Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wat Tyler, Jack Cade and the Cornish Rising

Greenwich Phantom has recently posted on the Battle of Deptford Bridge in 1497. Briefly, in June 1497 5,000 Cornish rebels marched on London in revolt against a new tax to pay for King Henry VII’s planned invasion of Scotland. The rebels reached Blackheath Common and secured Deptford Bridge. It was here they were engaged by the King’s forces, with at least two hundred Cornishmen killed compared with eight of the King's soldiers. The leaders were hung, disembowelled and quartered, with their heads stuck on pikes on London Bridge

This was only one of three occasions in just over a hundred a years in which rebel armies headed down from Blackheath to Deptford Bridge on their way to London. Unlike the Cornish rebels, the other two succeeded in reaching the City.

1381 saw the Peasants Revolt against a new poll tax. Tens of thousands of rebels from Kent set up camp at Blackheath where they were addressed by the radical preacher John Ball who argued that all things should be held ‘in common’. They passed through Deptford on their way to destroy prisons and kill the Archbishop of Canterbury before the rebellion was crushed, with the deaths of thousands of rebels. Wat Tyler was killed by Sir William Walworth, Lord Mayor of London.

Tyler was from Kent, but it is unclear where exactly. Interestingly, the 18th century radical Tom Paine maintained that ‘The person known by the name of Wat Tyler, whose proper name was Walter, and a tiler by trade, lived at Deptford. The gatherer of the poll tax, on coming to his house, demanded tax for one of his daughters, whom Tyler declared was under the age of fifteen. The tax-gatherer insisted on satisfying himself, and began an indecent examination of the girl, which, enraging the father, he struck him with a hammer that brought him to the ground, and was the cause of his death. This circumstance served to bring the discontent to an issue’ (Rights of Man, 1791). Similar stories are told about Dartford, and there doesn’t seem to be any real evidence for Tyler coming from Deptford – but the latter was certainly part of Kent, not London, at the time.

In 1450, Jack Cade led the Kentish rising, with grievances again including the excessive taxation of the common people. As in 1381, they established a camp at Blackheath before moving their headquarters to the White Hart in Borough High Street, Southwark. After a bloody battle on a burning London Bridge, the rising was defeated. Cade was later killed and his head displayed on London Bridge

A cave in Maidenstone Hill, Greenwich was apparently once known as Jack Cade’s Cavern. Wat Tyler is commemorated in the name Wat Tyler Road, next to Blackheath. And there is a plaque commemorating the Cornish rising on the wall of Greenwich Park, by the Blackheath Gate.

See also John Ball on Blackheath


Anonymous said...

It's Wat Tyler Road, not Way (apologies for the pedanticism - it's one of my favourite roads in south east London!).

V interesting stuff though.

Andrew Brown said...

And presumably John Ball primary school is named after the John Ball you mention.

. said...

Whoops Kate, I have corrected the error.

Anonymous said...

And there's Cade Road opposite the end of Wat Tyler Road