A TIME OF COMMOTION
Life in Tudor England was tough for peasants who relied on the land. Enclosure of common land by the landowners who wanted more ground to graze their sheep meant that peasants had nowhere to keep their own animals. This became a catalyst for protest among the poor who were also struggling with unemployment and low wages.
In July 1549 tensions were running high at an annual fair at Wymondham. An angry group decided to pull down landowners’ fences at nearby Morley and Hethersett, and were directed to the land of yeoman farmer Robert Kett. However, Kett spoke with the group and decided not only to join their cause but to lead them as they marched the 10 miles into Norwich, gathering on Mousehold Heath where they gained more local support.
Some 12,000 eventually gathered on the heath overlooking the city, when a herald was sent to proclaim their camp a rebellion and offering a pardon if they dispersed peacefully. But Kett’s men rejected the offer and the city gates where closed against them. A few days later the rebels stormed the walls and took control of the city.
An army of up to 14,000 men, commanded by the Earl of Warwick, marched on the city and fought battles in the streets, forcing Kett and his followers to retreat to their camp at Mousehold. Eventually the rebels left their camp to head to Dussindale, where they met the army again. During this final battle the rebels were heavily defeated and it is thought up to 3,000 of them were killed.
Kett was found, captured and taken to London to be tried for treason. He was found guilty, imprisoned in The Guildhall in Norwich and on December 7, 1549 was hung from the walls of Norwich Castle.