On this day in 1381, the so-called Peasants’ Revolt came to an end when one of its leaders was killed at West Smithfield (*).
According to the French chronicler Jean Froissart (c.1337-c.1405), writing in the second of his “Chroniques”, completed in 1388:
“This day all the rabble … assembled under Wat Tyler, John Straw and John Ball, at a place called Smithfield … . There were present about 20,000, … breakfasting, and drinking Rhenish wine and Malmsey Madeira … without paying for anything … . [W]hen the King, attended by sixty horses, … arrived before the Abbey of St Bartholomew, … and saw the crowd of people, he stopped, saying that he would … endeavour to appease them. Wat Tyler … was only desirous of a riot … . … The Mayor of London [William Walworth], with about twelve men, rode forward, armed under their robes, … seeing Tyler’s manner of behaving, … . [T]he Mayor, … supported by the King, … then drew a kind of scimitar, and struck Tyler such a blow on the head as felled him to his horse’s feet. As soon as the rebel was down, he was surrounded on all sides, in order that his own men might not see him; and one of the King’s squires, by name John Standwich, immediately leaped from his horse, and drawing his sword, thrust it into his belly, so that he died. When the rebels found that their leader was dead, they drew up in a sort of battle array, each man having his bow bent before him. The King at this time … hazarded much, though it turned out most fortunately for him; for … he left his attendants, giving orders that no one should follow him, and riding up to the rebels, … said ‘Gentlemen, … I am your King, remain peaceable’. The greater part, on hearing these words, were quite ashamed, and those among them who were inclined for peace began to slip away … ”.
West Smithfield is visited on our “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London” and “Rebellious London” themed specials.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of our web-site (www.lostcityoflondon.co.uk).
(*) On preceding days, the mob had attacked a number of Establishment buildings in and around the City, including the Tower of London and John of Gaunt’s Savoy Palace, and killed many of their occupants. Among the dead were Robert Hales, the Lord High Treasurer, who had introduced the Poll Tax that had triggered the rebellion; and Simon Sudbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury.