A PLAQUE has been unveiled to commemorate a martyr who was burned at the stake as heretic in Harwich.

The plaque was placed outside the New Bell Inn in Outpart Eastward, which is believed to be on the grounds of the town’s punishment area during the Tudors’ ruling.

The memorial, which was the joint effort of Essex Protestant Council and Harwich Town Council, will encourage people to dig deep into the past and remember everyone who fought to speak their mind freely.

William Bamford, who was a weaver of Coggeshall, was executed in 1555, the second year of the reign of Queen Mary I of England.

Also known as William Butler, the weaver was sent by Coggeshall police to Harwich along with five other men who were following the protestant faith.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: The plaque is outside the New Bell Inn in HarwichThe plaque is outside the New Bell Inn in Harwich

After three of them refused to recant and revoke their beliefs, they were renounced as heretics and handed over to the Sheriff of Essex for execution.

To send a strong message to the people of Essex that no deviation from Catholicism is tolerated under the ruling of Mary I, Nicholas Chamberlain was executed in Colchester, Thomas Osmond at Manningtree and William Bamford at Harwich.

During Tudor times, Harwich was an important strategic seaport, governing itself and keeping trading ties with the world.

Harwich Mayor Ivan Henderson has unveiled the plaque and highlighted its importance for the town.

He said: “William Bamford was one of the six men who were executed for their freedom of expression.

“They stood by their beliefs and died for the sake of them.

“It is an honour for me to be recognizing he gave away his life for all of us to be able to enjoy the freedom of expression and any culture or religion.”

The circumstances around William Bamford’s death are still not entirely clear, but it is believed his execution took place at the Harwich punishment area – the waste ground outside the town wall to the east.

This is the area the New Bell Inn falls into, which made it the most reasonable place to host the plaque.

There is a single line in the Harwich Churchwarden’s accounts which describes William Bamford’s execution.

It says: “Item. Paid for the charges of the wood and other things at the burning of the man here… sum 5/6d.”

Stephen Toms, chairman of the Essex Protestant Council, is now hoping the plaque will take people back in time to commemorate everyone who stood up for their beliefs.

“The plaque reminds people that William died for his faith.

“And people like him did it as a matter of conscious.”

“As a result of their execution, Elizabeth I came to the throne bringing certain liberties people didn’t have under Mary Tudor’s ruling. “

The plaque could be seen outside the New Bell Inn in Outpart Eastward, Harwich.