Sunday, 16 June 2013

Summer of Blood

 June 15th 
On this day in 1381, the Peasants’ Revolt came to an end when one of its leaders was killed at West Smithfield.

The site is visited on our Wednesday morning walk “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn – Fanfare and Plainsong".

There’s a little bit about the Revolt in my book, “The Lost City of London”, which reads as follows:
“In the immediate aftermath of the “Black Death”, the demand for labour came to greatly exceed the supply, City- and country- wide.  At the same time, the work-force had its wages frozen,  under the Ordinance of Labourers of 1349; and then became subject to an understandably even more unpopular, and extremely unjustly enforced,  Poll Tax in 1377.  Civil unrest followed in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, which  came to a head in a confrontation, at West Smithfield, between on the one side  a thousands-strong peasant mob (*), and on the other, heavily-armed knights and henchmen, officers of the City, and the  then boy-King Richard II, as chronicled by Froissart.  The revolt also effectively ended then and there, with the death of one of its  leaders,  Wat Tyler, at the hands of the Fishmonger and Lord Mayor of London William Walworth - whose dagger is to this day exhibited  in Fishmongers’ Hall.  (The other leader of the revolt, incidentally, was Jack Straw, after whom Jack Straw’s Castle on Hampstead Heath is named).
(*) By this time, the  mob had already slaked its blood-thirst by sacking some Establishment buildings in the City, including the Savoy Palace and the Tower of London, and killing many  of their occupants (among them the unfortunate Archbishop of Canterbury, Sudbury), together with many other innocent by-standers - especially foreigners”. 

Readers interested in further details should refer to Dan Jones’s (no relation) excellent “Summer of Blood”.  

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