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2024 Spring Lecture: ‘Rethinking the politics of Kett’s Rebellion’ by Prof. Andy Wood.

19 March @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm GMT

‘Robert Kett seated under the Oak of Reformation on Mousehold Heath’.

The rebellions of 1549 covered much of East Anglia, south-east England, the Midlands, the Thames Valley and the West Country. The risings in Norfolk have become known as Kett’s Rebellion, after the leader of the Wymondham insurrection, the yeoman farmer and tanner Robert Kett. He led the rebels to Norwich, gathering numbers and weapons along their way, until he established a rebel camp on Mousehold Heath (subject of seditious prophecies in 1537 and the site of an earlier rebel camp back in 1381). From here, lists of complaints were assembled for the attention of the Protestant reformer and head of Edward VI’s Council, Protector Somerset.

A royal herald arrived at the camp on 23 July to convey the demands to Somerset; the Herald denounced those (including Kett) who would not return home as traitors. The following day, the rebels stormed across the Wensum and seized Norwich (then, the second-largest city in England and a city with a large, impoverished weaving population). On 31 July, a royal force of 1,500 arrived in the city led by the Marquis of Northampton. The following day, the rebels defeated Northampton and drove his army out of the city. For three weeks, the rebels controlled Norwich until on 24 August a large royal army (numbering anywhere between 8,000 and 12,000 men) led by the Earl of Warwick arrived. For three days and nights, an intense series of skirmishes and battles took place in the narrow streets and open spaces of the city. In the end, motivated by a prophecy that there should be a great battle at Dussindale, Kett’s forces departed from Mousehold and dug themselves into positions at Dussindale. Here, after a bloody battle, they were finally defeated. Kett was captured, convicted of treason and in December 1549 was hanged in chains from the walls of Norwich Castle. So ended the last medieval popular rebellion.

It has long been assumed that only one rebel list of complaints survived from Mousehold – misnamed in the seventeenth century ‘Kett’s demands being in rebellion’ (in fact it has no name). Nowadays it resides amongst the Harleian Manuscripts, in the British Library. It is usefully transcribed in A. Fletcher and D. MacCulloch, Tudor Rebellions (1968; fifth edition, Harlow, 2008), pp. 145-59.) I have discovered two hitherto unknown rebel lists of complaints, both in the muniments of Hatfield House. One of them, I think, may have come from Kent, and is badly faded and stained, and mostly illegible. The other, I am fairly sure, is an earlier version of the Mousehold articles in the Harleian Manuscripts. It is badly torn, but clearly written, and some of its contents can be clearly read and other parts possibly pieced together with a bit of educated guesswork.

In this lecture, I will use the Hatfield petitions further to illuminate rebel politics. I will also re-examine the Mousehold articles themselves, pointing towards the way in which they might be read as conjuring up a new vision of English society and the Tudor polity. This will be supplemented by review of seditious speech cases from the Norwich records, especially those heard by the Norwich Court of Mayoralty and the Norwich Quarter Sessions.

Short Biography of Professor Andy Wood.

Andy Wood is Professor of Social History at Durham University and Fellow of the British Academy. As one of the leading English social historians of the last thirty year, his research and publications focus on popular protest, customary rights and social memory in early modern England. His five monographs include, most recently Faith, Hope and Charity: English neighbourhoods, 1500-1640 (Cambridge, 2020), and most importantly for this talk The 1549 Rebellions and the Making of Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2007).


This is a free online event (via Zoom) and is open to Members and Non-Members.

To join the online lecture please register by midnight on Monday 18 March using our:

If you have not received a confirmation email by 6.30pm on Tuesday 19 March, which contains details of how to access the lecture via Zoom, please contact the Hon Treasurer.

Please note: The lecture will be recorded.


19 March
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm GMT
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Online Via Zoom


Norfolk Record Society