Throughout history many men and women have been martyred for the faith. They have differed in age, nationality and social standing. Some names are well known to us, some lost to history, yet all have this in common, that they have sealed their faith by their blood and have gone on to receive their eternal reward in glory. In one county of England alone a number of ordinary people displayed in their life and death that conviction of faith.
In 1555 Deryk Carver was living as a brewer in the town of Brighton, his place of business located in Black Lion Street. Originally from Flanders he had been blessed by the Lord both with temporal riches as well as spiritual treasures. It is likely that his conversion to Christ had been during the reign of Edward VI, but now that ‘bloody’ Mary had ascended the throne it was impossible for him to worship in the parish church and so he assembled together with a few like minded friends for prayer and worship at his home.
On such an occasion in 1555 he was apprehended by the sheriff, Edward Gage, and sent to London where he was committed to Newgate prison. He was approximately forty years old when he was put on trial before Bishop Bonner and he gave a clear and definite answer to all that was put to him. Amongst those things which he denied were the doctrines of transubstantiation and auricular confession, he declared that the Latin mass was unprofitable and that the faith being then taught was contrary to the Word of God. Upon further examination he declared that he possessed a Bible and Psalter in English and that such had been read in his house on many occasions. When broughtback before the bishop on 10th June his confession of faith was read to him and he was asked if he would stand by it. Replying in the affirmative he said
‘Yes, for your doctrine is poison and sorcery. If Christ were here you would put him to a worse death than he was put before. You say that you can make a God. Ye can make a pudding as well. Your ceremonies in church be beggary and poison’.
On 22nd July 1555 he was brought to the town of Lewes where a stake was set up at the ‘Sign of the Star’, an inn in the centre of the town. A barrel had been prepared into which his Bible had been thrown. Carver took the bible and threw it out amongst the people however the sheriff ordered in the name of the king and queen that it be thrown back. Carver’s last exhortation to the crowd before he was burnt was recorded
‘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 you, but that it hath been truly preached here in Lewes, and in all places in England, and now it is not. And for because I will not deny here God’s gospel, and be obedient to man’s laws, I am condemned to die. Dear brethren and sisters as many of you as do believe upon the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost unto everlasting life, see that you do the works appertaining to the same. And as many of you as do believe upon the Pope of Rome, or any of his laws which he set forth in these days, you do believe to your utter condemnation, and except the great mercy of God, you shall burn in hell perpetually.’
As the flames came upon him he commended his spirit in to the hands of the almighty God and passed into his glory, the first of the Sussex martyrs. A plaque on his place of business, still standing in Black Lion Street, Brighton, bears the simple inscription ‘Deryk Carver, First Protestant Martyr burnt at Lewes, July 22nd 1555, lived in this brewery’.
Adapted from ‘Sussex Martyrs of the Reformation’, The Sussex Martyrs Commemoration Council