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Biography of Nicholas Ridley

Portrait of Nicholas Ridley

Nicholas Ridley was a sixteenth century cleric and one of the Oxford Martyrs.

When and Where was he born?

1503, Willimoteswick Castle, Willimontswick, near Bardon Mill, South Tynedale, Northumberland, England.

Family Background:

Nicholas Ridley was the son of Protestant parents.


Cambridge University. Universities of Paris and Louvain.

Timeline of Nicholas Ridley:

Ridley was originally Chaplain to Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and King Henry the Eighth.

1540: Ridley becomes Master of Pembroke College, Oxford.

1547: He is created Bishop of Rochester.

1550: Nicholas Ridley is created Bishop of London. He is an outspoken performer and helps Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, prepare the “Thirty Nine Articles”.

1553: On 16th July he preaches at Paul’s cross on the Death of the young King Edward the Sixth. He denounces both Mary and Elizabeth, daughters of Henry the Eighth, as being illegitimate and describes Mary as a Papist. The crowd shout him down. On the failure of the plot to place Lady Jane Grey on the Throne, the Catholic Mary succeeds as Queen and he is imprisoned.

Oxford Martyrs Memorial
Memorial in St Giles, Oxford commemorating the Oxford Martyrs. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1554: Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley are taken from the Tower of London to Oxford during April to take part in a theological “discussion” about “transubstantiation” with Catholic theologians in the Divinity School of the University. The presiding Prolocutor Weston condemns them as heretics despite their brave intellectual defence. On the 2nd May the Privy Council to the Queen discuss burning them but the Heresy Act of 1401 and Henry the Eighth’s Statutes about burning heretics had been repealed by King Edward the Sixth. A new bill to restore the Act is eventually passed by the House of Commons but not the House of Lords. In October the three are tried again and once again condemned to death as Protestant heretics by a commission acting under the authority of Cardinal Pole the Papal Legate to England. They are burned at the stake.

When and Where Did he Die?

16th October 1555. Burned at the stake next to Balliol College, Oxford, England.

Age at Death:



Never married.

Site of Grave:

Ashes removed after execution.

Oxford Martyrs Cross
Cross marking the spot in Broad Street, Oxford 
where Ridley was burnt at the stake.
 (copyright  Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


Broad Street site of execution.