Calvinist activity in the Flemish Westkwartier: the testimony of Pieter
Hueseuck, ca. 1563
Explanatory Comment: The interrogations of
Pieter Hueseuck provide a vivid insight into the character of the Calvinist
movement in West Flanders and the role of the refugee churches in England, in
this case Sandwich, in spreading Reformed Protestantism in the southern
Netherlands. Indeed the existence of these refugees communities in England and
Germany ensured the survival of the Protestant cause in the Low Countries when
the government there appeared in the 1540s to have all but suppressed religious
dissent in the country.
Using particular routes and 'safe-houses' in Nieuwpoort
the Calvinists from Sandwich regularly crossed the Channel in order to deal with
their personal affairs, buy yarn and to plan the release of co-religionists
awaiting trial. But not all Calvinists, especially those in the consistories,
believed that acts of provocation or violence were justifiable or politic.
Huesueck's interrogators learned of a serious division of opinion on the matter
of using force to deliver prisoners. In Antwerp in the late 1550s the
Protestants had been divided about wisdom of preaching in public and some
ministers bitterly opposed any act of resistance to the authorities, including
the breaking of images.
Pieter Hueseuck, aged 26, shearman from Nieuwkerke, says on oath that
having been led astray by Hans Broiteur and other Calvinists, he withdrew
together with his wife to England. While
there he was banished by the commissioners in charge at Belle. In Flanders and in England he has known Godefroy Stomins
[Godfried van Winghen?] from upper Holland; Jan Utenhove; Jacobus [de Buysere],
an apostate from the Augustinians at Ieper; heer Willem Damman,
schoolmaster; Gheleyn Damman, who had to be kept against his will in England by
the brethren, for he always wanted to come to preach in Flanders, being called
for this purpose by the Holy Spirit.
Over a year ago he had worked for three months as a mason's labourer at
Pieter Hazaert who is known in England on account of the vehemence of his
sermons as Drayliert
is not greatly respected among the brethren in England.
Jan de Meldere, who lives in Flanders, came more than a year ago to the
house of the aforesaid Jacobus, where the consistory of elders and priests (sic)
was held. A discussion was held as
to whether it was permissible to deliver their prisoners by force. He [de
Meldere] argued in favour and several other elders opposed. For this reason the aforesaid Pieter [Hazaert] left England
in high dudgeon.
He then says that for the past three years an apostate priest from
Veurneambacht known as Den Grooten Joannes,
who lived most recklessly and brazenly defied the authorities, had
accompanied the aforesaid Pieter as his permanent assistant.
He was present [at the meeting of the consistory] and according to
hearsay he assisted at the sermons of Pieter Hazaert: they had come to England
together more than a year ago. He
says that the aforesaid Pieter had great difficulties with the aforesaid
Joannes, who was very impudent. He [the deponent]
added that the aforesaid Joannes must surely know where the aforesaid
Pieter [Hazaert] usually resided, for he had travelled about with him through
the country for a long time. He did
not know whether the same Joannes had ever been the subject of legal
proceedings, though he was summoned along with the aforesaid Pieter.
Questioned whether or not he knows who might be guilty of the break out
of Jehan Hacke, he says he know nothing for certain, but [the following are]
greatly suspected, having been specially invited by Jehan Hacke to the meal to
celebrate his arrival in England: Joos Leupe, died in London, Franois de
Raedt, draper, living in Sandwich, Jacob de Schilt, woolcomber and several
It was also rumoured in England that Olivier Moenins from Dranouter,
Dierick Bette from Belle, Mahieu Marrel alias Scerp vander Beke, Jan Beaugrandt
from Poperinge and Jacob Masselis had delivered heer Willem Damman.
It was noted that when these left England they had beards and that when
they returned shortly afterwards to England with heer Willem, after his
break out, on which account there was great rejoicing among the brethren, they
were all clean-shaven.
A certain Gerard Matte from Ieper had wanted to persuade the brethren in
England to drive the procureur generaal and his men out of Hondschoote.
His brother called Sebastiaen Matte usually worked in the area around Armentières:
the same Sebastiaen, being a preacher and leader, about 30 years old, has a
small black beard and is short and stout of stature.
Likewise, several others who have been banished and who have fled out of
Flanders often come back, especially to the market at Hazebrouck, where they
have bought linen cloth worth 600 rijksdaalders.
The aforesaid Franois de Raedt had been in person early this summer
before the baljuw and magistrates of Belle to enter in the orphans'
register the maternal estate of the children of Catharina de Raedt of
Nieuwkerke, the wife of the aforesaid Jacobus, the minister. The estate is worth
some 200 rijksdaalders and the same orphans now live with Willem
Godschalck from Nieuwkerke.
He says Pieter Hazaert is about 40 years old; he usually wears a tall
silk hat: is very well-built with a cloak and a long say tabard, with blue
loose-fitting gaiters which are also commonly worn by the other brethren.
He says that the fugitives in England usually make their way to Flanders
via Calais, thence to Grevelingen over the bridge, and then, skirting the town
of Bourbourg, they make their way to Hondschoote, where several of the same
fugitives now reside with their families. Among
such are Joris Boye, who is a short man: he had been a deacon in England, from
where he had suddenly departed; Karel van de Brugghe, who has refused to have
any more dealings with the sectaries; Adriaan Obry, a cobbler and say-weaver, a
very obstinate heretic.
Says that he knows Clais vander Scaert has entered England; staying with
Jan vander Scaert, his brother. Rumour
has it that he brings more than 100 rijksdaalders for his brother on each
Says that the aforesaid fugitives usually lodge in Nieuwpoort at the Ste.
Godelieve and De Wilde Zee; to be still better prepared some of them
have stayed for eight to ten days in the house of Jan Willaert, a shipmaster,
who takes the same across in his boat; among these are the aforesaid Broiteur, a
preacher, and several young women, conducted thither by Pieter Marquet alias De
Roo, the apprentice of David Cambier, who had been banished at Belle; he acted
as a courier, going about the country with a scuttle like a cobbler, as these
[women] have told the deponent, who has also seen the aforesaid Pieter [Hazaert]
lodging there. Some others have
lodged at Jan Hassele's house, who, is likewise a shipmaster at Nieuwpoort.
Says that during the fair at Hondschoote Hansken Mieus and his wife, who
had broken out at Nieuwpoort, appeared; they now live in Antwerp.
Says that Betken Buens, Pieter vanden Broucke's wife, now lives in the
country and, he believes, at her husband's house.
Says that Cools Boye, woolcomber, lives in London in England, often
coming across to buy woollen yarn in Tournai.
His brother whose name is Jan Boye, and Anabaptist, lives in Friesland,
where he acts as the factor for those who make narrow cloth. He often delivers 200 narrow cloths to Antwerp.
Says further that Mahieu Mabezuene of Nieuwkerke, who weaves narrow
cloth, has held conventicles for three years in the town of Armentières, and
still does, the deponent having himself witnessed it.
Says that heer Karel Wicke, who had been chaplain in Nieuwkerke
and had married his servant Catelyne Baels in England now wanted to return to
the country and to leave the brethren.
Says that Christiaan de Vriendt, having married in England, has returned
to Flanders, and lives with his wife Janneken Baelde, the daughter of Andries
Baelde of Nieuwkerke, whom he married in London.
Says that Péronne Godschalck, who has been banished from Belle, died in
London two months ago. She was a
very rich young woman after her mother's death.
Her father Willem Godschalck has fetched her clothes.
Says that Franois Bolle from Menen brought some 800 rijksdaalders
to England: he often visits Menen.
that Franois Hughebaert from Nieuwkerke has bought much linen cloth in the
market at Hazebrouck, though he has been banished.
that Jan Weyns, having lost his wife at Sandwich, has gone to live in
Hondschoote, having escaped from the galleys more than a year ago.
Says that Franois and Gillis Ente have both fled to England; the
aforesaid Franois has been banished and accused of [complicity] in the break
out of Jehan Hacke and Gillis, despite the sentence of this court, went to
England. Around Christmas they returned to the country after the death of their
father, whose property they have divided. The
aforesaid Franois was recently seen in Armentières buying yarn.
Says that Gillis de Queeckere and his wife Martine Salome have left
England and have been living in Hondschoote for the past eight months, the
aforesaid Martine, who had escaped from Hondschoote, being pregnant.
Says that Jan van den Berghe, otherwise under suspicion as a result of
investigations at Hondschoote, often travels to England to sell yarn.
Says that Joris Boye from Hondschoote, having been for a while in England
at Sandwich, has returned to live at Hondschoote; he is a say weaver.
Says that Jan de Egre is well off; he lives at Sandwich as does his
son-in-law Jan de Bavelare.
Says that when Joris Vrambout the preacher and other sectaries from
around Steenvoorde come from England, they travel together as far as Watou, from
where each makes his own way to Steenvoorde, Eecke and the surrounding region;
this happens daily.
Jan Soynt, Anabaptist from Nieuwkerke, lives in Friesland.
Says that Jacob de Brune from Nieuwkerke, who was very rich, lives in
Says that Jan Juemaere, who lives in Sandwich, attended the most recent
fair in Hazebrouck.
Says that Hansken..., a glover from Mesen, has gone to live in England.
Says that Mayken de Schildere, the sister of Willem, lives at Sandwich
and has married Jan de Bels of Dranouter.
Says that Mahieu Steculorum often comes from Sandwich to Tourcoing to
Says that Pieter Carpentier, from Mesen, aged about 24, who is tall and
clean-shaven, and knows Latin, has been sent from Sandwich to Antwerp about a
year ago to preach, despite being banished.
Says that Pieter Wyckaert from Meteren often comes across from England;
he is a cloth-weaver.
Says that Sanders de Hane, charged as a result of the investigations held
at Hondschoote, with having attended the Lord's Supper [administered] by Willem
Damman, fled for a time to England, but is once more living in Hondschoote; he
is a say weaver.
Source and Literature:
Troubles religieux de XVIe siècle dans la Flandre Maritime 1560-1570 ed.
E. de Coussemaker I (Bruges, 1876) 346-54. The major study on the Reformation in
Flanders is J. Decavele, De dageraad van de reformatie in Vlaanderen
(1520-1565), I, esp. pp. 388-434. In a well-known article A.A. van Schelven,
'Het begin van het gewapend verzet tegen Spanje in de 16e eeuwsche Nederlanden',
Handelingen en levensberichten van de Maatschappij der Nederlandsche
Letterkunde te Leiden, (1914-15), pp. 126-56 claimed that these organised
break-out and public Calvinist preachings represented the 'start of the armed
resistance against Spain'.
The brothers Willem and Gheleyn Damman were active as Calvinist ministers in
West Flanders. Willem was sprung from the prison of the church court at
leper by co-religionists on 12
May 1562. His brother Gheleyn preached the first public Calvinist service in
Flanders in the churchyard at Boeschepe on 12 July 1562.
ie the Dawdler.
For this debate in Calvinist circles read A. Pettegree, Foreign
Protestant Communities in Sixteenth-Century London (Oxford, 1986), pp.
Jan Hendrickz., a former chaplain.
Jehan Hacke was sprung from prison on 6 November 1561 by an armed band of
between 50 and 200 persons, who attacked the monastery in Mesen, where he
was held prisoner.