Richard Yeoman was an aged minister of the gospel who had formerly been assistant to Dr. Rowland Taylor at Hadleigh. After Dr. Taylor's martyrdom, Yeoman had, for a short time, taken charge of his parish, but he was soon turned out and another appointed to his office.
Yeoman then wandered from place to place to escape his enemies. In order to allay suspicion he pretended to be a travelling peddler, and with a little basket of laces, pins, and such small articles he called from door to door. Indeed the trifling profit he made by this poor trade was all he had for the support of his wife and children.
While Yeoman was thus travelling through Kent a justice caused his arrest, and kept him all night in the stocks; but no evidence being found against him, in the morning he was let go. After this Yeoman returned cautiously to Hadleigh, and for more than a year lay concealed, during the daytime, in the garret of a house in the town, where his wife brought him food when she could. Here the old man, who was now past seventy, spent his time carding, or combing wool, which his wife afterwards spun into yarn. She also went about begging food from the charitable, and by such humble means they managed to live.
At length the new Rector of Hadleigh, who was named Newall, accidentally discovered the hiding-place of the old preacher, and sent bailiffs, in the middle of the night, who broke down the door and took him as he lay sleeping with his wife and children. With many insults from Newall, who heaped upon his victim the course reproaches then commonly used in denouncing married ministers, they were dragging him away; when Yeoman, in the spirit of his martyred friend Rowland Taylor, replied, "Nay, parson, here are not bad characters, but an honest married man and his wife." But without replying they took him to the town jail and put him in the stocks, where he remained until the next day.
There was also in the prison, fastened in the stocks, a man named John Dale, who had lain there three or four days, because when Newall and his curate were one day holding service in the church, he had cried out, and called them "blind leaders of the blind." For this Newall had caused him to be arrested and set in the stocks and kept there until Sir Henry Doyle, the justice, came to Hadleigh to hold court. Now as Yoeman was also taken, the priest called upon Sir Henry Doyle to carry out the letter of the law, and send them both to prison. Sir Henry Doyle entreated Newall to consider the age of the men, and their poverty. They were not persons of note or influence, and the justice therefore advised that they should be punished for a day or two, and then let go.
When Newall heard this merciful plea he was much offended, and called the two prisoners pestilent heretics, unfit to live in the commonwealth of Christians. "Wherefore I beseech you, sir," said he to Sir Henry Doyle, "according to your office, defend the church, and help to suppress these heresies, which are false to God, an evil example to others, and a violation of the queen's commands." Sir Henry Doyle, seeing he could do nothing but carry out the law in the matter, and fearing he might be accused of being partial to the prisoners if he spoke further in their favor, made out the writ, and ordered the constables to carry the two men to Bury jail.
So they took Richard Yoeman and John Dale, and set them on horseback. They then bound them like thieves, fastened their legs under the horses' bodies, and so carried them to Bury jail, where they were put in irons and thrown into the lowest dungeon; here John Dale soon died from lack of food and bad air. When he was dead his body was thrown out and buried in the fields. He was a man of forty-six years of age, a weaver by occupation, and an unusually good Bible student for one of his class.
After this , Richard Yeoman was removed to Norwich prison, where, after suffering much hardship, he was brought out for examination. But instead of being humbled and broken in spirit by his confinement and cruel treatment, Yeoman was as bold and unyielding as he had been at his first examination. He acknowledged that he was of the reformed faith, refused to change his opinions in any particular, and said, "I will even die in the same faith and confession in the which I have lived." Consequently, Yeoman was quickly condemned to death by fire and sent back to prison at Norwich to await the day of his execution.
Now by this time the public burning of men and women in England had
become so common, that it seems the brutalized wretches who served as sheriff's
helpers--whose hands chained the martyrs to the stake, built up the fagots, and finally
applied the torch--were no longer satisfied with a comparatively speedy death for their
victim. The appetite grows with what it feeds upon, and even the shocking spectacle of
living, breathing men and women perishing in the flames would seem to have palled upon
these hardened beings. Therefore we read that, not satisfied with burning Richard Yeoman,
"they did cruelly torment him, the green wood they used making a slow fire so that he
was more broiled than burned."
This page and its design are copyright
© 2002 by Kevin W. Michael.
All rights reserved.