Review of ‘Joan Waste, Derby's Martyr’, by Pat Cunningham

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Pat Cunningham
Published by Pecsaeton Publishing
ISBN 978-0-9556325-1-8 (2008)

The only tangible memorial to poor Joan Waste is a plaque and small plaster statuette in Birchover church, cast by a former rector in commemoration of a young woman burned at the stake as a heretic in the reign of 'Bloody Mary' Tudor.

Other writers have made brief references to Joan Waste but now author Patrick Cunningham fleshes out the whole story, having returned to the 1563 record of an event which seven years earlier had ended in the cruel death of a 22-year-old blind woman at Windmill Pit in Derby. The facts are told from the viewpoint of Bishop's Chancellor Anthony Draycot, the man under whom Joan was arraigned. At stake was her immortal soul.

The daughter of a Derby barber and ropemaker, Joan Waste was born into an era of religious intolerance. It took enormous courage for anyone to openly hold on to their Protestant learnings; the population had had a better understanding of the Bible when services were held in English rather than the Latin of the Holy Catholic Church. Not only had Joan refused to attend services given in Latin but she had committed the great crime of buying a copy of the New Testament for others to read out to her. Finally, she was completely damned by denying the miracle of the transubstantiation.

Her accusers concluded that Lucifer was 'in full possession of her soul', putting this pious young woman beyond redemption. Her execution was one of 283 heretical burnings during the brief, five-year reign of Queen Mary. At last Joan Waste has an accessible, unsentimental testimony.

Review by Julie Bunting

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