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Deryk Carver: Burned In A Barrel

Category Articles
Date August 30, 2005

On a summer’s day in July, 1555 a stake was set up outside the Star Inn, in the county town of Lewes, Sussex. The order had been given – Deryk Carver was to be burned, and his Bible to be burned with him. He was led out to a large barrel surrounded by wood. His Bible was thrown first into the barrel and then Deryk Carver was himself placed in it. He threw his Bible into the crowd, but the Sheriff ordered it to be thrown back. The fire was lit, and Carver’s voice rang out. “Dear brethren and sisters, witness to you all that I am come to seal with my blood Christ’s Gospel, because I know that it is true. It is unknown unto all but that it has been truly preached here in Lewes, and in all places in England, and now it is not. And because I will not deny here God’s Gospel, and be obedient to man’s laws, I am condemned to die.” So died the first of the Sussex Martyrs.


How different England was before the Reformation, when Rome ruled, and after, during the reign of Edward VI, when the English people became a Bible reading and Bible loving nation. Before the Reformation there was “ignorance”. The blind led the blind. There was none to tell the good news of free and complete salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. Poor sinners were never told of the Saviour “able to save to the uttermost”. Religion was merely Mary worship, and image worship, pilgrimages and fastings, masses and confessions.

The people were ruled by the priests who took their money telling them it was the only way to heaven. The Sussex Martyrs would have known about the events which took place during the reign of Henry VIII. Some would have seen the pulling down of the monasteries and have been familiar with the discoveries made in these so-called “religious” houses. They were far from ‘holy’. As long as people gave much money at the shrine of some saint, the clergy would absolve almost any sin. As long as the monks were paid well, a man having committed a crime, could claim sanctuary with them, and the law could not reach him. Carvings existing in old churches today tell this story in wood and stone. “Friars represented as foxes preaching with the neck of a stolen goose peeping out of the hood behind – as apes sitting by a sick man’s bed with a crucifix in one hand and with the other in the sufferer’s pocket”!

The Sussex Martyrs were converted Roman Catholics. They knew it to be an erroneous religion. What a thrill it was when the Bible was made an open Book. “It was wonderful to see with what joy this Book of God was received” wrote the historian Strype, “not only among the learned sort, and those who were lovers of the Reformation, but generally all over England. Everybody that could bought the Book (the Bible), busily read it, or got others to read it to them”.

During the reign of Edward VI the gospel was preached faithfully in church and cathedral in English – no more chants in unknown Latin. It was the Word of God that was heard. Men and women rejoiced, and many found the Lord Jesus as their Saviour. In 1553 Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, became Queen, and the fears of the Reformers were realised.

The Mass was restored; the English service taken away. The works of Luther, Tyndale, Cranmer and others censured. Leading Protestant Bishops and ministers were imprisoned, others sent to the Tower. The Acts against Heresy were revived, making it lawful to burn all those who followed the Gospel and denied the teaching of Rome. Men, women and children were burnt alive – not for treason – not for any crime, but because they were faithful witnesses for Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Bible.

In 1554 an order was issued that those who did not go to their parish priest for confession, nor attend Mass should be reported. Later all Scripture on walls, or elsewhere in churches had to be “razed, abolished and extinguished forthwith”. So the reign of terror began, and for three years, 1555 until 1558, bonfires were made of living men, women and children because they loved the Gospel and hated idolatry. No stone was left unturned to hunt out the victims.

Deryk Carver was a brewer by trade. His business premises were in Black Lion Street, Brighton, and it was here those who loved the Word of God, would meet for prayer and worship. And it was here too that Deryk Carver and several others were taken by the Sheriff. He was sent to London and imprisoned at Newgate, and then brought before Bishop Bonner. At his trial he boldly witnessed against the errors of Rome. He admitted that since the Queen’s coronation he had had the Bible and Psalter read in English many times at his house in Brighton.

He was urged to recant, but Carver refused. “Your doctrine” he said “is poison and sorcery. You say that you can make a God. Ye can make a pudding as well. Your ceremonies in church be beggary and poison”. Sentence was passed on Deryk Carver. He would be executed on the 22nd July, 1555 at Lewes. So he was taken to Lewes to die.

After Deryk Carver spoke to the crowd the Sheriff said “If thou dost not believe in the pope thou art damned, body and soul”. But the heroic martyr pitied the Sheriff and begged God to forgive his errors. His dying words as the flames licked around him were, “O Lord have mercy upon me! Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Deryk Carver was the first of thirty-six Sussex Martyrs who were burned to death for their faithful witness to God’s Truth. Also, he was the first Lewes martyr – sixteen others were to follow, ten of whom were burnt together in one fire. High up on Cliffe Hill, Lewes overlooking the town, stands a granite monument commemorating the Lewes Martyrs, who died at the stake in front of the then “Star Inn” which is now the Town Hall.

The main reason why these Reformers were burned was because they refused to believe that bread and wine were turned into the actual body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. They steadfastly maintained what they had learned from the Scriptures, that the very body of the Lord Jesus which was crucified, was ascended into heaven, and is there at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

According to the Roman Catholic Church, Christ is sacrificed afresh every time the Mass is celebrated, but according to the Bible “this man (Christ Jesus) after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God. For by one offering, He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Hebrews 10:12-14.

Published by Our Inheritance Publications, 130 South Coast Road, Peacehaven BN10 8RD

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