Kett's Rebellion

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Kett's Rebellion was an enclosure-related revolt in Norfolk during the reign of Edward VI of England. Beginning in July 1549, the rebellion was instigated by Robert Kett (or Ket) of Wymondham, Norfolk. Robert Kett (b. 1492) himself had been a tanner but was the owner of the manor of Wymondham and thus a wealthy man.


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 Robert Kett's enclosures, a bribe that 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.

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. Given 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.

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