How can some British citizens still respect the Anglican Church?
Edward Wightman, who died in the Market Square Lichfield on 11 April 1612, was the last person in England to be burnt at the stake for heresy. The Diocese of Lichfield is marking the 400th anniversary of his death with thanksgiving that it was the last execution of its kind, and Dr Ian Atherton’s lecture a few weeks ago, ‘Edward Wightman and the religious intolerance of the Early Stuarts,’ was the first in a series of five Lenten lectures in Lichfield Cathedral this year reflecting on Church-State relations.
We know little about Edward Wightman (1566-1612), for little of his own words and none of his writings survive. What we do know paints a sorry story of religious conflict and intolerance
An early Puritan
The self-proclaimed prophet was born on 20 December 1566 in Wykin Hall at Burbage, near Hinckley in Leicestershire, and was baptised in the local parish church. His parents later moved to nearby Burton-upon-Trent, in Staffordshire, where they rented a house in the High Street. His father was probably master of Burton Grammar School and from 1557 he was the first headmaster of Repton Grammar School in Derbyshire.
Edward attended Burton-upon-Trent Grammar School before entering the clothiers’ business run by his mother’s family. He was apprenticed to John Barnes, a woollen draper in Shrewsbury, and in 1590 was admitted as a master of the Shrewsbury Drapers’ Company. On returning to Burton, he set up as a draper in what was then Burton’s staple industry, and he married Frances Darbye of Hinckley in Burton in September 1593.