The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians. (Andrew Clarke and GH) These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Peasants Revolt in East Anglia: John Wraw

Between 30 May  28 June 1381 half of England was in revolt. The revolt had been carefully planned. People wanted to free themselves of the feudal regulations which Lord of Manors were still trying to impose on them 300 years after the Norman Conquest The leader of the East Anglian Rising was John Wraw, a priest who was or had been a chaplain or Rector of Ringsfield. He was poor (at his trial he was said to have no property, real or personal whatever), discontented and ambitious. He seems to have come straight from London where he had been meeting Watt Tyler and the other leaders to commence the insurrection in East Anglia.
On Thursday 13 June: 1000 people set out from Sudbury. The cavalry went to Clare seeking Sir John Cavendish, the lord Chief Justice, but he had received prior warning and had left home. They ransacked his house, but he had stored all his valuables in the church tower, where they broke in and took his goods They pursued him and finally caught up with him next day at Lakenheath where he was attempting to cross the river Brandon. A woman seeing the position pushed off the boat into the centre of the river so that he could not cross, and Cavendish was caught by the mob where he was beheaded and his head carried back to Bury on a pole. He had been responsible for legislation retaining the feudal laws.
Also on Thursday others went to Long Melford on to Bury St Edmunds, where the townspeople gladly allowed them in. There was no Abbot at the time, but the monastery was under the control of the Prior, John Cambridge. They set about plundering the houses of the Abbey officials. The prior fled, but on Friday he was captured in a wood three miles from Newmarket. He was given a trial before John Wraw and was beheaded on the 15th of June. His head was fixed on a pike and carried back to Bury.
On the evening of Thursday,13th John Wraw was offered the crown of Suffolk, but he told the crowd to give it to someone else. Robert de Westerham, a mercer, was crowned king instead.
On 18 June Wraw set off for north-east Suffolk. His first exploit was the sack of Mettingham Castle. He led a strong detachment of 500 men who damaged the buildings and took £40 in cash.
Next day he held a sort of assize in Beccles, and presided at the execution of Geoffrey Southgate, an unpopular resident, who was handed over by three of his neighbours.
On the 23rd of June 500 lancers under the Earl of Suffolk from the Royal Army in London arrived in Ipswich. There was no battle, the rebel bands just melted away without resistance.
At the trials only 20 were executed including the leader John Wraw, who fled; hid but was captured, tried to save himself by turning king’s evidence and implicating his lieutenants, but he was hanged with the others.Of the 1700 who took part 70 were women.

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