Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Hugh Latimer Bishop of Worcester man and martyr

Hugh Latimer was one of the important clergymen who helped to establish the Church of England in the mid-sixteenth century. Together with Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, he is remembered as one of the Oxford martyrs. In this blog, I am looking at how he was both a famous martyr and also an ordinary man.
Hugh Latimer. Reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.).

Hugh Latimer was born in the village of Thurcaston in Leicestershire in c.1490. His father was a poor farmer. He was an intelligent child and was fortunate to be able to go to Cambridge University. He was elected a Fellow of Clare Hall. In 1514 he gained his Master of Arts and became a preacher, and in 1524 he achieved his Bachelor of Divinity. When Cardinal Wolsey decided to found a new College at Oxford, Latimer was one of a handful of men offered the chance to teach there. All of them were reformers. He later returned to teach at Cambridge. 

A copy of a letter from King Henry VIII to Bishop Latimer still surviving in the cathedral archive. Reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
He preached before Kings Henry VIII and Edward VI. Latimer believed that the church needed reforming. When he carried out a visitation of Worcester Cathedral priory in 1537 his ideas and hopes were clear. He insisted that a Bible in English be available in either the church or cloister, and that every monk have, at the very least, a New Testament each. He also ordered the monks not to discourage lay people from reading, and that preaching be recognized as important. It was not to be disturbed by singing or ceremonies because preaching is crucial in helping people to understand the Christian religion. He also asked for various other reforms to the cathedral priory.

Hugh Latimer preaching at Westminster before King Edward VI. Reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

In Edward VI’s reign he was again a very popular preacher. The poor in particular looked on him as someone who stood up to the rich and the nobility- groups who were tempted to ignore the legal rights of the poor. He also was against the giving of bribes, so must have hoped to improve society generally.  
The martyrdom of Latimer and Ridley at Oxford. Reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Queen Mary seized the throne from Lady Jane Grey in 1553, despite the late Edward VI’s wishes. Mary ordered arrests of those people who did not believe as she did. Latimer was ordered to come from Warwickshire and appear at the Privy Council in London. He was then imprisoned. He drew comfort from his friends Ridley and Cranmer whilst in the Tower by letters, and he read his New Testament carefully, and prepared for his trial. He also helped them with his resolve and sense of humour.

He was finally condemned and was taken to Oxford in 1554. After a 'trial' all three men were excommunicated for disagreeing with the government’s views on the bread and wine at Holy Communion. Latimer believed that the wine and bread were not turned into the blood and body of Christ, but that Christ was present spiritually instead.  He was burnt to death outside Balliol College because of his beliefs. It would be possible to see Hugh Latimer like a main character in a film. However, it is important to remember that he was not just a famous martyr. He was also a man, who was intelligent with ideas, hopes and a quiet sense of humour.   

By Darcie Sutton


William Gilpin, The Life of Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, London 1755
George Elwes Corries, Sermons by Hugh Latimer, Cambridge, 1845

Robert Demaus, Hugh Latimer- A Biography, London 1903.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Frances Ridley Havergal - Famous Worcestershire Hymn writer and poet

Frances Ridley Havergal was loved by everyone throughout her life. From the moment she was born in 1836, Frances was considered an angel by her family.

Frances as a young girl was charming and lovely, almost fairy tale-like in her manner and appearance, but Frances had a secret; she felt unworthy of being a Christian. This feeling plagued her. Frances made sure that her outward appearance was always a happy one, so that nobody knew how she felt.

Image of Frances Ridley Havergal from Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal (London, 1881). Reproduced by permission of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
Frances lost her mother when she was only eleven years old and a bitterness from losing her made Frances, for a while, feel alone and lost in the world. After having a holiday in North Wales, Frances' father decided that she should go to school. At school Frances soon developed a scholarly interest. She learnt French and German; as well as showing a talent for music, Frances sang hymns and even wrote her own, as she possessed a skill for rhymes. Anything she wrote or sang was always dedicated to god. Everyone who knew Frances thought that she was a clever and amazing child.

Although Frances was a fun and happy teenager, as shown in a quote from a school girl who met her: "Miss Frances flashed into the room, she was like a burst of sunshine - I sat perfectly spellbound as she sang and talked." Frances still didn't feel connected to God, which upset her immensely, as she wanted to be filled with the Joy of God.

Frances top right in Lizzie Alldridge's The World's Workers- Florence Nightingale, Frances Ridley Havergal, Catherine Marsh and Mrs. Ranyard (London, 1886). Reproduced by permission of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral, (U.K.)

Frances' charasmatic personality allowed her to make friends easily. Wherever she went, others wanted to follow. Frances had  a full life. She supported many charities, as well as writing books of poems and prayers for children and adults. Finally in 1873, Frances decalred that she had received a blessing, saying that "her whole life had been lifted in to sunshine". Now that Frances felt connected with God, she became filled with a new and all consuming happiness. She became if possible even more radiant to those around her.


 Frances' grave from Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal (London 1883). Reproduced by permission of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral, U.K.
Frances died when she was 41 years old in 1879. What is interesting about Frances Ridley Havergal was her pureness and the way she seemed raised above others; Frances througout her life remained perfect and untouched. Frances is unlike anybopdy that I have ever read about or met, inn today's fast moviung world. The qualities she embodies are exceptionally hard to find in oneself. What sums her up to me is the way that others respond to these qualities. "I love her I do: I would follow her every step of the way back to England if I could".

by Darcie Sutton       

Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal by her sister M.V.G.Havergal, (London,1881 and 1883 editions)
The world's workers- Florence Nightingale, Frances Ridley Havergal, Catherine Marsh, Mrs.Ranyard by Lizzie Alldridge (London, 1886)