(d. 1541) [Emden; VCH: Norfolk, vol. 2 (1906) pp. 359-68]
Franciscan friar; BTh Cambridge 1500; DTh; bishop of Chalcedon (1505 - 41); prior of Bromholm, Norfolk (1509 - 30); suffragan to the bishop of Norwich 1527
Thomas Bilney was degraded by John Underwood in 1531. 1570, p. 1150; 1576, p. 984; 1583, p. 1012.
Doctor of law and chancellor of Norwich diocese [ODNB sub Thos Bilney]
Thomas Bilney was examined and condemned before Thomas Pelles. 1570, p. 1150; 1576, p. 984; 1583, p. 1012.
to meddle with Gods Arkematters, wherein he had little cunning and while he thinketh to helpe religion, destroieth religion, and is an vtter enemy to Christ, and to his spirituall doctrine, and his poore afflicted Church, to the intent therefore that he being taken for a speciall ringleader, and a chiefe stay in the Popes Church, might the better be knowen what he is, and that the ignorant and simple may see what little credite is to be geuen vnto him, as well in his other false facing out of matters, as namely in this present history of Bilneys recantation: I haue dilligently searched out and procured the true certificate of M. Bilneys burning, with all the circumstaunces, and poyntes thereto belonging, testified not by somesayes & by heareseyes (as M. More vseth) but truely witnessed, and faythfully recordeth by one, MarginaliaDoct. Parker Archb. of Canterbury, present witnesse at the burning of Bilney. who as in a place and degree surmounteth the estate of M. More (though he were Lord Chauncellour) so beyng also both a spirituall person, and there present the same time, comming for the same purpose the day before, to see his burning, was a present beholder of things there done, xxx of Martyrdom, whose credite I am sure will counterpease with the credite of M. More. The order of which martyrdome was this, as followeth.[Back to Top]
Thomas Pelles is identified by Professor Guy as a 'hard-core' conservative member of lower convocation who supported Catherine (in the divorce matter) as part of an Aragonese faction. As chancellor of Norwich diocese he had examined Bilney's opinions. He claimed after Bilney's execution that he had handed the martyr a draft revocation which Bilney read out. Pelles was arrested in 1531 for praemunire violations. See J A Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), pp. 142, 167 and 176].[Back to Top]
Norwich had been granted the privilege (1404) of electing a mayor, aldermen and two sheriffs. Thomas Necton's name can be found listed as an alderman (for which, see L&P, 10, 1257 (ii) and Professor Guy names him as the brother of the Protestant bookseller Robert, who had been captured by Wolsey and tried by Tunstal in 1528 For further details, see J A Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), p. 168. For Necton as sheriff, there is a listing at the entrance to Suckling House, Norwich for 1530 (Necton owned the house for a time).[Back to Top]
MarginaliaAnno. 1531.After this, the Friday following at night, whiche was before the day of his execution, being S. Magnus day and Saterday,
The feast day of St Magnus of Avignon (19 August). Susan Wabuda has suggested that this date for Bilney's execution was deliberate. Bilney had preached at St Magnus, London, almost exclusively against prayers to saints. Two chaplains had been present at the sermon, and swore out depositions against Bilney at his first heresy trial. [See, John F Davis, 'The Trials of Thomas Bilney and the English Reformation', in The Historical Journal, 24 (1981), p. 780].[Back to Top]
An 'alebrew' or 'aleberry' is a kind of gruel - a drink made from ale, boiled together with oats or some other wheat and toasted bread-sops.
I followe the example of the husbandmen of the countrey who hauing a ruinous house to dwell in, yet bestowe cost as long as they may, to hold it vp, and so do I now wyth this ruinous house of my body, and with Gods creatures in thankes to hym, refresh the same as ye see. Then sitting with his sayde friendes in godly talke, to theyr edification some put him in minde that though the fire, which he shuld suffer the next day should be of great heate vnto hys body, yet the comfort of Gods spirite should coole it to hys euerlasting refreshing. At this word the said Tho. Bilney putting his hand toward the flame of the candle burning before them (as also he did diuers tymes besides) and feelyng the heate thereof, MarginaliaBilney tasted the fire with his finger. O (sayd he) I feele by experience, & haue known it long by Philosophy, that fire by Gods ordināce is naturally hoot, but yet I am perswaded by Gods holye worde, and by the experience of some spokē of in the same, that in the flame they felt no heate, and in the fire they felte no consumption: and I constantly beleue, that how soeuer þe stouble of this my body shalbe wasted by it, yet my soule and spirite shalbe purged thereby: a payne for the tyme, whereon notwithstanding followeth ioy vnspeakeable. And here he much entreated of this place of scripture: MarginaliaEsay 43.Noli timere quia redemi te & vocaui te nomine tuo, meus es tu. Cum transieris per aquas, tecum ero, & flumina non operient te. Cum ambulaueris in igne, non combureris & flamma non ardebit te, quia ego Dominus Deus tuus sanctus Israell, saluator tuus. That is: Feare not, for I redeemed thee, and called thee by the name thou art myne owne. When thou goest through the water, I wyllbe with thee, and the strong flouds shall not ouerfloow thee. Whē thou walkest in the fire, it shall not burne thee, and the flame shall not kindle vpon thee, for I am the Lord the God, the holy one of Israell.
Many witnesses had taken notes of Bilney's last hours, including the mayor of Norwich, Edward Reed, and Professor Guy notes the many depositions taken by More in regard to the occasion. Foxe may have had access to some of these unofficial accounts. See J A Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), p. 168).[Back to Top]
These are both pole-arm (6'-7' long) based weapons. The glaive consists of a single edged blade mounted on a pole and may have a small hook on the other side of the blade to snag riders, while the halberd (or Swiss voulge) is a two-handed weapon with an axe blade and spike mounted in place of the glaive's blade.[Back to Top]
Although no longer extant, Lollard's pit was in Thorpe Wood, Norfolk, a chalk pit which had been excavated for the building of the Cathedral. See Oliver Rackham, Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape (London, 1976), p. 145.
This refers to St Leonard's priory.