St Dunstan-in-the-West from London City Churches by Paul Middleton
St Dunstan-in-the-West from London City Churches by Paul Middleton

Tyndale Reformation Walk, London May 2004

Report by Mary Clow

Where Old St Paul’s Cross once stood, 15 of us gathered under the guidance of the Rev. Keith Berry. Thomas Carlyle called this spot “the Times newspaper of the Middle Ages”, for here outdoor sermons were preached, heresies denounced, and Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall burned Tyndale’s groundbreaking first English translation of the New Testament.

We moved on to Smithfield, where people were burned. We were following the story of John Rogers, condemned under Queen Mary Tudor. Rogers produced the first complete bible in English, incorporating Tyndale’s published New and part Old Testament with later books of the Old Testament based on Tyndale, and Rogers’s own work. After years in exile, Rogers returned to England under Edward VI, accompanied by his Flemish wife and children. He was made a Canon of St Paul’s, and Vicar of nearby St Sepulchre’s where we now went. This ancient church was adjacent to the terrible Newgate Prison (later inspiration for Elizabeth Fry to devote her life to prison reform). Standing outside St Sepulchre’s we remembered John Rogers, leaving his church for incarceration in Newgate before being led out to be burned at Smithfield. His wife was denied a last visit and held up their 11th child as he passed by.

On to Fleet Street and St Dunstan’s-in-the-West. Here William Tyndale preached during his short stay in London while he unsuccessfully petitioned the Bishop of London for permission to translate the bible into English. Since Tyndale’s time the church was destroyed in the Great Fire, and relocated and rebuilt nearby during Victorian road-improvements. Still we were glad to commemorate there the young scholar whose sermons caught the attention of the merchant Humphrey Monmouth, leading him to finance Tyndale’s life and work on the Continent.

A break for coffee, and then we hopped on a bus for the last stop on our route: the Tyndale Monument in the Victoria Embankment Gardens, Whitehall. This impressive, more than life-size statue in bronze, was sculpted in 1885 by Sir Ernest Boehm, famous for his myriad memorials to Empire builders and military heroes of the Victorian era, scattered all over London. Tyndale is shown with a huge bound tome, presumably the complete Bible which, alas, he never lived to produce. He is wearing a furred gown and a Tudor cap – neither likely in his circumstance – but at least we agreed that the printing press on which he was leaning was authentic. In tribute, we read aloud his last letter to the Governor of the fortress at Vilvoorde.

There will be another Tyndale London Walk on Saturday 9 October, when we hope to find his memorial in Westminster Abbey (see Dates for Your Diary for details). St. Dunstan-in-the-Wesr from London City Churches by Paul Middleton

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