Rowland Taylor, LL.D. (1510 - 1555) MP

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Nicknames: "Dr. Rowland Taylor", "Doctor Rowland Taylor"
Birthplace: Rothbury, Northumberland, England
Death: Died in Hadleigh, Suffolk, England
Cause of death: Burned at the stake for heresy
Occupation: Anglican rector
Managed by: Kathy Trotter
Last Updated:

About Rowland Taylor, LL.D.

Additional Curator's Notes:

Dr. Rowland Taylor, LL.D. is often listed as the son of John Taylor and Susan Rowland. John Taylor was one of the Taylor triplets of Barton-under-Needwood educated by Henry VII and became a noted cleric and public servant. This would make sense, as Rowland would then be carrying his maternal grandfather's name and would have been following on his father's career path.

This parentage, however, may just be wishful thinking. Foxe's Book of Martyrs does not list his parents in the discussion of his life and education. The Dictionary of National Biography does not list his parentage. It is only found in family lore and is repeated in web trees. This does not mean it is untrue, only that it is unproven.

As Curator of this profile, I have chosen to leave John Taylor and Susan Rowland as his parents, with the disclaimer above, until it can be proven otherwise. Maria Edmonds-Zediker, Volunteer Curator 8/14/2012

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Rowland Taylor (October 6, 1510 - February 9, 1555) was an English martyr during the Marian Persecutions.

He was born in Northumberland, England, and died at Hadleigh, Suffolk, England. Taylor received his L.L.B. degree from Cambridge University. From 1531-1538 Rowland Taylor was Principal of Borden Hostel. In 1534 he received the L.L.D. from Cambridge, the same year Martin Luther completed his German Bible. One year later, 1535, William Tyndale was tried and denounced as a heretic for his new English Bible translation. Tyndale was burned at the stake in 1536. Rowland's wife - Margaret Tyndale - was William Tyndale's niece.

At the time of his death he was Rector (an Anglican parish priest) of a small parish in a small market town called Hadleigh (also spelled Hadley). Taylor provided pastoral leadership for several parishes in the English county of Suffolk. He was Queen Mary's third martyr, among 250 or so during her five year reign, as she attempted to bring the Counter-Reformation to England. His sentence was execution by burning at the stake, the common method of punishment for dealing with heretics in the 16th century. However, Taylor is viewed by Protestants as one of their great Christian martyrs.

Dr. Taylor married Margaret Tyndall, c. 1539. They had nine children, four of whom lived to adulthood. After Dr. Taylor's death, his widow married Rev. Wright.

Taylor's religious career

  • In the late 1530s Taylor served as Hugh Latimer's chaplain and commissary general of the Diocese of Winchester.
  • In March 1538 Taylor was collated by Latimer to the parish church of Hanbury.
  • When Hugh Latimer resigned, Taylor was taken under the wing of Thomas Cranmer, living with him and (1539) serving as his chaplain. He was ordained by Cranmer and admitted to the parish church of St. Swithins in Worcester, England. He was thus given his license to preach and did so in the diocese of London.
  • On April 16, 1544 he was presented to the living of Hadleigh, Suffolk, thus becoming their spiritual leader and Rector.
  • In 1543 the English Parliament banned Tyndale's English version and all public reading of the Bible by laymen. Religious persecution of Protestant clergy, especially by Roman Catholics, intensified in Britain at this time.
  • In 1546 the Council of Trent, an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, decreed that the Latin Vulgate was the authoritative version of the Bible.
  • In the Summer of 1547 Rowland Taylor was employed as a preacher for the royal visitation within the dioceses of Lincoln, Oxford, Lichfield and Coventry.
  • On August 15, 1547 he became canon of Rochester, the same King Henry the VIII died, January.
  • 1548, Taylor was appointed Archdeacon of Bury St Edmunds and preached at the request of the Lord Mayor at Whitsuntide or Pentecost.
  • Edward VI, who reigned from 1547–1553, followed Henry VIII and in 1549 the Book of Common Prayer became the Protestant liturgical text in England.
  • In 1550, Taylor was called to serve on a commission against Anabaptists. The same year he also helped to administer the vacant diocese of Norwich.
  • In 1551, at age 41, Taylor was made Archdeacon of Exeter in the Diocese of Exeter, was also appointed one of the Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral and was appointed chancellor to Bishop Nicholas Ridley. His leadership was expanded by serving on a commission to revise the ecclesiastical laws.
  • In 1552, he helped administer the vacant Diocese of Worcester.
  • On July 25, 1553, he was arrested just six days after the new Queen, Mary I, ascended the throne. He was charged with heresy for having preached a sermon in Bury St. Edmunds denouncing the Roman Catholic practice of clerical celibacy, which required that a priest in holy orders be unmarried. He was later released and continued his ministry.

Martydom

January 1555 was an ominous month for Anglican clergy in England. After several years of separation from Roman worship and governance, the accession of Mary I in 1553 and her immediate reversion to Roman Catholic rule in obedience to the Pope (an attempt to turn back the Reformation of the English Church) led her to unleash her wrath upon those whom she defined as treasonably minded heretics. On January 22, 1555, Rowland Taylor (Rector of Hadleigh), and several other clergy, including John Hooper, were examined by a commission of leading bishops and lawyers. The Lord Chancellor presided at the hearings. Just two days previously, January 20th, Parliament had revived the old statute of burning convicted heretics.

Dr. Taylor, in March 1553/4 offered strenuous opposition to the performance of mass by a priest in his church at Hadleigh. He appeared at the church during the mass and demanded it be stopped, calling the priest an idolater. He was arrested and taken to prison in London, charged with heresy. On 8 May following he signed the confession of faith of the religious prisoners and their protest against the way in which disputations were managed. He was examined on various occasions by Gardiner, whom he charged with breaking his oath to Henry VIII and Edward VI. On 22 Jan. 1554/5 he was condemned to death, on the 29th he was excommunicated, and on 4 Feb. he was degraded (stripped of his clerical garments in a symbolic manner) by Bonner.

He was removed to Hadleigh, and on 9 Feb. was burnt on Aldham Common, near Hadleigh. A local butcher was ordered to set a torch to the wood but resisted. A couple of bystanders finally threw a lighted torch on to the wood. A sympathetic guard named Warwick struck Dr. Taylor over the head with a halbard, which apparently killed him instantly. The fire consumed his body shortly thereafter.

His final words to his son Thomas are moving:

"Almighty God bless thee, and give you his Holy Spirit, to be a true servant of Christ, to learn his word, and constantly to stand by his truth all the life long. And my son, see that thou fear God always. Fly from all sin and wicked living. Be virtuous, serve God daily with prayer, and apply thy boke. In anywise see thou be obedient to thy mother, love her, and serve her. Be ruled by her now in thy youth, and follow her good counsel in all things. Beware of lewd company of young men, that fear not God, but followeth their lewd lusts and vain appetites. Flee from whoredom, and hate all filthy lying, remembering that I they father do die in the defense of holy marriage. And another day when God shall bless thee, love and cherish the poor people, and count that thy chief riches to be rich in alms. And when thy mother is waxed old, forsake her not, but provide for her to thy power, and see that she lacks nothing. For so will God bless thee, give thee long life upon earth, and prosperity, which I pray God to grant thee."

Links to additional material:

Inscription on Dr Rowland TAYLOR's monument erected in 1818, at Hadley ENGLAND

Under this stone, lo, here doth lie

Dust sacrificed to tyranny:

Yet precious in Immanuel's sight

Since martyred for his kingly right

When He condemns their hellish druges

By suffering saints shall judge their judges.

--------------------

  • 1530 - LLD Cambridge
  • 1538 - Rector of Hanbury, Worcestershire
  • 1539 - Advocate in Law, Chaplain to Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury
  • 1544 - Rector of Hadleigh
  • 1552 - Archdeacon of Cornwall
  • 1554/55 - Burned at the stake after conviction of heresy

The Life and Conduct of Dr. Rowland Taylor of Hadley

  • from Foxe's Book of Martyrs
  • by John Foxe (1517 - 1587)

Dr. Rowland Taylor, vicar of Hadley, in Suffolk, was a man of eminent learning, and had been admitted to the degree of doctor of the civil and canon law. His attachment to the pure and uncorrupted principles of Christianity recommended him to the favour and friendship of Dr. Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, with whom he lived a considerable time, until through his interest he obtained the living at Hadley.

Not only was his word a preaching unto them, but all his life and conversation was an example of unfeigned Christian life and true holiness. He was void of all pride, humble and meek as any child; so that none were so poor but they might boldly, as unto their father, resort unto him; neither was his lowliness childish or fearful, but, as occasion, time, and place required, he would be stout in rebuking the sinful and evildoers; so that none was so rich but he would tell them plainly his fault, with such earnest and grave rebukes as became a good curate and pastor. He was a man very mild, void of all rancor, grudge or evil will; ready to do good to all men; readily forgiving his enemies; and never sought to do evil to any.

To the poor that were blind, lame, sick, bedrid, or that had many children, he was a very father, a careful patron, and diligent provider, insomuch that he caused the parishioners to make a general provision for them; and he himself (beside the continual relief that they always found at his house) gave an honest portion yearly to the common almsbox. His wife also was an honest, discreet, and sober matron, and his children well nurtured, brought up in the fear of God and good learning. He was a good salt of the earth, savorly biting the corrupt manners of evil men; a light in God's house, set upon a candlestick for all good men to imitate and follow.

Thus continued this good shepherd among his flock, governing and leading them through the wilderness of this wicked world, all the days of the most innocent and holy king of blessed memory, Edward VI. But on his demise, and the succession of Queen Mary to the throne, he escaped not the cloud that burst on so many beside; for two of his parishioners, Foster, an attorney, and Clark, a tradesman, out of blind zeal, resolved that Mass should be celebrated, in all its superstitious forms, in the parish church of Hadley, on Monday before Easter. This Dr. Taylor, entering the church, strictly forbade; but Clark forced the Doctor out of the church, celebrated Mass, and immediately informed the lord-chancellor, bishop of Winchester, of his behaviour, who summoned him to appear, and answer the complaints that were alleged against him.

The doctor upon the receipt of the summons, cheerfully prepared to obey the same; and rejected the advice of his friends to fly beyond sea. When Gardiner saw Dr. Taylor, he, according to his common custom, reviled him. Dr. Taylor heard his abuse patiently, and when the bishop said, "How darest thou look me in the face! Knowest thou not who I am?" Dr Taylor replied: "You are Dr. Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and lord-chancellor, and yet but a mortal man. But if I should be afraid of your lordly looks, why fear ye not God, the Lord of us all? With what countenance will you appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and answer to your oath made first unto King Henry VIII, and afterward unto King Edward VI, his son?"

A long conversation ensued, in which Dr. Taylor was so piously collected and severe upon his antagonist, that he exclaimed: "Thou art a blasphemous heretic! Thou indeed blasphemest the blessed Sacrament, (here he put off his cap) and speakest against the holy Mass, which is made a sacrifice for the quick and the dead." The bishop afterward committed him into the king's bench.

When Dr. Taylor came there, he found the virtuous and vigilant preacher of God's Word, Mr. Bradford, who equally thanked God that He had provided him with such a comfortable fellow-prisoner; and they both together praised God, and continued in prayer, reading and exhorting one another.

After Dr. Taylor had lain some time in prison, he was cited to appear in the arches of Bow-church. Dr. Taylor being condemned, was committed to the Clink, and the keepers were charged to treat him roughly; at night he was removed to the Poultry Compter. When Dr. Taylor had lain in the Compter about a week on the fourth of February, Bonner came to degrade him, bringing with him such ornaments as appertained to the massing mummery; but the Doctor refused these trappings until they were forced upon him. The night after he was degraded his wife came with John Hull, his servant, and his son Thomas, and were by the gentleness of the keepers permitted to sup with him.

After supper, walking up and down, he gave God thanks for His grace, that had given him strength to abide by His holy Word. With tears they prayed together, and kissed one another. Unto his son Thomas he gave a Latin book, containing the notable sayings of the old martyrs, and in the end of that he wrote his testament: "I say to my wife, and to my children, The Lord gave you unto me, and the Lord hath taken me from you, and you from me: blessed be the name of the Lord! I believe that they are blessed which die in the Lord. God careth for sparrows, and for the hairs of our heads. I have ever found Him more faithful and favourable, than is any father or husband. Trust ye therefore in Him by the means of our dear Saviour Christ's merits: believe, love, fear, and obey Him: pray to Him, for He hath promised to help. Count me not dead, for I shall certainly live, and never die. I go before, and you shall follow after, to our long home."

On the morrow the sheriff of London with his officers came to the Compter by two o'clock in the morning, and brought forth Dr. Taylor; and without any light led him to the Woolsack, an inn without Aldgate. Dr. Taylor's wife, suspecting that her husband should that night be carried away, watched all night in St. Botolph's church-porch beside Aldgate, having her two children, the one named Elizabeth, of thirteen years of age (whom, being left without father or mother, Dr. Taylor had brought up of alms from three years old), the other named Mary, Dr. Taylor's own daughter.

Now, when the sheriff and his company came against St. Botolph's church, Elizabeth cried, saying, "O my dear father! mother, mother, here is my father led away." Then his wife cried, "Rowland, Rowland, where art thou?" for it was a very dark morning, that the one could not well see the other. Dr. Taylor answered, "Dear wife, I am here", and stayed. The sheriff's men would have led him forth but the sheriff said, "Stay a little, masters, I pray you; and let him speak to his wife", and so they stayed.

Then came she to him, and he took his daughter Mary in his arms; and he, his wife, and Elizabeth kneeled down and said the Lord's Prayer, at which sight the sheriff wept apace, and so did divers others of the company. After they had prayed, he rose up and kissed his wife, and shook her by the hand, and said, "Farewell, my dear wife, be of good comfort, for I am quiet in my conscience. God shall stir up a father for my children."

All the way Dr. Taylor was joyful and merry, as one that accounted himself going to a most pleasant banquet or bridal feast. He spake many notable things to the sheriff and yeomen of the guard that conducted him, and often moved them to weep, through his much earnest calling upon them to repent, and to amend their evil and wicked living. Oftentimes also he caused them to wonder and rejoice, to see him so constant and steadfast, void of all fear, joyful in heart, and glad to die.

When Dr. Taylor had arrived at Aldham Common, the place where he should suffer, seeing a great multitude of people, he asked, "What place is this, and what meaneth it that so much people are gathered hither?" It was answered, "It is Aldham Common, the place where you must suffer; and the people have come to look upon you." Then he said, "Thanked be God, I am even at home" and he alighted from his horse and with both hands rent the hood from his head.

His head had been notched and clipped like as a man would clip a fool's; which cost the good bishop Bonner had bestowed upon him. But when the people saw his reverend and ancient face, with a long white beard, they burst out with weeping tears, and cried, saying: "God save thee, good Dr. Taylor! Jesus Christ strengthen thee, and help thee! the Holy Ghost comfort thee!" with such other like good wishes. When he had prayed, he went to the stake and kissed it, and set himself into a pitch barrel, which they had put for him to stand in, and stood with his back upright against the stake, with his hands folded together, and his eyes towards heaven, and continually prayed.

They then bound him with the chains, and having set up the fagots, one Warwick cruelly cast a fagot at him, which struck him on his head, and cut his face, so that the blood ran down. Then said Dr. Taylor, "O friend, I have harm enough; what needed that?"

Sir John Shelton standing by, as Dr. Taylor was speaking, and saying the Psalm Miserere in English, struck him on the lips: "You knave," he said, "speak Latin, I will make thee." At last they kindled the fire; and Dr. Taylor holding up both his hands, calling upon God, and said, "Merciful Father of heaven, for Jesus Christ, my Saviour's sake, receive my soul into Thy hands."

So he stood still without either crying or moving, with his hands folded together, until Joyce, with a halberd struck him on the head until his brains fell out, and the corpse fell down into the fire.

Thus rendered up this man of God his blessed soul into the hands of his merciful Father, and to his most dear Saviour Jesus Christ, whom he most entirely loved, faithfully and earnestly preached, obediently followed in living, and constantly glorified in death.

  • ******

On October 5, 1551 Rev. John Taylor and Dr. Rowland Taylor were among the 32 men appointed to reform the Canon Laws, still in use.

When persecution began in England soon after the death of Henry VIII , many Protestants fled to other countries. It is believed that Dr. Taylor's brothers Edmond and Nathaniel went to Ireland when he was martyred.

Dr. Rowland Taylor was educated at Cambridge where he specialized in ecclesiastical and Civil Law and received L.L.D. in 1530 In 1531 he was appointed Principal of Borden Hostel in Cambridge where he trained students in civil and canon law. Thomas Bilney, who preached at Hadleigh before Dr. Rowland Taylor arrived, was a former student at Broden Hostel. By legal injunction the hostel came to an end in 1535.

In March 1538 Dr. Rowland Taylor was appointed Rector of Hanbury, Worcester Diocese. On November 3, 1539 he was admitted as Advocate in Law and the same year was ordained a deacon and became Chaplain to Thomas Cranmer who had become Archbishop of Canterbury March 30, 1533.

In 1542 Dr. Taylor was ordained a Priest and on April 16, 1544 Archbishop Thomas Cranmer appointed him Rector of Hadleigh in the Deanery of Bocking, a Peculiar under the Archbishop of Canterbury. On May 3, 1552 Dr. Taylor was appointed to the Archdeaconry of Cornwall for life.

Hadleigh of County Suffolk, England is an old town dating back to Guthrum (d 890) King of the East Anglians. Located on the river Brett, the town was the center of the cloth-making industry. Five of the famous Mercantile Guilds, including Merchant Tailors, were located there. Their representatives were responsible for town government. The Guild Hall, still in good repair, is near St. Mary's Church. Members met at the hall for business and banqueting and afterwards marched tin procession to the church.

Dr. Taylor was first arrested July 25, 1553 when he was accused of being involved in the case of Lady Jane Grey. He was released on November 9th. During his absence the Catholic Mass had been restored and became mandatory in December.

In March 1554 Dr. Taylor was again arrested for his objections to the Catholic Mass in his church. Before leaving for prison he appointed "A godly old priest, age 70, Sir Richard Yeoman" to take charge of the church. Yeoman was tortured and burned at the stake July 10, 1558.

John Alcocke, a Shearman by trade, came to Hadleigh looking for work and after Yeoman's death, he read services at the church. He was an old man, too. When Parson Newell came to preach one Sunday and Alcocke, who was standing in the back, failed to remove his cap, Newell had him arrested as a heretic; Robert Rolfe tried to reason with the Parson and with Alcocke to no avail.

There is a brass memorial in Hadleigh Church near the Vestry door which says, "Here lieth buried the bodies of Briddgett Champnies and Thomas Champnies her second son the wife and son of Richard Champnies of Bexley in County of New Kent and third daughter of Robert Rolfe of Hadley in County of Suffolk who left this life the 18the day of September 1617."

After defending his faith before church officials, Alcocke was thrown into the lowest dungeon of Newgate Prison where he died of ill treatment and neglect. His body, like Yeoman's, was thrown out into a field with no burial.

John Bradford, who was already in prison, became Dr. Taylor's cellmate. They were both tried and sentenced to death January 22, 1555. Archbishop Cranmer and more than 800 others were also sentenced soon afterwards and died at the stake.

On February 5, 1555 at 2:00 P.M. the officials put Dr. Taylor in a room at the "Woolsack", an inn near the prison, to await transport to Hadleigh. Margaret suspected they would take him away in the night, so she and two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, waited nearby.

They brought Dr. Taylor out at 11:00 P.M. and Margaret and the children ran to meet him to say goodbye. A short distance further, a servant, John Hull, waited with Thomas to say goodbye.

At Chelmsford Dr. Taylor was delivered to the Sheriff of Suffolk who took him on to Lavenham where Dr. Taylor spent two nights in the cellar of the Guild Hall of Corpus Christi. While there, many "great men and justices" came to persuade Dr. Taylor to change his mind, to no avail.

On the way to Aldham Common Dr. Taylor spent another night at the old hostel in Sudbury, known as the White Hart.

During Dr. Taylor's trial he said he had 9 children, 5 of whom were deceased: Susan, George, Ellen, Robert, Zachary. A son Thomas b. September 15, 1548 was 6 years old when his father died.

The following children with the same names as the deceased children of Dr. Rowland were children of Thomas Taylor, apparently brother of Dr. Rowland. Thomas was b c 1513 and m about 1534.

Susan Taylor b 20 July 1535 m Mordecai Pendleton 6 May 1558. Ellen Taylor b 6 August 1557 m Thomas Harrison 9 Dec. 1561. Robert Taylor b 11 Aug 1543 m Milly Tyndale 30 April 1570. Zachary Taylor b 29 Nov 1545 m Elizabeth Nelson 9 Oct 1575. George Taylor b 17 Dec 1546 m Elizabeth Gaines 10 Apr 1581.

An inscription in All Saints Chapel, York Minister, names Anne Taylor daughter of Rowland Taylor as wife of William Palmer, Rector of Kirk Deighton and Weldrakes, Yorkes. They had 7 children.

This accounts for 8 of Dr. Rowland Taylor's children by wife Margaret, or it may be that Anne and adopted daughter Elizabeth were by other woman, which would account for the 9. Elizabeth had been adopted at age 3.

Sometime after Dr. Taylor's death, his widow Margaret m Rev. Charles Wright of Yorkshire, B.A. 1553-4, St. John's College. He became Vicar of Chesterton near Cambridge in 1557.

(Source: The life of Dr. Rowland Taylor, by William James Brown, courtesy of Rev. John Betton, present Rector of Hadleigh, Suffolk, England.

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Rowland Taylor, Archdeacon of Exeter's Timeline

1510
October 6, 1510
Rothbury, Northumberland, England
October 6, 1510
1525
1525
Age 14
Rothbury, Northumberland County, Enland
1535
July 20, 1535
Age 24
Hadley, Middlesex, England
1537
August 6, 1537
Age 26
Hadleigh, Middlesex, England
1543
August 11, 1543
Age 32
Hadleigh, Middlesex, England
1545
November 29, 1545
Age 35
Hadleigh, Middlesex, England
1546
December 17, 1546
Age 36
Hadleigh, Middlesex, England
1548
September 15, 1548
Age 37
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
1550
1550
Age 39
Hadleigh, Middlesex, England