Teenager burnt at the stake – William Hunter (1535-1555)

Monument of  William Hunter
Monument of William Hunter

William Hunter was a martyr burnt to death in Brentwood in Essex at the age of just 19 years, on March 27, 1555 on the Ingrave Road. William Hunter was burnt publicly because he was found reading the Bible in English for himself. William was an apprentice silk weaver in London, He loved the Word of God, and for it was while reading it that he had found Jesus as his Savior. He was a Protestant when Mary Tudor took the English throne. England had broken away from the Catholic Church under King Henry VIII. Edward VI had then become king but he died at a young age allowing his Catholic half-sister Mary to become queen. She was determined to return England to the Catholic Church and a period of persecution of the Protestant believers began.

William was singled out by the authorities because he refused to attend mass despite an order having been made that everyone in the City of London had to attend the Catholic mass. By refusing to obey, William lost his job and he returned to Brentwood. It wasn’t long before William was found reading the Bible for himself. The local priest became involved and soon established that William had a basic protestant belief which totally contradicted the Catholic doctrine. William was soon arrested and sent to be interrogated by the Bishop of London. Again William refused to deny his faith in Jesus. By his actions he was denying the validity of the teachings of the Catholic Church. William was imprisoned for nine months but he refused to repent his beliefs despite physical punishment, threats and bribery. Eventually he was sent back to Brentwood to be executed.

William was burnt at the stake because of his beliefs and because he refused to deny his beliefs. As per record, before his death he lifted up his hands to heaven and said: ‘Lord, Lord, receive my spirit’; and casting down his head again into the smoke, he yielded up his life for the truth, sealing it with his blood to the praise of God.” There is a monument to William Hunter in Brentwood with the following inscription:-

“WILLIAM HUNTER. MARTYR. Committed to the Flames March 26th MDLV. Christian Reader, learn from his example to value the privilege of an open Bible. And be careful to maintain it.”


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