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Peasants Revolt

(1381AD )


Commemorative sign in Appledore Background

The Black Death of 1348 - 1353 decimated the population of England, so in 1349 the King attempted to limit the wages paid to labourers to their pre-plague levels. A writ was sent to all the Sherriffs in the country, which consisted of the following instructions.

Due to the number of people killed by the pestilence, and seeing that the landowners have limited workers to help, the King ordains the following.
1. Every able person under the age of 36 who is not a craftsman must work for his lord for the same wages as before the plague.
2. Any worker or servant leaving his lords service without cause or licence should be imprisoned.
3. A man must not pay his servant more than the above wages, on pain of a fine of twice the labourers wage.
4. A Lord of town or Manor must not pay his servant more than the above wages, on pain of a fine of thrice the labourers wage.
5. Any craftsman charging more for his goods or service than pre-plague levels should be imprisoned.
6. Traders and Merchants overcharging for their goods will pay a fine of three times the amount.
7. Anyone giving alms to the poor, or gifts to beggars will be imprisoned. This is to ensure that they carry out rightful employment.

In 1351 the Statute of Labourers tried to enforce the above ordainance, by setting wages to be paid. This started to reduce the peasants ties to their Lord, as single men could make more as wage earners, than as unfree peasants.

Rebellion

This and the unfair treatment given to peasants and merchants by the ruling classes, caused the people of Kent and Essex to feel restricted and grieved.

On June 12th 1381 a Blacksmith Wat Tyler , reputed to have lived near Brenchley in Kent, together with Jack Straw led the rebellion. They started on the Romney Marshes and the rebels marched through Appledore to Staplehurst then on to Maidstone, where they attacked the gaol, and released the prisoners. From Maidstone they marched on London, where much property was destroyed, and many wealthy people were killed.

The King Richard II aged 14 agreed to meet the rebels, and to their demands for an end to serfdom, low land rental and repeal of the Labour Laws. The majority of the 100,000 peasants were satisfied and went home, but Wat Tyler remained with 30,000 supporters to see if more could be obtained. The Mayor of London felt that the more demanding attitude of Tyler was worrying, so ordered his troops to kill Tyler. The Kings troops had now had time to regroup, and drove the rebels away.

Outcome

The final outcome was that the King's promises were ignored, and the oppression of the peasants continued.

In September 1382 there was a small scale repeat when the peasants realised that nothing had changed, and marched on Linton and Maidstone , but they were quickly defeated and many executed.

Villages Referenced

Appledore  -   (Danes invade England)
Brenchley  -   (A beautiful Kent village)
Brenzett  -   (St Eanswyth a Saxon princess)
Catsfield  -   (Iron, Railways and Clocks)
Cranbrook  -   (Christmas Cards and Union Mill)
Linton  -   (Cavalier loses House)
Sellindge  -   (Oliver Cromwells Horse)

 
       
 
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