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1027 [1026]

K. Hen. 8. Three Martyrs by Douercourt. The Roode of Douercourt.
¶ One Trapnell Martyr.

MarginaliaTrapnell Martyr, burnt at Brodford. ALso muche about the same tyme, was one Trapnell burned in a Towne called Brodford, within the same Countie.

¶ The historie of three men 
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Dovercourt rood

In the Rerum, Foxe briefly notes that three 'iuvenes', Robert King, Nicholas Marsh and John 'Debnammus' were hung in 1532 for destroying an 'idolum' at Dovercourt Essex. Foxe also mentioned that a 'Robertus Gayrnerus' was burned for the same offence (Rerum, p. 126). Foxe's source for this was undoubtedly John Bale who had written that Robert King, Nicholas Marsh and John 'Debynsham' were executed for 'destroying the fowle ydoll of Dovercourt' (John Bale, The epistle exhortatorye of an English Christiane [Antwerp, 1544?], STC 1291.5, fo. 13r). Bale didn't mention Robert Gardner, though, and Foxe must have learned of him from Bale or another exile.

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But while Foxe's early information about Gardner was garbled - Gardner was clearly not burned - it seems to have provided an important lead for future research into what happened at Dovercourt. The account of the destruction of the Dovercourt rood comes - as Foxe states - from a letter Robert Gardner wrote a Londoner, describing the incident. Foxe cites Gardner as his source for other acts of iconoclasm in Essex and Sussex in 1532 (It is clear from Foxe's note that his source for the following incidents was Robert Gardner. But it is not apparent whether these details came from the original letter Gardner sent to Chapman or from subsequent communications between Foxe and Gardner). It seems clear that Foxe's recovering this evidence is the product of directed research and not serendipity.

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hanged for the burnyng of the Roode of Douercourt, collected out of a letter of Robert Gardner, whiche was one of the doers of the same.

MarginaliaOut of a letter of Robert Gardner written to Chapman Londoner, and yet aliue IN the same yeare of our Lord. 1532. MarginaliaThe Roode of Douercourt. there was an Idoll named the Roode of Douercourt, whereunto was much and greate resorte of people. For at that tyme there was great rumour blowen abroade amonges the ignoraunt sort, that the power of the Idoll of Douercourt was so greate, that no man had power to shut the Churche doore where he stoode, and therefore they lette the Churche doore bothe nyght and daye continually stande open, for the more credite vnto their blynde rumour. Whiche once beyng conceiued in the heades of the vulgar sort, seemed a greate meruale vnto many men, but to manye againe, whom God had blessed with his spirite, was greatly suspected, especially vnto these, whose names here folow, MarginaliaRobart King Rob. Debnam, Nicolas Marsh, Martyrs. as Robert Kyng of Dedham, Robert Debnam of Estbergholt, Nicholas Marshe of Dedham, and Robert Gardner of Dedham, whose consciences were sore burdened to see the honor and power of the almightye liuyng God so to be blasphemed by such an Idoll. Wherfore they were moued by the spirite of God, to trauaile out of Dedham in a woondrous goodly night, both hard frost and fayre moone shine, although the night before, and the night after were exceedyng foule and raynie. It was from the towne of Dedham, to the place where the filthy Roode stood. x. miles. Notwithstanding they were so willyng in that their enterprise, that they wente these. x. myles without payne, MarginaliaThe blinde opinions of the people. and found the Church doore open, accordyng to the blynd talke of the ignoraunt people: for there durst no vnfaythfull body shut it. Which happened wel for their purpose, for they founde the Idol, which had as much power to keepe the doore shut, as to keepe it open. And for proofe therof, they tooke the Idol from his shrine, and caryed hym a quarter of a myle from the place where he stoode, without any resistaunce of the sayd idol. MarginaliaThe Idoll set on a lyght fyer. Wherupon they strake fire with a Flint stone, and sodenly set hym on fire, who burned out so brym, that he lighted them homeward one good myle of the ten.

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This done, there went a greate talke abroade, that they should haue great riches in that place, MarginaliaFalse surmise alwayes readye. but it was very vntrue, for it was not their thought or enterprise, as they them selues afterward confessed, for there was nothing taken away but his coate, his shooes and tapers. MarginaliaThe right handling of an Idoll. The tapers dyd helpe to burne hym, the shooes they had againe, and the coate one sir Thomas Rose dyd burne, but they had neyther peny, halfe peny, gold, grote nor iewel.

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MarginaliaRobert Kyng Robart Debnam Nicolas Marsh, Martyrs. Notwithstandyng three of them were afterwarde indited of felonie, and hanged in chaynes within halfe a yere after, or thereabout. Robert Kyng was hanged in Dedham at Burchet: Robert Debnam was hanged at Cattawaye Causey: Nicolas Marshe was hanged at Douercourt. Which three persons, through the spirite of God at their death, dyd more edifie the people in godly learning, then al the Sermons that had bene preached there a long

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Foxe is our main source for this daring deed of iconoclastic destruction, which took place at a time when Henry VIII's sanction of reform had not yet started official bonfires of holy images. The image destroyed by the three men of Suffolk was a rood in the church of Dovercourt, near Harwich (some miles from where they lived), which they regarded as an idol, partly because of the miraculous powers reportedly attributed to it -- power that they disproved by removing it from the church and setting fire to it. Foxe's illustration -- eliding offence and punishment -- shows it as a lifesize (or larger) wooden figure, readily reduced to ashes. The authorities (both clerical and secular) presiding over the execution are portrayed as calmly in control. But there were were some disturbing features of this incident, including the activities of Thomas Rose, the rector of Hadleigh, himself ardent for image reform, and the recipient of the coat of the Dovercourt rood, which he had the pleasure of burning. A later report of the image being destroyed at Edward's accession seems to indicate that a replacement was installed after this destruction. The woodcut compresses the several parts on this story and presents one image of events that took place at different times and places. As the narrative explains, the three men who were caught were given exemplary executions at different places (Dovercourt itself, Cattawade and Dedham -- both en route to Hadleigh). The fourth man, Robert Gardiner, escaped and lived to tell the tale to Foxe, who only recorded this in 1570 (p. 1173 marginal note: 'Ex testimonio ipsius Gardner'). CUL copy: additional detail is added to the belts in this image, which is visually distracting, since it is in a very bright black. WREN copy: this is a very vibrant illustration, with the use of bright orange for the flames. The burning crucifix is most dramatic: the flesh of Christ is depicted as looking very lifelike, although the additional detail of blood dripping from his wounds is rather clumsily added.

tyme before. 
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This one of a number of indications scattered throughout the Acts and Monuments of Foxe's whole-hearted approval of iconoclasm. It is perhaps worth remembering that he destroyed an image of the Virgin Mary at Ouldsworth, Surrey, during Edward VI's reign [ODNB].

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MarginaliaRobart Gardner escaped. The fourth man of this companye named Roberte Gardner, escaped their handes and fledde. Albeit he was cruelly sought for, to haue had & þe like death, but & þe lyuyng Lord preserued hym, to whom be all honour & glory world without ende.

The same yeare 

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It is clear from Foxe's note that his source for the following incidents was Robert Gardner. But it is not apparent whether these details came from the original letter Gardner sent to Chapman or from subsequent communications between Foxe and Gardner.

, and the yeare before, there were manye Images caste downe and destroyed in many places: as the Image of the Crucifixe in the hygh waye by Cogshall, the Image of saint Petronil in the Church of great Horksleigh, the Image of saint Christopher by Sudburye, and an other Image of Sant Petronil in a Chapell by Ipswiche.

[Back to Top] MarginaliaEx testimonio ipsius Gardner. MarginaliaImages destroyed.

Also Iohn Seward of Dedham, ouerthrewe a Crosse in Stoke Parke, and tooke two Images out of a chapel in the same parke, and cast them into the water.

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