John Bradford
File:John Bradford.jpg
Born 1510
Died 1555 in Newgate Prison, London
Church Church of England
Education Catharine Hall, University of Cambridge and Pembroke College, Cambridge
Ordained 1550
Offices held prebendary
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John Bradford (1510 - 1555) was a prebendary of St. Paul's. He was an English Reformer and martyr best remembered for his utterance, "'There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford." The words were uttered by Bradford while imprisoned in the Tower of London, when he saw a criminal on his way to execution.[1]


Born in 1510, to a financially stable family, Bradford received a good education from a Manchester grammar school. Talented with numbers and money, he later served under John Harrington, paymaster of the English army during the wars of Henry VIII of England. Later, he became a law student at the Inner Temple in London. Through the influence of a fellow student, he accepted the English Reformation. This caused him to abandon his legal studies and in 1548, he took up theology at the Catharine Hall (now St Catharine's College), University of Cambridge and then later a fellowship at Pembroke College, Cambridge.[2]

There he was often referred to as "Holy Bradford," not disparagingly, but out of respect to his dedication to God. In 1550, during the reign of Edward VI of England, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Nicholas Ridley to serve as a roving chaplain, preaching mainly in Lancashire and Cheshire. Following Edward VI's early death in 1553, the Catholic Mary Tudor ascended to the throne.

Joseph Martin Kronheim - Foxe's Book of Martyrs Plate VI - Bradford Appeasing the Riot at St. Paul's Cross

"Bradford Appeasing the Riot at St. Paul's Cross", from an 1887 edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs illustrated by Kronheim. According to Foxe, a Catholic speaker, Mr. Bourne, had nearly driven his Protestant listeners to riot, but Bradford came to his rescue and calmed the mob.[3]

In the first month of her reign, Bradford, who had become somewhat well known for his devotion to the Church of England, was arrested and imprisoned on a trivial charge of "trying to stir up a mob". Confined to the Tower of London, he would never be a free man again. During his time in prison, he continued to write religious works and preach to all who would listen. At one point, he was put in a cell with three other reformers, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Bishop Nicholas Ridley (the same Bishop who had ordained him), and Hugh Latimer. Their time was spent in careful study of the New Testament. All four were to become martyrs. At some time during his imprisonment, he witnessed a group of prisoners being led to their execution and remarked, "There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford," the phrase for which he is best remembered, and which has survived in common parlance in its variant, "There, but by the grace of God, go I."



John bradford edward barlow blue plaque manchester cathedral

The blue plaque outside Manchester Cathedral

On 31 January 1555 Bradford was tried and condemned to death with all the others, and on either 30 June or 15 July he was brought to Newgate Prison to be burned at the stake. Though scheduled for four o'clock in the morning, the burning was delayed due to the large crowd that had gathered. He was chained to the stake at Smithfield with a young man, John Leaf. Before the fire was lit, he begged forgiveness of any he had wronged, and offered forgiveness to those who had wronged him. He subsequently turned to his fellow and said, "Be of good comfort brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!" A writer of his period recorded that he endured the flame "as a fresh gale of wind in a hot summer's day, confirming by his death the truth of that doctrine he had so diligently and powerfully preached during his life." Bradford was buried at the Marian Martyrs' Monument in Smithfield, London.[4]


  1. Quotation from the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson, Facts on File, New York, 1997.
  2. Bradford, John in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  3. John Foxe (1887 republication), Book of Martyrs, Frederick Warne and Co, London and New York, pp. 160-61
  4. John Bradford's memorial page on Find A Grave. Retrieved on 29 January 2008.

See also

External links

hr:John Bradford

ru:Брэдфорд, Джон

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