1381 Rising
Features Timeline Folk & Facts Parish Records

Click here to visit the 22villages online newsgroup
please leave your comments in our Guest book

send an email to the 22village team


Mildenhall and The Rising in 1381

On learning this the mob at once set out towards Newmarket, and a cordon having been formed round the wood, some of their number, amid cries of ' Where lurks the traitor?' advanced to seize the unhappy man, whom having made prisoner they conducted to Newmarket. Here, we are told, they all night long most blasphemously mocked him; kneeling before him they cried ' Hail, master ! ' and striking him with their hands cried to him, 'Prophesy who smote thee.' At break of day on Saturday, June 15, the rioters led their victim back to Mildenhall, where they were joined by a large conflux of people, probably being the mob under John Wrawe, lately arrived from Bury, who on the appearance of the prior raised a great cry of ' Kill the traitor!' ' Kill the traitor! ' Having led him about a mile from the town to a place known as Mildenhall Heath, the leaders commanded the prior to dismount. Here a council was held by the men from Bury, in which Halesworth and Denham took a leading part1 by which the prior was condemned to instant execution; which sentence, after allowing him the privilege of confession to a monk of Mildenhall, was forthwith carried out, his head being severed from his body at a single blow. The headless corpse, we are told by Gosford, lay unburied on Mildenhall Heath till the Thursday following, none of the monks daring to take it away for fear of the men of Bury, who held both him and them in the greatest hatred.

After the murder of the prior his head was placed on the point of a lance and carried by the mob to Bury, where it was met by an excited rabble of the populace with cries of ' See the traitor's head !' ' Happy the day that sees our wish accomplished!' A ghastly sort of play was then enacted with the head of the prior and that of John de Cavendish, which had been brought to Bury the night before, in mockery of the great friendship which had existed between them in life; after which the two heads were placed over the pillory, where they remained till the arrival of the Earl of Suffolk, some eight days afterwards. The reasons for the great detestation in which the prior was held were, according to Walsingham, not far to seek, as ho had assiduously striven for the rights of the monastery against the townsmen of Bury. He appears on the same authority to have been a man of great intelligence and cultivated taste, besides being an excellent musician.

His death cannot, perhaps, be looked upon as having been a special object of, or directly compassed by, John Wrawe and his bands of countrymen, but rather as brought about by the men of Bury, led by Thomas Halesworth, Esq., and Geoffrey Denham, Esqdescribed on the Coram Rege Roll as servants of the prior, in settlement of a long-standing quarrel. Indeed Wrawe in his evidence makes a point of saying that had it not been for Denham and Halesworth the prior would never have been slain. Wrawe was, however, present at the execution on Mildenhall Heath, having probably found himself unable to withhold his support.

Their thirst for blood having been thoroughly excited, the mob proceeded next to the monastery and demanded the person of a monk named Walter de Totyngton. A search on the Coram Rege RollsCoram Rege Roll 476, Rex 5 shows that this Walter de Totyngton, alias Walter Colman, was tried for the part he had taken in the election of Brounfeld, and that it was he who dispatched an express to Rome to tell Brounfeld of the abbot's death and advise him to take immediate action. He thus appears as a strong partisan of the provisor, whose cause the men of Bury had warmly espoused, so that it seems curious they should now seek his life; unless, indeed, the fact that the king had seen fit to pardon him may have altered their feeling's towards him. Be that as it may, when the mob arrived at the monastery Brother Walter was nowhere to be found. Not to be thus baulked, they next demand John de Lakenheath, the Custos Baroniae, who, scorning to fly, boldly proclaimed himself and was handed over to the mob, who dragged him with great violence to the Market Place; where his head, having been barbarously hacked off with eight blows, was placed with the others of the pillory. This done, the whole mob, 'illa maledicta comitiva' as.......

Extract from The Rising in East Anglia in 1381 by Edgar Powell, 1896pp18 & 19 (A copy is in the Bury Record Office library, ref. 65 - 4) 

see also Riot On The Heath 1737, Fenland Riots 1669-1684, Mildenhall Riots

A Forest Heath District Council (Suffolk) Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Millennium Festival 2000 Designed by ArtAtac