On this date in 1555* — crying, “away, thou false prophet!” at the priest sent to hector him in his last moments — William Hunter was burned in Brentwood, Essex for Protestantism.
Hunter at the stake, from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
Called in for questioning, both Hunter and the civil authorities decided it was worth his life to dispute the doctrine of transubstantiation. Catholic pro, Hunter con, of course.
(cc) image from Bopuc.
So that was that.
A couple of years later, the very justice who had first examined Hunter received a grant to found a school. Brentwood School is still going strong in its fifth century, and on its grounds — directly adjacent, in fact, to the school’s first purpose-built room** — rests a stone for the edification of the generations of Anglican pupils who followed. It honors the young man who died to crack open a book.
WILLIAM HUNTER. MARTYR. Committed to the Flames March 26th MDLV.
Christian Reader, learn from his example to value the privilege of an open Bible. And be careful to maintain it.
An elm tree planted at that spot came to be known as the Martyrs Elm.
* This is the date per Foxe’s Book of Martyrs; others give March 27. The memorial stone carries the day for our purposes in view of contradictory sourcing.
** The legend that Brentwood School was founded as the justice’s penance for dooming Hunter seems to be unfounded.