My particular interest came about after reading that he was born in Burton-on –Trent (my own birthplace), but elsewhere it is stated that he was born in Burbage, Leicestershire and later moved to Burton.
His particular claim to fame is being the last “heretic” to be executed by burning in England.
Edward Wightman was executed in 1612, not by the Catholic Church of Queen Mary, but by the Church of England under the instruction of King James I. The nature of his heresy differs according to which account you read (more contradictory evidence!). He was charged with eleven distinct heresies, including his belief that "the baptising of infants is an abominable custom” and that “Christianity is not wholly professed and preached in the Church of England”.
He was also accused of denying the Trinity. At least one source questions this denial – suggesting that instead he merely objected to the wording of the common creeds regarding their statements about the Trinity
Some of the other charges against him were so extreme that it was said: “if Edward really held all the opinions of which he was accused, he would have been either an idiot or a madman, and, if so, he ought to have had the prayers of his persecutors rather than to have them put him to a cruel death.” Maybe this statement could be seen as questioning the legitimacy of some of the accusations made against him.
Wightman was sentenced to death by burning. On the first attempt to carry out the sentence, as the flames began to burn his flesh, he began to shout out something that was interpreted as a renunciation of his beliefs. He was pulled from the flames under the assumption that he was agreeing to submit to the faith of the Church of England.
After his rescue from the stake he continued preaching his “heresies” and after a few weeks was returned to the stake and burned on 11 April 1612 at Lichfield, Staffordshire.
Descendents of Wightman has written accounts of their ancestor at:
other details can be found at