Every 5th November, the town of Lewes celebrates bonfire night in a vibrant event that has become internationally famous. But what connects this event with a Brighton pub?
The Black Lion is a popular pub in The Lanes, the old town of Brighton. Many of the pubs in this area can boast of a long history, but the Black Lion has been used for the production and consumption of beer since the sixteenth century. It is also probably the only pub in Brighton with a direct link to religious martydom.
In the 1540s the Black Lion brewery was purchased by a Flemish man named Deryk Carver. A Protestant, Carver had fled religious persecution in his home country and had settled in England. At this time, England was a Protestant country following Henry VIII’s break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England in the early 1530s. Unfortunately for Carver, this policy was reversed in 1553 when Queen Mary I succeeded to the throne. Mary restored Catholicism as the state religion, and revived a series of heresy laws that outlawed Protestant practices. In late 1554 a series of persecutions began, which have left Mary with the nickname of ‘Bloody Mary’.
Carver, who acted as lay preacher in his house in Brighton, was an early victim. He was arrested in October 1554, and tried in London the following year. When questioned by Bishop Bonner on his beliefs, Carver refused to recant his Protestant practices. Sealing his fate, Carver made a fierce attack on the Catholic faith:
‘..your doctrine is poison and sorcery. If Christ were here you would put Him to a worse death than He was put to before. You say that you can make a God: ye can make a pudding as well. Your ceremonies in the Church be beggary and poison.’ (Quoted in John Ackerson Erredge, History of Brighthelmstone 2005, p.120).
Carver was found guilty and burnt at the stake in Lewes on 22 July 1555. In order to mock his profession, he was placed in a barrel prior to his execution.
Carver is one of several Protestant martyrs whose death is marked by the bonfire celebrations in Lewes. But he has never been forgotten in Brighton. John Ackerson Erredge, the first historian of Brighton, dedicated an entire chapter of his History of Brighthelmstone to his execution. The Black Lion brewery was regarded as one of the oldest buildings in Brighton until it was demolished in about 1970. It was rebuilt in 1974 as a near-replica of the original building. For much of the 1970s, the pub was named the Deryk Carver, although it seems to have reverted to the Black Lion in the 1980s.
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