16 October 1555 – Two of the Oxford martyrs were burnt at the stake

Cross OxfordOn this day in history, 16th October 1555, two of the Oxford martyrs: Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, and Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, were burnt at the stake at Oxford for heresy.

Their friend and fellow Oxford martyr, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, was also burnt at the stake in Oxford, but on 21st March 1556.

Read more…

Also on this day in history, 16th October 1532, the Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Derby and a group of gentleman met with “the great mayster of Fraunce”, Anne, duc de Montmorency, and his men at the English Pale, six miles outside of Calais. This meeting was to plan where Henry VIII would meet Francis I. This is one of the events on the timeline I created for Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s visit to Calais in 1532 – click here.

Photo: Cross marking the execution site in Broad Street, Oxford, © Copyright Bill Nicholls and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. Geograph.org.uk.

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14 thoughts on “16 October 1555 – Two of the Oxford martyrs were burnt at the stake”
  1. These memorial dates make me feel sick to the pit of my stomach. I am often reminded here on this site that ‘that is how they thought at the time’. But my horror, compassion, overwhelms me. I see this old man, old and venerable, a learned academic, and I’m blown away.
    Perhaps my thoughts should travel to one John Forest, a Franciscan friar (1471-1538) about whom Wiki comments: “Thomas Cranmer and Hugh Latimer acted as a team on Cromwell’s behalf, in the proceedings which led to the friar’s destruction. Bishop Latimer preached the final sermon at the place of execution.” I can’t help thinking that the Bishop watched the execution and would have thought it ‘deserved’.
    John Forest was my age at his death. I have never heard of him before. There were others. My job now is to take this on board and think on it. Man’s inhumanity to man.

    1. I totally agree with your thoughts, and it’s sad to say that with arms proliferation throughout the world there hasn’t been much change for the better.

      1. No he was not. Wilipedia is not accurate on this point. There is no evidence that he watched any of the five people condemned during his time in office burn. The members of the council often had no choice but to attend public executions, but it does not mean that any of them enjoyed it. Please quote a better source if you have one.

  2. A simple Cross is a very fitting memorial. People of faith died under monarchs of all religious persuasions because monarchs are and always have been pompous asses. When I hear the Reformation praised to the hilt I shudder because of the needless loss of human life. Whether or not the local magistrates were left to their own devices as in most executions or high profile people were killed on the direct order of a monarch, it was terrible. The Cross reminds us that Christ gave us a gospel of love and forgiveness, but our Kings and Queens ignored that and justified their misguided laws by comparing themselves to equally misguided Old Testament Kings. The Cross reminds us that we have lost our way and this is what we should return to. Now we cannot put two sixteenth century leaders together and ask them to understand the others point of view, I think their brains were wired differently and it was not possible. But we can only see the human being suffering and weep for them and for all who suffer because their leaders fear that which is different. I am not knocking the Reformation as a movement, but it cannot be praised without honest criticism of the human cost. A memorial exists in Chester to a Protestant martyr and to two Catholic martys killed on the same spot but 140 years apart. The lesson that we are all connected and all humans and more, that we are brothers and sisters sure took a long time to learn. We are even struggling to accept that message today. A man preaches about the Bible at the execution of his fellow human and Christian brother and is in turn executed by another brother while his brother in Christ preaches at his execution. Did the world go mad for 300 years? Are we still mad? Or did we just forget the simple Cross and the message?

    May all the martyrs of faith remind us never to forget again. Rest in peace.

    1. I think simple memorials like this always have the most impact, if people actually notice them. And, yes, the symbol of the cross is fitting too. I think the world is still mad and we have lost sight of some things.

      1. Hi Claire, yes you are right. The memorial in Boughton Chester is an impressive Victorian Cleopatra needle with the names of George Marsh and others on it, but to be honest it is right on the edge of the town and you would not know it is there unless you looked it up. I had to play detective to even work out I was going in the right direction although it is actually on the execution site and there was an old town there at the time. It is also quite high and visible from the beach, which I did not know was there either. It was well worth the effort, even with the long walk back to the centre. There was a Medieval hospital memorial almost next to it so I got two for the price of one. I like these big memorials, but the simple ones I agree make the most impact. I went on the trail of the Welsh martys a couple of years ago having found that the first book in Welsh was printed by one who hid at Penryn Old Hall. He had a cave on the Little Orme, which you can only get to by boat now, but the road goes over the origianl tunnel from the house to the cave. I have visited the house a few times now, it is a long walk back but I love it. I also found that Beumaris Castle had a memorial cell to them and the Church nearby has a memorial. I got to the Castle but am going to the Church next week. Several local schools also hold their names. It is fantastic that we can recall and memorialize such brave and holy people, no matter what they thought or accepted, to me they are all holy people; but you do sometimes have to dig a bit to find their memorials. There are several interesting ones in Norwich, but they are easier to find. The best memorial of all is to hold them in our hearts and minds and stop being petty. Yes some of them may have been present at former executions, but that does not make them any less a martyr in their own right. That is what the Cross means, forgiveness and not pettiness.

        1. The book was first printed in Welsh, not first written in Welsh and called Y-Drych-Cristianogawl or the Christian Mirror and a copy survived in the National Library of Wales with a picture of the binding and spine. You can read more about William Dai and the book at

          https://www.llgc.org.uk/discover/digital-gallery/printed-material/y-drych-cristianogawl or the house of Robert Pugh were he stayed which is a restaurant but has all the old features and the fireplace and door to the old tunnel, at http://www.penrhynoldhall.wales4you.co.uk/. Hope is of interest.

        2. I have found two excellent sites with very good pictures of the memorial and the sites connected to George Marsh, plus the church he was connected to in his native Bolton.

          http://www.chestertourist.com/georgemarsh.htm or http://www.chestertourist.com/boughton.htm

          The information on the monument also includes information about John Pressington remembered on the same memorial.


          Hope you find of interest. Enjoy.

  3. I don’t think it’s very well known but the words are beautiful and I remember watching Sir Harry Secombe sing it on Songs Of Praise.

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