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Memorial to Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

Memorial to Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

This is a guest post from Robert Warwick who has written about an event that happened in his home town in Tudor times. We are delighted to have this post – partly because we have covered Catholic persecution quite often but as yet haven’t really said much about the dreadful religious persecutions that took place under the catholic rule of Queen Mary – hopefully this post will do a bit to redress the balance.

Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

On 18th July 1556 three people were burned to death in the small Sussex town of East Grinstead, between London and Brighton on the South Coast of the UK.  Their names were Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman.  To some they were witches, to others heretics, to many – martyrs for carrying their protestant beliefs to their deaths. Ordinary people caught up in the struggle between the protestant and catholic churches after the death of Henry VIII.

St Swithuns, East Grinstead

St Swithuns, East Grinstead

Remembered to this day

The five years of the reign of Mary I, also known as Bloody Mary, from 1553 saw countless deaths, but even today these three martyrs are remembered by many who live in East Grinstead. In the churchyard of St Swithun’s, on the High Street, there are three slabs to commemorate them.  Even today it is not at all uncommon to see small posies of flowers laid underneath their inscribed names.  The actual resting place for their ashes remain unknown, but many think that they are somewhere in the graveyard, yards away from their memorial.  Just a few years ago over one hundred people turned up at a ceremony to commemorate the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of their death.  The three of them were each tied to a stake and burned alive a few paces over the road from the church just outside the gentleman’s and lady’s outfitters, Broadley Brothers, a shop that has remained almost completely unchanged for the forty years or so I have known it.

East Grinstead High Street - today it is hard to imagine the horror that took place here

East Grinstead High Street - today it is hard to imagine the horror that took place here in 1556

East Grinstead

Today East Grinstead is the home for 24,000 or so people, many of whom have a daily commute into London.  In Tudor times things were very different.  The population of the town itself was about 300, comprising of a windmill, slaughter house, a currying house for dressing leather and a blacksmith’s forge.  Politically there were forty eight houses (or burgages) that were eligible to vote for the town’s two Members of Parliament.

Travelling in Sussex was a hazardous business, with poor roads and the constant threat of robbery.  East Grinstead was a convenient stopping off point for travellers and was a favoured location for Assizes for those judges that were too timid to venture further south.  The picture this paints is of a vibrant close knit community, small by today’s standards and certainly not immune to the political and religious upheavals of the day.  They were not the only ones to suffer.

St Swithuns churchyard - memorial stones are in the foreground

St Swithun's churchyard - memorial stones are in the foreground

Executed for heresy

In the same year Thomas Hoath, a priest was also accused of heresy and executed at the hand of the state.  John Smyth was excommunicated, his fate unknown.  But it is the story of these three ordinary people, killed in extra-ordinary times, that still manages to capture the imagination of East Grinstead townsfolk.

Although I live within a five minute walk of where the martyrs died I find it almost impossible to compare my life, and the town where I have lived most of my life, with that of the martyrs and others who lived here at the time of Mary’s reign.

All pictures by Rob Warwick

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Henry Garnet 1555 - 1606 Note picture of Garnets straw in the background of this image

Henry Garnet 1555 - 1606 Note picture of 'Garnets straw' in the background of this image

On the morning of the 3rd May 1606 Father Henry Garnet was executed at St Pauls churchyard in London.The Stuart
authorities,determined to blame the Jesuit order for the recent gunpowder plot had hunted down the fugitive Priest. Garnet
had been condemned to the traitors death of hanging, drawing and quartering following what would today be labelled a show
trial.Garnet was dragged from the Tower of London through the streets on a hurdle to his place of execution – a scaffold
which had been made higher than usual to allow as many as possible to view the execution.
In an act of mercy King James had ordered that he be allowed to hang until dead so as not to suffer the full horror of this
form of execution. It was a mercy that was not needed because the crowd surged forward and pulled his legs to hasten his end.
Garnets body was quartered as was the custom but when his head was held up to view there were no cheers from a restless and
uneasy crowd.
There is a suggestion that the following lines from Macbeth refer to Garnets execution, ‘Farmer’ was one of his aliases and
Garnet was famous for his ‘equivocal’ answers to questions put to him – not telling direct lies but obscuring the truth in
order to protect others.
Who’s there, i’ the name of
Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer, that hanged
himself on the expectation of plenty: come in
time; have napkins enow about you; here
you’ll sweat for’t.
[Knocking within]
Knock,
knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s
name? Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could
swear in both the scales against either scale;
who committed treason enough for God’s sake,
yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come
in, equivocator.
It may be that the last part of this verse refers to events after Garnets death
[Knocking within]
Knock,
knock, knock! Who’s there? Faith, here’s an
English tailor come hither, for stealing out of
a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may
roast your goose.
After the execution a piece of blood stained straw was taken as a relic. It was said that a young Catholic in the crowd took
the straw to a Tailor called Hugh Griffin. It was only later, when the blood had dried on the straw that people noticed that
the stain looked like a human face. On closer inspection it was thought the face looked like Garnet. As Garnet was now a
martyr it was inevitable that the image on the straw was viewed as a miraculous happening. The authorities were horrified
that a man viewed by them as a traitor was being celebrated in this manner. Immediate efforts were made to try and capture
the relic and it was suggested that a ‘Popish’ painter had forged the relic.
The straw was eventually smuggled out of England and ended up in France where it disappeared forever -some time during the
French revolution. An idealised likeness of the straw can be seen behind Garnets picture at the top of this post, I thought
it might be interesting to try and re-create the straw which is the picture you can see at the side of this post.

The execution of Father Garnet

On the morning of the 3rd May 1606 Father Henry Garnet was executed at St Pauls churchyard in London. The Stuart  authorities, determined to blame the Jesuit order for the recent gunpowder plot had hunted down the fugitive Priest. Garnet had been condemned to the traitors death of hanging, drawing and quartering following what would today be labelled a show trial. Garnet was dragged from the Tower of London through the streets on a hurdle to his place of execution – a scaffold which had been made higher than usual to allow as many as possible to view the execution.

An act of mercy?

In an act of mercy King James had ordered that he be allowed to hang until dead so as not to suffer the full horror of this form of execution. It was a mercy that was not needed because the crowd surged forward and pulled his legs to hasten his end. Garnets body was quartered as was the custom but when his head was held up to view there were no cheers from a restless and uneasy crowd.

A hidden reference in Macbeth?

 

Lady Macbeth: Photo miss insomnia tulip on Flickr ( Click image)

Lady Macbeth: Photo miss insomnia tulip on Flickr ( Click image)

There is a suggestion that the following lines from Macbeth refer to Garnets execution, and if so, this helps to date the play to sometime just after the execution. Garnet was famous for his ‘equivocal’ answers to questions put to him – not telling direct lies but obscuring the truth in order to protect others whilst ‘Farmer’ was one of his aliases.

Who’s there, i’ the name of

Beelzebub?

Here’s a farmer, that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty: come intime;

have napkins enow about you; here you’ll sweat for’t.

[Knocking within]

Knock,

knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s name?

Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale;

who committed treason enough for God’s sake,

yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come in, equivocator.

It may be that the last part of this verse refers to events after Garnets death

[Knocking within]

Knock,

knock, knock! Who’s there?

Faith, here’s an English tailor come hither,

for stealing out of a French hose: come in, tailor;

here you may roast your goose.

(Macbeth II, 3)

garnets strawA bloody relic

After the execution a piece of blood stained straw was taken as a relic. It was said that a young Catholic in the crowd took the straw to a Tailor called Hugh Griffin. It was only later, when the blood had dried on the straw that people noticed that the stain looked like a human face. On closer inspection it was thought the face looked like Garnet. As Garnet was now a martyr it was inevitable that the image on the straw was viewed as a miraculous happening.

The authorities were horrified that a man viewed by them as a traitor was being celebrated in this manner. Immediate efforts were made to try and capture the relic and it was suggested that a ‘Popish’ painter had forged the relic. The straw was eventually smuggled out of England and ended up in France where it disappeared forever – some time during the French revolution.

An idealised likeness of the straw can be seen behind Garnets picture at the top of this post, I thought it might be interesting to try and re-create the straw which is the picture you can see at the side of this post.

Mysterious faces in strange places.

Of course – we have no way of knowing exactly what Garnets straw really did look like and a martyrs face on a straw may seem a strange idea. However, this story reminded me of a recently found image. In May 2009 a family in Wales claimed to have seen the face of Jesus on the underside of a lid of marmite. If this sort of thing still happens quite regularly today then it is perhaps no suprise that people from earlier and more traumatic times  saw such things too.

Daily Telegraph Story - click image

Daily Telegraph Story - click image

 

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Baddesley Clinton by Nala Rewop on Flickr (Click image) Baddesley Clinton by Nala Rewop on Flickr (Click image)

Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire is a moated house now owned by the National Trust. The house which partly dates from the 15th Century experienced one of it’s most dramatic events during the Tudor period.

During this time it was an offence to attend Catholic mass, people were fined for not attending Church of England services and Priests could suffer savage punishment. In an attempt to maintain the faith, priests were trained abroad, smuggled into the country and then hidden by a covert network of sympathisers. In Warwickshire, as elsewhere in England, many of the gentry continued to practice what they saw as the true faith. One such family were the Ferrers who owned Baddesley Clinton.

A secret conference.

In 1591, the house was the scene for a secret conference of Catholic Priests. Amongst those at the conference were the well known Jesuit Priests John Gerard, and Henry Garnet as well as seven or eight fellow Jesuits, other Priests and a few fugitive sympathisers. All of these people were being actively sought by the authorities and the capture of such a group would have dealt a serious blow to the secret Catholic mission to England.

Partly because of concern about the possibility of such a large group being captured the conference broke up early. Several people departed leaving only John Gerard, Father Southwell and five others at Baddesley Clinton. At five o’clock in the morning whilst preparations for Mass were being made the house was raided by the authorities.

Baddesley Clinton by matthewallton on Flickr (Click image)

Baddesley Clinton by matthewallton on Flickr (Click image)

Armed raiders.

Four armed Priest hunters ( known as Pursuivants) had arrived and were loudly threatening a servant who had barred the door to them.  Because the servant had delayed their entry the Priests inside the house had time to hide their vestments and the altar stuff. The Priests even had time to turn the mattresses on their beds so that they would not feel warm to a searchers touch.

By the time the mistress of the house had come downstairs and allowed the searchers to enter, the Priests were hidden in a secret hide underneath the house. They had to remain crouched here for four hours whilst the search went on above them. Eventually the searchers tired of their efforts and left after they had extracted payment from the household for their troubles.

Baddesley Clinton Lizwalker1975 (Click image)

A close escape.

Once it was certain the Pursuivants were gone, the Priests were called up out of the hide. Care still had to be taken though to guard against the searchers appearing to leave and then returning which was a common tactic.

John Gerard wrote the account of this search in his memoirs when he escaped England and returned to live the rest of life on the continent. Robert Southwell and Henry Garnet were not so lucky as both of them were later caught and executed by being hung, drawn and quartered.

As you can see from the pictures, Baddesley Clinton is a really beautiful place to visit. If you go there, you can still see some of it’s hiding places as well as it’s beautiful rooms and gardens. The hide that was used in 1591 was originally part of the house sewer and is though to have been converted to a hide by Nicholas Owen, the master builder of such places.

You may well find it hard to imagine such a peaceful and secluded place being the scene of dramatic and perilous events.

See our earlier post ‘Tyburn Martyrs

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Martyrs of England & Wales under the Tyburn Tree. Courtesy Br Lawrence Lew, OP (Click image)

Martyrs of England & Wales under the Tyburn Tree. Courtesy Br Lawrence Lew, OP (Click image)

The site of Tyburn tree is very close to Marble Arch. What is now right at the heart of bustling London was once outside the city bounds in Middlesex, and used for executions for this reason – for six centuries. In this time over fifty thousand people met their deaths there.

Tyburn, the place of execution

Tyburn, the place of execution

From 1535 to 1681 Tyburn was transformed into a place of cruelty, torture and execution for men and women because of their religious belief. It had become an act of high treason to be a Catholic priest, or to associate with Catholic priests. It was also legal treason to refuse to accept the monarch as “the only Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England”, in the reign of King Henry VIII, from 1534 onwards under Elizabeth I, Charles I and Charles II.

Tyburn had been a place of public spectacle where crowds gathered for entertainment. The martyrs, however, brought a new spirit into the barbarities and butchery of Tyburn. This new spirit was one of joy, spontaneous humour and wholehearted forgiveness of those who had brought them to their life’s end at Tyburn. This spirit flowed over into the crowds around the Tyburn Gallows. When Blessed Thomas Maxfield was dragged to the Tyburn Tree in 1616, the Gallows had been adorned with garlands of fragrant flowers while the ground around it was strewn with sweet-smelling herbs and branches of laurel and bay.

Blessed Philip Powel announced from the Tyburn Tree, “This is the happiest day and the greatest joy that ever befell me, for I am brought hither for no other cause or reason than that I am a Roman Catholic priest and a monk of the Order of St Benedict.” (1646)Tyburn tree

Saint Edmund Campion, Jesuit priest, prayed on the scaffold for those responsible for his death – “I recommend your case and mine to Almightie God, the Searcher of hearts, to the end that we may at last be friends in heaven, when all injuries shall be forgotten.” (1581)

Edward Morgan, priest, was reproved by a minister on the scaffold for being so cheerful. The martyr replied – “Why should anyone be offended at my going to heaven cheerfully? For God loves a cheerful giver.” (1642)

“Thus”, write the nuns at Tyburn Convent, dedicated to those who died, “the holy Martyrs transformed Tyburn’s Deadly Nevergreen Tree into the Tree of Life and the Gate of Heaven, which it remains to this very day”. The nuns continue to live in this spirit, and, although living an enclosed life, offer their prayers in perpetual adoration for people in all walks of life, including prisoners.

The site of the gallows is now marked by three brass triangles mounted on the pavement on an island in the middle of Edgware Road at its junction with Bayswater Road.

Click on this link to see a Google earth image of the modern day site.

Whilst we are on the subject of executions – this is worth a look executedtoday.com

UPDATE

I asked a friend (thanks for your help Linda & Rob!) to take a picture of the Tyburn monument for us – he reported that it was no longer there due to roadworks. A quick Google search turned up this blog post which is worth a look

Update 2

18.05.2009 We had a comment from Fr Tim Finigan to say that the monument is now restored – you can see a photo of this on his blog.

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