Kett's Rebellion

Kett's Rebellion

Kett's Rebellion was a revolt in Norfolk, England during the reign of Edward VI. The rebellion was in response to the enclosure of land. It began in July 1549 but was eventually crushed by forces loyal to the English crown.

The rebellion was led by Robert Kett (or Ket) of Wymondham, Norfolk. He was a former tanner who had become the owner of the manor of Wymondham. After his capture he was tortured, then hanged slowly over a number of days at Norwich Castle as an example to the populace.


First rebellions in Wymondham

The town of Wymondham illegally celebrated the life of Saint Thomas Becket on the weekend of 6 July 1549. It was here that the anger of the townspeople turned to violence. They started ripping down enclosures in the nearby village of Morley St. Botolph before proceeding onto John Flowerdew's estate at Hethersett. Flowerdew bribed the people into ripping down enclosure belonging to Robert Kett (b. 1492). But the bribe backfired when Kett himself joined with the mob and helped them tear down his own fences before leading them to Flowerdew's house where they ripped down his fences.

Kett's Oak, beside the B1172, near Hethersett, Norfolk

Arrival in Norwich

By 9 July, Kett had led the men to the city of Norwich. The mayor at the time was so scared by the rebellion that he attempted to bribe the men with money and a promise of pardon, which the rebels squarely rejected, forcing the mayor back within the city walls.

On 11 July, Kett set up a base on Mousehold Heath, just outside Norwich. People from all around the area, including Norwich itself, joined Kett on the Heath such that their numbers amounted to around 15,000. Morale was so high amongst Kett's men that they rejected further bribes of money, liquor and official pardons, all the while ripping down enclosures around the city. The camp was administered from the landmark Oak of Reformation, a large tree at the base of Mousehold Heath. The area has now become a car park near Kett's Hill in Norwich[citation needed]. On 19 July, Lord Sheffield was murdered - apparently by Kett's men - in Norwich, in a street near the Cathedral Close. After a couple of weeks on Mousehold Heath, food became scarce and morale was weakening. Therefore on 22 July,[1] Kett led the men to an attack on Norwich, apparently with pitchforks, sticks and mud. After much struggle, the rebels entered Norwich, congregated in the area now known as the present day marketplace, and effectively assumed temporary control of the city.

Attacks on the rebels

The King first sent William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton with 1,500 men to quash the rebellion. Because of Parr's poor experience in battle, however, this attack failed. John Dudley, Earl of Warwick was then sent with a stronger army of around 14,000 men including mercenaries from Wales, Germany and Spain. Warwick had previously fought in France, was a former member of the House of Commons, and subsequently the Privy Council, making him a strong leader. Despite the increased threat, the rebels were loyal to Kett throughout and continued to fight Warwick's men. They fought well against an overwhelming army, and led the battle out of the city onto Dussingdale, one of the dales leading out of Mousehold Heath.

The actual location of Dussindale has never been established. The most popular theory is that the dale began in the vicinity of the Plumstead Road East allotments that swept into Valley Drive and into the present remnant of Mousehold, into the Long Valley and out into what is now Gertrude Road and the allotments. In Victorian times this area was known as 'Ketts Meadow'. Dussindale has also been used as the name given to a recent housing development in nearby Thorpe St Andrew, which appears to have also used a number of names from the Civil War as road names.

End of the rebellion

Kett fled during the battle to a nearby town, where he was found a couple of days later. Several other ringleaders were hanged at the Oak of Reformation. Robert Kett and his brother William were taken to Norwich Castle where they were tortured. Eventually they were taken to the Tower of London, where they were convicted of High Treason. On the 7 December 1549, Robert Kett was taken back to Norwich Castle and hanged over the side, his death being purposefully prolonged over days as an example to the people of the city. William Kett was hanged over the side of Wymondham Abbey in a similar manner.

Kett's demands to the King

Kett petitioned King Edward VI with a large number of demands:

  1. We pray your grace that where it is enacted for enclosing, that it be not hurtful to have enclosed saffron grounds for they be greatly chargeable to them, and that from henceforth no man shall enclose any more.
  2. We certify your grace that whereas the lords of the manors have been charged with certain free rent, the same lords have sought means to charge the freeholders to pay the same rent, contrary to right.
  3. We pray your grace that no lord of no manor shall common upon the Commons.
  4. We pray that priests from henceforth shall purchase no land neither free nor Bondy [neither freehold nor copyhold], and the lands that they have in possession may be let to temporal men, as they were in the first year of the reign of King Henry VII [1485].
  5. We pray that Redeground and meadow ground may be at such price as they were in the first year of King Henry the VII.
  6. We pray that all marshes that are holden of the Kings majesty by free rent or of any other, may be again at the price that they were in the first year of King Henry the VII.
  7. We pray that all Bushels within your realm be of one strice, that is to say, to be in measure 8 gallons.
  8. We pray that priests or vicars that be not able to preach and set forth the word of God to his parishioners may be thereby put from his benefice, and the parishioners there to choose another or else the patron or lord of the town.
  9. We pray that the payments of castle-ward rent, and blanche ferme [fee in the form of silver], and office lands [kinds of land taxes], which has been accustomed to be gathered of the tenements, whereas we suppose the lords ought to pay the same to their bailiffs for the rents fathering, and not the tenants.
  10. We pray that no man under the degree of a knight or esquire keep a down house [keeping Doves], except if it has been of an old ancient custom.
  11. We pray that all freeholders and copyholders may take the profits of all commons, and their to common, and the lords not to common nor take profits of the same.
  12. We pray that no Feodorye [2] within your shires shall be a councillor to any man in his office making, whereby the King may be truly served, so that a man being of good conscience may be verily chosen to the same office by the commons of the same shire.
  13. We pray your grace to take all liberty of let into your own hands whereby all men may quietly enjoy their commons with all profits.
  14. We pray that copyhold land that is reasonable rented may go as it did in the first year of King Henry VII and that at the death of a tenant or of a sale the same lands to be charged with an esey fine (which tenants often paid at the start of their landholding) as a capon or a reasonable sum of money for a remembrance.
  15. We pray that no priest shall be a chaplain nor no other officer to any man of honour or worship but only to be resident upon their benefices whereby their parishioners may be instructed with the laws of God.
  16. We pray that all bond men may be made free for god made all free with his precious blood shedding.
  17. We pray that Rivers may be free and common to all men for fishing and passage.
  18. We pray that no man shall be put by your Eschetory and Feodrie to find any office unless he holds of your grace in chief or capite above £10 a year.
  19. We pray that the poor mariners or Fisherman may have the whole profits of their fishings as purpres grampes whales or any great fish so it be not prejudicial to your grace.
  20. We pray that every proprietary parson or vicar having a benefice of £10 or more by year shall either by themselves or by some other person teach poor men’s children of their parish the book called the cathakysme and the primer.
  21. We pray that it be not lawful to the lords of any manor to purchase land freely and to let them out again by copy of court roll to their great advaunchement and to the undoing of your poor subjects.
  22. We pray that no proprietary parson or vicar in consideration of avoiding trouble and suit between them and their poor parishioners which they daily do proceed and attempt shall from henceforth take for the full contention of all the tithes which now they do receive but 8d. of the noble in the full discharge of all other tithes.
  23. We pray that no man under the degree of [esquire] shall keep any rabbits upon any of their own freehold or copyhold unless he pale them in [confines them] so that it shall not be to the commons nuisance.
  24. We pray that no manner of person of what estate degree or condition he be shall from henceforth sell the adwardshyppe of any child but that the same child if he live to his full age shall be at his own chosen concerning his marriage the King’s wards only except.
  25. We pray that no manor of person having a manor of his own shall be no other lord’s bailiff but only his own.
  26. We pray that no lord knight nor gentleman shall have or take in from any spiritual promotion [gentlemen shouldn't rent the right to collect church tithes].
  27. We pray your grace to give licence and authority by your gracious commission under your great seal to such commissioners as your poor commons have chosen, or to as many of them as your majesty and your counsel shall appoint and think meet [suitable], for to redress and reform all such good laws, statutes, proclamations, and all other your proceedings, which hath been hidden by your Justices of your peace, Shreves, Escheatores, and others your officers, from your poor commons, since the first year of the reign of your noble grandfather King Henry the seventh.
  28. We pray that those your officers that have offended your grace and your commons and so proved by the complaint of your poor commons do give onto these poor men so assembled 4 d every day so long as they [the poor commons] have remained there [at the camp at Mousehold].
  29. We pray that no lord knight esquire nor gentleman do graze nor feed any bullocks or sheep if he may spend forty pounds a year by his lands but only for the provision of his house.


  1. ^ Tudor Rebellions Anthony Fletcher and Diarmaid MacCulloch
  2. ^ A Feodorye is an officer of the old Court of Wards.

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