Chesham folk may be interested to know that the Amersham Martyrs Community Play’s gripping ecclesiastic court scene, includes a dramatic performance from legendary Chesham martyr Thomas Harding. He was executed in Chesham 11 years after talking his way out of a death sentence in the notorious 1521 trial which culminated in the burning of six people on the hill above where Tesco now stands in Old Amersham. Harding was then a resident of Amersham and a member of the secret Lollard group, these were early protestants who broke church laws by refusing to recognise religious images and praying in English rather than the compulsory tongue of Latin.
After moving to Chesham, Thomas Harding was executed in 1532 in the Dell by Botley, but not in the manner that the ecclesiastic court had intended. He was tied to the stake and just as the fire was lit, a spectator “dashed out his brains with a billet.” There are several memorials to Thomas Harding including one in White Hill and one in St Mary’s Church graveyard. The Thomas Harding Primary School in Germain Street is also named after him.
Rehearsals for the Amersham Martyrs Community Play are well under way now, although due to its huge casting there are still a few parts available. If any Chesham resident would like to have a crack at playing Thomas Harding – or indeed any other role, large or small, feel free to phone 01494 725186 or email AmershamMartyrs@gmail.com. The production’s progress can also be followed by visiting www.AmershamMartyrs.info.
Anyone is welcome to turn up to a rehearsal – the next one takes place on Wednesday 17 November 2010 in Market Hall, the historic landmark building which blocks half of High Street Old Amersham. The full history of Thomas Harding can also be viewed on the Wikipedia website.