Martyr’s Memorial

Listed Buildings in Ipswich: No 7 Martyr’s Memorial

‘Privileged people could at their ease witness the various entertainments provided for them on the Cornhill. Now it would be a bull-baiting, for no animal was to be slaughtered for food without it had been baited for an hour on this arena; or again, some unfortunate trespasser, either man or woman, must be tied to a cart-tail and whipped round the town, as much apparently for the base amusement of the onlookers as for the profit of the wretched victims’

‘Soon all is in readiness, from every window eager faces are peering out, and not a coign of vantage anywhere has been overlooked. In the midst is a stake fixed to the ground, and around it wood, broom and straw are heaped.’

No, not a description of Ipswich as the pubs and clubs kick out in the early hours of a Sunday morning, but an extract from her book “The Seventeen Suffolk Martyrs” as author Nina Layard describes the scenes on the Cornhill, Ipswich, in 1546 as Kerby, an Ipswich man, is about to be burnt to death.

Kerby was one of nine Protestant martyrs from the town, and nearby villages, who, between 1538 and 1558, were tortured and burned to death. Their crime? Possession of a Bible in English! A heinous crime in the eyes of the State and Church. Worshippers were keen to read the bible in their mother tongue and there was an active trade in Bibles, produced by translators working on the Continent, and then smuggled into England through ports such as the one in Ipswich.

The Martyrs’ Memorial, paid for by public subscription, was erected in their memory in Christchurch Park in 1903, a year after the publication of Layard’s work had brought the martyr’s history to public attention.

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