A dispute over how the Bible should be read ended in the horrific execution of several Amersham men.

BETWEEN 1414 and 1532, more than a dozen people from, or connected with, Amersham were executed as Lollards dissenters in one way or another from the Catholic church.

John Wycliffe, a priest and academic at Oxford, was the man who created this movement. Despite initial renown for his work, in about 1379, he undertook a translation of the Bible into the English language, which brought the wrath of the church hierarchy upon him.

Wycliffe died peacefully in 1384, but his followers were to be subject to much persecution which would eventually result in the Reformation of the church.

The word Lollard' was a contemptuous term for a follower of Wycliffe's teachings.

The Lollards referred to themselves as the Justfast Men' or Known Men', because of their steadfast allegiance to God.

They had many opinions on the way the church should be run but the main objection was that it was forbidden to read or possess the Bible in an English translation.

When Henry IV usurped the throne in 1399 he passed a statute which gave authority to the Bishops.

If people were found guilty of heresy, they would be condemned to be burned at the stake.

Amongst those subsequently sentenced we find four men from Amersham. William Turnour, Walter Yonge and John Hazelwoode were all executed. Richard Spotford, a carpenter, was pardoned.

John Fynche of Missenden was also put to death.

After these executions, things became quiet. Although there were some milder sentences passed, much of Wycliffe support was underground.

However, in 1506, Bishop Smith of Lincoln initiated an inquiry into religious dissent in Amersham.

Among those charged and tried was William Tylsworth. He refused to recant, and was sentenced to be burned to death. His daughter Joan was sentenced to light the fire herself.

The persecution of the Amersham Lollards continued with their surviving leader, Thomas Chase. He was tortured in an attempt to force him to recant but it eventually killed him.

The last local man to suffer martyrdom for the Lollard cause was Thomas Harding. He was executed after his third trial of heresy at Botley Dell, North Chesham.

Today the memory of the martyrs is continued by the memorial erected in 1931 on the hill near Rectory or Parsonage Woods. This can be reached from St Mary's Church and from Station Road.

The memory is also continued by Amersham Museum which not only has a large display about the martyrs in the museum but also puts on community plays depicting events of the story.

With thanks to Michael Andrews-Reading for allowing use of the text from his book The Amersham Martyrs'. Thanks also to Amersham Museum for supplying the pictures and information on the subject