George Tankervil (also known as George Tankerfield) was born in the early 1500s in the city of York in England.
Tankervil worked as a baker, but it was not for this occupation that he was made famous.
During the reign of good King Edward 6th (12 October 1537 – 6 July 1553) Tankervil was a Catholic, and thought that the protestants were no more than just rebels from the Faith of the Fathers.
But something happened during the reign of Bloody Queen Mary (from the year 1553 onwards). When Tankervil saw all the horrible tortures and deaths that Mary was imposing upon the Protestants, he began to realise that maybe Catholicism wasn’t so peaceful and righteous as he had initially thought. And so it was that he prayed that the Lord would open his heart as to whether the Catholics were right or the Protestants.
And so it was that the Lord opened Tankervil’s heart by degrees that he began to become more and more convinced that the Catholic faith had slipped into heresy. And so was his conversion complete.
So after learning about Protestantism and the true Gospel, as a good soldier of Christ, Tankervil, began to tell all his friends and family about the true Gospel, and began to tell them all the things of Jesus, in a true and living way, not like the Catholics.
This act of spreading the Gospel drew the attention of the Catholics, and they began to hate him, and to label him as a heretic.
After these things, Tankervil became very ill, and with his illness he was not able to do so much baking, and so the business became not so lucrative.
One day while Tankervil was out having a walk in the Temple Fields of London (close by to where they were living) a man came to the door, and Tankervil’s wife answered. The man told her that Lord Paget (a wealthy man) was going to have a dinner, and have lots of guests, and requested that Mr Tankervil should come along and prepare the food, for it had been said that he was an excellent cook. And so Tankervil’s wife, not knowing that it was a trap set by the Catholics, agreed to the request.
When Tankervil returned from his walk, his wife told him about the visitor. And when Tankervil heard about it, he realised that it was a trap, but instead of running away, he said that he would go, and that God’s will be done.
I don’t think Tankervil was aware of what was about to happen to him, and indeed that’s a mercy, for otherwise he may have given up the faith to save his life.
And so it was that Tankervil was arrested and put into prison.
There was a man by the name of Bonner, who was employed by the Catholics to persuade Tankervil to denounce his Protestant faith, and revert back to Catholicism. Tankervil always answered Bonner referring to the Scriptures, saying that unless Bonner can persuade him using the Bible, he would not convert. Which, obviously, Bonner could not do, but rather he would reference Catholic leaders and perverted men, but never would he allude to the Scriptures.
Tankervil was then taken to St. Albans (which is just north of London) where he was to be burned as a heretic.
While at St. Albans he stayed at the Cross Keys Inn under supervision of a guard. And while there, many people came to him telling him that he must embrace Catholicism or die, but each and every time he would refer them to the Scriptures refuting the Catholic doctrines.
In the evening, as Tankervil sat beside the fire, he talked with himself arguing that he was doing the right thing by offering his life to The Lord. And thus he talked with himself: The Flesh says, “O you fool, will you burn, when you need not to?” And then the Spirit answers, “Don’t be afraid; what is a short martyrdom in comparison with and eternity in Hell?” Then the Flesh says, “Will you leave all you friends and your family who love you dearly?” The Spirit answered “I only need one friend and brother, our Lord Jesus Christ” Now the flesh says “But you have your whole life ahead of you, why die now?” The Spirit answers, “I give up a short life here, for an eternity of life in Heaven.”
Before his death, Tankervil asked that he might be given a pint of wine and a loaf of bread, and so he commemorated the Lord ’s Supper before he enters heaven where he will feast and never hunger again.
Early in the afternoon, Tankervil is taken to a place just outside the Abbey which was called Romeland, where he knelt down to pray. And when he had finished his pray he turned to the people waiting to view his death, and said, “I have had a poor dinner this day, but later, I shall have a joyful supper in Heaven.”
They tied Tankervil to a large pole in the ground which is called the “stake”, with loads of little sticks below which are called the “fagots”.
And while they were pouring oil on the fagots, a Catholic priest tried to persuade him to give up his faith, but Tankerfield told him that he defied Babylon (the Catholic faith), and then told the people not to believe the lies of the Catholics.
When the Mayor of St Albans heard Tankervil defying the Catholics, he became very angry, and ordered the men to light the flame and said that if he had all the fagots in the world he would give them for Tankervil’s burning.
A gentleman came up to Tankervil and quietly told him to trust in the Lord, to which Tankervil replied that he thanked God that he was given the faith to put all his trust in Him.
And with that Tankervil was baptised with fire, and rose to life eternal.
Tankervil was martyred on the 26th August 1555. There is a plaque in the centre of St. Albans in memorial of him.
May we all be given the faith that Tankervil was given when we too must come to our death beds!
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
Gospel Magazine June 1955 http://www.gospelmagazine.org.uk/june1955.pdf