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Executions In Kent

The following seven were arraigned for heresy: Joan Bainbridge, of
Staplehurst; W. Appleby, Petronella his wife, and the wife of John
Manning, of Maidstone; B. Allin, and his wife Catherine, of Freytenden;
and Elizabeth ----, a blind maiden. Allin was put in the stocks at
night, and some advised him to compromise a little, and go for the
form's sake to mass, which he did next day, but, just before the
sacring, as it is termed, he went into the churchyard, and so reasoned
with himself upon the absurdity of transubstantiation, that he staid
away, and was soon after brought back again before Sir John Baker, and
condemned for heresy. He was burnt with the six before mentioned at
Maidstone, the 18th of June, 1557.

As in the last sacrifice four women did honour to the truth, so in the
following auto-de-fe we have the like number of females and males, who
suffered June 30, 1557, at Canterbury, and were J. Fishcock, F. White,
N. Pardue, Barbary Final, widow; Bradbridge's widow; Wilson's wife; and
Benden's wife.

Of this group we shall more particularly notice Alice Benden, wife of
Edward Benden, of Staplehurst, Kent. She had been taken up in Oct. 1556,
for non-attendance, and released upon a strong injunction to mind her
conduct. Her husband was a bigoted catholic, and publicly speaking of
his wife's contumacy, she was conveyed to Canterbury castle, where
knowing, when she should be removed to the bishop's prison, she should
be almost starved upon three farthings a day, she endeavoured to prepare
herself for this suffering by living upon two-pence halfpenny per day.
Jan. 22, 1557, her husband wrote to the bishop, that if his wife's
brother, Roger Hall, were to be kept from consoling and relieving her,
she might turn; on this account, she was moved to a prison called
Monday's hole; her brother sought diligently for her, and at the end of
five weeks providentially heard her voice in the dungeon, but could no
otherwise relieve her, than by putting some money in a loaf, and
sticking it on a long pole. Dreadful must have been the situation of
this poor victim, lying on straw, between stone walls, without a change
of apparel, or the meanest requisites of cleanliness, during a period of
nine weeks!

March 25, she was summoned before the bishop, who, with rewards, offered
her liberty if she would go home and be comfortable; but Mrs. Benden had
been inured to suffering, and, showing him her contracted limbs and
emaciated appearance, refused to swerve from the truth. She was however
removed from this Black Hole to the West gate, whence, about the end of
April, she was taken out to be condemned, and then committed to the
castle prison till the 19th of June, the day of her burning. At the
stake, she gave her handkerchief to one John Banks, as a memorial; and
from her waist she drew a white lace, desiring him to give it her
brother, and tell him, it was the last band that had bound her, except
the chain; and to her father she returned a shilling he had sent her.

The whole of these seven martyrs undressed themselves with alacrity,
and, being prepared, knelt down, and prayed with an earnestness and
Christian spirit that even the enemies of the Cross were affected. After
invocation made together, they were secured to the stake, and, being
encompassed with the unsparing flames, they yielded their souls into the
hands of the living Lord.

Matthew Plaise, weaver, a sincere and shrewd Christian, of Stone, Kent,
was brought before Thomas, bishop of Dover, and other inquisitors, whom
he ingeniously teazed by his indirect answers, of which the following is
a specimen.

Dr. Harpsfield. Christ called the bread his body; what dost thou say
it is?

Plaise. I do believe it was that which he gave them.

Dr. H. What was that?

P. That which he brake.

Dr. H. What did he break?

P. That which he took.

Dr. H. What did he take?

P. The text saith, "He took bread."

Dr. H. Well, then, thou sayest it was but bread which the disciples
did eat.

P. I say, what he gave them, that did they eat indeed.

A very long disputation followed, in which Plaise was desired to humble
himself to the bishop; but this he refused. Whether this zealous person
died in prison, was executed, or delivered, history does not mention.

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