The reign of King Henry VIII brought the rift between the
Roman Catholic church and the English clergy to a head, and
in 1538 he declared that the Protestant religion was the
only English religion. The Monasteries the majority of whom
were Roman Catholic were destroyed, and much of the
Roman Catholic Church in England was outlawed.|
The people took to the new religion for the next 15 years,
and during this time gained many followers. At the same time
the Spanish Inquisition had claimed more victims, and the
reports and refugees from the barbarity helped to convert
more people to the Protestant religion. To help furrther this
religious change King Edward VI backed the publication of the
Book of Common Prayer which was created by Archbishop Cranmer.
Queen Mary I was the daughter of King Henry VIII and
Catherine of Aragon. She was of the Roman Catholic
faith, married to King Philip II of Spain, was a religious
zealot, and on her accession to the throne repealed all the
religious laws passed since Henry VIII had set up the Church
Now the religious laws had been changed, the vicars of the
country had to change religion again or resign, of which about
a quarter of them did. Many of the remainder were looked on as
turncoats, however due to Mary's fervent beliefs, anyone
expressing these feelings or denying the Roman Catholic faith
were looked on as religious heretics , and many of these
people were arrested.
It would seem that other events and old scores could be settled
by accusing anyone of treason, as others were arrested because
of the price they charged for their flour, or were accused of
heresy . The fate of many local people was dependent on the
tolerance of their Vicar or local Lord, as with most things,
some were more tolerant than others.
The unlucky ones were tried at the nearest local assizes, then
on being found guilty were burned at the stake in the major
towns such as Lewes and Maidstone . However the villages were
also involved as in 1556 on the 23rd September four Protestants
were burned at the stake in Mayfield .
There were 17 victims from Sussex - "the Sussex Martyrs"
They are commemorated by a monument on Cliffe Hill at Lewes.
6th June 1555 - Dirick Carver of Brighton. Thomas Harland and John Oswald,
from Woodmancote . Thomas Avington and Thomas Reed, from Ardingly .
20th June 1556 - Thomas Hood from Lewes . Thomas Miles from Hellingly .
22nd June 1557 - Richard Woodman and George Stevens, from Warbleton .
Alexander Hosman, William Mainard, and Thomasina Wood, from Mayfield .
Margery Morris and James Morris (her son), from Heathfield .
Denis Burges from Buxted . Ann Ashton of Rotherfield .
Mary Groves of Lewes .