Thomas Garret or Garrard

Thomas Garret ( or Garrard)  was a curate to Roger Forman, rector of All Hallows church in Cheapside, London.  Described as a plain man of lively imagination  he was possessed of a `delicate conscience` and of a timid disposition. But as with so many of the unsung workers of the Reformation he was bold in his faith. With him and his colleagues the momentum  for freeing the minds of the people gathered pace. These were the men prepared to face all the dangers to store and sell copies of forbidden books knowing that they risked a charge of heresy and death by fire.

It was to Honey Lane and Thomas Garret that five Hanseatic merchants took their wares in 1525, miraculously avoiding searches from customs waiters at the port of London, papal spies and the agents of Bishop Tunstall. Garret was already being watched for his preaching which included `reformist` phrases that faith alone would save man. However, having access to these forbidden books, he was stimulated to read them and become not only student, librarian and preacher, but also trader. Having supplied the London area and dispersed the Word from there, Garret decided to take his wares to Oxford where he had been educated, and perhaps where the Word was needed most - in a stronghold of traditional catholicism. In January 1526 Garret set up his stall with the help of Anthony Dalaber ( who held the stock of books) and began to stealthily sell his books to the students. These included Tyndale`s  translation of the New Testament in English.

 The pursuit of Garret soon began in earnest with a formal order from Wolsey to the bishops on Saturday 3 February 1526; the particular objective was to root out the copies of the New Testament in Oxford, Cambridge and London. By the Tuesday following, 6 February, friends hastened to warn Garret to take flight, while purchasers of the banned books were alarmed at the thought of an Inquisition. Dalaber gave Garret a letter introducing him to his brother , rector of Stalbridge in Dorset, who needed a curate, and from there Garret could proceed abroad. Dalaber himself, took great pains to hide the remaining stock of books which he had at  St Alban`s Hall including the New Testament of Tyndale, some of Luther`s works, and those of Oecolampadius.

On his trek to Dorset Garret suffered great pangs of conscience, not wishing to disguise himself and hypocritically appear to support the very beliefs he opposed. He resolved to turn back and by evening of Friday 9 February, lay in his bed at Oxford awaiting the arrival of Wolsey`s agents. They duly arrived after midnight and dragged him before Dr Cottisford the commissary of the university, who placed him in secure custody while messengers hastened to tell Wolsey of the capture. Garret managed to escape from the room and hurried to find Dalaber, but in so doing he possibly gave away his friends connection to him and location at Gloucester College. Taking a change of clothes from his frock and hood to a more common sleeved coat, Garret then fled and Dalaber took refuge with friends at St Alban`s Hall.

Garret hastened westward, hoping to make the security of Wales but at Hinksey, not far from Oxford he was taken and brought back to imprisonment. He was arraigned before Dr London, Warden of New College, and Dr Higdon, Dean of Christs College and duly declared a heretic. He was perhaps fortunate that a great show was desired to demonstrate the power of the priests and he was sentenced, along with many others of the students, to carry a faggot  in open procession and made to burn their books on a huge bonfire made for the purpose in the market place in Oxford. Garret and Dalaber were then confined at Osney. How long they lay there is uncertain save that Garret appears to have escaped.

In 1528 Garret was arraigned before the bishops of London, Lincoln, and Bath and Wells where a list of charges were alleged against him. However, He managed to evade his pursuers until Easter 1540  when he was seized and cast into the Tower alongside Dr Barnes. On 30 July 1540 he was burnt at Smithfield with Dr Barnes and William Jerome, the vicar of Stepney.

The burning of Barnes, Garret and Jerome.

The prelates got their way eventually, but not before Garret had made his contribution to the Reformation and distributed the Word throughout England. The dissemination of the English New Testament to the people was vital to the Reformation; and those who undertook this work deserve the  fullest credit.

A particular irony of the day of execution was that on the same day and in the same place three papists named Powel, Fetherstone and Abel were also executed. They had been accused of treason in that they refused to acknowledge the superiority of the King. In the Privy Council there was an even divide between those who demanded death for religion and those who demanded death by law. The three Roman Catholics were executed by hanging, drawing and quartering for the crime of popery.


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