From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Colchester YAC and their ‘Caught in a Treacherous Tudor Web' project

Today we continue our look at the From Ordinary to Extraordinary (FOTE) project, where we hear from those YAC groups taking part. These blogs will tell us about the focus of the project, who is involved and what they have been up to.

Today's blog focuses on the project created by the Colchester YAC who set out to explore the topic of protestant martyrs in Colchester who died for their faith in the sixteenth century and show that prejudices and divisions in their town are in the past.

YAC Leader, Barbara, tells us more...

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Colchester YAC membership has been boosted by an intake of new members since we tentatively started meeting in person again in the summer of 2021. Once we had determined to start on our “Caught in a Treacherous Tudor Web” project, to explore the tragic stories of the many protestant martyrs in Essex and Colchester, we were faced with the challenge of involving our new and young members. This was overcome in a meeting at which we created artworks to symbolise the project (example to the right). We coloured prints as we listened to some of the tragic stories of the people who were caught in the religious turmoil of the era.

The project

Although the project was discussed initially at our Fordham meeting, we started to explore it in earnest at Colchester Castle, where museum staff and a tour guide introduced the topic and we initiated our research. Our images and colourings were achieved in October, where the stories we intended to highlight were discussed and illustrated. In December we continued with the plan to have an expert help us design and make Roman mosaics whilst we chose typefaces and designs and continued to create some more.

In January we explored a trail which focussed on a particular event on August 2nd, 1557. In Colchester castle we mapped it out, composed a description and checked out details in an 18th century copy of Foxes Book of Martyrs brought in by a YAC member Myles and his family. By February, we had acquired a 1610 map of the county. The young people highlighted features and the places of origin of the Essex martyrs. These were also illustrated on an interactive Google map. Caught in a Treacherous Tudor Web – Google My Maps. The YAC members personalised the 1610 map in many ways with replacement images.

It wasn’t only protestants who suffered a terrible fate in Colchester under the Tudors. Colchester YAC member, Adam, writes:

John Beche was a member of the Colchester Beche family, who were renowned pewter smiths in the town. He studied at Oxford and graduated in 1515. He eventually became abbot of St John's Abbey in 1530.  In 1534 he took a seat in the House of Lords. The same year the reformation began with the Act of Supremacy. He agreed to the act, as he considered Henry Vlll to be head of the church in all temporal matters. In 1538 Beche denied Henry's right to seize his abbey. Beche was arrested tried and executed in front of his own abbey in 1538.


Colchester YAC Member


In continuation and to promote our project, we will print some leaflets with the story and map of our trail. We intend to upload these on the Visit Colchester and Visit Essex websites as well as our section of the Colchester Archaeological Trust website, when it is reconfigured. On 30th July we will be taking part in an event at Roman Circus House at which we will include our artworks, maps and research on our “Shout Out Loud”, “From the ordinary to the extraordinary” project, “Caught in a Tudor Web.”

Below you can see part of the trail map created by Colchester YAC.



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