Belgian newspaper puts Deryk Carver under the spotlight

When you google Deryk Carver (also spelled Dirick or Derrick) you’ll soon find out he owned a brewery and pub in Brighthelmstone and he became a Marian Martyr facing a terrible death in Lewes during the reign of Queen Mary I (1553–1558).

Every 5th November, the town of Lewes, celebrates Bonfire, the UK’s largest Bonfire night festivity. This vibrant event not only marks Guy Fawkes Night – the date of the uncovering of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 – but it also marks the death of Deryk Carver who was one of seventeen martyrs burnt at the stake in Lewes. Deryk’s name is unmistakably linked to Brighton and Lewes, and people down here still consider him to be some kind of hero, but what connects his life to Belgium? Some of you probably already know.

On 1st July I checked the stats for my website and saw it had received a high volume of visitors from Belgium. I was eager to find out what had triggered these surprise visits so I quickly checked the source and clicked on the link. I noticed all visitors were referred via a page featured on Belgian newspaper doorbraak.be making reference to Deryk Carver. This was getting interesting. In 2019 I did a lot of research for ‘The Black Lion’ but, no matter how hard I tried, I was unable to find any information about Deryk Carver on any Belgium websites. It was like he had vanished from sixteenth century Liège but now there appeared to be an article about Deryk in a Belgian newspaper and their readers were visiting my website. I was getting very excited! By this stage I had become so curious that I signed up giving me access to read the full article. And then, Pandora’s box opened; I found out that the newspaper had published an article about martyr Deryk Carver, written by researcher Koen Tanghe (Ghent University), including a link to my novel ‘The Black Lion’ featuring Deryk Carver as the main character.

The article is about protestant Flanders, Deryk Carver, Queen Mary I and the auto-da-fé in Lewes. Koen also makes reference to Brighton historian John Ackerson Erredge, Lewes Bonfire and the martyr memorial in Lewes. Unlike England, where Deryk is still remembered for being the first protestant martyr burnt at the stake, he has been totally forgotten about in Flanders, the county where he was born. Deryk is unlikely to be declared holy in his native country but this article may spark people’s interest to get to know the story about this heroic man.

You can read the article here Please note it’s in Dutch

Brief history

During the second part of the sixteenth century there was chaos in Flanders. Many buildings were destroyed and people disappeared from their houses (they either had fled or died). The situation was dire with protestants fleeing Flanders and, on the contrary, many catholics from France fleeing to the Low Countries. At the time, Liège was one of the seventeen provinces of the Low Countries which also included Flanders, Brabant, Walloon Flanders, Friesland, Holland and Luxembourg. Meanwhile, Protestantism had reached the Low Countries. The spread of Protestantism in Antwerp was aided by the presence of an Augustinian cloister (founded 1514) in the St. Andries quarter. The first Lutheran martyrs came from Antwerp and the first two men were burned on 1st July 1523. Deryk, or at least Deryk’s family, would have been made aware of this gruesome event, which may have triggered his move to England.

In the 1540s the Black Lion brewery was founded by Flemish man Deryk Carver. Nowadays it’s still a popular pub in the old town of Brighton and has been used for the production and consumption of beer since the sixteenth century. Deryk was born in the village of Dilson by Stockom (Dilsen-Stokkem, a municipality in Belgium) in the land of Luke. At the time Luke (Liège or Luik) was called the Prince-Bishopric Liège and included most of the present Belgian provinces of Liège and Limburg. Deryk Carver was a protestant and had fled religious persecution in his home country. At this time, England was a Protestant country following Henry VIII’s break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England in the early 1530s. Unfortunately for Carver, this policy was reversed in 1553 when Queen Mary I succeeded to the throne. Mary restored Catholicism as the state religion, and revived a series of heresy laws that outlawed Protestant practices. In late 1554 a series of persecutions began, which have left Mary with the nickname of ‘Bloody Mary’.

Carver, who acted as lay preacher in his house in Brighton, was an early victim. He was arrested in October 1554, and tried in London the following year. When questioned by Bishop Bonner on his beliefs, Carver refused to recant his Protestant practices. Carver was found guilty and burnt at the stake in Lewes on 22 July 1555. In order to mock his profession, he was placed in a barrel prior to his execution.

Whilst the founder of ‘The Black Lion’ pub is well known in England, the remarkable story about Deryk Carver’s life remained unknown in Belgium, until now. Thank you Koen for putting the spotlight on Deryk carver and featuring my novel ‘The Black Lion’ featuring Deryk Carver as the main character.

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