Sussex Martyrs Commemoration Council
Sussex Martyrs Commemoration Council Annual Meetings in Jireh Chapel, Lewes, East Sussex 17/06/2023
Ann Tree, Sussex Martyr
“In Grinstead in Sussex suffered two men and one woman, the names of whom were Thomas Dungate, John Forman and Mother Tree, who for righteousness sake gave themselves to death and torments of the fire, patiently abiding what the furious rage of man could say or work against them; at the said town of Grinstead ending their lives the 18 July 1556” Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, John Foxe, 1563.
During the reign of Mary Tudor (aka Bloody Mary) those Protestants who refused to return to the Catholic Faith were persecuted. On 18th July 1556 three local people, Thomas Dungate, John Forman and Ann Tree, were accused of heresy and burnt to death in the middle of East Grinstead (in the road outside where Broadley Brothers now have a shop). Ann Tree was referred to as Mother Tree in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs which suggests she was an older woman.
Ann Tree is believed to have lived near Plawhatch and it’s likely her only offence was to refuse to attend a church service in Latin as she would not have been able to understand what was being said. During the 16th Century under the Tudors English churches moved from services in Latin which only the clergy would have understood to English and then back to Latin when Mary Tudor restored the Catholic tradition.
These three victims represent just over 1 % of the 288 people who were martyred for their faith during Mary’s five year reign. East Grinstead was not the only town locally to witness such horror. Seventeen people were martyred in nearby Lewes and are remembered both in the town’s annual Bonfire tradition and in a memorial standing on the hill over the town. In all thirty six people were burnt to death in Sussex for refusing to return to Catholicism in Mary’s short reign.
The three martyrs have no known grave but a memorial stone each outside St Swithun’s Church in East Grinstead. In 1940 Ursula Ridley arranged for a memorial plaque to be placed on the south wall of St Margaret's honouring her memory and faith.