Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Woodman, Richard (1524?-1557)

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WOODMAN, RICHARD (1524?–1557), protestant martyr, born about 1524 at Buxted, Sussex, was by trade an ‘iron-maker,’ living in the parish of Warbleton, East Sussex, and keeping a hundred workmen in his employ. He became known as a protestant at the beginning of 1554 by ‘admonishing’ George Fairebanke, the rector of Warbleton, when in the pulpit. Woodman was arrested for this infringement of the ‘act of 1553 against offenders of preachers and other ministers in the churche’ (1 Mary st. 2. c. 3). He was taken before the local magistrates, and twice brought up before quarter sessions to give security for good behaviour. For contumacious refusal to do this he was imprisoned during two periods of three months (‘two more sessions’) under the act. During this time he was twice examined before the bishop of Chichester, George Day [q. v.], and five times before Cardinal Pole's ‘commissioners.’ In June 1554 he was committed by the Sussex magistrates to the queen's bench prison, London, a measure of doubtful legality; there he remained a prisoner nearly eighteen months. In November 1555 Woodman was sent by Dr. John Story [q. v.], Bonner's persecuting chancellor, to that bishop's notorious ‘coalhouse.’ After a month's imprisonment here he was called up for repeated examinations. He proved by thirty respectable witnesses that he had not been arrested for heresy, and on 18 Dec. 1555 was set unconditionally at liberty, his detention under the statute on which he was arrested being held illegal.

Assertions being made that he had purchased his release by submission to the church, Woodman vindicated his consistency by itinerant preaching in the neighbourhood of his home. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but he escaped to Flanders, and thence to France. After an absence of three weeks he secretly returned home; he was at last betrayed by his brother, with whom he had had disputes upon money matters. He was taken in his own house, and on 12 April 1557 sent to London. Confined again in Bonner's ‘coalhouse,’ he was six times examined during a period of eight weeks. Thence he was removed to the Marshalsea, the sheriff's prison in Southwark. While here he wrote the account of his examinations preserved by Foxe. His second examination took place on 27 April before John Christopherson [q. v.], bishop-designate of Chichester, during which it appeared that a technical difficulty vitiated the legality of the proceedings, the bishop-designate not yet having been consecrated. On 25 May 1557 Woodman was brought before John White (1510?–1560) [q. v.], bishop of Winchester, at St. George's Church, Southwark. White had no jurisdiction except such as arose out of Woodman's answers to Pole's commissioners which had been given in his diocese. These were on a second hearing (15 June) at St. Mary Overy produced against him. Woodman at once took the legal point that he was not resident within White's diocese, and that White had therefore no jurisdiction under the act 2 Henry IV, c. 15. He was remanded till 16 June, when Christopherson appeared as an assessor together with William Roper [q. v.], one of the commissioners for the suppression of heresy appointed in the previous February. Woodman was now ordered to be sworn, under this inquisitorial commission, as suspect of heresy. He refused to swear, and again appealed to his ordinary under the statute of Henry IV. This point had been foreseen, for Christopherson not being yet consecrated, Pole had nominated Nicholas Harpsfield [q. v.], archdeacon of Canterbury, as ordinary. Thereupon Woodman allowed himself to be entrapped into a declaration upon the nature of the sacrament and excommunicated. Throughout his examinations he behaved with great boldness. He was taken to Lewes, and burnt there in company with nine others on 22 June.

Traditions of Woodman linger in Sussex. The site of his house is still pointed out. He is said to have been confined in the second story of the church tower of Warbleton, which bears some indications of having been used as a prison. An old stone cellar at Uckfield is said to have been another place of his imprisonment, and the third is the great vault under the Star inn (now the town hall) at Lewes, in front of which he and his fellow-martyrs were burnt.

[Foxe's Actes and Monuments (Book of Martyrs), ed. 1641, pp. 799–827; Burnet's Hist. of the Reformation; Wilkins's Concilia, 1737, vol. iv.; Lower's Worthies of Sussex, 1865, pp. 138–147; Strype's Memorials of the Reformation, vol. iii.; Dixon's Hist. of the Church of England, 1891, vol. iv.; Horsfield's Hist. of Sussex, 1835, i. 572.]

I. S. L.