In the middle of the 16th century, during the reign of Queen Mary I of England (also known as “Bloody Mary” due to her brutal religious persecution), three Protestant clergymen were charged with heresy and executed at this very spot in Oxford, now marked with a brick cross in the middle of the road.
The Protestant martyrs—Archbishop of Canterbury Tomas Cranmer, Archbishop of London Nicholas Ridley, and Bishop of Worcester Hugh Latimer—were brought before a commission at the Church of St Mary the Virgin and found guilty for not believing in transubstantiation, the change by which bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ. The first two men were put to death on October 16, 1555, while the later watched from the tower of the nearby Bocardo gaol (jail) at the Northgate. Hugh Latimer finally lost his appeal and was killed on the same spot on March 21, 1556.
Though there is a more ornate and auspicious monument to the martyrs outside St. Giles Church around the corner (erected in 1843), this brick cross exposed the pavement is said to mark the exact location of the deed. At the time of the execution, this location would have been on the outskirts of town, just south of the city’s walls.