Richard Bayfield (1532)

Richard Bayfield was Chamberlain at the abbey of Bury St Edmunds. On one occasion he was given a New Testament in Latin and one in English by Dr Robert Barnes and two brick-makers, Maxwell and Stacy. Bayfield hid the books in his cell and read them avidly for two years. He was then discovered and boldly confessed his faith. The monks threw him into prison, set him in the stocks, put a gag in his mouth and whipped him. He was nine months in prison.

Barnes then visited the abbey again and found out about Bayfield. He asked for Bayfield to be released into his care and he took him to Cambridge. Barnes was then arrested and the abbey called Bayfield back, but he escaped to London where Maxwell and Stacy hid him. While there a priest called Pierson became suspicious of him and he escaped to the continent, looking for William Tyndale.

Bayfield offered to sell Tyndale's books and those of the German reformers in the Low Countries, France and England. On his return to England he was soon discovered by the priest Pierson and he was brought before Bishop Tunstall. He was accused of 'having asserted that praise is due to God alone, and not to saints or creatures and of maintaining that every priest may preach the Word of God by the authority of the Gospel without the licence of Pope or Cardinals.' Bayfield acknowledged the accusations and he was given a penance and sent back to the abbey, but instead he went back to Tyndale.

Bayfield returned to England in a vessel laden with New Testaments, landing at Colchester. He sold the books in London and then returned to Tyndale. He returned with another batch that fell into the hands of Sir Thomas More, but Bayfield returned again, this time with books from most of the Reformers. Tunstall tried to halt supply by buying up all the books, but he was still dismayed at the number of books that bypassed him.

Bishop Stokesleysought Bayfield. He one day asked a man whether he knew a single individual who, since the days of the apostles, had lived according to the true faith in Jesus Christ. Theman answered, 'Yes, I know Bayfield'. Bayfield was caught and put in the Lollards' Tower at Lambeth Palace. He was then put in a coal house and fastened to the wall by his neck, middle and legs. He was then tried and burned.

The following is from Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

A few weeks after Bilney had suffered, Richard Byfield was cast into prison, and endured some whipping, for his adherence to the doctrines of Luther: this Mr Byfield had been some time a monk, at Barnes, in Surrey, but was converted by reading Tyndale's version of the New Testament. The sufferings this man underwent for the truth were so great that it would require a volume to contain them. Sometimes he was shut up in a dungeon, where he was almost suffocated by the offensive and horrid smell of filth and stagnant water. At other times he was tied up by the arms until almost all his joints were dislocated. He was whipped at the post several times until scarcely any flesh was left on his back; and all this was done to make him recant. He was then taken to the Lollard's Tower in Lambeth palace, where he was chained by the neck to the wall, and once every day beaten in the most cruel manner by the archbishop's servants. At last he was condemned, degraded, and burnt in Smithfield.

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