News from the Archive

The archives have been very busy this past month. We have been working on our new database which has enabled us to start cataloguing our collections. We have started with the Athenaeum’s own collection including minute books, accounts and building plans. It doesn’t mean we haven’t been finding any special and unique treasures though!

In a box hidden in the back of the stacks we have found a rather interesting copy treatise with a little handwritten note accompanying it:

‘Early copy of a brief declaration of the Lords Supper written by the singular learned man and most constant martyr of Jesus Christ, Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, Prisoner in Oxford, a little before he suffered death for the live testimony of Christ’.

This piqued our interest so the archive team set about researching Bishop Nicholas Ridley.

Nicholas Ridley b. c1500 was made Bishop of London and Westminster on 1 April 1550 and was Bishop during the reign of Edward VI. In 1553 Edward VI became ill and started considering a successor to his throne. Bishop Ridley was a strong advocate for Edward’s cousin, the protestant Lady Jane Grey to be named successor over the Roman Catholic Mary (Edward’s half-sister).  At a sermon at St Paul’s Cross, Ridley even went as far as proclaiming the princesses Mary and Elizabeth bastards.

On the death of Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey became de facto monarch for nine days being deposed by Mary. On Mary’s accession to the throne, Ridley was taken to the Tower of London along with the other religious leaders of the English Reformation; Thomas Cranmer and Hugh Latimer. They were later transferred to Bocardo Prison in Oxford to stand trial for heresy.  Whilst in prison, Queen Mary sent Cardinal Pole to examine Ridley and give him the chance to recant his protestant beliefs. Ridley would not alter his position and refused to recant. As a result Ridley was declared heretical and sentenced to degradation from ecclesiastical office and to be burned at the stake for heresy. On 16th October 1555, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were burned at the stake for being heretics.

Nicholas Ridley, Thomas Cranmer and Hugh Latimer are known as the ‘Oxford Martyrs’ for their support of the English Reformation and the separation of the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church.

The full account of ‘A brief declaration of the Lords Supper’ can be found in our Library in a book entitled ‘The Works of Nicholas Ridley’.

Our copy extract is thought to be an early copy of the declaration as it is written in secretary hand of the same period. We are still trying to investigate who could have written ours but it is known that John Jewell (later Bishop of Salisbury) was notary to Nicholas Ridley during his time in Oxford, could it be him?