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The Martyrs Memorial

In 1553 Queen Mary Tudor came to the throne of England. She was a devout Roman Catholic and longed to bring her people back to the church of Rome. This made her unpopular with English noblemen who had acquired wealth and lands when Henry VIII confiscated the Catholic monasteries, and also with Parliament. In 1554 an unsuccessful Protestant insurrection broke out under the leadership of Sir Thomas Wyat. Wyat was defeated and executed. Mary married the Catholic King Philip II of Spain, she restored the Catholic creed, and revived the laws against heresy. For three years rebel bodies dangled from gibbets, and heretics were relentlessly executed, some 300 being burned at the stake. The queen, now known as Bloody Mary, was hated. She died in 1558, in London, and with her died the persecutions.

In 1879 a memorial was erected in St. John's churchyard to commemorate some of those martyrs who were executed locally.

'The Graphic' for 13th September 1879 records the unveiling of the memorial :-

"ON Saturday, the 2nd, the Earl of Shaftesbury presided at the inauguration of the monument erected in front of St. John's Church, Stratford, to commemorate certain Reformation martyrs who were in that neighbourhood burnt to death. These Christian martyrs (the largest number of Protestants ever burnt together for their religion in this country) were for the most part natives of Essex, and all of them belonged to the laity. They were brought early on Saturday morning, June 27, 1556, in three carts, from London. When offered their lives if they would recant they all refused. having embraced one another, and prayed earnestly to the Lord, the men were fastened to three stakes, the women being left untied in the midst, 'and so were all burned together in one fire.'
Under the chairmanship of the Rev. W. J. Bolton, Vicar of the parish, a sum of money was collected for the commemoration of this noteworthy incident, and the result is this handsome and substantial monument, engraved on which are the names of the sufferers, and also the principal points for which they braved death. There are six sides to the monument, which is supported by eighteen columns, the whole structure, 65 feet in height, having its spire surmounted by a martyr's crown."
The Martyrs monument c_edited.jpg

The photo above shows the memorial and churchyard in about 1904.

Most of the information about these martyrs comes from John Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs', an excellent transcription, and study, of which can be found at the website of the Humanities Research Institute of the University of Sheffield.

Interestingly, Foxe actually says that all these martyrs, except Steven Harwood, who was burnt at 'Stratforde', and Patrick Packingham, who was burnt at Uxbridge, were burnt at 'Stratford-le-Bow', which we now know as Bow, this area then being known as either 'Stratford Langthorne' or simply Stratford. The 16th century diarist Henry Machyn, the Scottish reformer John Knox in 1559, John Fuller in 1684 and the antiquarian John Strype, writing in 1822, also place them at 'Stratford-le-Bow'. It seems that it is not until the erection of this monument that they become associated with our Stratford, an error which has been perpetuated by many writers and historians since.

Due to this error it had long been thought that the burnings took place on Stratford Green, once called Gallows Green, where the UEL Stratford Campus now stands, however, there is no evidence for this, and it is unlikely as around that time it was being used for gravel pits. The most likely site of the executions, and the only piece of common land in the area large enough to hold a crowd of the size claimed to have been there, about 20,000 according to Machyn, was the Fair Field which, at that time, lay to the north of Bow Church, from which Fairfield Road, Bow, takes its name.


Around the top of the six panels, going counter-clockwise, starting from the panel facing the church, is :-

Around the base of the six panels, again reading counter-clockwise is :-

The six panels, again going counter-clockwise, contain the following inscriptions :-

To the Glory
in his suffering Saints
This Monument
is raised to perpetuate the great
principles of the Reformation
to commemorate the death
of 18 Protestant Martyrs
burnt in this neighbourhood
for the pure faith of Jesus Christ.
{see below}

by public subscription under
the direction of a committee.
Earl of Shaftesbury K.C.
Revd. W.J. BOLTON, Vicar.
Hon. Secretary
J.W. Brooks Esq.

J.T. Newman Esq.
Erected by H. Johnson & Co.
Terra Cotta Manufacturers
Ditchling, Sussex.

In Pious Memory
Patrick Packingham
aged 23, who suffered
in this place by order of
the Privy Council
August 28 A.D. 1555.

He was charged with
not doing deference to
Romish ceremonies
and was condemned by
Bonner, his cause not being heard.

"Precious in the
sight of the LORD
is the death of his

"Here is the patience of the Saints, here are
they that keep the
Commandments of GOD
and the faith of Jesus

In Pious Memory
Stephen Harwood
a brewer and
associated with Thomas,
Fust of Ware. "For their
faithful perseverance they
were condemned by Bishop
Bonner and finished their
Martyrdoms the one at
Stratford, the other at Ware",
August 30 1555.

"The conquests of
Martyrs are the
triumphs of CHRIST.

Unto Him that hath loved
us, and washed us from our
sins in His own blood and
hath made us Kings &
Priests unto GOD and
His Father,
to Him be
glory and dominion
for ever Amen
Revn. 1.5.6
How long O LORD
holy and true?
Revn. 6.10

In Pious Memory
Elizabeth Warne,
widow and gentlewoman
who was taken at a Prayers
Meeting and burned to death
at Stratford-le-Bow, Middlesex
on 23rd of August, 1555
for denying the corporeal
presence of CHRIST's body
and blood in the Sacrament.
husband suffered in Smithfield
as also her daughter JOAN
and her son was either burnt
or died in prison a whole
family of Martyrs.
the great things that Faith
can do and the great things
that Faith can suffer.

Who through Faith
quenched the violence
of fire were tortured not
accepting deliverance
of whom the world was
not worthy.

In Pious Memory
Hugh Laverock, a lame man
& John Apprice, a blind man
who were burned to death
at one stake in this Town
May 15th 1556.
When in the flames one said
to the other "Hold on, John, it
won't be for long. Remember the
"These are they which came
out of great tribulations and
have washed their robes and
made them white in the blood
of the Lamb".

In honoured Memory
of the
Revd. Thomas Rose
Chaplain to the Earl of Essex
and Vicar of West Ham.
A.D. 1551- 1563
who although not a Martyr
was tortured and exiled for
preaching against auricular
confession, transubstantiation,
purgatory and images.
was a distinguished Preacher
of the Reformation
and greatly encouraged these

In Pious Memory
Henry Allington
Laurence Parman
Henry Wye
William Hallywel
Thomas Bowyer
George Searles
Edmund Hurst
Lyon Cawch
Ralph Jackson
John Derifall
John Routh
Elizabeth Pepper
Agnes George
On Saturday June 27th 1556
these 11 men and 2 women
were brought pinioned from
Newgate and suffered death
here in the presence of 20,000
people for their firm adherence
to the Word of GOD.

They were all burnt in one fire
with such love to each other
& constancy in our Saviour
Christ that it made all the
lookers on to marvel.

"The righteous
shall be had in ever
lasting remembrance.

In the first panel, indicated above, is a sculpted reproduction of this illustration from John Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs'

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