Blue Plaque unveiled in memory of Derby’s historical figure Joan Wast (1532-1555)

A Blue Plaque commemorating the life of Joan Wast, a local woman from the 1500s who showed great courage in the face of adversity, has been unveiled today (10th February) at Lime Avenue, Derby.

Joan Wast (pronounced Waste) was a committed and passionate protestant and regularly attended St Peters Church. She was born blind but that did not stop her from helping the family business.

When Queen Mary came to the throne in 1552 and made it illegal for people to hold Anglican Protestant views, Joan refused to renounce her faith.

In 1555, at age 22, she was publicly executed at Derby’s Windmill Pit, at the end of Lime Avenue.

In an event that was jointly hosted by Derby City Council and Derby Civic Society, Joan’s life was celebrated and her legacy was immortalised by the unveiling of a Blue Plaque.

Derby City Councillor Fareed Hussain, Cabinet Member for Urban Renewal, said:

Joan was a pioneer, a hero, who was ahead of her times. She showed that standing up for what you believe in, even in the face of adversity, can make a big difference. I think she would be very proud of the city Derby has become today – a modern innovative city with people living together from all faiths and backgrounds.

He added:

Although Joan’s story has a sad ending, we must remember that she was a remarkable young woman who overcame her disability to play a productive role in her father’s business. I would like to think that the Blue Plaque Scheme will encourage local people, both young and old, to find out more about this courageous young woman who died for her beliefs. This event is also a good opportunity to take a look at our history and learn from it so we as a society do not make the same mistakes again.

Councillor Alan Grimadell, Chairman of the Derby Civic Society, said:

The Blue Plaque Scheme forms part of Derby City Council and Derby Civic Society’s partnership to celebrate eminent people with strong links to the city. These plaques are erected on a building or a site to mark the connection between that location and the notable individual.

He explained that local people got to choose who the Blue Plaque should be awarded to. To qualify for the accolade potential nominees must have been deceased for at least 20 years, had a long lasting effect on the city and have a clear link to a building or site in Derby.

Joan’s story

Joan was born in 1532 without her eyesight. However, she did not let her blindness get in the way of family duties and by the age of 12 was knitting and making ropes to help her father William Wast, who was the ropemaker and barber of Iron Gate.

Despite Queen Mary making it illegal for people to hold Protestant views, Joan continued to practice her faith.

One of her favourite pastimes was listening to her friends reading the bible to her. She attended church regularly and people only noticed that Joan was incarcerated when she failed to attend mass at church.

After refusing to renounce her protestant beliefs, Joan was found guilty of heresy and sentenced to death.

Her public execution took place in 1555 at Windmill Pit at the end of Lime Avenue, off Burton Road, in Derby, where she was burnt for heresy.

During Queen Mary’s reign she condemned 277 people for not having the right religion or beliefs, attaining the nick name Bloody Mary.

Published: Friday 10th February 2017