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Tyndale Monument

150th anniversary celebration on 1st October 2016.

Preparations are under way for for a first performance of 'Word of God', a work composed by Helen Fink, director of North Nibley Community Choir, to celebrate 150 years of the Tyndale Monument's existence. The words of the piece are taken from the ceremony of the inauguration of the Monument in 1866 written by the Rev. Robert Eden. It tells the story of William Tyndale's translation of the Bible, the final words read '...the light shines in England. The shut bible opens'.

Helen Fink's work will form part of a concert devised by Emily White, Professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London which includes music from the present moment travelling back in time through the 500 years to Tyndale's birth. The musicians are: Aeris Brass, a trombone quartet who also play sackbut; folk fiddler and baroque violinist Morag Johnston as well as the North Nibley Community Choir. Selected poems of U.A. Fanthorpe and Brian Nisbet will be read by the poet R.V. Bailey.

The concert is at St Martin's Church, North Nibley at 7pm on Saturday, October 1st. Tickets are 8 (3).

The Monument is now open again and the door unlocked.

The monument positioned prominently on a hill above the village of North Nibley is dedicated to the martyr William Tyndale. Tyndale's mission was to translate The Bible into English so that ordinary folk could read it for themselves rather than relying on priests for an interpretation. His reward was to be strangled and then burned at the stake. The monument which is 111 feet high was completed in 1866 and officially opened on 6th of November of that year. The reward for climbing the 120 steps is a wonderful view of the Berkeley Vale and the river Severn to the Black Mountains.

There is a plaque on the front of the tower. The text engraved on it reads:

ERECTED A.D. 1866
IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF
WILLIAM TYNDALE
TRANSLATOR OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE
WHO FIRST CAUSED THE NEW TESTAMENT
TO BE PRINTED IN THE MOTHER TONGUE
OF HIS COUNTRYMEN
BORN NEAR THIS SPOT HE SUFFERED
MARTYRDOM AT VILVORDEN IN
FLANDERS ON OCT 6 1536

The monument is open 24 hours a day every day.

Picture of monument

William Tyndale

Forbidden to work in England, Tyndale translated and printed in English the New Testament and half the Old Testament between 1525 and 1535 in Germany and the Low Countries. He worked from the Greek and Hebrew original texts when knowledge of those languages in England was rare. His pocket-sized Bible translations were smuggled into England, and then ruthlessly sought out by the Church, confiscated and destroyed. Condemned as a heretic, Tyndale was strangled and burned outside Brussels in 1536.The Tyndale Society.

Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament was taken almost word for word into the much praised Authorised Version (King James Bible) of 1611, which also reproduces a great deal of his Old Testament. From there his words passed into our common understanding. People across the world honour him as a great Englishman, unjustly condemned and still unfairly neglected. His solitary courage, and his skill with languages - including, supremely, his own - enriched English history in ways still not properly examined, and then reached out to affect all English-speaking nations.

From the Illustrated London News, November 17th 1866

The monument now erected consists of a tower, 26ft 6in square at the base, and 111ft. high. It is entered on the east side, and contains a staircase leading to a gallery, which is to be adorned with pieces of sculpture, illustrating the chief events in the life of Tyndale and the history of the English Reformation. The tower is surmounted by a large cross of enamel mosaic, the work of Dr. A. Salviati, which is at a great height, and being of gold enamel principally, can be seen at a very great distance on account of the reflection of the light. The architect of the monument is Mr. S.S. Teulon, of Charing Cross. The ceremony of opening the tower was performed by the Earl of Ducie, Lord Lieutenant of the county, on Tuesday week, in the presence of a large assembly. The Rev. J.S. Austin, on behalf of the committee, handed the key to his Lordship, who spoke a few minutes and then unlocked the door, The Rev. Canon Eden, Vicar of Wymondham, delivered an address, in the course of which he recited some appropriate verses, Latin and English, composed by him expressly for the occasion. The Rev. A.G. Cornwall, honorary secretary to the committee, the Rev. Dr. Morton Brown, Mr. Curtis Hayward, and other gentlemen took part in the proceedings. The total cost of the monument has been 1550, and there is a debt of 300, which the committee are now anxious to clear off. The Rev. A.G. Cornwall, Wotton-under-Edge, receiving the subscriptions.

The Trustees of The Tyndale Monument and Bruton Charities


The Gazette January 5th 1974

Standing on a high spot overlooking North Nibley is a famous monument visible from many miles around. Everyone knows it as Tyndale's Monument and it is believed that North Nibley was his birthplace. Strangely, however, although history is full of facts about the martyr his exact birthplace is unknown and there is very little authentic detail about his childhood.

Wherever his exact birthplace, young William Tyndale spent his childhood in the Dursley area before going to Oxford to study Greek.

In about 1522 he could be found living as a tutor to the family of Sir John Walsh of Little Sodbury. He was outspoken in the view that the Bible should be published in English so that it could be studied and understood by even the poorest people in the land. This view prompted much criticism and the persecution against him at Little Sodbury was such that he had to leave the area.

He then devoted his time to his scheme to publish a translation of the Bible. He found it impossible to find any publisher in England willing to undertake such a risky venture so he set sail for Hamburg. From Hamburg he went on to Cologne and continued with his translation. By this time he had many enemies and the activities of these unchristian christians forced him to move further down the Rhine to Worms.

Finally his translation of the Bible was published. The date of this publication is not known, but copies of the issue were circulating in England in 1526, to the enlightenment of many and indignation of others. Tyndale was by then living in Antwerp. Attempts were made to get him back to England. He tried to remain in hiding, but finally he was betrayed and was strangled and then burned at Vilvorden near Brussels, on October 6, 1536.

A memorial to Tyndale was suggested some three centuries later. The project was talked about for some years and finally it was decided to place such a monument on Nibley Knoll which overlooks the village (at that time it was thought that North Nibley was Tyndale's birthplace). The foundation stone was laid on May 29th, 1863 by the Hon. Colonel Berkeley. The work was carried on from that time and the memorial was finally inaugurated by the Earl of Ducie on Tuesday, November 6, 1866.

The memorial is a cenotaph consisting of a square tower 26' 6" sqaure at the base rising to 22ft and above that diminishing by 2ft. It is 111ft high exclusive of the terminal which is a small but elegant gilded cross. The entrance is in the east side and within is a staircase ascending to the gallery.

The cardinals are adorned with sculptures, the first representing Tyndale leaving Sodbury, the second his conference with John Frith, the third his betrayal at Antwerp and the fourth his martyrdom. The tower is terminated by a machiolated cornice sustaining a pyramidal roof, vaulted within.

It is constructed of stone from Hampton Quarry, near Stroud. Total cost £1,550.

When the monument was inaugurated the day was declared a public holiday in Dursley and Wotton. Each of the workmen who had worked on the monument's construction was presented with a beautifuly bound volume of the authorised version of the Bible -- an appropriate gift to mark the occasion. At least one of these Bibles is still a cherished family heirloom for a Wotton-under-Edge family.

William Tyndale : the translator of the English Bible

William Tyndale was born about 1494 in Gloucestershire. About 1506 he went to Magdalen Hall, Oxford, and became Bachelor of Arts July 4, 1512, and Master of Arts July 2, 1515.

Tyndale read the Greek New Testament with students of the college. Grocyn had learned Greek in Italy and was the first to teach it in Oxford in 1492. But the party of the "Trojans" opposed the study of Greek. One of the colleges had forbidden the entrance of the Greek New Testament within its walls "by horse or by boat, by wheels or on foot." Richard Croke, professor of Greek at Leipzig, came back to Cambridge in 1518 to teach Greek. About 1519 Tyndale went to Cambridge, where Erasmus was teaching Greek and editing his Greek New Testament. In 1520 the magnificent Wolsey made his triumphal visit to Cambridge and was greeted with a most fulsome eulogy.

About 1522 we find Tyndale as tutor in the family of Sir John Walsh at Little Sudbury, in Gloucestershire, twelve miles north-east of Bristol, who had been the king's champion at the coronation of Henry VIII.

"The continuous stream of Lutheran literature" began to pour into English seaports in 1521. Lutheran books, though rigorously prohibited, were probably not unknown amongst the imports that floated up the Avon to the warehouses of the Bristol merchants. "There was talk of learning as well of Luther and Erasmus Roterodamus as of opinions in the Scriptures. The said Master Tyndale being learned and which had been a student of divinity in Cambridge, and did many times therein shew his mind and learning." Sir John kept a good table, and the clergy were often invited. Tyndale had an uncomfortable way of crushing his opponents by clinching his arguments with chapter and verse of the Bible. As a result they began to hate him and stayed away from the good dinners of Master Walsh rather than have the "sour sauce" of Tyndale's arguments. The clergy were very ignorant. A visitation at Salisbury in 1222 showed five out of seventeen clergymen could not translate the words of consecration of the Mass. Nearly three hundred years later Archbishop Warham complained the Canterbury monks "are wholly ignorant of what they read" in the divine service. A generation later, in the reign of Edward VI, Bishop Hooper of Gloucester examined 311 clergy; of these 168 were unable to repeat the Ten Commandments, 31 could not tell where they came from, 40 were unable to repeat the Lord's Prayer, about 40 could not name the author.

In 1408 Archbishop Arundel had the Convocation of Canterbury expressly forbid any man to translate any part of the Scriptures into English or to read such translation without authority of the bishop, an authority not likely to be granted. The Bible was not even a part of the preparatory study of the preachers. Writing against Alexander Alesius to James V of Scotland, Cochlaeus, the notorious Romish theologian, says: "The New Testament translated into the language of the people is in truth the food of death, the fuel of sin, the veil of malice, the pretext of false liberty, the protection of disobedience, the corruption of discipline, the depravity of morals, the termination of concord, the death of honesty, the well-spring of vices, the disease of virtues, the instigation of rebellion, the milk of pride, the nourishment of contempt, the death of peace, the destruction of charity, the enemy of unity, the murderer of truth!"

In 1529 Latimer, at Cambridge, in his two famous "Sermons on the Card," urged the translation and universal reading of the Bible. Prior Buckenham objected in a sermon on "Christmas Dice": "Where Scriptrue saith, 'No man that layeth his hand to the plough and looketh back is meet for the kingdom of God,' will not the ploughman, when he readeth these words, be apt forthwith to cease from his plough, and then where will be the sowing and harvest? Likewise, also, whereas the baker readeth, 'A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,' will he not forthwith be too sparing in the use of leaven, to the great injury of our health? And so, also, when the simple man reads the words 'If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee,' incontinent he will pluck out his eyes, and so the whole realm will be full of blind men, to the great decay of the nation and the manifest loss of the king's grace. And thus, by reading of Holy Scriptures, will the whole kingdom be in confusion." (Demaus, Life of Latimer, p. 77.)

"Some years before the rise of the Lutheran heresy there was in morals no discipline, in sacred literature no erudition, in divine things no reverence; religion was almost extinct," are the words of Cardinal Bellarmine.

So it need not surprise us that Tyndale was soon suspected of heresy when he always proved his points with the Bible. The outspoken young scholar caused many an uneasy hour to Lady Walsh, who would remind him that bishops and abbots having an income of hundreds of pounds yearly held views the very opposite of his; and "were it reason, think you, that we should believe you before them?" Of course it was difficult for a moneyless young scholar to answer such an argument from such a source. In order to strengthen his position with his wavering hostess by the testimony of Erasmus, whose fame was resounding through Europe, Tyndale translated his Handbook of a Christian Soldier, and Sir John Walsh and his lady were won over to his opinions, and the clergy were no more invited.

Tyndale often preached in the nearby little church of St. Adeline and even on St. Austin's Green of Bristol. His preaching was fiercely attacked by the clergy. "These blind and rude priests, flocking together to the ale-house, - for that was their preaching-place, - raged and railed against him, affirming that his sayings were heresy, adding moreover unto his sayings, of their own heads, more than ever he spake."

Tyndale was secretly accused to Chancellor John Bell, and preparations to condemn him were quietly made. Summoned to appear, Tyndale went, though fearing that evil was intended, and "prayed in his mind heartily to God to strengthen him to stand fast in the truth of His Word." "When I came before the Chancellor, he threatened me grievously and reviled me and rated me as though I had been a dog." But Tyndale's defense seems to have been ably conducted, for he left the court neither branded as a heretic nor even forced to swear off anything; "folk were glad to take all to the best," as Sir Thomas More wrote.

Tyndale thought long and hard why the clergy should oppose so violently the opinions taken from the Bible and in his doubts consulted "a certain doctor that had been an old chancellor before to a bishop," probably William Latimer, the Oxford Humanist. His doubts were resolved in a most unexpected manner. "Do you not know," said the Doctor, "that the Pope is the very Antichrist which the Scripture speaketh of? But beware what you say; for if you shall be perceived to be of that opinion, it will cost you your life. I have been an officer of his, but I have given it up and defy him and all his works."

Convinced of this, Tyndale was also convinced that, to save the Church, the common people must have the Bible in their own tongue. He was no dreamer or fanatic; with a clear eye he saw the seat of trouble, and with a glowing heart and firm will he set about to seek the only remedy. "I perceived how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth except the Scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text." "In this they be all agreed, to drive you from the knowledge of the Scripture and that ye shall not have the text thereof in the mother tongue and to keep the world still in darkness, to the intent they might sit in the consciences of the people through vain superstition and false doctrine, to satisfy their filthy lusts, their proud ambition, and unsatiable covetousness and to exalt their own honor above king and emperor, yea, above God Himself, . . . which thing only moved me to translate the New Testament." "Communing and disputing," says Fox, "with a certain learned man, he drove him to that issue that the learned man said, 'We were better to be without God's laws than the Pope's.' Master Tyndale hearing that, answered him, 'I defy the Pope and all his laws,' and added. If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plow shall know more of the Scripture than thou doest.' " This became known; the priests waxed fiercer in their opposition; they charged him with heresy; they hinted at burning him.

With an introduction to Sir John's friend, Sir Harry Guildford, Controller of the Royal Household, Tyndale in 1523 went to London to see the new bishop, Cuthbert Tunstal, whom Erasmus had praised for his love of learning. As proof of his scholarship Tyndale took with him "an oration of Isocrates which I had translated out of greke in to English."

Two years before Tyndale's arrival in London it was discovered that Luther's books had been imported in such numbers that Wolsey required all to deliver up the works of the arch-heretic to the church authorities; yet the books were brought in by the merchants who traded with the Low Countries. Henry himself, who loved theological controversy and prided himself on his orthodoxy, had written against Luther and been rewarded for his zeal by the title of "Defender of the Faith," still fondly cherished as the most honorable of all the distinctions of the English sovereigns. The example of the king was, of course, followed by the clergy; the pulpits resounded with fierce denunciations of the "detestable and damnable heresies" of that "child of the devil" who had ventured to resist the authority of the Pope. The attention of Parliament was directed to the reported spread of Lutheranism in the University of Cambridge, and it was proposed to search the suspected colleges, which, however, Wolsey forbade.

Until he could see Tunstal, Tyndale preached in St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, corner of the Strand and Fleet Street, and greatly impressed Humphrey Monmouth, a wealthy, educated, and traveled cloth merchant, later an alderman and a sheriff, who lived near the Tower. Tyndale gained the sympathy of the generous merchant, who himself had begun "to be a Scripture-man" and whose special pleasure it was to assist needy scholars.

Tunstal accorded an interview to Tyndale, acknowledged the scholarship of the stranger, but said his house was full and advised the young man to seek a place elsewhere.

"The priest came to me again," says Monmouth, "and besought me to help him; and so I took him into my house half a year; and there he lived like a good priest, as methought. He studied most part of the day and of the night at his book; and he would eat but sodden meat by his good will and drink but small single beer. I never saw him wear linen about him in the space he was with me. I did promise him ten pounds sterling to pray for my father and mother their souls and all Christian souls." For this kindness to Tyndale, Monmouth was imprisoned in the Tower. Sir Thomas More, while fiercely fighting Tyndale's doctrines, admits that "before he went over the sea, he was well known for a man of right good living, studious and well learned in the Scripture, and looked and preached holily. " Monmouth bought and studied the works of Luther and had all the usual marks of the "detestable sect of Lutherans." Hitherto Tyndale "seems to have looked up to Erasmus as the great light and guide of the age and the true reformer of religion; now he heard of a greater Reformer, whose words of more impressive eloquence, and, still more, whose conduct of more resolute determination, had achieved what Erasmus had rather recommended than attempted. . . . There can be no question that from this time onwards Luther occupied the highest place in his esteem and exercised very considerable influence over his opinions," says Demaus.

Tyndale saw men led to prison and to death for having Luther's writings, and he knew well a Bible translation would be still more dangerous. At last the simple-minded scholar "understood not only that there was no room in my lord of London's palace to translate the New Testament, but also, that there was no place to do it in all England." Tyndale was not the man to put his hand to the plow and then draw back; if only a life of exile could do the work, a life of exile he would accept. "To give the people the bare text of Scripture, he would offer his body to suffer what pain or torture, yea, what death His Grace [Henry VIII] would, so that this be obtained."

Dallmann, William, 1862-1952, St. Louis : Concordia Pub. House

from William Tyndale: The translator of the English Bible

The British Library copy

Tyndale's New Testament was the first to be printed in English. This is one of only two complete copies surviving from the 3,000 or more printed in 1526 by Peter Schoeffer in the German city of Worms. Tyndale's translation was pronounced heretical in England, so his Bibles were smuggled into the country in bales of cloth. Those discovered owning them were punished. At first only the books were destroyed, but soon heretics would be burned too - including Tyndale himself in 1536.

In England, however, under the 1408 Constitutions of Oxford, it was strictly forbidden to translate the Bible into the native tongue. This ban was vigorously enforced by Cardinal Wolsey and the Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, in an attempt to prevent the rise of English 'Lutheranism'.

The hand colouring added to this copy of Tyndale's New Testament shows it was highly prized by its first owner - a sentiment echoed in 1994 when the British Library bought what it called "the most important printed book in the English language" for a little over a million pounds. This little book now enriches the British Library's unrivalled collection charting the history of the Bible in English. The British Library also possesses the only known fragment of the uncompleted edition secretly printed at Cologne (mentioned above), when the editors were obliged to flee to Worms. This fragment contains 31 leaves, including Tyndale's Prologue, a woodcut of St Matthew, and chapters i-xxii of his Gospel. - See more at: Tyndale's New Testament

Other monuments to Tyndale

The Tyndale Museum at Vilvoorde, Belgium.

In Vilvoorde, Belgium, at Mechelsesteenweg, built of bluestone, is a sedate monument to a significant historical figure: William Tyndale. Inscriptions are in English, Dutch and French. The monument dates from 1913.

Vilvoorde (Dutch)

Victoria Embankment Gardens (by Charing Cross railway bridge) {On a bronze plaque on the front of the plinth and repeated in a low plaque nearer the path:} William Tyndale First translator of the New Testament into English from the Greek. Born A.D. 1484, died a martyr at Vilvorde in Belgium, A.D. 1536. "Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path" - "the entrance of thy words giveth light." Psalm CXIX. 105.130. "And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his son." I. John V.II. The last words of William Tyndale were "Lord! Open the King of England's eyes". Within a year afterwards, a bible was placed in every parish church by the King's command.

Picture of statue

The statue of William Tyndale on the Embankment in London.

Picture of statue

Statue of William Tyndale by Lawrence Holofcener (2000), Millennium Square, Bristol.


Tyndale's contribution to English Literature

Nearly everything memorable in the English New Testament is the achievement of the matchless William Tyndale. He is the only true rival of Shakespeare and Chaucer as the most important author in the English language.

Many of his translations are in common use today e.g. Death, where is thy sting?; Seek, and ye shall find; The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak

More information about William Tyndale is available at The Tyndale Society.