The Protestant Martyr of Brighton

When he was arrested in 1554 Deryk Carver had been running a successful beer brewing business for eight or nine years in Black Lion Street Brighthelmstone. Born in the village of Dilson by Stockom in the land of Liège, his house stood on the corner with Black Lion Lane and until it was recently reconstructed was once one of the oldest buildings in the town of Brighton as it is known today.

It was here one dark October evening in 1554 that Carver, a keen Protestant, was reading and praying with some ten like-minded men. As they were saying the service in English as set forth in the new Prayer Book of Edward lV Edward Gage, the Sheriff of Sussex, broke into Carver’s home and arrested them. Carver spent the following months in Newgate Prison London and was never to return to his home in Brighton. 

Carver was called many times to be interrogated by the Bishop of London, Edmund Bonner. He consistently answered his questions clearly and boldly rejecting the teaching of the church of Rome because ‘it was not agreeable to God’s Word’. In particular he denied the doctrines of transubstantiation and auricular confession and declared the Latin Mass was ‘unprofitable’. Upon further examination he admitted that he had the Bible and Psalter in English read at ‘divers times’ in his house at Brighthelmstone. 

However, Bonner’s verdict was that Carver must die at the stake as a heretick. 

Eighteen months later the stake was prepared in Lewes and a barrel was attached into which Carver’s Bible was thrown. Climbing into the barrel, Carver retrieved the Bible and threw it out into the large crowd that had gathered, upon which the Sheriff ordered it to be thrown back, but it never was. Before the wood was lit Carver addressed the crowd: “Dear brethren and sisters, witness to you all that I am come to seal with my blood Christ’s Gospel, because I know that it is true. It hath been truly preached here in Lewes and in all parts of England but now it is not. Because I will not deny God’s Gospel and be obedient to man’s laws I am condemned to die!” 

His dying prayer as the flames were upon him was, “O Lord my God, Thou hast written, he that will not forsake wife, children house, and all that ever he hath, and take up his cross and follow Thee, is not worthy of Thee. But Thou Lord knowest that I have forsaken all to come unto Thee! Lord, have mercy upon me, for unto Thee I commend my spirit and my soul doth rejoice in Thee”. 

So the first Martyr of Sussex, just 40 years old, died at the stake in Lewes 22 July 1555.