Text reproduced with the kind permission of Derby Local Studies Library. FOXE'S BOOK OF MARTYRS
First published in 1563.
Life, Trial, & Execution
BURNT IN WINDMILL PIT,
IN THE YEAR 1556,
Literally copied from an account published at the time. The MARTYRDOME of JOANE WASTE.
A blinde Woman in the Towne of Darbie
The first day of August in the yeere 1556, suffered at the towne of Darbie, a certeine poor honest godlie woman : being blinde from her birth, and unmarried, about the age of XXII, named Joane Waste, of the parish of Alhallowes. One of them that fate upon this innocent woman's bloud, the chiefest was Rafe Bain, Bishop of the Diocese, Dr. Draicot his chancellour, Sir John Port Knight, Henrie Vernon Esquire, Peter Finsh Official of Darbie, with the assistance also of divers others, Richarde Warde, and William Bembridge, the same being Bailifs of the town of Darbie &c. First after the above named Bishop, and Doctor Draicot, had caused the said Joane Waste to bee apprehended in the towne of Darbie, suspecting her to be guiltie of certain heresies she was divers times privilie examined, as well in prison as out of prison by Finsh the official aforesaid : after that brought to public examination before the Bishop, at last, was there burnt in Darbie as is abovesaid, touching whose life, bringing up, and conversation, somewhat more amply we minde to discourse, as by faithfull relation hath come to my hands.
First, this Joane Waste was the daughter of one William Waste, an honest poore man, and by science a barber : who sometime also used to make ropes.-- His wife had the same Joane, and one other at a birth, and she was born blinde and when she was about XII or XIV yeares old, she learned to knot hosen and sleeves, and other things which in time she could do very well, furthermore as time served she would help her father turn ropes, and do such other things as she was able, and in no case would be idle. Thus continued she with her father and mother during their lives : after whose departure, then kept she with one Roger Waste her brother, who in the time of K. Edward, the Sixth, of blessed memorie, gave herselfe daylie to go to the Church to hear divine service read in the vulgar tongue and thus by hearing homilies & sermons, she became marvellously well affected to the religion then taught, so at length having by her labour gotten and saved so much mony as would buy her a New Testament, she caused one to be provided for her, and though she was herselfe unlearned, and by reason of her blindness unable to reade, yet for the great desire she had to understand, and have printed in her memorie the sayings of Holy Scripture contained in the New Testament, she acquainted herself chieflie with one John Hurt, then prisoner in the Common Hall of Darbie. The same John Hurt being a sober grave man, being of thraescore and teene yeares, by her earnest intreatie and being prisoner, and many times idle and without companie did for his exercise daylie read unto her some one chapter of the New Testament and if at any time he were otherwise occupied or letted through sickness, she would repair unto one John Pemerton Clerke of the Parish Church of All Saints in the same towne of Darbie, or to some other person which could read, and some times she would give a penie or two (as she might spare) to such persons as would not frelie read unto her, appointing unto them aforehand how many chapters of the New Testament they shoulde reade, or how often they shall repeate one chapter upon a price. Moreover, in the said Joane Waste, this was notorious, that she being blinde, could notwithstanding, without a guide, go to any Church in the said towne of Darbie, or to any other place or person, whith whom she had anie such exercise; by which exercise she so profited that she was able not only to recite many chapters of the New Testament without booke, but also could aptly impugne, by divers places of Scriptures, as well finne, as such abuses in religion as then were too much in use in diverse sundrie persons, as this godly woman thus daily increased in the knowledge of Gods holy word, and no less in her life expressed the virtuous fruits and exercise of the same : not long after, through the fatall death of blessed K. Edward, followed the woefull ruine of religion in the raigne of Queen Marie his sister in which alteration, notwithstanding the general backesliding of the greatest part and multitude of the whole realm, into the old papisme again, yet this poore blinde woman continued in a constant consience, proseeded still in her former exercise, both being zealous in that she had learned, and also refusing to communicate in religion with those that taught contrary doctrine to that shee before had learned in King Edwards time, as is above declared. For the which shee was called & and convented before the aforesaid Bishop and Doctour Draicot, with divers others called in to bear witness.
The articles ministered unto her and wherewith she was charged, was these :-- First, that she did holde the Sacrement of the altar, to be but onlie a memory or representation of Christes bodie and materiall Bread and Wine, but not his naturall bodie unless it was received, as that it ought not to be reserved from time to time over the altar, but immediately received &c.
Item, that shee did holde, in receiving the sacrament of the altar, shee did not receive the same bodie that was born of the Virgine Marie, and suffered upon the crosse for our redemption &c.
Item, shee did holde, that Christe at his last supper did not bless the bread that he had then in his hands, but was blessed himselfe, and by the wordes of consecration, the substance was not converted and turned into the substance and the bodie and bloud of Christ.
Item, she did graunt that she was of the Parish of Alhallowes in Darbie &c.
Item, that all and singuler the premises are true and notorious by public report and same &c.
Whereunto she answered, that she beleeved therin so much as the Holy Scriptures taught her, and according to that she had heard preached unto her by divers learned men : whereof some suffered imprisonment, and other some death for the same doctrine amongst whom she names beside other Dr. Tailour, whom she said tooke it of his consience, that the doctrine which he taught was true, and asked of them, if they would doe so in like case of their doctrine, which if they would not, she desired them for God's sake not to trouble her being a blinde, poore, and unlearned woman, with any further talke, saying (by God's assistance) that she was ready to yeald up her life in that faith in such sort as they should appoint.
And yet notwithstanding, being prest by the said Bishop and Doctour Draicot, with many arguments of Christes omnipotencie, as, why was not Christ as well to make his bodie, as to turne water into wine, raise Lazarus from death, and such arguments : and many times being threatned with grievous imprisonments, torments, and death ; the poore woman thus being, as it were, halfe astonished through their terrors and threats, and desirous (as it seems) to prolong her life, offered unto the Bishop then present that if he would before that companie take it upon his consience, that the doctrine which he would have her beleive concerning the Sacrament, was true, and that he would at the dreadfull day of Judgement answere for her therein (as the said Doctor Tailour in divers of the sermons did offer) she would further answer them. Whereunto the Bishop answered he would, but D. Draicot, hearing that saide ; my Lord, you know not what you do, you may in no case answere for an heretike. And immediatly hee asked the poore woman whether she would reacant or no, and said she should answere for herself. Unto whose sayings the Bishop also reformed himselfe. The poore woman perceiving this, answered again that if they refused to take of their consience that it was true they would have her to beleieve, she would answer no further, but desired them to doe their pleasure and so after certeine curcumstances, they pronounced sentence against her and delivered her unto the Bailiffes of the said town of Darbie afore named, who after they kept her about a month or five weeks, at length, there came unto them a Writte De Haeretico Comburendo : by vurtue whereof they were appointed by the said Bishop to bring her to the parish church of All Saintes at a day appointed where Doctour Draicot should make a Sermon.
When the day and time was come that this innocent martyr should suffer first cometh to the Church Dr. Draicot accompanied with divers gentlemen M. Thos. Powthread, Mr. Henrie Vernon, Mr. Dethicke of Newall, and divers others. This done, and all things now in readiness, at last the poore blind creature and servant of God was brought and set before the pulpit, where the said Doctour being entered into his sermon, and there inveying agains divers matters which he called heresies, declared unto the people that that woman was condemned for denying the blessed sacrament of the altar to be the verie bodie and bloud of Christ reallie and substantially, and was thereby cutt of from the bodie of the Catholic Church, and hee sayde that she wa not onlie blinde in her bodilie eyes, but also blinde in the eyes of her soule. And he said, that as her bodie should be presentlie consumed with material fire, so her soule should be burned in hell with everlasting fire, as soone as it should be separated from the bodie, and there to remain world without end, and said it was not lawfull for the people to pray for her : and so with many terrible threats he made an end of his sermon, and commanded the Bailiffs and those Gentlemen to see her executed.
And the sermon thus ended, after soone the blessd servant of God was carried away from the saide Church to a place called Windmill-pitt near unto the towne and holding the foresaid Roger Waste her brother by the hand she prepared herself, and desired the people to pray for her, and said such prayers as she before had learned, and cried upon Christ to have mercie upon her as long as life served. In this weane season, the saide Dr. Draicot went to his Inn, for great sorrow of her death, and there lay'd him downe, and slept during all the time of her execution : and thus much of Joane Waste.
A poor young blind woman called Joan Waste after hearing homilies and sermons delivered in English in the time of King Edward VI had become 'marvellously well affected to the religion then taught' and managed to save enough money from making hose and sleeves to buy a New Testament.
Because she was blind she couldn't read it, so she made the acquaintance of a prisoner in the town jail who daily read a chapter to her, and if he was ill she would ask the Parish Clerk to read to her, or anyone else she could find to whom she would give a penny or two, sometimes asking for chapters to be read over again. She was soon able to recite many chapters.
After the death of King Edward there followed 'the woeful ruin of religion in the raigne of Queen Marie his sister' and 'general backesliding of the greatest part and multitude of the whole realm, into the old papisme again'.
Joan came to the attention of the church authorities who charged her with refusing to believe that the Sacrament became the actual body and blood of Christ at the altar and was 'threatned with grievous imprisonments, torments and death'.
Though terrified she said she was prepared to answer 'at the dreadfull day of Judgment' for her beliefs and said 'she would answer no further, but desired them to doe their pleasure'.
Sentence was passed and she was delivered into the hands of the Bailiffs. She was kept about 5 weeks until a writ proclaiming her a heretic had arrived and was instructed to attend the Bishop at All Saints Church on 1st August 1556
Joan Waste stood before the pulpit while the Bishop delivered his sermon. He said 'she was not onlie blinde in her bodilie eyes, but also blinde in the eyes of her soul', and that she should be burned to death.
'Soone the blessd servant of God' was carried away, holding the hand of her twin brother Roger, and was taken to Windmill Hill pit, about a mile away. She prepared herself and desired the people to pray for her. So, on the first day of August 1556, blind Joan Waste, at the age of 22, a 'poor, honest, godlei woman', was burnt to death as a martyr for her Protestant beliefs.