Kett’s Rebellion, 15 49
- The articles (Mousehold Heath, July 15 49) relating to religion are thoughtful calls for more competent and involved clergy, rather than controversial doctrinal statements. There was clearly concern with the poor quality of priests and their failure to fulfil their duties. Their inclination was towards Protestantism, as they demand for congregations to choose their own clergy and by their use of the New Prayer Book at Mousehold Heath camp.
Causes: Social and Economic
- A collapse in the textile industry had, however, thrown large numbers of cloth workers out of work, and many independent, small farmers were being badly affected by the enclosure of wooded pastoral areas by gentry and yeoman farmers. This was a period of rapid inflation, which worsened the economic situation for ordinary people.
- The trigger was when some enclosure fences and hedges, including those of a local lawyer, John Flowerdew, between 6 and 8 July during a community feast in Wymondham. Flowerdew was unpopular because he was in dispute with local people over a local abbey he had brought and was pulling down. The townspeople had thought that it was they who had bought the abbey for the parish and were incensed by his actions.
- The leaders of the rebellion were yeoman farmers, and local tanner and landowner, Robert Kett – there was an absence of clergy, gentry and nobility. The first article of their demands (Mousehold Heath, July 15 49) opposed any future enclosure. The list of demands contains complaints on a whole range of local farming issues. They also complained strongly about the increase in rents – particularly ‘rack-renting’ which was seen as a way in which unscrupulous landlords passed on the increased costs to the peasantry.
- Some historians (as well as some contemporaries) have argued that Somerset’s reputation as the ‘Good Duke’ (on account of his social and economic policies) suggested he was sympathetic to the rebels, and as such encouraged the common people to riot, expectant of the Protector’s support
· The rebels picked out the gentry and the JPs in their county for the most vehement attack both in their articles and in their actions
· To prove that the quality of the governance of the county was one of their major concerns, the rebels ran Mousehold Heath camp fairly and effectively, setting up their own court and sending out searches for food with commissions in the King’s name.
· There was no gentry involvement in the rebellion and it was led throughout by those just outside governing classes, who may have been ambitious for power themselves
- The trigger was when some enclosure fences and hedges, including those of a local lawyer, John Flowerdew, between 6 and 8 July during a community feast in Wymondham; Flowerdew encouraged the crowds to attack the hedges of a local tanner and landowner, Robert Kett. Kett, however, welcomed their action and…