John Bland, Rector of Adisham
Graham Noble assesses the significance of one of the earliest Marian Martyrs.
Mary Tudor’s doomed attempt to restore the Catholic faith in England led to the execution by burning of nearly 300 unrepentant, evangelical heretics between 1555 and the Queen’s own death in 1558. More than a fifth of these were persecuted in the county of Kent, most of them within Thomas Cranmer’s archdiocese of Canterbury.
Amongst the first to die was John Bland, the Rector of Adisham. His martyrdom, closely documented in John Foxe’s great, propagandist work Acts and Monuments, is particularly noteworthy not only because it so clearly reveals the acrimony of the reformation in Kent but also because it raises an issue uncomfortable for Foxe and other critics of Marian persecutions: that many of the Canterbury martyrs were far from being orthodox Edwardian protestants whose faith had been the official doctrine of England just a few years previously.