The Cambridge Martyr's Memorial
It's hard to miss the Martyrs' Memorial in Oxford: the steeple-like structure by Gilbert Scott at St Giles, commemorating the sixteenth-century Protestant martyrs, Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer (burnt not far away in Broad St).
I hadn't realised until the weekend -- and thanks to my friend Heather Glen -- that there was a martyr's memorial in Cambridge: a park bench. We were having lunch on Sunday and Heather explained that she had recently stoppped by the brook on Jesus Green to examine the little plaque on a fairly ordinary bench there. She had expected it to commemorate some recently deceased local, whose favourite spot it had been, for musing/ feeding the ducks . . .
But it was nothing of the sort.
It was actually a memorial to a Protestant martyr,John Hullier, who was put to death on this spot on Jesus Green in 1556 in the pogroms of the reign of Mary I. Being a good Cambridge academic, Heather went home to look him up in Fox's Book of Martyrs (which she not only owns, but can find). He turns out to have been a local cleric burnt at the stake on Maundy Thursday.You can read the full account from Fox here. But the essentials are awful enough. Fox explains how the man "undressed" (does that mean that he took off his cassock or that he went to his death naked?).. then how he went to the stake:
"After praying, he went meekly to the stake, and being bound with a chain, and placed in a pitch barrel, fire was applied to the reeds and wood; but the wind drove the fire directly to his back, which caused him under the severe agony to pray the more fervently. His friends directed the executioner to fire the pile to windward of his face, which was immediately done."
Books were then thrown into the fire -- one of which (the Communion Service) he picked up and clutched to his heart. The death which soon followed, Fox insists, turned into a spectacle; the flesh was burnt from the skeleton, which remained upright, and the watchers piled in to grab a bone for a relic.
We were eating our luch about 500 yards, and almost 500 years from this horrible -- and almost forgotten -- event. Well done, we thought, to whoever put that little of plaque of remembrance on the bench. The poor Rev Hullier is not QUITE forgotten.