British Collection Highlights:

The Oxford Martyrs’ Material

Mary Tudor succeeded the throne in 1553 after the death of her half brother, Edward VI, and the ill-fated nine day accession of the Protestant Lady Jane Grey.

Queen Mary I wished to restore Catholic religion to England following the Protestant reforms of her father, Henry VIII, and Edward. During the Counter Reformation of Mary I’s reign, nearly 300 Protestants were convicted of heresy and condemned to death. The most famous of these were Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, the ‘Oxford Martyrs’. They were tried in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin and imprisoned in the Bocardo at the North Gate.

Bishops Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake in October 1555. In March 1556, Archbishop Cranmer was burned after he recanted his Protestant faith and returned to Catholicism, and then renounced his recantation. The location where the Martyrs were burned outside the city’s North Gate is marked by a cross in the road on Broad Street. In 1843 the Martyrs’ Memorial, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, was completed at the south end of St Giles.

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Key to Bocardo Prison, Oxford (Click to enlarge)

This is a key to the Bocardo prison, demolished in 1771, the ancient city prison, and celebrated as the place in which the Oxford Martyrs were confined before their execution. (AN1836 p.133.351)

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Cramner's Band (Click to enlarge)

‘Cranmer’s Band’ - The hinged iron band with lockable shackle is believed to have worn around the waist of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer to confine him during his imprisonment in Oxford in 1554. (AN1877.226)

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Eleanor Standley
February 2012