John Launder and his martyrdomSteyning is a small picturesque town nestling by the base of the South Downs and contains many medieval buildings and was the site of the martyrdom of John Launder on the 23rd of July 1555.
Sussex sheriff Edward Gage broke into the home of Brighton brewer Deryk Carver at the end of October 1554 and found twelve men, including John Launder, engaged in prayer and conducting the service in English as set out in the time of Edward VI. John was then 25 and a farmer from Godstone in Surrey. Those at the meeting were using Carver’s Bible and Psalter in the English translation.
With Queen Mary now on the throne of England, the translation of the Scriptures into English, previously authorised by Henry Vlll in 1538, and much loved during the reign of good king Edward; was now forbidden.
Launder was imprisoned in London and questioned by Bishop Bonner. During his interrogation, he denied the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and also the practice of confession of sins to the priest. Launder was taken to Steyning where he was put to a cruel death by fire at the stake.
Taking the road to the Steyning Parish Church, and passing a lovely thatched cottage on the left, is a small grass square which was the site of his martyrdom. Across the road and on the right, is a small brick memorial; while information about John Launder may be found in Steyning Museum, which is right behind the memorial and well worth a visit.