London (England, Great Britain)

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1957 Article

London, the capital of Great Britain, was in the early years of the Reformation the scene of Anabaptist activity, especially of the followers of Melchior Hoffman, who came to England in the 1530s from the Netherlands. About 1535 the authorities arrested four Englishmen in London for their part in the distribution of an Anabaptist confession of faith. They had connections with Flemish Anabaptists. At the house of one of them, John Raulinges in London, "many of the sayd faction dyuers tymes assembled," and their "bishop and reder" was a Fleming by the name of Bastian. The foreign Anabaptists in England were the chief victims of persecution under Henry VIII. On 25 May 1535, 25 Dutch Anabaptists were examined at St. Paul's for erroneous views regarding the incarnation, the mass, and baptism, with the result that 14 were condemned. Two of this number were burned at Smithfield on 8 June 1535, and the others sent to various English towns for a similar death. On 1 October 1538, the king appointed an ecclesiastical commission, including Archbishop Cranmer and three other theologians, "to search for and examine Anabaptists . . . and destroy all books of that detestable sect." On 24 November four Dutch Anabaptists recanted by bearing fagots at St. Paul's, while on 29 November three were burned at Smithfield. One of these was Jan Mathijsz van Middelburg (not to be confused with Jan Matthijsz van Haarlem), the well-known leader at Amsterdam and elsewhere in the Low Countries; the other two were Peter Franke and his wife, a young couple from Bruges in Flanders. On 3 May 1540, three Anabaptists were executed at Southwark, of whom two were foreigners and one an Englishman.

Since about 1535 Anabaptists had been escaping from Holland and Flanders to London. In June 1535 David Joris, intending to go to London to save his life, sailed from Vlissingen (Flushing), Dutch province of Zeeland, but learning that the Anabaptists were also persecuted in London, he gave up his plan when his ship was forced by a storm to return to Vlissingen (Kuhler). A. L. E. Verheyden in Mennisme in Vlaanderen gives the following information: On 22 November 1538, "Lambert, alias John Nycolsen, was burned in Smithfield and the same day two Flemings and the wife of one of them were adjudged to death. A third man abjured. They were Anabaptists." (Brewer and Gairdner) On 10 April 1540, a Mennonite named Barnes "has been put in the Tower with his two accomplices, accompanied by 10 or 12 burgesses of this town and 15 or 20 (?) strangers, mostly from Flanders and all Anabaptists." (Brewer and Gairdner).

After the death of Henry VIII in 1547 the Anabaptists in England appeared more in the open. In 1549 John Hooper complained that the Anabaptists flocked to his lectures in London and disputed on the doctrine of the incarnation. One of their leaders, Henry Hart, held a public debate with John Reynolds at St. Margaret's Church in London, likely about 1553. Joan Boucher was tried before Archbishop Cranmer and other ecclesiastics on 12 April 1549, and was condemned and burned at the stake 21 May 1550 as an Anabaptist, particularly for holding the Melchiorite view of the incarnation. At her trial she declared "a thousand in London were of her sect." John (Johan) Knel and Anna Cantiana were also martyred in this year by burning at the stake (Mart. Mir.).

In Elizabeth's reign 20 Dutch Anabaptists were arrested in London at the time of a meeting on Easter, 3 April 1575.  Of this group 14 were banished, two escaped from prison, and two, Jan Pieters and Hendrick Terwoort, were burned at Smithfield on 22 July of the same year. These Anabaptists "were Menno's people." The elders of the Austin Friars Church in London, the congregation for foreigners, were severely accused, particularly by Protestants in Antwerp, for their implication in this affair. This was one part of a long chapter of controversy about Anabaptists in London in connection with Austin Friars, which resulted in 1562 in the expulsion and banishment of Adriaan van Haemstede, one of the ministers, for holding tolerant views.

London and Norwich were strong separatist centers during Elizabeth's reign, and it was at London that the Barrowist wing of Independency had its rise. The separatist leaders, Henry Barrow, John Greenwood, and John Penry, were executed at London in 1593, and the congregation led by Francis Johnson to Amsterdam in the same year came from London. The first congregation of separatists holding to believers' baptism to be established on English soil, to which the General Baptists owe their origin, was founded at London in 1612 when Thomas Helwys and his followers returned to England from Amsterdam.

In the Mennonite archives at Amsterdam are found a few letters of a correspondence in 1624-1630 between Elias Tookey of London and the Dutch Mennonites (Hans de Ries and Reinier Wybrantsz) concerning a union to be made between some evangelical congregations in England (London, Lincoln, Sarum, Coventry, and Tyverton), who called themselves Anabaptists, but obviously were Baptists, and the Dutch Waterlander Mennonites, which union, however, did not come to pass. -- Irvin B. Horst

1959 Supplemental Article

A Mennonite center was established in London in 1944 at 68 Shepherd's Hill by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) which had been engaged in a modest program of relief and social service in England since May 1949. Besides serving as headquarters for the "Director of Relief in the European Area" (Glen Miller, May 1940-February, 1945; Sam Goering 1945, Howard Yoder 1945-46), it was the base for some clothing distribution. In September, 1946, the center was turned over to the Brethren Service Committee, and the MCC European headquarters was moved to Amsterdam and then to Basel, Switzerland. John E. Coffman, who had served as an MCC worker in England since 1940, stayed on in London after the closing of the center, serving in a local mission. From 1948 he has served as the London agent of the Menno Travel Service. In 1952 the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (MC) established a Mennonite center for religious work in London, which has been located at 14 Shepherd's Hill since 1954. Quintus Leatherman has been the minister in charge, but no congregation is contemplated. In 1954 the Mission Board opened direct mission work at the Free Gospel Hall, 39 Grafton Terrace, with John E. Coffman as pastor. In 1958 the membership here was 10.


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Author(s) Irvin B Horst
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Horst, Irvin B. "London (England, Great Britain)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 17 Aug 2022.,_Great_Britain)&oldid=155780.

APA style

Horst, Irvin B. (1959). London (England, Great Britain). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 August 2022, from,_Great_Britain)&oldid=155780.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 387-388; vol. 4, p. 1103. All rights reserved.

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