be not!

Unto this question next answered Margaret Hyde, saying: My lord, you have no cause to give sentence against me. I am in the true faith and opinion, and will never forsake it. And I do wish that I were more, stronger in it than I am!

Last of all answered Agnes Stanley, and said: I had rather that every hair of my head were hurried if it were never so much worth, than that I will forsake my faith and opinion, which is the true faith! The time being now spent, they were commanded to appear again at afternoon in the same place, which commandment obeyed, the Bishop first called for Loseby, and after his accustomed manner willed his articles and answers to be read. And in reading thereof, when mention was made of the sacrament of the altar, the Bishop with his colleagues put off their caps, whereat Loseby said: My lord, seeing you put off your cap, I will put on my cap! - and therewithal did put on his cap. And after, the Bishop continuing in his persuasions, Loseby again said unto him: My lord, I trust I have the Spirit of truth which you detest and abhor. For the wisdom of God is foolishness to you! -- whereupon the Bishop pronounced the sentence of condemnation against him, and, delivering him unto the Sheriff, called for Margaret Hyde, with whom he used the like order of exhortations. To whom notwithstanding she said: I will not depart from my sayings till I be burned. And my lord, quoth she, I would see you instruct me with some part of God's word, and not to give me instructions of holy bread and holy water, for it is no part of the scripture!

But he being neither himself, nor any of his, able rightly to accomplish her request, to make short work, used his final reason of convincement, which was the sentence of condemnation. And therefore leaving her off, called for another, viz. Agnes Stanley, who upon the Bishop's like persuasions, made this answer: My lord, where you say I am an heretic, I am none. I will not believe you, nor any man that is wise will believe as you do. And as for these that ye say be burnt for heresy, I believe [they] are true martyrs before God. Therefore I will not go from my opinion and faith as long as I live!

Her talk thus ended, she received the like reward that the others had. And the Bishop then turning his tale and manner of enticement unto Thomas Thirtel, received of him likewise this final answer: My lord, I will not hold with your idolatrous ways as you do. For I say the Mass is idolatry and will stick to my faith and belief so long as breath is in my body! -- upon which words he was also condemned as an heretic. Last of all was Henry Ramsey demanded if he would stand unto his answers, or else reacanting the same come home again and be a member of their church. Whereunto he answered: I will not go from my religion and belief as long as I live. And my lord, quoth he, your doctrine is nought, for it is not agreeable to God's word!

After these words, the Bishop, pronouncing the sentence of condemnation against him and the rest, charged the Sheriff of London with them, who being thereunto commanded, the 12th day of the same month of April, brought them into Smithfield where all together in one fire [they] most joyfully ended their temporal lives, receiving life eternal.

Thomas Watts of Billericay

The history of Thomas Watts,
examined, tried and burned
for the truth of the gospel.

Thomas Watts of Billericay within the county of Essex and of the diocese of London. was brought the 26th day of April [1555] before the Lord Rich and other commissioners at Chelmsford. And there accused for not coming to church &c, was from them (as men not meet to meddle with such high matters) sent up to Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London, as appeareth by their letter directed to the said Bishop, which hereafter followeth:

After our most hearty commendations to your good lordship, these shall be to advertise you that at our sessions of Oyer and Terminer, holder at Chelmsford the 26th day of April last past, there came before us in open court one Thomas Watts of Billericay. And there, being examined why he refused to come to his parish church, he openly there answered generally that like as the service of the church set out in the days of the late King Edward the Sixth, was said by us now to be abominable, heretical, schismatical and all nought, so he saith that all that is now used and done in the church is all nought, with diverse other erroneous and arrogant wards. And therefore we have thought good to send him to your lordship to be further examined by you of his opinions, as to your pastoral office shall seen convenient, certifying you further that in our opinion he is one of the most arrogant heretics that hath been heard speak or ever came before you! And not meet to be kept here in any gaol as well for fear of corrupting others as for diverse and sundry other special causes hereafter to be more declared. Thus leaving to molest your good lordship, we commit you to the Holy Ghost. Given at Chelmsford the 26th day of April, Anno Domini 1555,

R. Rich, Henry Tyrrell, Anthony Brown,
Edmond Tyrrell, T. Mildman, John Wiseman,
Roger Appleton, Richard Weston

Now when the Bishop had received him, how he used him it is easy (by his common experimented practices upon others) to judge. What his private conferences were, I know not. But what was publicly done in the Consistory at Paul's (the common stage for these tragedies) you shall here see.

First, upon Thursday, being the second day of May, the said Thomas Watts was brought thither before the Bishop of London. and being examined upon his words before the Lord Rich and others (as is contained in their letters) he did earnestly affirm the same to be true. Whereupon the Bishop objected and examined him upon these articles following:

Articles objected against Thomas Watts of Billericay in the county of Essex, within the diocese of London, by Bonner, Bishop there, as ensueth.

First, it is objected against thee. Thomas Watts, that thou, the said Thomas Watts, wast and art of Billericay aforesaid, making thine abode there, and so wast and art of the jurisdiction of me, the said Bishop of London.

Item, that thou the said Thomas Watts hast not believed, nor at this present dost believe, in the sacrament of the holy Catholic Church of Rome and [which] all other churches, members of the same, ever hitherto have believed, taught and set forth to be believed and taught of all good and faithful people, nor hast nor dost allow the said sacraments, rites, usages, or ceremonies of the said Church, but hast and dost condemn and despise them, thinking it no offence nor sin to do so.

Item, that thou the said Thomas Watts dost believe and deliberately say, and also hast taught others, that the substance of material bread and wine remain in the sacrament of the altar after the consecration, and that the said material bread and wine are the signs and tokens of Christ's body hanged upon the cross and of His blood there shed, and that in the said sacrament there is only a memory or remembrance of Christ's body and blood, and nothing else.

Item, that thou the said Thomas Watts dolt believe, hast also heretofore taught, and dost presently affirm, that the very true presence of Christ's body and blood in substance is not in the sacrament of the altar, but only in heaven and nowhere else.

Item, that thou Thomas Watts dost believe, affirm an,: say, and hast heretofore taught others, that the Mass now used in the Church of Rome. here in England and other places, is full of idolatry, abomination and wickedness, and that Christ did never institute it, or ordain it. nor yet allow or approve: it as a good and laudable thing, to be kept and used in His church.

Item, that thou Thomas Watts dost believe and affirm that auricular confession to be made unto the priest, is not necessary but superfluous, and that it is enough for a man to believe only and to confess himself unto God, without any priest or minister at any time, though he may have the priest to confess him unto.

Item, that thou Thomas Watts dost believe &c that Luther, Wycliffe, Doctor Barnes and all others that have holden against the sacrament of the altar, and suffered death by fire or otherwise for the maintainance of the said opinion, were good men and faithful servants and martyrs of Christ in so believing and dying.

Item, that thou Thomas Watts dost believe &c that to fast, pray. or to do alms deeds, is a thing utterly unprofitable. For if a man shall be saved, he shall he saved without doing of them. And if he shall be damned, they shall not help him or do him any good at all.

Item, that thou the said Thomas Watts hast of late come into open court at the sessions before the Lord Rich, Sir Henry Tyrrell knight, Anthony Brown esquire, and others, and being then and there examined didst openly confess that thou hadst refused to come to church and to hear there the divine service and to receive the sacrament of the altar according to the order of the Church, because that like as the service of the Church set out in the days of the late King Edward the Sixth was said and alleged to be abominable, heretical, schismatical and all nought, so thou the said Thomas Watts then and there didst say openly before the slid personages being commissioners that all that is now used in the Church is abominable, heretical, schismatical and altogether nought. And thou didst also then utter before the said commissioners other erroneous and arrogant words to the hurt of thy soul and to the evil and pernicious example of the people there present.

Item, that thou the said Thomas Watts art to be taken, reputed and judged as a manifest heretic, and for the same, by the order of [the] ecclesiastical laws of the Catholic Church art to be declared accursed. And being obstinate and incorrigible, thou art to be delivered to the secular power, there to be punished as an heretic and manifest offender in this behalf, according to the order of the laws and customs of the realm of England.

Item, that thou the said Thomas Watts, over and besides all thine offences and trespasses aforesaid, hast also added this trespass, that is to wit, thou hast believed and deliberately spoken that the Church of Rome in her rites, ceremonies, sacraments, constitutions, and traditions, is the synagogue of Satan. And therefore thou hast consented and agreed in opinion and belief with one John Tooley, of late hanged at Charing Cross, who at the time of his executing desired the people to pray to be delivered from the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome with all his enormities, as who should say that his authority and doings were tyranny and had all enormities and iniquities in them.

Item, that the premisses and every part thereof be true, notorious, manifest and openly spoken and talked of amongst the honest and credible persons in great multitude within Billericay aforesaid and other places thereabouts, being of the diocese of London.

These articles propounded, the Bishop commanded him to appear again in the same place at three of the clock in the afternoon upon the same day. At which hour, being brought thither by his keeper, the Bishop began with him in this wise: Watts, ye know what I said unto you today, and what I appointed unto you at this time. The time is now come. Weigh and consider with yourself that you are but a man, and albeit that ye will wilfully cast away your body, yet cast not away your soul. But while ye have time, return and confess the truth!

Whereunto Thomas Watts answered and said: I am weary to live in such idolatry as ye would have me to live in!

Upon which answer, the Bishop caused his articles again to be read. He thereto answered as before, and further subscribed the same with his own hand. The Bishop, after many persuasions to cause him to recant, willed him to depart and to come again on Saturday at eight of the clock in the morning. Where (the Bishop being absent) Doctor Nicholas Harpsfield, as then being his deputy, did sit and earnestly exhort him to deny his opinions. To whom, in the end, he answered: Well, ye have a law to condemn me. And I submit myself to the law. But not to the laws of the Church (as you call it). And further I do affirm and will stand to mine answers that I have made.

Whereupon Doctor Harpsfield willed him to appear there again upon Friday, being the tenth day of the same month of May. Upon which day the Bishop privately sent for the said Thomas Watts into his chamber, and there, with many fair promises, tempted and tried him whether he would revoke his errors (as he then termed them). But Watts answered him in this sort: I will not believe your church, neither the Romish church. Therefore you do but labour in vain thus to travail with me!

He was hereupon again dismissed for that time until Friday the 17th day of May, and then commanded to appear in the Consistory which commandment he obeyed, and having the accustomed former orders ministered unto him, made then such answers as before. Thus, being tossed to and from day to day and hour to hour, he was at the last brought into the Consistory where was propounded unto him a recital of all the former process. And being (by the Bishop and others) willed to deny his profession, made this final answer: God keep me from the doctrine that ye would me come unto. And I beseech God that I may persevere in that that I have done - for I will stand to mine answers!

The Bishop, perceiving his fair flattering promises nothing to prevail, (and having no great stare of other reasons to persuade with), put forth his last and strongest argument of condemnation, which being ended he was delivered to the Sheriffs of London, and by them was sent to Newgate where he remained until the ninth day of June. At what tine he was carried unto Chelmsford. And there, the next day being the tenth day of the same month, he most patiently and constantly sealed his faith with his blood by most cruel fire.

When this said Thomas Watts came before the Lord Rich and others sessions at Chelmsford, the Lord Rich said these wards: Watt brought hither (as I understand) because of disobedience to Queen's laws. Ye will not come to church. Ye will not hear It [would] have your conventicles incorners contrary to the King Queen's proceedings

Unto which his words Watts answered and said: My lord, if I have offended a law, I am subject here to the law!

Then Anthony Brown, Justice, said unto him: Watts, I pray thee tell me, who hath been thy schoolmaster to teach thee this gear? Where didst thou first learn this religion?

Forsooth (quoth Watts) even of you, sir! You taught it me, and none more than you! For in King Edward's days in open sessions, you spake against this religion now used, no preacher more! You then said the Mass was abominable, and all their trumpery besides, wishing and earnestly exhorting that none should believe therein, and that our belief should be only in Christ. And you said then [that] whosoever would bring in any strange nation to rule here, it were treason and not to be suffered!

Then said Brown to my lord Rich: He belies me, my lord! What a knave is this? He will [as] soon belie me behind my back when he doth it before my face!

And my lord Rich said again: I dare say he doth so!

After these wards, Watts tack occasion to speak somewhat of King Philip, of his coming in. But what it was I could not justly learn. But this much was heard, that after those wards spoken, the Bench among themselves stood up and said one to another: Treason! - saving one good man who a little before was about to speak. But when he heard them cry treason, he held down his head as one grieved and troubled.

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