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Thomas Johnson

Carthusian martyr, d. Sept. 20, 1537

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Thomas Johnson, BLESSED, Carthusian martyr, d. in Newgate gaol, London, September 20, 1537. On May 18, 1537, the twenty choir monks and eighteen brothers remaining in the London Charterhouse were required to take the Oath of Supremacy. Of these choir monks Thomas Johnson, Richard Bere, Thomas Green (priests), and John Davy (deacon), refused; and of the brothers Robert Salt, William Greenwood, Thomas Redyng, Thomas Scryven, Walter Pierson, and William Horne. On May 29 all were sent to Newgate, where they were chained standing and with their hands tied behind them to posts in the prison, and so left to die of starvation. However Margaret Clement, who as Margaret Giggs had been brought up in the household of Blessed Thomas More, bribed the gaoler to let her have access to the prisoners, and disguised herself as a milkmaid and carried in a milk-can full of meat, wherewith she fed them. After the king’s inquiry as to whether they were not already dead, the gaoler was afraid to let her enter again; but she was allowed to go on the roof, and uncovering the tiles, she let down meat in a basket as near as she could to their mouths. However they could get little or nothing from the basket, and as the gaoler feared discovery even this plan was soon discontinued. Greenwood died first (June 6), then Davy (June 8), Salt (June 9), Pierson and Green (June 10), Scryven (June 15), Redyng (June 16). It is probable that then Cromwell interfered and ordered those still living to be given food in order that they might be preserved for execution; for Bere did not die till August 9, nor Johnson till September 20. Horne survived, and, though he could never be induced to quit his religious habit, was not attainted till 1540, when he was hanged, disembowelled, and quartered at Tyburn (August 4) with the five Praetermissi Robert Bird (layman), Lawrence Cook (Carmelite Prior of Doncaster), Thomas Empson (Benedictine), Giles Heron (layman), and probably with William Bird (Rector of Fittleton and Vicar of Bradford, Wiltshire). All ten Carthusians were beatified by Leo XIII on December 29, 1886. Blessed Richard Bere was a nephew of Richard Bere (Abbot of Glastonbury 1493-1525), and became a Carthusian on February 20, 1523. Blessed Thomas Green has been identified by Dom Bede Camm with Thomas Green-wood (B. A., Oxon, M.A., Cantab, 1511), who became Fellow of St. John’s College Cambridge in 1515 and D.D. in 1532.


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