September 19 – Two of the Coventry Martyrs are burnt

Posted By on September 19, 2022

On this day in Tudor history, 19th September 1555, in the reign of Queen Mary I, Robert Glover and Cornelius Bungey were burnt at the stake in Little Park Street, Coventry.

They were Protestants burnt for heresy and were two of twelve martyrs burnt in the city between 1511 and 1555.

Find out more about them and Glover’s experience as he was taken to the site of execution…

Transcript:

On this day in Tudor history, 19th September 1555, Protestants Robert Glover and Cornelius Bungey, were burnt at the stake at a site in Little Park Street, Coventry. They were two of twelve martyrs burnt in the city between 1511 and 1555.

Martyrologist John Foxe gives the date of their burnings as “about the 20th day” in his 1563 edition of “Acts and Monuments of the Christian Church”, but fellow martyrologist the Reverend Thomas Brice gives the date as the 19th in his 1559 “A Compendious Regester” of 1559 and we know that Foxe used Brice’s Regester as a source. Brice’s work is a register of those martyred between 4th February 1555 and 17th November 1558. The names and locations of those martyred are recorded in six-line doggerel stanzas with the date in the margin. Of Glover and Bungey, Brice simply writes:

“September 19 When GLOVER and CORNELIUS
Were fiercely brent at Coventry;”

Robert Glover was born in Mancetter, Warwickshire, and was the son of John Glover of Baxterley, Warwickshire. He is recorded as having attended Eton College in E.S. Creasy’s 19th-century book “Memoirs of Eminent Etonian”, and he was admitted to King’s College, Cambridge, in 1533. He earned his BA in 1537/8, his Masters in 1541, and was a fellow until 1543. He married a niece of Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester.

While he was in prison awaiting death, he wrote to his wife, Mary, writing:

“I thank you most heartily, most loving wife, for your letters sent to me in my imprisonment. I read them with tears, I say for joy and gladness, that God had wrought in you so merciful a work… Wherefore I thought it my bounden duty, both to God and man to set aside all fears, perils and dangers… and persuaded all that professed God’s word, manfully to persist in the defence of the same, not with sword and violence but with suffering and loss of life rather than to defile themselves again with the whorish abomination of the Roman Antichrist.”

On his last night in prison, Glover prayed with his friend Austen Berner, a minister.

Here is John Foxe’s account of Glover’s martyrdom:

“The next day, when the time came of his martyrdom, as he was going to the place, and was now come to the sight of the stake, although all the night before praying for strength and courage he could feel none, suddenly he was so mightily replenished with God’s holy comfort and heavenly joys, that he cried out, clapping his hands to Austen, and saying in these words, “Austen, he is come, he is come,” &c., and that with such joy and alacrity, as one seeming rather to be risen from some deadly danger to liberty of life, than as one passing out of the world by any pains of death. Such was the change of the marvellous working of the Lord’s hand upon that good man.”

And here is the inscription from a monument in Mancetter Church to Robert Glover’s memory, which is quoted by Foxe:

“TO THE SACRED MEMORY
OF
ROBERT GLOVER.
Martyr:
A Gentleman whose Family, for more than a CENTURY, resided in the manor-house of MANCETTER, and possessed extensive property in this Parish. But, above all, this pious Family were rich in Grace, and in the Knowledge and Love of CHRIST; and were well known for their devotedness to the PROTESTANT FAITH, when nothing awaited the profession of it but bonds, imprisonment, and death. What Persecutions befell his Brothers John and William, cannot be here recorded, ROBERT alone was called to endure the Sufferings and to receive the Crown of MARTYRDOM; and was burnt at COVENTRY A. D. 1555. For some days before his execution, this faithful witness for CHRIST was in great heaviness, fearing that the LORD had forsaken him; but the Promise, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” was so fulfilled to him, that, as he drew near to the stake, he was on a sudden so mightily replenished with holy comfort and heavenly joy, that, clapping his hands, he exclaimed to a Christian Friend, “HE IS COME — HE IS COME,” whose coming gave him “the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”
“THE NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS PRAISE THEE.
THOU ART THE KING OF GLORY, O CHRIST.”

Cornelius Bungey, the other Coventry Martyr to die on this day in 1555, was described by John Foxe as “a capper of Coventry”, i.e. a hatmaker, who was also condemned by the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield for “holding, maintaining, arguing and teaching” heresy. Fose recorded:

“Upon these articles and his answers to the same, the said Radulph the bishop read the sentence, and so committed him also, after condemnation of Master Robert Glover, to the secular power.
Thus this foresaid Cornelius, falsely condemned by the bishop before mentioned, suffered at the same stake with the Christian martyr Master Robert Glover at Coventry, about the twentieth day of September.”

Glover, Bungey and the ten other Coventry Martyrs are remembered by a Cornish granite monument in the form of a Celtic wheelhead cross which can be found on the island above the Coventry Ring Road, at the junction of New Union Street and Quinton Road. The Coventry Martyrs are also remembered in the Martyrs Mosaic in the foyer of Broadgate House in Coventry, although it does depict 11 martyrs being burnt together, which isn’t accurate. Glover Street in Cheylesmore, Coventry, is named after Robert Glover, and Cornelius Street may well be named after Bungey.

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