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The Peasants' Revolt of 1381

The rebellion does not seem to have been a nationally organised event. Rather, it was sporadic in nature with local risings settling local grievances and their leaders subsequently being punished by the courts.

The protest began in Essex and soon reached Bury St. Edmunds where there was already considerable friction between the townspeople and the Abbey. Mildenhall, a manor of Bury Abbey, soon became involved. The chronicles of Thomas de Walsingham relate the exploits of the priest John Wrawe, a leader of the revolt in north west Suffolk. Legal documents provide further information: evidence of other malefactors comes from confessions in the Appeal of John Wrawe. This was witnessed by the Chief Justice Robert Tresilian on May 22nd 1382 and sent to the King's Bench the following dayDobson, R.B; Documents on the Peasants' Revolt iv Dymond, D. & Martin, E. (Editors) An Historical Atlas of Suffolk; Suffolk County Council, Environment and Transport, & Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History; 1999, p.90.

The disorder in Bury St. Edmunds began on the 14th. June 1381. The townspeople rose against the the Abbey. The Prior, John of Cambridge strove to protect it but he was forced to flee. He attempted to reach Ely and hid in Mildenhall on the way. Here he was captured and murdered on Mildenhall heath by a mob. His head was taken to Bury, stuck on the end of a pole, and put up in the market place. John Wrawe, on oath, gave evidence that Thomas Halesworth, Geoffrey Denham and Robert Westbroun - servants of Prior John - were involved in the murder. Two other murders were committed on the same weekend. John de Cavendish was killed at [Joe: please insert link to the following Sir John Cavendish (d. 1381) , judge; pleader in 1348; serjeant-at-law, 1366; justice of common pleas, 1371; chief justice of King's Bench, 1372-81; murdered in Jack Straw's rising. (Dictionary of National Biography, in Infopedia UK 96 CD-Rom) ] Lakenheath. His severed head was fixed on a stake facing the head of Prior John in Bury market place. John of Lakenheath, a monk at the Abbey, was beheaded in the market place by a mob. The insurrection was overcome by five hundred lancers under the control of the Earl of Suffolk.iv At a court held in Mildenhall 27th June 1381 before William De Ufford and other justices, John Poter of Somerton was impeached of involvement in the murder of John de Cavendish and was beheaded.

Nationally, the Peasants' Revolt soon collapsed. Richard II met a mob led by Wat Tyler and the 'mad priest of Kent' John Ball and tried to appease the mob. At a further meeting at Smithfield, Tyler was stabbed and killed by John Walworth, Lord Mayor of London. The mob dispersed after Richard promised concessions, which he then revoked. Ball escaped, but was later captured near Coventry and executed.

see also Discontent, Death and Disturbance in the 14th century
2000 Margery Frape

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