Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dusgate, Thomas

DUSGATE, THOMAS (d. 1532), martyr, was born and educated in Cambridge, being scholar of Christ's College and fellow of Corpus Christi. He took his bachelor's degree in 1520–1, and that of master of arts in 1524. Feeling himself unable to endure the enforced celibacy of the priesthood, he went to Germany to consult Luther about his future life. The reformer dissuaded him from becoming a clergyman, and on his return to England he left Cambridge, changed his name to Bennet, and married. He went to live in Devonshire, and for some years kept a school, first at Torrington and then at Exeter in a street called Butcher Row. His intercourse with Luther had inclined him to accept the doctrines of the reformers, and he showed his sympathy to any persons in the diocese who were accused of heresy. He also put up bills on the cathedral doors at various times impugning the doctrines preached there. According to Foxe, the unknown blasphemer was publicly cursed, and Bennet was discovered to be the culprit by his inability to conceal his laughter. After his arrest a friar named Gregory Basset, a recanted heretic, tried hard to persuade him to follow his example. But Bennet was steadfast, and was in due course condemned and handed over to the secular power. The sheriff of Devon, Sir Thomas Dennis [q. v.], would have had the execution take place at Southernhay, but the chamber of Exeter refused permission, and he was therefore carried to Liverydole in Heavitree, about two miles from the city, and burned. This was on 15 Jan. 1531–2.

In remorse Sir Thomas Dennis afterwards built an almshouse on the spot. There is a brief and imperfect account of Dusgate's life and martyrdom, written by Ralph Morice, Archbishop Cranmer's secretary, among the Harleian MSS.

[Foxe, v. 18; Izacke's Antiquities of Exeter (1731), p. 116; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 43; Harl. MS. 419, f. 125, Brit. Mus.]

C. T. M.